English idioms: Let’s talk about crashing and knocking

The word ‘crash’, used idiomatically, refers to sleeping especially in the sense of staying over and spending the night in a particular place. When you talk about ‘crashing at’ some place, or about ‘crashing with’ someone, you are referring to temporary sleeping arrangements

By Author  |  Published: 10th Jul 2017  12:05 amUpdated: 10th Jul 2017  12:07 am

What do you think of when you hear these words? Does it make you think of sleeping? Or of criticizing things? Read through to the end, and you will get there.



“The heavy rain had caused flooding on the roads, and it was very late in the night, so I just decided to crash at my friend’s place for the night.”

“I’m throwing a big party at my new house this Friday. And if it gets too late, you can just crash in the spare bedroom after the party.”

“I’m glad you came to stay over, but our guest room is flooded, so you’ll have to crash with Tom for the night in his apartment next door.”


There are two separate idioms here, actually: ‘crash at,’ and ‘crash with.’ Both refer to sleeping, and are similar in meaning, but there is a slight difference in meaning and usage. ‘Crash at’ refers to staying over, while ‘crash with’ refers to staying over at someone’s place in particular.

Meanings and usage

The word ‘crash’, used idiomatically, refers to sleeping especially in the sense of staying over and spending the night in a particular place. Importantly, when you talk about ‘crashing at’ some place, or about ‘crashing with’ someone, you are most likely referring to temporary sleeping arrangements. The central word ‘crash,’ means ‘sleeping.’ So you can also say something like, “Don’t go all the way home this late in the night. You can just crash here.’ Also: “After our dance rehearsal, we were all exhausted, and everyone just crashed on my floor for the night.”


Have you ever crashed at someone’s place? Describe the circumstances that led to this situation in a quick sentence. For this week, any time you get the opportunity to refer to ‘sleeping,’ or you hear someone talk about sleeping, rephrase the statements to use the words crash instead. It’s fine if your usage is not always accurate; you just want some opportunities to internalize this idiom.



“This food is actually terrible, but I have a strict rule: don’t knock something if you’re getting it free.”

“It’s easy to knock institutions like the judiciary and the parliament for their efficiencies, but remember, we’d not even have a functioning society without them.”

“Instead on knocking the education system and the unfairness of the the entire universe, perhaps if you just sat down and studied for a change, your life would be a lot better.”


I just want to quickly point out a variation used by many people that is actually incorrect. I’ve encountered people erroneously use ‘knock on’ to refer to being critical, but the actual idiom is simply ‘knock,’ and it does not involve the use of any preposition.

Meanings and usage

The word ‘knock’ has many meanings. One of its idiomatic meanings refers to criticising, or finding faults. You’ve probably heard the expression “don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.” The expression tells you not to criticize things without knowing enough about them, or experiencing them yourself. For example, you might say, “People who do bungee jumping are crazy. I’d never do anything too dangerous.” And your bungee-jumper friend might respond by saying, “Hey, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.”

In terms of meaning, the idiom is mostly straightforward I think. But now for an important note on usage—and this part is a bit tricky:

This idiom is mostly used in situations where the criticism is perceived as unwarranted, and unfair. Let’s say you are at a restaurant and you do not like the ambience. If you are critical, and you mean it, you are not really ‘knocking the ambience.’ But if you are being critical, and your friend thinks you are being unfair, she might tell you to “stop knocking restaurant and enjoy the meal.” If you look at the examples above, you will see that the word is in each case used in the context of criticism that is at the very least perceived as unjustified.


Was there something that you criticised before trying it? Maybe some food or a new sport? Perhaps a movie? Describe the experience quickly in a couple of sentences. Don’t forget to use the idiom ‘knock.’

For this week, if you see anyone criticizing anything, use this idiom to tell them not to be unnecessarily critical. Do this even if you agree with them. As always, the idea here is to create opportunities to use the idiom as much as possible.