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burn the candle at both ends

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To do more than one ought to; to overextend oneself: “His doctor said that his illness was brought on by stress and recommended that he stop burning the candle at both ends.”

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“Was” is used for the indicative past tense of “to be,” and “were” is only used for the subjunctive past tense.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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Idioms and Phrases with burn the candle at both ends

burn the candle at both ends

Exhaust one's energies or resources by leading a hectic life. For example, Joseph's been burning the candle at both ends for weeks, working two jobs during the week and a third on weekends. This metaphor originated in France and was translated into English in Randle Cotgrave's Dictionary (1611), where it referred to dissipating one's wealth. It soon acquired its present broader meaning.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
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