"on the edge of doing something" vs. "on the point of doing something"

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KGulat

New Member
Polish
Hello, everyone!

I've been an avid of the Word Reference forum since I remember, but I've never posted anything before. I did my best to follow all the rules and guidelines – I hope it's enough!

My question concerns one particular sentence from an exercise found in "Proficiency: Masterclass - Exam Practice".

"Isn't it typical? For years, they have been pleading me to take up some regular exercise. Fortunately, I have been able to put off the evil hour when I had to make a decision. And what happens when I am on the {???} of relenting? They double-cross me. A little but often, that's what I signed up for. No running up mountains or playing squash at lunch-time. (...)"

The possible answers are:

A. spot
B. point
C. edge
D. moment

They key says it should be B, and there's even a hint on the margin reading "This is a fixed phrase, i.e. "on the ... of doing something". The problem is both "point" and "edge" are used in such constructions – some sources treat those expressions as synonymic, e.g. this is what I've found in the Free Dictionary:

"2. on the edge of On the point of doing something, as in:
He was on the edge of winning the election when the sex scandal broke."

Earlier I thought "on the edge of" is rather with nouns, e.g. "on the edge of tears", but I've found plenty of contradictory examples on the Internet. I'm trying to find a subtle difference between these two expressions, but so far, I've failed miserably. Paradoxically, when I was reading the text, the words "verge" and "brink" came immediately came to my mind, so imagine how surprised I was as it turned out those weren't among the possible answers.

So, is there any explanation why "He was on the edge of winning the election" is fine, but "And what happens when I am on the edge of relenting?" is deemed incorrect? And could it be "And what happens when I am on the brink/verge of relenting?"? I'd be immensely grateful for any help!
 
  • Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    What to tell you? I'll just make something up from my own perspective.

    First the test. Unless you left a word out in transcription, it should be: "For years, they have been pleading with me to take up some regular exercise."

    Second, I would say "... when I am at the point of relenting?"

    So the answer is "point" for me, not "edge." But I can't think of a good explanation at the moment. I'm sure someone else can, though.

    Welcome to the forum. :)
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    I would say 'edge' is much less common than 'point' or your other correct choices 'verge' and 'brink' in that construction. I don't know if I'd ever say I was on the edge of doing something. But how to search for it and exclude the ordinary meaning of 'on the edge of'? Oh, here we are, pick a plausible verb: 26 Google hits for "on the edge of resigning", and 37 thousand for "on the point of resigning".
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English

    KGulat

    New Member
    Polish
    First of all, thank you very much for all the help! :)

    Of course, it should be "urging", not "pleading" - I'm sorry for that mistake.

    Is there any difference between "at the point of" and "on the point of"? Here it was "on", so there was no choice, but in general, could they be used interchangeably? From what Copyright has posted, I can see that it may depend on the context and even using a particular word as "quitting" and "resigning" are quite similar (both mean "stop doing something" in a way).

    As far as the edge/point dilemma is concerned, when I was looking up some result on Google, I noticed that "on the edge of" is used mostly with nouns, which I wrote here earlier. Could it be assumed that although it's not impossible to use "on the edge of" with a gerund, it's much more common with nouns, e.g. "on the edge of death/depression/glory"? Again, the results provided by Copyright would contradict it, but perhaps though this be madness, yet there's method in't? ;)

    At least my intuition was right - "verge" would fit here perfectly! What a shame the author(s) of the exercise decided against giving such an option...
     
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