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the done thing

socially acceptable behaviour


the done thing = die Anstandsregel, die Etikette —— it’s not the done thing = es ist nicht üblich, das tut man nicht (hierzulande)



“Long THE DONE THING in French cafes and restaurants, leaving a tip appears to be a dying tradition.”

BBC News

It’s THE DONE THING on Broadway to shower star names with applause the moment they enter.

The Guardian

Did you

the done thing
noun phrase (informal)

- acceptable, normal behaviour

- what you are expected to do in a particular situation, especially in a social environment

Collins Dictionary / The Cambridge Dictionary


“The done thing”, more common in Britain than in the U.S., refers to actions or behaviour that are expected or customary in a particular situation.

It is often used in the negative to indicate something that is socially unacceptable as in “It’s not the done thing to wear casual clothes to a job interview”.

“The done thing” as a phrase appeared first in print in 1917 “A lot of us are threatening to sleep out on deck to-night. It’s quite ‘the done thing’. ” (Friends’ Intelligencer)


What is the future? The present? The past?
Just a quick question I thought I’d just ask
Can scientists help us? So is it mere physics?
Is time metaphysical? Mental Olympics?

Do we walk backwards? See only what’s been?
Or look into the fog? Far future unseen
Is there free will? Are we our own author?
No, destiny damns us to English tense torture!

I write this poem - the tense present simple
But simple soon ends with a present participle
Continuous tenses use “ing” at the end
For perfect (all tenses) add “ed” to amend

“Was”, “will” and “am” - past, future and present
Irregular verbs? Long list most unpleasant
Spring sprang and sprung, unique without clone
Write, wrote and written I know, knew and known

A bit of a burden if not your first language
Unless you can master whilst eating a sandwich
But if we banned grammar and wrote more carefree
Our script becomes blander - we lose poetry

Mark Martin


Do and done are found in many everyday expressions, below are a few examples:

- to be done with = to have nothing further to do with someone or something (I’m done with him and his endless complaints! I’m done with working late into the evening!)

- to do away with = eliminate (Some airlines are doing away with complimentary beverages. The government has done away with several tax breaks for businesses.)

- Well done = a statement of praise, or how you like your steak cooked (You got the promotion – well done! I’d like my steak well done please.)

- all done = finished (Can I go home now? I’m all done with the spreadsheet.)


- conformity to conventionally accepted standards of behaviour or morals:

accepted conduct, appositeness, appropriacy, appropriate behavior, appropriateness, aptness, breeding, carriage, civilities, civility, class, classiness, code, comity, complaisance, compliance, comportment, conduct, confidence, conformity, convenance, convenances, convention, conventionalism, conventionality, correct behaviour, correctitude, correctness, courteousness, courtesy, courtliness, decency, decentness, decorousness, decorum, etiquette, fitness, fittingness, formalities, formality, genteelness, gentility, gentlemanliness, good behaviour (breeding, family, form, grace, manners, taste) grace, ladylikeness, manner(s), morality, morals, mores,  orthodoxy, p’s and q’s, politeness, politesse, politically correct, probity, properness, proprieties, propriety, protocol, received wisdom, respect, respectability, respectableness, respectfulness, rightness, ritual, savoir-faire, seemliness, sobriety, social grace(s), social convention, suitability, suitableness, tact, tactfulness, taste, tastefulness, THE DONE THING, traditionalism, unoriginality, urbanity, what’s done

SMUGGLE OWAD into an English conversation, say something like:

“In our company it’s THE DONE THING to turn off mobiles during meetings.”

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Paul Smith, IBAN: DE75 7316 0000 0002 5477 40

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