spur of the moment: meaning and explanation

If you do something on the spur of the moment, you do it spontaneously.

You didn’t plan to do it, but have decided to do it on impulse (another synonym of spontaneously!). e.g. I rarely do things on the spur of the moment, but I woke up this morning and decided to quit my job.

Spurs were the metal attachments that horse riders used to wear on their boots. These were used to quickly ‘encourage’ the horse to move or to increase their speed.

This is where the metaphorical use comes from – when you do something on the spur of the moment, it is like something has suddenly motivated you (or spurred you) into doing something.

Have a go at these micro-dictation exercises to hear this expression being used in context – how much can you understand?

Listening exercises

Micro-listening #1

Accent: Northern England

, .
I the lottery, a ticket the spur .

About the sentence

…I bought a ticket…

Notice the pronunciation of the words ‘bought’ and ‘ticket’ – the final ‘t’ sound is dropped and pronounced as a ‘glottal stop’ which can make the word hard to identify.

Micro-listening #2

Accent: England (RP)

, Edinburgh.
I hadn't much this weekend, but I decided to Edinburgh.

About the sentence

…I hadn’t been planning on doing much…

Notice the useful verb pattern to plan on doing something, e.g. We’re planning on going out for a few drinks after work if you’d like to join us?

The past perfect continuous (I hadn’t been planning) is used here because this action (not planning) takes place before the main action in the sentence (deciding to go to Edinburgh).

Micro-listening #3

Accent: North America

Sometimes more things .

About the sentence

…I wish I did more things…

Notice the structure used when making a wish about the present: I wish + past.

For example, if in reality I don’t have a car, I might say: I wish I had a car.

If I can’t speak Spanish, I might say: I wish I could speak Spanish.

Extra practice

Here are some questions/links to help you learn the new vocabulary:

  • When was the last time you did something on the spur of the moment?
  • Are you a spontaneous person? If not, do you wish you were?

Photo by Scott Warman on Unsplash