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fence with (someone)

In a conversation, to evade or avoid directly answering someone or something. Ever the sly spin doctor, the candidate was able to deftly fence with the journalist around questions of his dubious background.
See also: fence

swing for the fences

1. baseball Literally, to put all one's power into one's swing while batting so as to try to hit a home run. All they need is two more runs to win the game, so you can bet their star batter will come out swinging for the fences.
2. By extension, to put forward one's maximum amount of effort or energy (into or toward something); to act or perform with great intensity or effort. I wasn't sure about their state-appointed lawyer at first, but I was well impressed when he came out swinging for the fences on day one of the trial.
See also: fence, swing

mend (one's) fences

To rectify a damaged relationship. After Jill heard that her father had become ill, she decided it was time for them to mend their fences before it was too late. The politician tried to mend his fences with his constituents after the scandal, but was not able to regain their trust before the next election.
See also: fence, mend

sit on the fence

To not make a decision or take a side when presented with two options or possibilities. You can't sit on the fence any longer—you need to choose who of these two we need to fire. The government has been sitting on the fence about legalizing marijuana for the past five years.
See also: fence, on, sit

the grass is always greener (on the other side)

Other people's circumstances or belongings always seem more desirable than one's own. A: "It just seems like they have this perfect life, always traveling and spending time together." B: "Hey, the grass is always greener. I'm sure they have their own problems that no one else can see." The grass is always greener on the other side—the sooner you realize that and stop comparing your life to others', the happier you'll be!
See also: always, grass, greener, other

on the fence

Not making a decision or taking a side when presented with two options or possibilities. You can't sit on the fence any longer—you need to choose who of these two we need to fire. The government has been on the fence about legalizing marijuana for the past five years.
See also: fence, on

fence an animal in

to enclose an animal and its area within a fence or barrier. We fenced the dog in to keep it at home. We had to fence in the dog.
See also: animal, fence

fence someone in

to restrict someone in some way. I don't want to fence you in, but you have to get home earlier at night. Don't try to fence me in. I need a lot of freedom. Your last stupid move fenced in the department, making us less effective.
See also: fence

fence (someone or an animal) out

to keep someone or an animal out with a fence or barrier. We decided that living in the woods was satisfactory only if we fenced the wildlife out. We had to fence out the deer. We hoped we had fenced prowlers out with the tall electric fence.
See also: fence, out

fence someone or something off (from something)

to separate someone or something from something else with a fence or barrier. We fenced the children's play area off from the rest of the yard. Dave fenced off the play area. We fenced off the children from the rest of the yard.
See also: fence, off

fence something in

to enclose an area within a fence. When they fenced the garden in, they thought the deer wouldn't be able to destroy the flowers. We fenced in the yard to make a safe place for the children.
See also: fence

Good fences make good neighbors.

Prov. It is easier to be friendly with your neighbor if neither of you trespasses upon the other's property or privacy. Jane: The guy next door is letting his party guests wander across our lawn again. Alan: I guess we'll have to build a fence there. Good fences make good neighbors, like they say.
See also: fence, good, make, neighbor

*on the fence (about something)

Fig. undecided about something. (*Typically: be ~; sit ~.) Ann is on the fence about going to Mexico. I wouldn't be on the fence. I'd love to go.
See also: fence, on

sit on the fence

Fig. not to take sides in a dispute; not to make a clear choice between two possibilities. (Fig. on the image of someone straddling a fence, representing indecision.) When Jane and Tom argue, it is best to sit on the fence and not make either of them angry. No one knows which of the candidates Joan will vote for. She's sitting on the fence.
See also: fence, on, sit

sit on the fence

(about something) Go to on the fence (about something).
See also: fence, on, sit

straddle the fence

Fig. to support both sides of an issue. (As if one were partly on either side of a fence.) The mayor is straddling the fence on this issue, hoping the public will forget it. The legislator wanted to straddle the fence until the last minute, and that alone cost her a lot of votes.
See also: fence, straddle

fence in

Also, hem in. Restrict or confine someone, as in He wanted to take on more assignments but was fenced in by his contract, or Their father was old-fashioned and the children were hemmed in by his rules. Both expressions transfer a literal form of enclosure to a figurative one. The first gained currency from a popular song in the style of a cowboy folk song by Cole Porter, "Don't Fence Me In" (1944), in which the cowboy celebrates open land and starry skies. The variant is much older, dating from the late 1500s.
See also: fence

fence with

Avoid answering directly, try to evade, as in The mayor was very clever at fencing with the press about his future plans. This expression transfers the parry and thrust of fencing to a verbal exchange. [Second half of 1600s]
See also: fence

mend one's fences

Improve poor relations; placate personal, political, or business contacts. For example, The senator always goes home weekends and spends time mending his fences. This metaphoric expression dates from an 1879 speech by Senator John Sherman in Mansfield, Ohio, to which he said he had returned "to look after my fences." Although he may have meant literally to repair the fences around his farm there, media accounts of the speech took him to mean campaigning among his constituents. In succeeding decades the term was applied to nonpolitical affairs as well.
See also: fence, mend

on the fence, be

Also, straddle the fence. Be undecided, not committed, as in I don't know if I'll move there; I'm still on the fence, or He's straddling the fence about the merger. This picturesque expression, with its implication that one can jump to either side, at first was applied mainly to political commitments. [Early 1800s]
See also: on

come off the fence

If someone comes off the fence, they at last state their opinion about something or show who they support. These events have forced the President to come off the fence and support the market reformers. Note: Verbs such as climb or get can be used instead of come. It is time for us to get off the fence, to speak up, and to vote.
See also: come, fence, off

sit on the fence

COMMON If you sit on the fence, you refuse to give a definite opinion about something or to say who you support in an argument. Who was cooler, Starsky or Hutch? You couldn't sit on the fence and say you liked both of them equally. Note: Verbs such as stay and be can be used instead of sit. Democrats who'd been on the fence about the nomination, in the end all voted for him. Note: You can call this kind of behaviour fence-sitting, and someone who behaves like this a fence-sitter. At his first press conference there was much fence-sitting. I sense that there are a lot of fence-sitters out there on this issue. Note: These expressions are usually used to show that you disapprove of the fact that someone is not making a decision. Note: The fence referred to is one that separates two properties or territories and someone sitting on it is unable or unwilling to make a decision about which side to stand on.
See also: fence, on, sit

mend fences


mend your fences

COMMON If you mend fences or mend your fences, you do something to improve your relationship with someone you have argued with. Yesterday he was publicly criticised for not doing enough to mend fences with his big political rival. He had managed to annoy every member of the family and thought he'd better mend his fences. Note: You can call this process fence-mending. The king is out of the country on a fence-mending mission to the European Community.
See also: fence, mend

the grass is always greener


the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence

If you say the grass is always greener or the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, you mean that other people often seem to be in a better situation than you, but in reality their situation may not be as good as it seems. You know what it's like — the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I'm always looking at jobs advertised online and thinking I'd be better off somewhere else. Note: Grass and greener are often used in other expressions with a similar meaning. A lot of players who have left in the past have found that the grass isn't always greener elsewhere. I cannot have my staff believing that the grass is always greener in another company.
See also: always, grass, greener

over the fence

unreasonable or unacceptable. Australian & New Zealand informal
1964 Sydney Morning Herald Some publications which unduly emphasize sex were ‘entirely over the fence’.
See also: fence, over

sit on the fence

avoid making a decision or choice.
The two sides of a fence are seen here as representing the two opposing or conflicting positions or interests involved in a particular debate or situation.
1995 Duncan McLean Bunker Man Let's have a proper decision—goal or no goal—none of this sitting on the fence.
See also: fence, on, sit

the grass is always greener

other people's lives or situations always seem better than your own.
This is a shortened form of the proverb ‘the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence’, usually used as a caution against dissatisfaction with your own lot in life. There are a number of sayings about the attractions of something distant or inaccessible, for example blue are the faraway hills .
See also: always, grass, greener

mend (your) fences

make peace with a person.
This expression originated in the late 19th century in the USA, with reference to a member of Congress returning to his home town to keep in touch with the voters and to look after his interests there. Similar notions are conjured up by the saying good fences make good neighbours .
1994 Louis de Bernières Captain Corelli's Mandolin He knew assuredly he should go and mend his fences with the priest.
See also: fence, mend

rush your fences

act with undue haste. British
This is a metaphor from horse riding: in the hunting field if you rush your fences , rather than tackling the obstacles steadily, you risk a fall.
See also: fence, rush

make a Virginia fence

walk crookedly because you are drunk. US
A Virginia fence is a fence made of split rails or poles joined in a zigzag pattern with their ends crossing.
See also: fence, make

mend (your) ˈfences (with somebody)

