Expressions used in Everyday Spoken English in Social and Professional contexts

how long is a piece of string?

how long is a piece of string?
Meaning(s)
1) a phrase said when there is no definite answer to a question
  • How to MemorizePopularity MediumProfessional MediumSocial
    • you want to know how long it takes? Well, how long is a piece of string?
  • Analysis
    The expression 'how long is a piece of string?' is often used to answer someone when you don't know how long something will be. A piece of string can be of any length, the amount is undefined, so this question means that you don't know when questioned about the size, amount, or duration of something. This question can sometimes be perceived as a bit sarcastic or cheeky, so be careful to use it with people you know and in informal situations.
  • Social Examples (Advance)
    1. The other day, my son asked me how big Space was. I replied: 'Well, how long is a piece of string? The sheer size of Space is almost unfathomable.'
    2. I don't know how long it will take to paint the house. How long is a piece of string?
  • Professional Examples (Advance)
    1. Person A: "How long will it take to finish the project?" Person B: "How long is a piece of string? There are too many variables to make a proper assessment right now."
    2. Asking how long it takes to build a successful portfolio is like asking 'how long is a piece of string?'.
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