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Session 19

William Shakespeare and actor Thomas Swann have a disagreement. Can Bess the barmaid make Thomas see sense, or will he refuse to budge an inch? We explore the phrase not budge an inch and introduce some useful responses for when you are asked to do something you don’t want to do.

Session 19 score

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Activity 2

Not budge an inch - meaning and use

Grrrr. To budge, or not to budge: that is the question
Eveyone is refusing to budge an inch in this episode of Shakespeare Speaks - even this dog! So let's check that you know how to use this phrase.

To do

Listen to this extract of the animation to help you remember what the narrator said, and then do the quiz to check you understood the meaning and form of the phrase not budge an inch.

Listen to the audio and complete the activity

Show transcript Hide transcript

The phrase not budge an inch is used these days to describe not only objects that won't move but also people who won't change their minds. Take Simon Walker, the director general of the British Institute of Directors, who said that the British chancellor George Osborne…

Clip 1
…must not budge an inch on the crucial job of deficit reduction.

Clip 2
That stupid dog refused to move. I kept pulling on the lead, but he wouldn't budge an inch.

Now have a go at this quiz. Look at the transcript if you need extra help.

To budge, or not to budge...

4 Questions

Answer the questions about the meaning and form of not budge an inch.

Congratulations you completed the Quiz
Excellent! Great job! Bad luck! You scored:
x / y

Well done if you answered the questions correctly. Before you move on to learn some more useful phrases, have a look at this language note.

Language note


An inch is a unit of measurement equal to 2.54 centimeters. 

  • We had over 3 inches of snow at the weekend

Budge means move slightly.

  • He budged over to let her sit down

It's especially common in negative sentences:

  • We couldn't get the door to budge

The phrase not budge an inch has a similar meaning to these phrases: stand your ground and dig your heels in.

  • She stood her ground even though nobody agreed with her
  • The owners dug their heels in and refused to sell their land


The phrase not budge an inch can be used with different modal verbs:

  • I won't budge 
  • They mustn't budge an inch
  • You shouldn't budge an inch
  • She wouldn't budge an inch

We can also use budge an inch with the verb refuse.

  • They refused to budge an inch

The verb budge can be replaced with give.

  • She won't give an inch


How do you feel when you are asked to do something you don't want to do? Do you refuse to budge an inch or do you back down and agree?

On the next page we'll look at some responses you can give next time you are asked to do something you don't want to do!

Session Vocabulary

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    Not budge an inch

    The phrase not budge an inch is used these days to describe objects that won't move, and also people who won't change their minds. 

    Example sentence

    That stupid dog refused to move. I kept pulling on the lead, but he wouldn't budge an inch.


    Extra vocabulary

    an inch
    2.54 centimeters


    the battle of the sexes
    the fight for power between men and women

    change something wild so that it is easier to control

    describes a person who refuses to change their ideas or behaviour 

    not easily influenced by others 

    stand your ground
    refuse to change your opinion or behaviour, even when other people disagree with you

    dig your heels in
    refuse to change your ideas or behaviour

    back down
    admit that you are wrong

    No way!
    Definitely not!

    not even if you paid me!
    I would never do that, even if you gave me a lot of money

    it's out of the question
    it's impossible; I won't let it happen

    never in a million years 
    absolutely never

    oh go on then
    I agree to do or allow something that I didn't want to do before

    I suppose so
    I agree to something that I am not certain or happy about


    About Shakespeare Speaks

    Shakespeare Speaks is a co-production between:

    BBC Learning English

    The Open University


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