1 used instead of the name of an object
basic, essential

I need to buy a few basic things like bread and milk.


He makes things out of wood.

2 things objects/clothing/tools
breakfast, lunch, etc. (all esp. BrE)

He hadn't washed up the dinner things yet.

swimming, tennis, etc. (all esp. BrE)
get together, pack

Come on kids, get your things together—we're going.

put on, take off

Hang on a second—I'll just take off my painting things (= clothes).

put away
clear away, clear up, stow (esp. AmE), tidy away (esp. BrE), tidy up (esp. BrE)

Clear your painting things (= materials) away.

3 a thing (used with negatives) anything
hear, know, notice, see

I can't see a thing without my glasses.


I'm going to arrive early because I don't want to miss a thing.


She's tricked you, and you can't do a thing about it.


I haven't eaten a thing all day.


Nobody said a thing when he appeared with a wig on.


Fame and fortune don't mean a thing if you don't have happiness.

4 fact/event/situation/action
good, great, positive

It's a good thing you remembered to turn off the gas!

The best thing would be to apologize straight away.

If she works hard she's capable of great things.

Try to look on your rejection as a positive thing.

beautiful, cool (informal), lovely (esp. BrE), nice, wonderful
bad, negative

Too much studying can be a bad thing.

It's no bad thing to express your anger.

appalling (esp. BrE), awful, dreadful, horrible, terrible

That was a horrible thing to say to her.

amazing, curious, exciting, extraordinary, funny, interesting, odd, remarkable, startling, strange, striking, surprising, weird

The amazing thing is, he wouldn't accept any money!

foolish, ridiculous, silly, stupid

I admit it was a foolish thing to do.

clever (esp. BrE), smart (esp. AmE)

That wasn't a very smart thing to do!

big, crucial, important, key, main, vital

The key thing is to remain calm.

little, the slightest, small, trivial

I give thanks for every little thing.

He loses his temper at the slightest thing.

It's such a small thing to ask.

easy, simple

Apologizing is never the easiest thing to do.

difficult, hard
brave, dangerous, risky
sure (esp. AmE)

His new film seems like a sure thing (= a certain success).


Entertaining people is the most natural thing in the world for her.

close (esp. BrE), close-run (BrE)

I managed to get on the train, but it was a close thing (= I almost missed it).


She helped with the everyday things like shopping and cooking.


I did my usual thing of losing my keys.

nearest, next-best

He's the nearest thing to a movie star I've ever met.

I wanted to be a musician, but teaching music is the next-best thing.


She said the first thing that came into her head.


What's the next thing you want me to do?


The last thing she wanted was to upset her parents.


It's just a practice, not the real thing.

the whole

Let's forget the whole thing.

loads (esp. BrE), lots, plenty, tons

I have loads of things to do today.

There are plenty of things to say about it.


He has a funny way of doing things.

It's impossible to get things done when you're taking care of a baby.

make up, say

Who's been saying things about me?

be hearing/imagining/seeing

There's nobody at the door—you must have been imagining things!

go on, happen, occur

There are some weird things going on in that house.

A funny thing happened to me this morning … 

thing about

The best thing about Alan is he's always honest.

among other things

Among other things, I have to deal with mail and keep the accounts.

have better things to do

I've better things to do than stand here chatting all day!

kind/sort of thing

They go canoeing, climbing, that sort of thing.

know/learn/teach sb a thing or two

Jack knows a thing or two about kids—he has five.

the next big thing

Advertising on blogs is going to be the next big thing.

no such thing

There's no such thing as ghosts (= they don't exist).

one thing leads to another

One thing led to another and we ended up dating.

such a thing/a thing like that

People defraud their companies every day, but Mike would never do such a thing!

a thing of the past

Books may one day become a thing of the past.

5 things general situation, as it affects sb
think over/through

She's taken a few days off to think things over.

look at, see

Try to look at things from my point of view.

discuss, talk over, talk through

We arranged to meet and talk things over.


You should suggest changes, rather than accept things as they are.

arrange, deal with, fix, handle, look after (esp. BrE), run, sort out, take care of

I want to get things sorted out before I go away.

Who's going to take care of things while you're away?

straighten out
work out

I have to work things out my own way.

mess up, spoil

Sorry, I didn't mean to complicate things.

patch up

They patched things up a week after their quarrel.

speed along/up

It might speed things up if you call them.

hold up, slow down

As things stand at present, he seems certain to win.

be going

He asked me how things were going.

go according to plan, go to plan, go well, work, work out

I just don't know if things are going to work out.

get better, improve, look up

We were in trouble but now things are looking up.

look bright, look good, look promising, look rosy

There was a week to go to the deadline and things were looking good.

look bleak, look grim

Things looked bleak for the future of the factory.

be in a mess, get into a mess, get out of control, get out of hand, go wrong
get worse, go downhill
turn out

I'm sure things will turn out OK.

come to a head

Things came to a head when money was found to be missing from the account.

get to sb

Try not to let things get to you.

all things being equal, other things being equal

All other things being equal, the bigger fighter should win.

all things considered

All things considered, I think we've done a good job.

get/keep things going, get/keep things moving

They hired temporary staff to keep things going over the summer.

get things straight, put things straight, set things straight

I marched into his office to get a few things straight.

get things under control, have things under control, keep things under control

He offered to help, but she assured him she had things under control.

have things on your mind

We chatted about school, but I could tell she had other things on her mind.

let things slide, let things slip

She'd started the term studying hard, but now was beginning to let things slip.

let things run their course, let things happen, let things take their course

Don't worry about it—just let things take their course.

make things better, easier, difficult, worse, etc.

Her apology only served to make things worse.

put things right

He apologized, and asked for a chance to put things right.

things to come

The pay cut was just a taste of things to come.

6 what is needed/socially acceptable
proper, right

He did the right thing and went back to his wife.

I did all the right things but I couldn't get the engine to start.


She always manages to say the wrong thing.

logical, obvious, prudent, sensible

Calling a doctor seemed the logical thing to do.

decent, done (esp. BrE), honourable/honorable

He did the decent thing and resigned.

It's not the done thing to ask someone how much they earn.


Iced tea—the very thing!

just the thing, not quite the thing

It wouldn't be quite the thing to turn up in running gear.

7 a person/an animal

The baby's a pretty little thing.

pretty, sweet

Abby is just the sweetest little thing!

old, young

You must be starving, you poor thing!

Collocations dictionary. 2013.

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