(British English) find a solution to a disagreement with somebody: Is it too late to mend fences with your brother?
See also: fence, mend

my, her, the other, the same, etc. side of the ˈfence

my, the opposite, the same, etc. point of view or position in an argument: The former allies are now on opposite sides of the fence.Make up your mind — which side of the fence are you on?
See also: fence, of, side

sit on the ˈfence

avoid deciding between two sides of an argument, discussion, quarrel, etc: Either you support me or you don’t. You can’t sit on the fence all your life.Politicians cannot sit on the fence. People expect them to have clear views. OPPOSITE: take sides ▶ ˈfence-sitter noun a person who cannot or does not want to decide which side of an argument, etc. to support
See also: fence, on, sit

fence hanger

n. someone who cannot decide which side to be on. We need to find a way to persuade the fence hangers to come over to our side.
See also: fence, hanger


mod. angry. (California.) Boy, was that old man fenced!
See also: fence

go for the fences

in. to set extremely high goals and do whatever is needed to meet them. (Alludes to attempting to hit a home run against the fences of a baseball stadium.) We are going to go for the fences on this one. Don’t hold back on anything.
See also: fence

straddle the fence

tv. to support both sides of an issue. The mayor is straddling the fence on this issue, hoping the public will forget it.
See also: fence, straddle

on the fence

Undecided as to which of two sides to support; uncommitted or neutral.
See also: fence, on

mend fences

To improve poor relations, especially in politics: "Whatever thoughts he may have entertained about mending some fences with [them] were banished" (Conor Cruise O'Brien).
See also: fence, mend

straddle the fence

To be undecided or uncommitted.
See also: fence, straddle
References in classic literature ?
When Fanshaw had presented his two friends to their host he fell again into a tone of rallying the latter about his wreckage of the fence and his apparent rage of profanity.
That's right; and Sir Cecil could have that sword the Admiral threw away by the fence here.
It makes a difference doesn't it, whether we fully fence ourselves in, or whether we are fenced out by the barriers of others?
And the bodies of three men hung on her picket fence.
He had had a nice, good, idle time all the while -- plenty of company -- and the fence had three coats of whitewash on it
Now the lions were close to us; they came to the body of the second cub, that lay outside the fence of thorns.
My imagination was full of those striding metallic monsters, and of the dead body smashed against the fence.
But the enemy were quick to gain the protec- tion of the wandering line of fence.
Habit is a terrible thing; it shackles the strongest, and Tom had fallen into the habit of inquiring after Mr Williams' rheumatism over the garden fence first thing in the morning.
She then flung her sash into a puddle and danced on it till dirty water was squirted over her frock, after which she climbed the fence and had a series of incredible adventures, one of the least of which was that she kicked off both her boots.
They soon discovered that the path they had been following now made a bend and passed around the enclosure, but what made Ojo stop and look thoughtful was a sign painted on the fence which read:
For this fell purpose he had backed the astounded De Vac twice around the hall when, with a clever feint, and backward step, the master of fence drew the King into the position he wanted him, and with the suddenness of lightning, a little twist of his foil sent Henry's weapon clanging across the floor of the armory.
On the far corner of the compound fence a hawk brooded.
Mastro Cherry gives the piece of wood to his friend Geppetto, who takes it to make himself a Marionette that will dance, fence, and turn somersaults
However, I was so enamoured of this place, that I spent much of my time there for the whole of the remaining part of the month of July; and though upon second thoughts, I resolved not to remove, yet I built me a little kind of a bower, and surrounded it at a distance with a strong fence, being a double hedge, as high as I could reach, well staked and filled between with brushwood; and here I lay very secure, sometimes two or three nights together; always going over it with a ladder; so that I fancied now I had my country house and my sea- coast house; and this work took me up to the beginning of August.