English Language Blog

Three Strikes and You’re Out Posted by on Mar 17, 2012 in Culture, English Language

Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field, Chicago, 7/30/2004, by Rick Dikeman

“three strikes and you’re out!”

Have you ever heard this phrase before? It is often heard when the government is discussing how to deal with unwanted behaviour by individuals. You might have also heard a parent say it to a child when they were misbehaving. And lastly, you may have heard it during a game of baseball.

But where does this phrase come from and what does it mean? The answer is in the famous bat and ball sport known as baseball.

Baseball is played between two teams. Each team has nine players. One team at a time “bats,” while the other team “plays the field.” The playing field in baseball is made up of a large field with a ninty-foot diamond. At each corner of the diamond, there is a “base” (four in total). The aim is to score “runs” by hitting a thrown ball with the bat and then touching the four bases before the fielding team catches the ball and catches you!

Here’s a video:


And what does this all have to do with three strikes, I hear you ask. Good question! The teams switch between batting and fielding whenever the batting team has three “outs”. An out can happen in several different ways including when the fielding team catches the ball before it hits the ground, when the fielding team catches a player (while holding the ball) who is trying to move between bases or when the batter swings at the ball three times in a row and misses each time.

Missing the ball this way is called a “strike” and in baseball three strikes means you are out!

Now can you understand the other circumstances of when the phrase might be used? Usually it is when you want to say that someone has had three warnings or three chances and now they get no more chances only the consequences. For example, a father might warn his daughter not to throw water across the room, three times but if she does it again then she will be sent to her room.

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