Table of Contents
The phrase ebbs and flows is popular among native English speakers. Learning how to use it correctly can improve your vocabulary and strengthen your writing.
So, what exactly does ebbs and flows mean, and when should you use it?
The short answer is that ebbs and flows can be used to describe something that exhibits constant fluctuations between two states.
Read on to learn more about what ebbs and flows means and what it looks like in a conversation.
Ebbs and Flows Definition
Ebb and flow means “to fluctuate between two states in a repeated way.”
In its literal form, this expression refers to the inward and outward movement of ocean tides. The verb to flow describes the tide coming toward land, while the verb to ebb describes the tide as it recedes back to the sea.
So, we can use the phrase ebb and flow to describe any motion that resembles the way ocean tides come in and out from the sea.
Ebbs and Flows Meaning
We say ebbs and flows when we talk about the way something repeatedly rises and falls.
For example, you might say that your love for your partner ebbs and flows if you often fluctuate between being emotionally close and being emotionally distant.
Or you might say the population of a city ebbs and flows if it sometimes has a lot of people and sometimes has fewer people.
Examples of Ebb and Flow in a Sentence
The best way to learn a new phrase is by seeing it in action. Let’s look at some examples of how to use this phrase from popular English books.
“Maybe love isn’t something that comes full circle. It just ebbs and flows, in and out, just like the people in our lives.”—It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
“Where resides the comforting knowledge of history's vast, cyclical sweep, the ebb and flow of wars and peace? Peace is the time of waiting for war.”—Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson
“Great wars and disasters can ebb and flow, races rise and fall, empires wither with suffering and death, but these are superficialities: she, woman, is perpetual, essential; she will go on forever.”—The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
“In my mind are all the tides, their seasons, their ebbs and their flows.”—Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
“People come together and move apart. It’s the age-old ebb and flow of relationships. Some are shorter journeys, and others were meant for a lifetime.”—It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken by Greg Behrendt
“Because life is like that, isn't it? One cannot stop its ebb and flow. You step into the current and whatever's in your path will cross you and touch you and sometimes stay.”—The Nine-Chambered Heart by Janice Pariat
“He knew, even back then, that she was prone to bouts of melancholy. It came to her in successive waves, an ebb and flow.”—The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak
“Throughout history, knowledge rises and falls, ebbs and flows. What once was known is forgotten again, lost in time, sometimes for centuries, only to be rediscovered ages later.”—The 6th Extinction by James Rollins
Ebb and Flow Conclusion
If you’re not sure you’re using phrases like ebbs and flows correctly, try running your work through ProWritingAid. Our AI-powered grammar checker will make sure you’re using sophisticated English phrases correctly.