Overstay your welcome

To overstay your welcome is to stay somewhere longer than you're wanted there

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Overstay your welcome

“Overstay your welcome” – you’re going to have to be very careful with this expression. To “overstay your welcome” means to stay in a place longer than other people want you there. I say you have to be careful because it’s not a great thing to say directly to another person. But I am going to show you exactly how to use it today, so don’t worry.

First, a few easy examples. If you invite some friends over to dinner and you start at, say , 8:00 pm. What time do you think your friends should go home? Everyone has a different idea. As a guest, you have to start to read the signals. I would think that by 11:00, unless you’re specifically invited to stay longer, by 11:00, you should be getting ready to leave. Sometimes earlier—it all depends on the situation.

But this isn’t always 100 percent clear. And some people aren’t good at reading the signals! So maybe it’s 11:30 and you’ve put the drinks away. You start to clear the table, put the dishes in the sink. You don’t contribute much to the conversation. You check your watch, you start to yawn. Maybe you yawn twice in a row. But midnight rolls around , then 12:30. The guests are still there! They are overstaying their welcome. They are there longer than you want them to be there.

They were welcome at 8:00: you wanted them there then, you invited them. They were welcome at 9:00. But they overstayed their welcome, they stayed longer than you wanted them to stay.

But you don’t say this directly to them. That’s offensive. You might say that to other people. You might say, “Wow, by like midnight they were really starting to overstay their welcome.”

But like I said, you can’t say that directly to them—that’s rude. Instead, you can say, “Wow, I’m starting to get tired. Aren’t you?” Or you can say, “I think we need to get to bed soon.” You can say, “Thanks so much for coming. I had such a great time, but I need to get some rest.” But you cannot tell your guests they have overstayed their welcome! That is very rude.

Still, there might come a time when you have to say this. You’ve tried everything to get someone to leave. Imagine you have a friend—not a close friend—but someone is staying at your house. You invited them to stay for a few days, but now it’s going into the third week. You’ve tried everything. If you want that person out, you might have to say, “Listen, I’m afraid you might be starting to overstay your welcome.” But I’m telling you—if you say this, the friendship might be over. “You’re overstaying your welcome” is another way of saying “get out.”

There is a way to use this, referring to yourself. There are some times when you are not sure whether you, as the guest, should stay somewhere for a long time. And in those cases, you can tell your host, “I wouldn’t want to overstay my welcome.” That means, you’re giving your host permission to tell you exactly how long you can stay. And in this case, it’s not impolite—you’re talking about yourself. In fact, it’s an invitation to make the expectations clearer.

Imagine your friends have a house by a lake and they invite you for a weekend. Everything is going great on Sunday afternoon. You’re starting to get ready to go home. The friends say, “Hey, you can work remotely. Why don’t you stay here for a few more days?”

You hesitate. You’ve never stayed longer than two nights before. Are your friends saying this just to be polite? Do they really want you to spend a few more days? So here’s something you can say. “I would love to spend more time with you, but I wouldn’t want to overstay my welcome.”

That’s an invitation to your hosts to be a little more honest about how long they want you there. So your hosts might reply, “Of course! Why don’t you stay until Tuesday?” And that gives you the clarity that you’re welcome until Tuesday—you don’t have to worry about overstaying your welcome. You’ve specifically said you don’t want to overstay your welcome, and they specifically told you that you’re welcome until Tuesday.

In today’s lesson, we talked about people in the public eye that can overstay their welcome. I said in show business, you want to leave them wanting more . You want to walk off the stage, or retire, or whatever, while people still love you. That’s better than the opposite, which is to overstay your welcome.

In show business, obviously, people can leave a theater, not buy a movie ticket, not watch a show. But you know what I mean. Some politicians and celebrities just hang around long after they’re popular.

I told you about the show “Succession” on HBO . There have been three seasons and there’s a fourth coming out. There are no plans, yet, to do any more, though the show hass not been cancelled. The actor who plays the main character said he doesn’t want Succession to overstay its welcome. That means, they won’t keep making more and more seasons, and watch the quality and popularity decline.

I think “The Office” overstayed its welcome—the American version. There were nine seasons, but Steve Carrel left after season 7. The last two seasons…let me tell you, they were struggling. “The Office” definitely overstayed its welcome.

Quote of the Week

It’s time for a quote of the week. Here it is from the French philosopher Blaise Pascal: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

This is about prioritizing time to think, rather than just acting and reacting all the time. I think it goes nicely with today’s topic about Jacinda Arden, too. She sets a good example. Here again is Blaise Pascal: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

See you next time!

That’s all for today’s Plain English. This was lesson number 546, so the full lesson is at PlainEnglish.com/546.

Remember, the full lesson includes the transcript, some additional vocabulary, a step-by-step video walkthrough, and much more. PlainEnglish.com/546.

We’ll be back on Thursday with a new lesson. See you then!

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Story: Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand