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  1. #1
    JarekSteliga is offline Member
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    Default one step at a time / little by little

    Are both above expressions synonymous?

  2. #2
    Calis's Avatar
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    Default Re: one step at a time / little by little

    More or less, yes.
    [Not a teacher]

  3. #3
    Rover_KE is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: one step at a time / little by little

    They're not in the following contexts:

    'Blend the olive oil with the balsamic vinegar little by little.'

    'Take each day one step at a time.'

    Rover

  4. #4
    JarekSteliga is offline Member
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    Default Re: one step at a time / little by little

    Quote Originally Posted by Rover_KE View Post
    They're not in the following contexts:

    'Blend the olive oil with the balsamic vinegar little by little.'

    'Take each day one step at a time.'

    Rover

    But in some instances can be synonymous?

    I suppose here

    "He was regaining strength one step at a time"
    "He was regaining strength litle by litle"

    both mean the same.

    Also your own example sentence can I suppose be rephrased without changing its meaning or sounding awkward?

    'Blend the olive oil with the balsamic vinegar one step at a time.'

  5. #5
    emsr2d2's Avatar
    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: one step at a time / little by little

    Quote Originally Posted by JarekSteliga View Post
    But in some instances can they be synonymous?

    I suppose here

    "He was regaining strength one step at a time"
    "He was regaining strength little by little"

    they both mean the same.

    I still read a slight difference between the two. Using "one step at a time" suggests that there are identifiable steps that the person is taking, and he is doing them one at a time. "Little by little" might just mean that the improvement is slight each time but that you could not actually break down the improvement into individual steps.

    Also your own example sentence can I suppose be rephrased without changing its meaning or sounding awkward?

    'Blend the olive oil with the balsamic vinegar one step at a time.'

    This sounds awkward to me. I would expect the blending of the olive oil with the balsamic vinegar to be one step in a longer recipe. So you make the recipe one step at a time and one of those steps is to blend the oil and vinegar little by little.
    See above.

  6. #6
    JarekSteliga is offline Member
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    Default Re: one step at a time / little by little

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    See above.
    Thank you

    Would you venture a suggestion how these four terms: "step by step", "one step at a time", "little by little" and "gradually" could be organized with respect to the "smoothness" of the processes which they are used to describe?

  7. #7
    bhaisahab's Avatar
    bhaisahab is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: one step at a time / little by little

    Quote Originally Posted by JarekSteliga View Post
    Thank you

    Would you venture a suggestion how these four terms: "step by step", "one step at a time", "little by little" and "gradually" could be organized with respect to the "smoothness" of the processes which they are used to describe?
    I don't think that's possible.

  8. #8
    5jj's Avatar
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    Default Re: one step at a time / little by little

    Quote Originally Posted by JarekSteliga View Post
    Would you venture a suggestion how these four terms: "step by step", "one step at a time", "little by little" and "gradually" could be organized with respect to the "smoothness" of the processes which they are used to describe?
    emsr2d2 may have a better response than this. I think that a lot of it is just feeling. If something is happening steadily, for example snow melting, then expressions with 'step' may not appear to fit. The regaining of strength could go in steps/stages, but could be every smooth. There is some overlap between the expressions, but they are not always interchangeable.

    Just try to make a mental note every time you hear/see one of these expressions, and you will gradually (?) build up an idea of how they are used.

    ps. you'll note that bhai is more concise than I.
    Last edited by 5jj; 17-Jan-2012 at 20:30. Reason: ps added

  9. #9
    JarekSteliga is offline Member
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    Default Re: one step at a time / little by little

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    emsr2d2 may have a better response than this. I think that a lot of it is just feeling. If something is happening steadily, for example snow melting, then expressions with 'step' may not appear to fit. The regaining of strength could go in steps/stages, but could be every smooth. There is some overlap between the expressions, but they are not always interchangeable.

    Just try to make a mental note every time you hear/see one of these expressions, and you will gradually (?) build up an idea of how they are used.

    ps. you'll note that bhai is more concise than I.
    I have every intention to follow your advice. Thank you.

  10. #10
    BobSmith is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: one step at a time / little by little

    [not a teacher]

    Context is so important when using common phrases and idioms. For example "one step at a time" almost means the opposite of the discussion above (i.e. slow progress) here:

    Coach: Nice job on your back flip!
    Gymnist: Can I try a double back flip?
    Coach: Hold on now, one step at a time!

    Here, the phrase is intended to stop or slow further movement.

    Also, in the original question, I heard "one step at a time" as "one day at a time", which can also have a distinct meaning.

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