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At a stretch vs 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 fifty people, but we might be able to make it do for sixty at a stretch.

on the stretch

1. tightened and extended:

  • By the inspiratory effort the elastic tissue of the lungs is put on the stretch.

2. at a stretch 1:

  • Though several cars remained stranded for hours on the stretch, the situation was brought under control.

3. (coll.) using exaggerated statements:

  • He’s always on the stretch…. He never tells the truth except by mistake.

4. (of nerves) in the state of tension:

  • The insects whirred and buzzed and the noise kept Harry’s nerves on the stretch.

5. (also: at full stretch) working as hard as possible:

  • Me and my stoker were on the stretch all the time attending to the engine.