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Series / How I Met Your Mother

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Future Ted: Kids, I'm gonna tell you an incredible story—the story of how I met your mother.
Ted's Son: Are we being punished for something?
Future Ted: (confused) No.
Ted's Daughter: Yeah, is this gonna take a while?
Future Ted: Yes.

In the year 2030, Ted Mosby recounts to his kids the story of how he and their mother met and fell in love. Although each episode is ostensibly an important step on the way to Ted meeting "The Mother," it seems Ted is the kind of person who uses this basic premise as an excuse to ramble off onto hundreds of other, completely unrelated anecdotes. For nine seasons' worth of episodes, Ted discusses the modern day in a nostalgic way and describes the strong bond between Ted and his group of friends.

In the year 2005, Ted (Josh Radnor) is an architect living in New York with his best friend, aspiring lawyer Marshall Eriksen (Jason Segel). When Marshall announces that he is getting engaged to his college sweetheart, Lily Aldrin (Alyson Hannigan), it prompts Ted to take an introspective look at his life and decide that he is finally ready to settle down and start searching for "The One," much to the disgust of his other "friend" and serial womanizer Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris).


Enter Robin Scherbatsky (Cobie Smulders), a TV news reporter from Canada with whom Ted falls in love at first sight and manages to scare off just as quickly. Though she is affirmatively not the destined Mother of Ted's future children, she befriends Lily and goes on to become an integral part of the group. Over the next decade, the five friends struggle with romance, careers, lost dreams, and lives that did not turn out the way they expected, but in retrospect led them all to the ending they hoped for.

This sitcom uses its Framing Device and narrator (Bob Saget, uncredited) to surprisingly creative effect, admitting to parts where the narrator honestly had no firsthand recollection of the events, doing very swift flashbacks to build up to a punchline or recalling events out-of-order in order to create twists and surprises that achieve maximum impact (every method can be seen in the memorable episode "The Pineapple Incident"). In other episodes, the framing device allows Ted to retell stories involving foul curse words or drugs by substituting each with an Unusual Euphemism for his children's benefit.


The show at first feels very similar to a regular sitcom but is actually a mixture of both single camera and three cameras. There is extensive outdoor location filming in addition to the regular sitcom-style sets. The narrative gimmick gives the show an edge in allowing them to portray a fairly complex universe of seemingly unimportant events and myriad callbacks. The show went 9 seasons, covering the years 2005-2013. The first eight seasons were contemporary and in approximate Real Time. The last season centered around the weekend Ted and the Mother met, although utilizing plenty of the show's standard Anachronic Order of events.

A spinoff named How I Met Your Dad was announced as a gender-flipped version of the show in the fall of 2013, following unrelated characters and produced by the same people. A pilot was shot but was not picked up, and the project spent many years in Development Hell before finally receiving a straight-to-series order from Hulu in 2021, now titled How I Met Your Father and starring Hilary Duff.

You can also vote for best episodes here.

