know a thing or two

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hly2004

Banned
chinese
Hi, everyone:

Could you please tell me if "know a thing or two"mean "know a lot about"?
If so, what's the origin of "a thing or two" which means " a lot"?

Best wishes.
 
  • hly2004

    Banned
    chinese
    Hi, Silverster:

    Thanks, but here's what I found in a dictionary:
    know a thing or two know something about, be quite familiar


    It seems it has two seperate meanings:)
     

    margo16

    Senior Member
    germany,german
    Hi hly

    You're right.The meaning is:to be competent, qualified enough in.. or quite familiar
     

    hly2004

    Banned
    chinese
    But it sounds to me that " know something about" has quite a different meaning from(?) " be quite familiar".

    Because "know something about", IMO, means "not know much about". Am I correct?:)
     

    margo16

    Senior Member
    germany,german
    You're correct. Do you want another similar expression to the list(know a thing or two')?'to know one’s onions', 'to know one’s stuff''
     

    hly2004

    Banned
    chinese
    Thank you for your expressions. Margo16. Le't hear what others say about the origin of "know a thing or two" when it's used to mean "know something a lot":)
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    "know a thing or two" is generally used, in my experience, in the way that your dictionary defines it, Hly. It's generally said in a wry, understated tone of voice. Here's an example of its use:

    Hly: "Dimcl, don't try to fix my television - you might break it"
    Dimcl" "I assure you that I know a thing or two about televisions"

    It's said in almost a sarcastic tone because I don't want to brag but I'm quite familiar with the workings of a T.V. and, therefore I "know a thing or two" about it.
     

    margo16

    Senior Member
    germany,german
    I'm afraid I don't understand you.Here are the examples:
    He had a lot of common sense and he knew a thing or two about human nature.(a lot)
    He knocked about a bit and he knew a thing or two.
     

    Orange Blossom

    Senior Member
    U.S.A. English
    know a thing or two is an idiomatic expression generally used when someone is not giving credit for a person's knowledge or skill.

    Jane, please. He does know a thing or two about plumbing. Let him do his job.

    It means that the person knows quite a lot about the subject matter, which in the sample sentence is plumbing. It does not mean: know just a little bit, or know just a small amount.

    It can mean know something about if used in the same idiomatic sense.

    Jane, please. He does know something about plumbing. Let him do his job.

    The phrase might be used in the first person if 1) the speaker wishes to appear modest and not bragging, or 2) if the speaker is frustrated with someone arguing with him/her or keeping him from doing his job.

    1) Yes sir, I know a thing or two about the history of Rome.

    2) Jason, I do know a thing or two about gardening.

    Note: In sentence 1, know does not have an auxilliary verb. In all the other examples, know is emphasized by using do or does.

    Each form can be used in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person, though the modest form is highly unlikely in 2nd person.
    ---------
    Modest 3rd --> Yes Dr. He knows a thing or two about hygiene.
    Strong 2nd --> You do know a thing or two about coaching. Two possible interpretations: 1)The speaker realizes that the listener is far more knowledgeable than he/she had thought. 2)The speaker is encouraging the listener. 'You know more than you think you do.' Additional context would determine which interpretation is correct.

    Orange Blossom
     
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