Chunk of the day: the bottom line (revisited)

As with single words, we should look for opportunities to revise or recycle chunks. When we do so, it’s good to move beyond simply matching the word or chunk to the same meaning we gave last time. We can explore new collocations and contexts, which may drift into related, but ‘new’ meanings . A great example is our last post on the bottom line.  No sooner had we highlighted its accounting / business meaning than we realised it was also worth looking at its other use as an introduction to a final – hopefully clinching – argument. In this sense, it might be replaced by “Besides” or a cliche such as “at the end of the day” or even by other chunks such as “Anyway, when it comes down to it” or “the fact of the matter is“.

So, in a domestic discussion about whether we need a new kitchen or not, the bottom line is we can’t afford it. Or in a radio discussion about whether the Chelsea footballer, Matic, should have been sent off in the recent game against Burnley, the bottom line is he shouldn’t have reacted in the way he did. Of course, there have been others who claim that the bottom line is the referee should’ve sent off the other player well before this incident.


You could perhaps take several current or personal topics such as the following:

The Greeks shouldn’t have to pay their debts

The HSBC boss should be taken to court*

Let’s get rid of our car.*

Sam Allardyce should be kept as West Ham manager*

Students could then make a list of for and against arguments and then say what they think the bottom line is in each case.

* Obviously these may be a bit too local / personal for your classes. but are examples of the kind of thing you might talk about. Coursebooks often ignore – or are not able to focus on sporting or gossipy type of news stories, but there’s no reason why we as teachers should do the same! The bottom line is these are the kinds of things many students often want to talk about.

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