True to form

中国日报网 2015-01-23 10:03



True to formReader question:

Please explain “true to form” in this passage, a comment on the State of the Union address by Barack Obama (This was the best moment of Obama’s State of the Union address,, January 20, 2015):

“True to form, the President in his State of the Union speech is more interested in politics than in leadership,” former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney wrote on Facebook. “More intent on winning elections than on winning progress, he ignores the fact that the country has elected a Congress that favors smaller government and lower taxes.”

My comments:

First of all, true to form simply means as expected. In other words, there’s nothing unusual.

I’ve written about this phrase before. Normally, one doesn’t want to write about the same subject twice lest they find themselves repeating themselves and saying nothing new. However, I don’t mind making an exception this time because it’s a good question. It’s newsy, up to date and the phrase itself is really a good one – one of those nitty-gritty idioms to grasp if you want to speak good English.

Anyways, form is the way in which things exist. Different types of things appear in different shape and sizes. And that outward shape and size in which something appears is its form.

Everyday, we see things in their different forms and expect to see them that way. Birds in the sky, you know what I mean. Fish in the sea, yeah, you know what I mean.

Different species appear each in their individual shape, size and color, etc.

And they do different things, too, according to a regular pattern.

As long as they follow that regular pattern, they’re running true to from.

So long as they’re running true to form, there’s normalcy.

When we talk about human behavior, however, we’re usually critical when we use the phrase “true to form”. When we use this phrase on people, we’re usually talking about their bad behavior, of one type or other. For example, Jack is someone who comes to meetings late and today he’s late again. That’s a perfect occasion for someone to remark: True to form, Jack is late.

Similarly, in our example, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, a Republican, accuses Barack Obama of playing politics in his State of the Union speech. “True to form, the President in his State of the Union speech is more interested in politics than in leadership,” he says. “True to form” suggests President Obama has always been like that and Mr. Romney doesn’t approve of it.

Explaining himself, Romney goes on to say that Obama is “more intent on winning elections than on winning progress”, whatever that means.

I mean, is Romney’s criticism merited?

Without delving deep into the subject, let’s face a few facts. First, Obama is black. He’s the country’s first African American President. He introduces what is known as Obama Care. He wants more gun control. He wants to raise taxes for the rich, etc, and so forth.

If these do not represent progress in America, of all places, then I don’t know what Romney means by “progress”.

But… I understand. I have no intention of standing between Obama and Romney and say if one is right or the other is wrong. I cannot do that. They know about their country much more that I do. Here I just want to point out that the whole thing is not unusual.

At all.

It’s not unusual at all for Obama, or any president, to make full use of the State of the Union address for political gain. Politicians being politicians, anyone will do that.

There’s nothing unusual, either, for Romney to seize the occasion to rip his Democratic opponent. Whether his criticisms are merited is not important. What’s important is that he seizes the occasion to criticize his opponent.

In other words, he’s doing what he’s supposed to do.

In that regard, Romney, too, is running true to form.



About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.


(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)


上一篇 : Far cry?
下一篇 : Proof is in the pudding



















关于我们 | 联系方式 | 招聘信息

Copyright by All rights reserved. None of this material may be used for any commercial or public use. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. 版权声明:本网站所刊登的中国日报网英语点津内容,版权属中国日报网所有,未经协议授权,禁止下载使用。 欢迎愿意与本网站合作的单位或个人与我们联系。