To not be cut out for something
What does it mean?
If you are not cut out for something, it means that you are not the right person for that thing. For example, someone might say “I’m not cut out for this job.” In this case they mean that they are not the right person for this job because they don’t have the right skills, abilities or qualities.
For me, I know I am not cut out for sports. I lack the balance and spatial awareness required to be a top sportsman. That is perfectly fine, we can’t all be good at everything!
One of the reasons why we like this phrase is that it is easier to accept than saying we are just not good at something. By saying we are not cut out for it, we are saying that it is not our fault that we are bad at something.
Where does it come from?
The origin of this phrase is unclear, but it is possible that it comes from tailoring. Tailors would cut out pieces of fabric for a particular part of a garment and therefore a piece that was cut out for one part would not be suitable to be used for another as it would have the wrong dimensions.
How can I use it?
We often use this phrase to talk about our jobs or studies when we get frustrated with them. For example:
- I’m not cut out for this.
- I’m not cut out for this job.
- I don’t think I’m cut out for the stress of management.
We can also use it to say when we think someone else is doing a bad job. Again it tends to be used more on the topic of jobs or studies:
- He’s a nice guy, but he’s not really cut out for management.
- She’s smart, but I’m not sure she’s cut out for NASA.
- What makes you think you’re not cut out for college?
We can also use this phrase to talk about lifestyle choices. For example:
- I’m not cut out for a serious relationship.
- After ten years in the army, he was no longer cut out for civilian life.
So far, we have looked at examples with ‘for’, but we can replace this with ‘to’. In this case we need to use different grammatical structures.
- I’m not cut out to be a math teacher.
- He’s not cut out to work here.
- She’s not cut out to captain the England team.
In all of the above cases, notice that we tend to use this phrase in the negative and in present simple. Logically, it would probably make more sense to say that we weren’t cut out for something, but then English isn’t cut out to be logical!
What are some examples?
- I like him, he’s a nice guy, but he’s not cut out for management.
- I’m not cut out to be a primary school teacher. I can’t stand noisy children.
- She’s a great footballer, but she’s not cut out to captain the England team.
- I know this candidate. He’s ok at his job but he’s not cut out to work here.
What are some similar or related expressions?
- have your work cut out
- to be a square peg in a round hole