Did someone say to you, 'The ball is in your court,' and you’re wondering what it means? In this article, we’ll take a look at the meaning, origin, examples, and more.
Essentially, they’re saying that what happens next in a given situation is your responsibility.
‘The ball is in your court’ is an idiom that means that it’s someone’s responsibility (in this case, your responsibility) to do something.
Essentially, when ‘the ball is in someone’s court,’ it means:
For example, you might say:
‘The ball is in his court’ or ‘The ball is in their court.’
According to a number of different sources, ‘the ball is in your court,’ as a popular idiom, comes from the sport of tennis.
Using the Google Books Ngram Viewer, we see that 'the ball is in your court' only starts showing up in publications starting in the early 1940s. Around the mix 1960s, it became a much more commonly used phrase.
In the transcripts of the Hearings before the United States Joint Economic Committee from April 11 and 13, 1978, we find the phrase ‘the ball is in your court’ used in relation to Congress needing to take action:
“My understanding is that voluntarily the regulators are not going to do that. It will literally take an act of Congress. The ball is in your court.”
The phrase is also used in the Hearings Before the Committee on Public Works at the United States Senate from June of 1971:
“Now, I believe so strongly in this aspect of human relations that I hope you will emphasize the problems that came to your attention and will not be afraid to step on toes. We are not looking for criticism, but if there are things we need to do better, we don’t want to go back to Washington without hearing them. Now, the ball is in your court, Father.”
Finally, one more example can be found in another government document from January of 1970 in hearings regarding disaster relief and public works:
Congressman Colmer, the ball is in your court, and we are privileged to have you represent not only yourself, but our two distinguished colleagues from Mississippi who have been very helpful from the outset following Camille.
How would 'the ball is in your court' be used in a sentence?
Let’s take a look at some examples:
‘The ball is in your court’ is an idiom that means that it’s your time to make a move or a decision. Basically, it’s a way to tell someone that the responsibility to move something forward is in their hands. You can change the possessive pronoun in order to fit the context of the statement, such as saying, ‘The ball is in his court’ or ‘The ball is in my court.’
Are you ready to learn more English phrases and expand your vocabulary? Be sure to check out our idioms blog for idioms, expressions, sayings, and more!
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