Dear experts,

Would you confirm that the expressions below have only ONE meaning in which they are freely interchangeable:

at a stretch
on the stretch

at a stretch - 1. continuously; without interruption: It was impossible to work for more than an hour or so at a stretch.
2. by making a special effort; by stretching one's resources: We have provided food for only fifty people, but we might be able to make it do for sixty at a stretch.

on the stretch - 1. tightened and extended: The mariner has favorable gales which keep the sails on the stretch.
2. = at a stretch 1: He tells me that the Finns recite their poems six or seven hours on the stretch, spelling one another, as we say in New England.
3. (coll.) using exaggerated statements: He's always on the stretch... He never tells the truth except by mistake.
4. in the state of tension: The inmates of Sisera's harem are on the stretch of expectation for the sight of their champion.
5. (also: at full stretch) working to the utmost of one's powers: Me and my stoker were on the stretch all the time, doing two things at once - attending to the engine and looking out.

Thank you,

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Original Post
Grammar Exchange readers: Can any of you tell us something about "on the stretch"?

The Grammar Exchange can not comment on this question because we don't know the expression "on the stretch," nor could we find it in our usual references.

An online dictionary"” – does have a definition, but it's different from the ones you give. It says: "To be on the stretch, to be obliged to use one's utmost powers."

"At a stretch" is defined very well.


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I have found a following example in my dictionary.

His duties keep his mind continually on the stretch, which I think means because of his duties, he is tense, nervous, and tight.

I may be wrong.

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