Idiom:  that ship has sailed

Image of a sailboat in the distance in the ocean representing the idiom

Meaning

Idiom:  that ship has sailed

  • an opportunity has already passed and is no longer possible


Grammar note:  Notice that the present perfect is used in this idiom "that ship has sailed" and not the simple past "that ship sailed."

Why?

Let's analyze the example sentence in the picture:  "I finally realize my ex-girlfriend was my true love but unfortunately that ship has sailed."

The sentence "That ship sailed" is grammatically correct. However, the sentence "That ship has sailed" emphasizes the impact that is felt today.

So we can see that the event happened in the past (the couple broke up). However, we are focusing on what that means for the person right now. The person is not only no longer with his ex-girlfriend but the impact today is that he realizes she was his true love and now he is filled with regret. He didn't value her the way he should have before but something happened since they broke up that helped him understand that she was his true or perfect love. But it is too late. For example, perhaps she does not want to be with him now or maybe he married someone else.


Example sentences

  • I've thought about going back to college but I feel like that ship has sailed.
  • We bought a different house because by the time we decided on the other one, that ship had already sailed.
  • You better propose to your girlfriend before that ship has sailed.
  • By the time my boss recommended me for the position that ship had sailed.
  • I quit my job and am going for my dream of playing professional tennis before that ship has sailed
  • Sorry but that ship has sailed and we're no longer accepting applications.
  • We desperately wanted a baby but we've finally decided that ship has sailed and won't try another round of IVF.

Synonyms

  • the train has left the station
  • miss the boat
  • genie is out of the bottle

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