as smart as they come / as nice as


New Member
Taiwan, Chinese
Background: A children literature book by Dr. Seuss
Context: Mr. Brown is as smart as they come

Well, as you can see, I have some problem with this idiom.
I don't really get the meaning.
At first I tried to find what the "they" are in the context,
but it's of no use.
Then I searched it on Google, and I found many results containing this idiom
whether they had single or plural subject(s).
And they seem to emphasize the degree of intelligence.
However I still don't know why it is "as they come".
Does that mean inherence, i.e.
being already smart when some things come to the world?

Please help this non-native speaker, thank you very much!
  • bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    It's a saying, "as X as they come." It means that there is no one that is more X than the person/thing being talked about. "They" refers to other smart people, in this case. Here, Mr. Brown is as smart as any other smarter people than Brown; there are no smart people. People don't come any smarter than him, where "come" means exist or are created.


    Senior Member
    New Zealand, English
    It's a fixed phrase: "to be as XXX as they come".

    It means that the person/thing is very XXX".


    The gymnast was as flexible as they come, where they refers to all gymnasts in the world.

    This could be reworded as: The gymnast was as flexible as any gymnast/The gymnast was as flexible as the most flexible gymnasts.


    New Member
    Taiwan, Chinese
    OK I see.
    Thanks to both of you!
    It's just...sometimes it's hard for foreigners to understand a fixed usage.
    Anyway, thank you so much!


    Senior Member

    Can you help me understand the exact meaning of "he's as nice as they come" - what's "as they come", in which circumstances it makes sense to use this expression, where & when it was invented, where it is used (or is it ubiquitous).


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    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    "As they come" is a common expression that means "as the best of its category, with regard to the stated characteristic." For example:

    "That test was as hard as they come, but I think I passed." (That test is as hard as a test can be.)
    "That car is as fast as they come, but it's expensive." (That car is one of the fastest cars.)
    "That man/woman is as gorgeous as they come." (No other man/woman is more attractive.)
    "That smell is as bad as they come." (It really stinks.)

    It's informal, but you can use it for almost anything. I have no idea of its origin, but perhaps someone else will.

    Sparky Malarky

    English - US
    This is often used idiomatically, as in the expressions above, but it can also be used literally. Items "come" from the manufacturer with certain qualities.

    Q: Does this sweater come in blue?
    A: No, it only comes in red and green.
    Q: Does it come in a smaller size?
    A: No, that's as small as it comes.
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