Chance would be a fine thing

chance would be a fine thing; example of reference page

Ah, chance would be a fine thing’, you hear your friend saying those words in a resigned voice. She seems sad but dreamy. For that reason, you are not sure about the answer to your question: will she get her perfect job or not?

We hasten to clarify the meaning of this idiom, used primarily in British English. If, at the same time, you want to learn something new about this curious expression, its history, synonyms and sample use, just keep reading!

Idiom’s meaning

Chance would be a fine thing means that something good will probably not happen despite us wanting it a lot. It is used to express resignation. The chance that something will occur is highly unlikely. Usually, the fact that we desire a certain outcome doesn’t need further explanation; it is known both to us and our interlocutor.

Idiom’s etymology

Chance would be a fine thing isn’t a new expression. It appeared in the 19th century, in Victorian England as slang. In newspapers, it was seen first in the 1980s. On the 20th of January 1982, The York Herald mentioned a court case concerning a local pub landlord: ‘Mr. Williamson then called Robert Spanton who said that Bellwood came to him and Richardson in the street and said, “my lads, you look as though a glass of ale would do you good this morning.” Richardson said that the chance would be a fine thing’.

Thomas Watson, a beerhouse keeper in Waterhouse Lane, on eleven o'clock on Sunday Morning kept an open house
chance would be a fine thing – word and its definition in dictionary
chance would be a fine thing; example of reference page

Sample use of chance would be a fine thing

It is always easy to learn a new expression (and fully grasp its meaning) by looking at it in a sentence. Let’s take a look at some examples!

  • John inviting me out for a dinner? Chance would be a fine thing!
  • The new government promised to stop the inflation and knock down the price of fuel by 50p. Chance would be a fine thing!
  • Chance would be a fine thing, but I can’t afford to live on my own right now.
  • Are you planning to graduate this year? Chance would be a fine thing, I can’t pass the organic chemistry exam.

Now imagine a few situations in which chance would be a fine thing seems like an appropriate comment:

  • You are stuck in a traffic jam. By the time you spend in it, you can gather it is not going to end quickly. In five minutes you should be in the office, working on a new project. Your co-worker asks you if you manage to arrive on time. You answer…
  • You have applied for an extremely competitive job offer. After the interview, during which you found out that you are an unsuitable choice for the company because you: don’t have enough experience / are underqualified / have too high salary expectations (delete as appropriate), your mum calls you to ask if you got the job. You answer…
  • You talk to your father about the importance of periodic health examinations. He hates going to the doctor, and everybody in your family knows that. Afterwards, your sister asks you if he attends tomorrow’s appointment. You answer…

Synonyms of chance would be a fine thing

Although the phrase chance would be a fine thing is quite charming, it is always worth knowing what can we replace it with:

  • an American English slang expression: ‘fat chance of that’;
  • adverbs: unlikely, doubtful, improbable, inconceivable;
  • phrases: ‘I don’t suppose’, ‘you will be lucky’, ‘there is no question of’, ‘long odds’.

Your turn

We are sure you can come up with plenty of ideas for using this expression. We hope that you learned something new today. If you are interested in English idioms, remember that learning them is a part of the language courses offered by our school.