What does the idiom "It takes two to tango" mean?

Are you using the idiom It takes two to tango but not sure about its meaning? Using idioms, which are important elements of spoken and written language, in the right place strengthens your language skills. Examine the meaning of the It takes two to tango idiom and the situations in which it is used.

Meaning of "It takes two to tango"


The phrase ‘It takes two to tango’ is commonly used to express the idea that a particular situation or disagreement requires the participation of two people in order for it to happen or be resolved. Essentially, this expression serves as an acknowledgment of the mutual responsibility the parties have in making things happen.


The origins of this popular idiom are uncertain, though some sources attribute the phrase to anonymous Argentinians of the 1930s, who coined the phrase to describe the need for two people to be able to complete the traditional Argentine dance called the tango. The phrase is also believed to come from a popular American song and dance of the same name released in the early 1950s by singer and songwriter Ethel Merman. In any case, ‘it takes two to tango’ has been in use in the English language since the 1950s.


The phrase ‘it takes two to tango’ is most commonly used in the context of romantic relationships in order to express the idea that it takes two people working together in order to make the relationship work. However, the phrase can also be used more generally to express the idea that two people need to be involved in order for anything to happen. This can range from having two people actively cooperate in order to achieve a specific goal to the idea that two people need to be working collaboratively in order for something to be resolved.

Example Sentences

  • It takes two to tango when it comes to resolving this conflict. Both parties must be willing to compromise in order to reach an agreement.
  • In this relationship, it takes two to tango. You both need to be willing to show respect and understanding in order to make it work.

The meanings of the words in the "It takes two to tango" idiom

Beyond the Literal: Figurative Language in Idioms

Idioms often use figurative language to convey a message that is not meant to be taken literally. For instance, the idiom "bite the bullet" means to endure a painful or difficult situation without complaint, while "hold your horses" means to be patient and wait. Other idioms, like "kick the bucket" or "pop your clogs," use euphemisms to talk about death.


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