has (got) nothing on you

Sylentia

Senior Member
English(UK)/Italian - bilingual
Hello there!

I've got a doubt about the following phrase/expression:

He's got nothing on you.

I've heard it before, though I can't remember the context, but I want to use it myself in the phrase: Don't worry about him, he's got nothing on you, you are so much better.

Is that the correct use? Does it mean that 'he' is not as good as the person I'm talking to?

Thanks.

PS: Sorry if it has been posted elsewhere, I used search facility and couldn't find it.
 
  • Diablo919

    Senior Member
    US / English
    That's correct usage. Just be aware it is really informal though. ("Got" in most cases is informal anyway)

    (I know you were asking about the usage, but the last phrase of your sentence should be its own sentence)
     

    Sylentia

    Senior Member
    English(UK)/Italian - bilingual
    Oh yes I mean to use it in an informal setting. I'm bilingual but still struggle with idioms and expressions! :p

    You mean to say this?
    Don't worry about him, he's got nothing on you. You're so much better.

    Thanks for your reply.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Beware also that the expression has at least two meanings:

    He's got nothing on you -

    1. You are enormously better than him: he can't compare with you - the one you've mentioned.
    2. He hasn't any evidence which could inculpate you.

    Both are quite informal.
     

    Sylentia

    Senior Member
    English(UK)/Italian - bilingual
    Thank you all for your answers!

    Yes I had heard of the second meaning of the phrase (Which is why I didn't know if I could use it to mean the first thing!) I'm glad it's versatile however.

    Thank ye all!
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Also be aware that 'X' has (got) nothing on you can be used in another, completely different context and with an entirely different meaning. So that when you come across this phrase you should not immediately assume that it has the meaning as described above.

    Detective Gilmore knows that you murdered your wife, but he has nothing on you; there is no evidence, no motive, no opportunity. He's got nothing.
     

    אדם

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    Hello there!

    I've got a doubt about the following phrase/expression:

    He's got nothing on you.

    I've heard it before, though I can't remember the context, but I want to use it myself in the phrase: Don't worry about him, he's got nothing on you, you are so much better.

    Is that the correct use? Does it mean that 'he' is not as good as the person I'm talking to?

    Thanks.

    PS: Sorry if it has been posted elsewhere, I used search facility and couldn't find it.
    As Packard explained, the phrase can be used in more than one way. However, the sentence you provided uses vernacular rather than standard English. Most native speakers (if not all) would know what you mean (at least from an AE perspective). The usage of the phrase is not grammatically correct, but it is understood.
     

    Sylentia

    Senior Member
    English(UK)/Italian - bilingual
    Thanks again. As I say I just meant to use it in a very informal setting (sending an email to a good friend), I'm aware of its "informality" and wouldn't use it in another setting. It was just meant to be a purely colloquial expression.

    As for Packard, if you read post #6 you'll see that I have indeed heard of "having nothing on a person" to mean "having no (incriminating) evidence".

    Again, thank you all.
     

    dichelson

    Senior Member
    Italy/Italian
    Concerning the same expression, I have the following excerpt:

    ""But you're not afraid of the dragon?" Levi shook his head. "That old lizard's got nothing on me""

    Do you think here "has got nothing on me" can mean "can do nothing to me" or it can only mean "is nothing as compared to myself"? Thank you
     

    SophieD

    Senior Member
    FRANCE - FRENCH

    Ed is about to marry Jessica. He tells his best man : Last year, when Jessica and I broke up for a couple of weeks, she had sex with Jake Lee. How am I supposed to live with that ?
    Best man : Come on, it's not like she actually cheated. You had broken up.
    Then later, the best man tells him : The most important thing about love is that we choose to give it and whe choose to receive it, making it the least random act in the world. It transcends blood, it transcends betrayal and all the dirt that makes us human. And if you can figure that out, the Jake Lees of the world got nothing on you.
    Could you please explain to me what this sentence means ?
     

    tureann

    New Member
    Portuguese
    I have an additional question relating this thread. What would be the british informal counterpart to he's got nothing on you (in the sense that you are so much better than him)? Is there any other expression one can use to say this?
     

    Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the Queen's
    Welcome to the forums, tureann :).
    We can say "he's got nothing on you" in BE too. There's another phrase though: "he can't hold a candle to you", as shown in the WR (English definitions) page for "candle" here.
    Also: He doesn't compare with you.
    He's not even in your league.
     

    tureann

    New Member
    Portuguese
    Thanks a lot for the answers! I don't even know why I hadn't sign up for this forum earlier! This is really helpful! I will use one of those phrases for sure! Thanks!
     

    finduline

    New Member
    German
    Hi!
    There's one of my favourite songs by my favourite singer/songwriter/actress Alexz Johnson called " Nothin' On Me". In the chorus it says:
    "Troubles come, shadows stray, but in the end, it's got nothin' on me. Bricks and motor break the chains, cause in the end, it's got nothin' on me."
    Does the expression in this context mean "it can do nothing to me"?
    (Maybe she sings "bricks and mortar"? but in the lyrics available online it says "motor" ...)
     
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