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English Idiom of the Day: “Take for Granted”

english idiom take for granted

Today on the Magoosh TOEFL Blog, we’re going to look at a common English idiom: “take for granted.” This idiomatic phrase is used in informal speech and writing.

“Take for Granted,” When it Refers to People

If you are told that you’re taking someone for granted, it can mean one of two things.

In one sense, to take someone for granted means to not appreciate that person enough. For example, an employee may feel that they are being “taken for granted” if they aren’t being paid very much, or of they never receive any special praise for their work.

So what will happen if a worker (or someone else) feels as if they’re being taken for granted? They may stop doing the things they usually do, or they may simply go away. This brings us to the second meaning of “to take someone for granted.” If you take a person for granted, that can mean that you assume they will never stop helping you, or will never leave you.

These two meanings of “take someone for granted” often comes up in pop music.

In love songs, singers often talk about how they didn’t appreciate their lover enough. In Richard Marx’s song “Right Here Waiting,” he says “I took for granted all the times that I thought would last somehow.” This means that the singer always assumed his lover would be around to have good times with him. However, in the song, he’s now separated from her, and he’s realizing he shouldn’t have assumed they’d always be together. (Listen to “Right Here, Waiting,” or read the lyrics.)

And singers also sing about not appreciating the things their lover did for them. The band Survivor sings about their song “The Search is Over.” In that song, the band sings “I took for granted the friend I had in you.” The narrator of this song is telling a woman that he didn’t appreciate how kind she always was, but now he appreciates it. (For context, her are the lyrics to “The Search is Over,” and here is the audio.)

“To Take For Granted,” When It Refers to Things

You can take things for granted as well as people. When you take a material thing for granted, such as a paycheck, car, or food, the meaning is similar to taking a person for granted. Suppose you take your annual salary bonus for granted; this means you assume you’ll always get a cash bonus at the end of the year. In such a case, you won’t appreciate how special it is to get a big end-of-the-year pay bonus. Similarly, if you take your car or your food for granted, you assume you’ll always have those things; you don’t stop to appreciate those things as special.

However, if the thing you’re taking for granted is a fact or idea, the meaning is a little different. To take a fact for granted means to assume that fact is true.

Sometimes we take a fact for granted even though the fact is false. For example, in ancient times, many people took for ranted that the world was flat. But today, we know the world is round, and we no longer take the flatness of the Earth for granted. At other times, we take a fact for granted because it is clearly true. For instance, everyone takes for granted that the sky is blue. (When it’s not cloudy, of course!)

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