Line up

To “line up” means to arrange for something to happen.

Today's story: Covid vaccines
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Line up

Today’s expression is to line up. If you grew up here in the US, this word is burned in your memory. “Line up!” Our teachers would call this out to us. The masses of students, in a classroom or a school gymnasium, would have to organize ourselves in a single line, one after another. We had to line up; we had to form ourselves in a line. Any time you take something that’s unorganized and you form a line out of it, you can use “line up.”

That’s not exactly how I used it in today’s lesson—but it’s not far off. The other way to use “line up,” which I think is more common among adults, is to arrange for something to happen. To arrange for something to happen: you plan something, you prepare it, you get it ready to happen or you make it available.

Here’s what you heard earlier. Vaccine manufacturers have to line up the raw materials necessary to produce their vaccines. Raw materials are things like proteins, enzymes, cultures, whatever. It’s the stuff that goes into the vaccine recipe. You can’t just order a billion doses’ worth on Amazon. The drug makers have to find the producers of these raw materials and make sure those producers are working now to make enough of the raw materials that will eventually be needed for the virus. They have to work backwards through the supply chain to make sure that enough materials will be available.

The drug makers are lining up the raw materials that they will need to manufacture their vaccines, should their vaccines be approved by the government. They’re not ready to use the raw materials now. But they can’t afford to wait until they get a vaccine; they can’t develop a vaccine and only then start thinking about how to make it. They need to line up the raw materials now; they need to arrange for the raw materials to be available.

Any manufacturer needs to do this when they start making a new product. It could be a car, a smartphone, a drug, whatever: you need to line up the parts or the inputs before you begin production. And the suppliers themselves: they, too, need to line up their own supplies. Everyone in the supply chain needs to line up their inputs. Before Apple releases a new iPhone, they need to line up suppliers of the chips, suppliers of the glass, suppliers of the batteries, and of course the workforce. They need to line up enough workers to put these things together. Note that Apple doesn’t put the phones together themselves. Other companies do that for them. But Apple lines it up. Apple make sure that the labor is available, one way or another.

That’s how we use “line up” in the sense of making something available. We can also use line up to mean, we have prepared something that we’ll need in the future. If you want to move to a new city, you might need a new job. Let’s say you want to move on September 1. You probably want to start looking for a job over the summer. If you’re lucky, you get an offer in August and you accept it. Before you move, sometime in August, sometime before September 1, you might say, “I have a new job lined up.”

“I have a new job lined up” means, I have a new job available to me. You haven’t yet started it. But it’s ready and waiting for you. What else do you need if you move on September 1? You’ll need a place to live, a house or an apartment. You might have a lease that starts on September 1. Maybe you have put down a deposit. Before September 1, you can say, “I have an apartment all lined up.” All lined up means, you’re extra special ready to use it. The apartment is all lined up. It’s ready; it’s mine. I’m ready to use it.

But you know, there are no guarantees in life. You might have something all lined up, but you still might not get it. You might have a job lined up, but the company may change its mind at the last minute. All lined up just means prepared; it doesn’t mean guaranteed.

If you’re planning a big party, maybe a wedding, you need to line a lot of stuff up in advance. You need to line up the band or the DJ, you need to line up the caterers, you need to line up the officiants. Don’t forget that. Who’s going to do the honors for the lucky couple? The officiant is the person who administers the ceremony. You want to make sure that’s all lined up; you don’t want to show up to your own wedding and find there’s nobody to perform the ceremony.

Sometimes we say, “I have a lot lined up this week.” In that sense, it means, you have a lot to do this week. Can you come out to lunch with me today? I want to tell you all about my new car. No, I’m sorry, you might say. I can’t today. I have lot lined up and I don’t think I can get away.

Quote of the Week

Time for the quote of the week. I stole this from the Instagram feed of our Spanish translator, Coty . I’ll link to her Instagram in the transcript; she always has good quotes. Here’s one that caught my eye, by the author J. R. R. Tolkien. He said, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

I like that quote; we tend to overcomplicate things sometimes. So this is just a reminder that the only really important decision is how we spend our time. I like it. So thanks Coty for the inspiration and for posting that quote.

See you next time!

Congratulations on reaching the end of another Plain English lesson. Remember all the extra lesson resources are available on our lesson home page at PlainEnglish.com/284. We’ll be back on Thursday. Our topic on Thursday is a scientific discovery in the Mexican state of Puebla.

You heard me mention Coty, our Spanish translator. And you might be wondering, why do we have a translator if everything is in English? Good question … well, all our transcripts online come with translations into nine languages; Spanish is just one. We have an army of translators around the world—on four continents—who translate the hardest words and phrases in each lesson. Those translations are built into our transcripts on PlainEnglish.com and are available for Plus+ or Starter members. To learn more, visit PlainEnglish.com/Join and choose either the Plus or Starter membership.

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Story: Covid vaccines