What’s the matter with…?

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⭕ What’s the matter with…? ⭕


Recently, a friend asked me, “What does matter mean?” He had noticed that the word, matter, occurs quite often in English and wanted a simple translation of this word. I had to explain that matter is a little complicated. One of my favourite dictionaries, Oxford Dictionaries, shows 57 results and many phrases for the word “matter”. Examples from this dictionary include:

  • A matter of life and death.
  • A matter of opinion.
  • mind over matter
  • Matter of law.
  • No matter what happens.
  • No laughing matter.
  • As a matter of fact….. (and many others).

Nouns like handmatter, point, way, work, thing are among the most common nouns in English. You will find that they occur in hundreds of set phrases and idioms. Let’s discover what are some of the typical phrases in which matter occurs. Learning these typical phrases and knowing how to use them will be much more useful than asking about the meaning of matter.

However, this does not mean you should go away now and try to learn all these phrases at once. Instead, do read this post and become familiar with the common expressions and gradually build up your collection. To get you started, let’s look at this phrase of a critical importance as to be crucial: life or death decision.

⭕ A matter of life and death

If something is a matter of life and death, it’s extremely important and it could involve someone’s survival. An issue of great urgency; an issue that will decide between living and dying.

  • We must find a doctor. It’s a matter of life and death.
  • We must stop the bleeding. It’s a matter of life and death.
  • When I was growing up, friendship felt like a matter of life and death.
  • She is now pleading for help, claiming it is a matter of life and death.
  • In India, capturing and storing rain is a matter of life and death.

⭕ What’s the matter with you/him/her/me?

We can ask this question in situations where people seem angry, sad, sick…etc:

  • George seems very bad tempered recently. What’s the matter with him?
  • What’s the matter with Jean? I saw her crying just now.
  • What’s the matter with me? I’ve been feeling really tired this week.

When we are speaking directly to the person who has the problem, we don’t need to say with you:

  • You don’t seem happy lately. What’s the matter?

We can make “What’s the matter?” a bit stronger, by adding phrases like these after What:

  • What on earth’s the matter with that guy?
  • What the hell’s the matter with you?

(Note: Be careful. Some people may be offended by the use of hell in these expressions).

⭕ No laughing matter

If someone says something is no laughing matter they mean it is something that should be taken seriously and not be laughed at! So it’s something serious that should not be joked about.

  • Be serious. This is no laughing matter.
  • People joke a lot about snoring and insomnia, but they’re no laughing matter.
  • This disease is no laughing matter. It’s quite deadly if not treated immediately.
  •  A wound on your foot is no laughing matter when you’re a diabetic.

⭕ What’s the matter with it?

We can also use What’s the matter..? when we are talking about things which cause problems or to ask if somebody is upset, unhappy, etc.

  • What’s the matter with this radio? I can’t pick up any stations on it.
  • What’s the matter? Is there something wrong?
  • Is anything the matter?
  • A: This soup tastes a bit strange. B: Why? What’s the matter with it?

⭕ It’s a matter of something/of doing something

Use this phrase to solving a problem or performing a job has a simple solution

  • Cooking lasagna isn’t difficult – it’s just a matter of following a recipe.
  • With Oxford Junior, learning English will be a matter of fun.
  • Mastering English language, anyone can do it. It’s just a matter of practice.
  • The problem with this isn’t a matter of capability as it is a matter of function.

⭕ Something the matter with…

These expression is related to What’s the matter…? It can take 3 forms: Something’s the matter with… or There’s something the matter with… or There must be something the matter with him:

  • There’s something the matter with my back. It hurts whenever I try to bend down.
  • There’s something the matter with this radio. I’m going to take it back to the store.
  • Is there something the matter with Jean? I’ve just seen her crying?
  • John seems very bad tempered recently. There must be something the matter with him.

⭕ Nothing the matter with…

Similarly, if we can’t find a problem, we can say: Nothing’s the matter with (him); or There’s nothing the matter with (him).

  • For that matter, I see nothing the matter with confectioners making money.
  • You don’t need to come to the clinic. There’s nothing the matter with you.
  • With one exception there is nothing seriously the matter with any of them.
  • Why are you complaining about the soup? I’ve just had a bowl, myself. There’s nothing the matter with it.

⭕ To make matters worse…”

To make the situation even more unpleasant or difficult:

  • To make matters worse, it began to thunder fiercely.
  • To make matters worse, he isn’t even conscious of annoying his neighbours.
  • My father has taken up with another woman. To make matters worse, she’s married, too.
  • Three of our players were ill, and to make matters worse, our main scorer had broken his ankle.

⭕ Get at the heart of the matter

To talk about the thing that is most important is to get at the heart of the matter.

  • I asked him to stop wasting time and get at the heart of the matter.
  • I love that professor. He always gets at the heart of the matter.

⭕ Be careful with this one! “What’s the matter with you?” because it has a completely different meaning. And it usually sounds rude or offensive(Usually said in anger.) In fact, when you say, “What’s the matter with you?” you are not really asking what is wrong with the person. You are suggesting that the individual did something wrong or stupid.

⭕ Let us know in the comments if you know other typical phrases in which matter occurs. Thank you so much for reading my post. If you liked it, please share it as a matter of course.

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