Get ready for the series' tropes cause they're LEGEN—wait for it…

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  • Abandoned Catchphrase: 'Haaaaaave you met Ted?'. Used quite frequently in the first episodes, afterwards shows up very rarely.
  • Aborted Arc: Ted's relationship with both his parents is setup as strained. Whilst Ted's acceptance of his mother's new relationship is a key moment of character growth, his relationship with his father remains unresolved.
  • Absent Animal Companion: For the first two seasons Robin keeps five dogs in her apartment and they appear in several episodes. However, she ends up sending them to live on a farm with her aunt and they are never seen again. The real reason for this was that Josh Radnor had dog allergies.
  • Accidental Innuendo: Deliberately invoked.
    • The project headed by Hammond Druthers that Ted worked on in season two—Druthers was the only one who didn't realize that his design (an unusually phallic skyscraper) looked like a giant penis and testicles, and somehow kept invoking this trope when talking about the building. The rest of the gang deliberately used innuendoes when talking about the building to rib Ted.
    • The Show Within a Show Space Teens that starred a teenage Robin is rife with these. It's meant to be an educational kids' show to teach math—and involves math problems about things like pet beavers eating wood. The rest of the HIMYM cast quickly start to point this out and crack jokes as they watch.
      Robin: Guys, stop it! It's not like that! This is an adorable kids' show like… Sesame Street, or The Electric Company, or…
      Marshall: You can't do that on television.
      Robin: Exactly!
      Marshall: No. You can't do that on television. [cut to Robin's show, where she and Jessica are jumping in slow mo]
  • Accidental Hero: The gang accidentally stops a guy from throwing himself off the Empire State Building because Robin called Ted an "I Love You Slut" and Marshall wanted to make a point about what counts as a first time.
  • Accidental Proposal: Several times:
    • Ted accidentally takes the best man's jacket before a wedding. When he goes to break it off with a girl, he accidentally drops the ring he didn't know was in the jacket. As he picks it up, the girl answers the door to see Ted, kneeling in a tuxedo, holding a ring.
    • A sparkling wine flute containing a ring was delivered to Ted and Robin's table while they were on the first anniversary date, rather than the table next to theirs. When Robin sees it she yells "Noo, no no no no no no no, No! No, no no no, no, no, No!"
    • Barney and Robin later attempt to weaponize it, tricking a woman into thinking her boyfriend proposed to her, to get them to break up. It backfires.
    • It's Played With when Barney "proposes" to Abby, who was in on the plan, to show Ted how annoying he can be with girls. Abby isn't the sharpest nail in the box and thinks it's a real proposal, telling her mom "It finally happened, momma!", Barney believing her to be 'doing a bit'.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: All the time. No issue is so serious that they won't occasionally stop to laugh at an Accidental Innuendo before resuming seriousness.
  • Aesop Amnesia:
    • Lampshaded in "Murtaugh," where Lily says that they collectively learn the same lesson (in this case, that they're not getting any younger) every couple of years.
    • Ted and Robin's need to let each other go. As early as Season 1, Marshall was saying that Ted never learns his lesson about Robin. It gets dropped somewhat after they break up in season 2, but it seems that late in season 5 it becomes a Yo-Yo Plot Point.
  • Age-Gap Romance:
    • In a flashback, viewers learn that Barney's first serious girlfriend Shannon broke up with him to be with an older suit. She was around twenty and Greg the suit was about forty.
      Barney: We're breaking up? But what about the Peace Corps?
      Shannon: Yeah, all this granola business, it was just a phase. Greg's older. He's successful. He buys me all this cool stuff. (smiles and laughs)
      Barney: But I love you.
      Shannon: He has a boat.
    • In one Thanksgiving episode, Robin (in her twenties) dated Bob (about forty). However, as Ted is telling the story, he pictures him much older and he's portrayed by Orson Bean who was 79.
    • Ted dates Carly, and while they don't fit this trope (he's in his early 30s, she's 21), she seems to only be dating him because she thinks he's really old (remarking that he "still goes at it like he's in his 50s"). She describes being turned on by watching 60 Minutes with him and playing shuffleboard.
  • Age-Stereotypical Food: In one episode the gang gets to see Marshall's shopping list, which is filled with candy and junk food. Marshall apparently does this whenever he's stressed. This list gets compared to the kind of shopping list an 8-year-old would come up with.
  • All Women Hate Each Other: Lily thinks she's going to be leaving the country for a year, and worries for Robin, as Lily is Robin's only female friend. Robin says she doesn't get along with other women. At Lily's insistence, Robin talks to a woman crying at the bar. It turns out the two of them have a lot in common, and she could supplant Lily as Robin's best female friend. Lily then gets jealous and sabotages the budding friendship.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Lily. Robin's starred in a few of Lily's dreams that remind her "a woman's sexuality is a moving target". Her secret crush is Mila Kunis. One of her unfulfilled ambitions in life was to have a lesbian experience. When Marshall says that he can't stop thinking about her and Robin during sex (meaning the fact that they gossip), she says it happens to her too occasionally. She's more attracted to a hot bartender than Marshall is. Not to mention what happens when she drinks martinis.
