At a pinch


At a pinch, I guess you could say "The car repairs were not affordable" but really this is not a likely statement, as affordable is used to say that people in general can afford it.
You might say "I found their repair charges affordable" but you are making more of a general statement here.

I'm all at sea as for the meaning of "At a pinch." Please shed some light. Thanks.
  • Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    Well I said this, but I had to think a while before I could explain it. I guess it means something like "if I were in a tight spot", "if there is no alternative" or "if absolutely necessary".

    Matching Mole

    Senior Member
    England, English
    Yes, it is an idiom. I don't know if it is used outside of the UK, perhaps others can answer that question. I found another definition, which is a slight variation, but with which I agree:
    "if something can be done at a pinch, it is possible in an urgent situation but it is difficult."



    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    The Free Dictionary and (among others) list "in a pinch". Their definitions vary between "if necessary", "in an emergency" and "when hard-pressed."

    EDIT - Oops. I forgot that the original phrase was "at a pinch"!


    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    qd, my original impression is that "in a pinch" is meant as an equivalent to "if pressed," meaning that the speaker or writer is expressing reluctance to state his opinion because he is not fully secure of its truthfulness or accuracy. If this is the case, then "in a pinch" does not directly affect or alter the rest of the sentence, except for the fact that the speaker/writer believes that there may be significant exceptions to his statement.
    Note that this precise example is not the most common usage of "in a pinch." Normally, "in a pinch" is used as synonymous with "in an emergency," implying that the course of action described is not ideal but rather used because no other choice is available and action must be taken.