p's and q's

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manners; behavior; conduct (usually preceded by mind or watch): The children were told to mind their p's and q's.
Were you ready for a quiz on this topic? Well, here it is! See how well you can differentiate between the uses of "was" vs. "were" in this quiz.
Question 1 of 7
“Was” is used for the indicative past tense of “to be,” and “were” is only used for the subjunctive past tense.

Origin of p's and q's

First recorded in 1770–80; perhaps from some children's difficulty in distinguishing the two letters
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British Dictionary definitions for p's and q's

p's and q's

pl n
behaviour within social conventions; manners (esp in the phrase to mind one's p's and q's)

Word Origin for p's and q's

altered from p (lea) se and (than) k-you's
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012