a fine line

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a fine line

A very narrow division between two deceptively similar things, one of which is worse than the other. As a new parent, you learn that there's a fine line between looking out for your child's welfare and being overprotective. A: "I only borrowed your sweater, I swear!" B: "Well, it's a fine line between borrowing and stealing, isn't it?"
See also: fine, line
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

a fine line between something

COMMON If there is a fine line between two different activities or situations, there is a point at which they are very similar, often when one activity or situation is acceptable, and the other is not. There is a fine line between being nicely looked after and being fussed over too much. A new exhibition explores the fine line between genius and insanity. Note: You can also talk about a thin line between two things or a narrow line between two things. There is a thin line between being a good player and being one of the best. There's a narrow line between being interested and being nosy. Compare with walk a fine line between something.
See also: between, fine, line, something
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012
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References in periodicals archive ?
His biggest challenge is keeping intact the fine line between reality and fiction.
Walking a fine line between urbane and universal, Jana Prikryl impresses with this debut collection of verse.
The flight to greatness is a fine line between your dreams and reality.
Decrying the complicity of legal norms with the violence inflicted by empires and colonization, Between Equal Rights weighs Marxism against mercantile colonialism, sovereignty, the fine line between imposing imperial will and "police actions", and much more.
"There is such a fine line between us being where we are now and being right where we want to be.
The already fine line between fantasy and reality vanishes when it presents itself as a venue for weddings, family reunions and any occasion you might have thought of going home for.
In the Washington Post of April 21, columnist Richard Cohen picks up on this subject by saying that Bush is convinced that he is "a servant of God and history." In the Philadelphia Inquirer of April 21, a Catholic University professor, John Kenneth White, is quoted as saying that Bush is "coming to the very edge" of the "very fine line between church and state."
There is a fine line between being judgmental and being helpful, and this is a line Lucy crosses at times, causing a lot of friction.
"There is a fine line between that which is personal and private, and that which is corporate and possibly public," said Steven Morgan Friedman, vice president of research and a senior analyst at Basex.
"There is a very fine line between showing a seriousness of intent and conveying the impression that you are going to war no matter what happens, and that fine line should not be crossed," warned a UN official.
Like many artists, Hammons thinks about that fine line between appearance and reality.
government and law enforcement officials successfully walk the fine line between national security and an individual's right to privacy?
Since there's a fine line between a female's next mate and her next meal, spider courtship requires precise diplomacy, explains Fred D.
The metaphor inherent in "Butterflies in My Stomach" was taken to fantastic physical heights, and in "Breathing Fast" the three women explored the fine line between passion and rage, hurling themselves into the men's arms with ragged abandon.
These are the records that -- like RuPaul herself -- walk that fine line between freaky and funky, mainstream and mad.