What Good Comes from 'Casting a Wide Net'?

04 May 2024

And now, Words and Their Stories, from VOA Learning English.

Sometimes in life, you may want to have as many choices as possible. For example, let's say you need a new job. You want to look far and wide. You do not want to limit your options. In this situation, you may want to cast a wide net.

Casting a wide net means to search a very wide area.

FILE - People pull a large net of fish off the coast of Chuao, Venezuela, June 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)
FILE - People pull a large net of fish off the coast of Chuao, Venezuela, June 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

To cast a wide net is an expression that probably comes from fishing. For some types of fishing, you attach a hook to a line on a fishing pole. Then you cast the hook into the water. This will only catch one fish. However, casting a net into the water can catch many fish!

When you cast a wide net, you might search a wider area, or you might aim to catch something bigger. For example, if someone looks for a partner, he might cast a wide net by searching — the world. He might be willing to move anywhere. He would have no limits to where he might go.

People who cast a wide net want to have many choices or options. They broaden their search or widen the qualities they are willing to accept.

There are many related expressions that describe similar ideas. One is to cast your net wide. Others include considering all options or exploring all opportunities.

Casting a wide net also means you leave no stone unturned. You look thoroughly. You search high and low for what you want.

Now, let's hear this expression used in two discussions. The first is at work:

A: So, how's the search going for a web designer?

B: Surprisingly, it's going slowly. So far, only five applicants have responded to the job announcement.

A: Five? In this job market, I thought resumes would have been pouring in.

B: Well, I only sent the job advertisement to one employment agency.

A: That's not enough! We need to cast a really wide net this time.

B: Right. I'm on it. I'll be casting a really wide net today!

Now, let's hear two friends use the same expression:

A: So, how is your online dating search going?

B: Not well. It's difficult to find the perfect partner.

A: Well, no one is perfect. What qualities are you looking for?

B: I'm looking for a person who is tall, 1.9 meters or taller, with a good job but not in politics or acting. And they must have a master's degree.

A: Hmmm ... the height and job criteria might be a bit limiting.

B: Oh, I'm not done. They must also live within 10 kilometers of me, love dogs ... big dogs, and they can't be a smoker. Oh, they must be active outdoors but especially with water skiing and rock climbing. Oh, and they must be a vegetarian.

A: I think if you want to meet more people and have more options, you may want to cast a wider net.

B: Maybe you're right. I know. I'll take off the dog criteria. If they like cats ... I guess that's okay.

Do you have a similar expression in your language? Let us know in the comments section. Or send us an email at LearningEnglish@VOANews.com

And that's all the time we have for this Words and Their Stories.

Until next time, I'm Anna Matteo.

Anna Matteo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

option –n. one of at least two choices

cast –v. to throw using a wide motion or a stick or rod to widen the path of the object being thrown

net –n. a large number of connected lines used to catch fish

hook –n. a curved piece of metal used to catch fish

broaden –v. to make something wide or more spread out

criteria –n. a standard on which a judgment or decision may be based