    • Given the flashback of Lily and Marshall meeting—where she opens two doors, one with a shirtless man and one with a girl wearing a shirt that read 'vagitarian'—and seemingly equally tempted by both, Lily might just be an unspoken bi woman.
    • Marshall and Barney. The two spent some time arguing who Ted was having gay dreams about and then realized they were accidentally trying to seduce him. Barney otherwise averts the trope neatly, though: he's comfortable enough with his own absolute straightness to snog Marshall in the very first episode.
    • Robin actually gets turned on watching herself do the news, so much so that she will wink at her future self during the broadcast, although since she finds herself attractive, it's more narcissism than anything it seems. Possibly leaning a little bit further towards bisexuality when imaginary Vacation Robin revisits Robin in her dreams ("that chick knows what I like"). In the final season Robin discovers something about herself when she makes out with Lily.
  • Amusing Injuries: Barney has a tendency to suffer some of these as a result of his schemes and self-imposed challenges. He's usually fine by the next episode.
  • Amusingly Short List: Barney Stinson bounces back and forth between long lists and short lists. If his list isn't hundreds of people long (they're usually people he's had sex with), then it's just one or two items long (usually a reason to have sex or not to have sex)
  • Anachronic Order: A very common trope on this show.
    • Often a scene will happen, and then cut back to it later to show the scene from some other perspective. This happens in "Swarley," "Zip, Zip, Zip", and "The Leap".
    • In a twist, all the storylines in the episode "Three Days of Snow" happen on different days.
    • One interesting story arc is the beginning of "Ten Sessions" actually begins several episodes earlier with "The Platinum Rule." The inciting event for "The Platinum Rule" (Ted's mistaken date with Stella) is left as a Noodle Incident, until "Ten Sessions" which takes place over ten weeks and thus likely overlaps with other episodes.
    • The subplot of season 6 episode "The Mermaid Theory" actually happened during the season 7 episode "Now We're Even".
  • An Aesop: The show justifies this because a sizable chunk of the premise is Future!Ted lecturing his kids about his mistakes when he was young. However, they're frequently spoof, broken, space whale (i.e., "I won't bother telling you not to fight, but don't fight with Uncle Marshall. He's insane."), lost, lampshaded Do Not Do This Cool Thing, or otherwise humorously subverted, usually with Future Ted giving an Aesop, but admitting that in real life, back when the events actually took place, he and his friends didn't learn their lesson right away. However, when one of the characters gives an Aesop in the present, it's more often played straight.
  • And Starring: "With Neil Patrick Harris and Alyson Hannigan."
  • "Anger Is Healthy" Aesop: In "Happily Ever After", Ted is still recovering from being left at the altar by Stella, his friends try to support him but collectively agree that Ted needs to release his anger rather than bottle it up or try to be the bigger person. After trying and failing multiple times to get him angry, Ted finally loses his temper when he realized that Stella moved to New York to be with Tony, despite forcing Ted to move to New Jersey. Ted storms out of the car to confront Stella, he quickly comes to his senses when he sees how happy she and her daughter are to be with Tony and just turns around to leave, believing he should just let it go and move on with his life. Future episodes would show that Ted hasn't forgiven Stella for what she did and show that he's right to be angry with her. The primary lesson was that you don't have to choose between two extremes, you can just move on with your life than dwell on these feelings.
  • Anger Montage: Whenever there's a montage of characters fighting or getting injured, the In-Universe song "Murderrrrrrr! Climb aboard the murder traiiiiiiiiin!" will play.
  • Another Story for Another Time: Future!Ted will frequently mention how a minor character or event in an episode went on to have some other story that he does not get into. This was subverted once, where immediately after he said that he would get to the story later he realized that he probably wouldn't come back to it, so he decided to just summarize it for his kids right then.
    Future!Ted: "They had one song, it didn't suck, the end."
  • Arc Number: Barney has a fondness for 83. Just a few examples: whenever he makes up a statistic, he uses 83%; when he pretends to an old man, he tells a girl that he's 83; in "Now We're Even", he gives Ted 83 points for high-fiving Tommy Lee.
  • Arc Symbol: An item usually symbolizes and represents a character or the bond/relationship between two characters:
    • The Yellow Umbrella for Ted and The Mother.
    • The Blue French Horn for Ted and Robin.
    • The two Broadswords for Ted and Marshall.
    • The Ducky Tie for Barney and his Love Interests.
  • Arc Words: "A little ways down the road", starting in later seasons. It refers to the day of the wedding where Ted will meet The Mother.
  • Artistic License – Geography: In "Dowisetrepla" (Season 3, Episode 7), Robin says Mt. Waddington is the highest mountain in Canada. Truthfully Mt. Logan's the tallest peak in that nation. Additionally Mount Waddington isn't even the tallest mountain in British Columbia. (But perhaps "Waddington" sounds funnier than "Logan.")
  • Ascended Extra: The guy who played Carl was originally supposed to play a cop in the pilot but they cut his scene before filming and forgot to tell him, so when he showed up they created the role of Carl for him.
