What Is Give and Take?

Alicia Sparks

Give and take is an idiom that carries a variety of meanings. When giving and taking is involved, sometimes it means two or more people are compromising. The saying can also refer to a formal or informal discussion about certain matters. Often, the phrase refers to a playful banter between people who are friendly with one another. Generally, the idiom’s meaning becomes clear once the context of the situation becomes known.

Give and take can include couples compromising on a choice of a cat or dog.
Give and take can include couples compromising on a choice of a cat or dog.

Perhaps the most common example of a give and take is the compromise. When two or more people compromise, giving and taking is involved. For example, sometimes two people have to give and take in a relationship, especially when marriage is involved or the two people are living together. One person might be an early riser while the other likes to sleep late, and one might like dogs as pets while the other prefers cats. Since people rarely share identical schedules, tastes, and preferences, people in relationships find they must compromise or make concessions to create a mutually satisfying environment.

People can also engage in a give and take when they’re having a discussion. Typically, the discussion is about some matter of importance and the people involved need specific kinds of input from one another. For example, a store manager might hold a meeting with his sales associates to talk about new ways they can work with security to prevent shoplifting. A school principal might hold a meeting with her teachers to discuss how the students are responding to a change in class schedules. During these kinds of discussions, each party has viewpoints the other party needs, and both parties discuss their knowledge, thoughts, or observations.

Note that not all such discussions are formal or even scheduled. Two friends can have a give and take over coffee, discussing the pros and cons of a new mayor in their town. Two strangers waiting at a bus stop can have a give and take about the merits of using public transportation over their own vehicles.

Sometimes, a give and take can be more playful than it is significant. For example, when two people banter back and forth about a disagreement or opposing views, their banter can be a give and take. Generally, this takes place between people who know each other fairly well, such as family members or friends, and the banter is lighthearted about something relatively insignificant such as favorite sports teams or musical tastes.

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