Hobson’s Choice: Do You Know What this Idiomatic Expression Means?

You may have heard someone use the term ‘hobson’s choice’ during a conversation. But what does this term mean and how can we use it in our day to day conversation? We will answer both of these questions as well as looking at where this saying came from in the first place.

Hobson’s Choice

Hobson’s Choice Meaning

When you offer someone a ‘hobson’s choice’ you are giving them a choice where there is only really one option to select.

Origin of this idiom

The term ‘hobson’s choice’ came from the 16th century and a man named Thomas Hobson. Hobson was a stable owner and he would give his customers the choice of only one stable or none at all.

“Hobson’s Choice” Examples

Examples in Statements

This is a statement made in a news report.

  • ‘The man held everyone at gunpoint and told them to either obey him or he would shoot them, it was a hobson’s choice for everyone there.’

This next statement is made by a teacher to her student.

  • ‘You can either sit in this seat or sit in no seat at all, I’m sorry but it’s hobson’s choice.’

Other examples:

  • If you want a yellow car, it’s Hobson’s choice.
  • I hate to be caught in the Hobson’s choice: stay lacking salary or lay off.
  • They must take this. It is Hobson’s choice.

Conversation Examples

You may be curious to see how the term ‘hobsons choice’ can work in a conversation, if that is the case, here are some examples to demonstrate its use.

The first conversation takes place between a mother and son.

  • Person 1: “Mom, I am going to a party tonight.”
  • Person 2: “Well, I expect you home before midnight.”
  • Person 1: “Everyone else is allowed to stay later than that.”
  • Person 2: “Well, it’s hobson’s choice, you either come back before midnight or don’t go at all.”

This next conversation happens between a boss and his employee

  • Person 1: “Can I take tomorrow off please?”
  • Person 2: “No, I need you here.”
  • Person 1: “But I have an appointment.”
  • Person 2: “I’m sorry to have to give a hobson’s choice but it’s either come to work, or don’t have a job to come back to.”

Other Ways to Say the Phrase

There are other ways in which you can express the meaning of the term ‘hobson’s choice.’

Here are some examples of other things you might say.

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