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plain (adjective)

Plain has a number of meanings. Depending on context, it can mean clear, simple, direct, ordinary, undecorated, lacking a pattern, and unattractive.

  • The problems were plain to see, and we knew exactly what needed changing.
    (= clear)
  • She wore a plain blue dress. It was very simple with no pattern.

Check out collocations

  • a plain room
    (= with no decoration)
  • a plain dress
    (= with no pattern)
  • plain paper
    (= with no lines or writing on it)
  • a plain face
    (= not especially attractive)
  • plain food
    (= simple, with no special seasoning)
  • plain speaking
    (= telling the truth in a simple, honest way)
  • plain common sense
    (= simple, clear)

Check out these expressions

  • You must understand now! It's as plain as the nose on your face.
    (= it's very obvious)
  • Once you have studied for the first exam, the rest of the course is plain sailing.
    (= very easy)
  • Could you say that in plain English, please? I didn't understand a word.
    (= in simple, clear English)
  • Driving when drunk is plain stupid.
    (= completely stupid – here plain is an adverb)
  • The man at the bar is a plain clothes policeman.
    (= a policeman on duty but not in uniform)

Note that the noun, a plain, means a flat piece of land, but the adjective plain means simple, not flat.

  • The countryside is very flat. There are no hills.
  • The countryside is very hilly, and very plain. There are no trees.

Check out these related words

  • clear
  • simple
  • direct
  • flat
  • ordinary

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