    • Likewise, Wendy the Waitress was only going to appear in one episode, but they liked the character enough to keep her around as the primary waitress at the bar.
  • As You Know: Future Ted utters this line almost Once an Episode, either recapping one of the many callbacks from a previous episode or referencing some piece of info the kids really should know but the audience wouldn't.
  • Audience Surrogate: A role shared between Ted's kids and Robin. Robin is the latest addition to the group, as such, she reacts with questions to things that the rest of the group has well established, letting the audience know what they are, she reacts this way about things like the Slutty Pumpkin, the Murtaugh List, etc. Ted's kids lose this role as time goes on, but they do act as someone that needs an explanation about the surroundings of the events of the show, giving Future Ted a reason to explain things to the audience.
  • Author Appeal:
  • Awesome, but Impractical : The dinosaur shaped building designed by Sven. Including a strip club in the revolving logo and a button on Barney's desk to shoot fire out its mouth.
  • Babies Make Everything Better:
    • In Season 2, Barney and James are having a tiff over James getting married and leaving Barney behind. Barney refuses to support James, until James reveals that he's adopting a baby as well. And, well, everything's better.
    • Future Ted reveals that attempting to get pregnant and the birth of Marvin got Lily and Marshall to quit smoking, respectively.
    • In the season 6 finale, Marshall is going through a pretty serious rough spot (his father died recently, he's unemployed, he botched a job interview). But when Lily tells him she's pregnant, all that is forgotten and he's happy again.
    • In season 9's "Daisy", Marshall and Lily are having one of the worst fights of their lives and are disagreeing whether to go to Rome or stay in New York. The Reveal that Lily is pregnant again prompts Marshall to stop fighting and insist they go with Lily's suggestion, Rome.
    • In the series finale, after the Snap Back reverts his Character Development, the one thing to make Barney mature and have a fulfilling life is having a new daughter, instantly giving him a great deal of maturity and fulfillment.
  • Back for the Finale: Almost every character who interacted with the five main characters comes back in the last season for at least a cameo.
  • Bad Date: Ted's dates often end badly. One highlight is him breaking up with a girl and her beating the shit out of him in public. Another time a Hippie he dated threw blood on the chef while saying meat is murder.
  • Bad Omen Anecdote: Inverted in an episode in which the gang tell anecdotes within anecdotes within anecdotes all trying to convince Ted not to do something. All of them have bad endings except for one. Barney's. Because he's crazy.
  • Bait-and-Switch Performance: Ted claims he becomes very good at doing beatbox when he's drunk, as a flashback shows. However, his friends make him realize that he only thought he was good because he was drunk, and another flashback shows that he actually was very bad at it.
  • Bait-and-Switch Time Skip: "Shelter Island" ends with Stella leaving Ted at their wedding. The next episode, "Happily Ever After", opens with Ted reminiscing about that experience, how it seemed so horrible at the time, but looking back on it he feels he's come out of it a little stronger, and hardly even thinks about Stella anymore. Lily then remarks, "Ted, the wedding was yesterday. It's been 24 hours."
  • Batman Gambit: Barney's attempts to seduce women sometimes involve weeks of planning. Some examples:
    • "The Scuba Diver," a play from the episode of the same name. Barney introduces the gang to his Playbook, a book of schemes he's invented to pick up women. He then uses a scheme from the Playbook to hit on Lily's coworker, making her angry enough to steal it. Barney arrives at the apartment later, wearing a scuba suit, and announces to the gang that he's going to pull one more scam called the Scuba Diver. A scam not found in the Playbook. They follow him to the bar, he doesn't elaborate but points out his target, a hot girl standing at the counter. This causes Lily to go and warn the girl about him and his Playbook, and the girl listens as Barney's friends explain his many schemes and tricks to her. Eventually they all go to Barney and demand to know what the scheme is. Barney starts to explain the trick, but then launches into an explanation about his deep insecurities, causing the gang to feel bad for him. Together, they convince the girl that beneath the tricks he's a great guy, and she leaves the bar with Barney. After they leave, he sends Lily a text, revealing the page with the explanation of the Scuba Diver-the events of the episode.
    • Epically, one (there have been many) of Barney's proposals involved planning out the events of that entire season just to get someone desperate enough to say "Yes." It works at first, but the manipulative nature of the proposal leads the girl to doubt. In any case, the play is called "The Robin."
    • One episode ends with a twist that all the emotional drama Barney had been through that episode had been staged by him to guilt his friends into embarrassing themselves. The episode in question is "The Broath."
  • Beast in the Building:
    • In "The Goat" and "The Leap", Lily brings a goat named Missy home to her apartment after a farmer brought her in to show her kindergarten class and horrified them with stories of the slaughterhouse. Ted, however, was not expecting the goat, and it causes a lot of trouble for Ted's birthday, including putting Ted in some of the worst pain in his life when he attempts to confront her and she beats him up badly enough to get hospitalized.
    • A Running Gag throughout multiple episodes involves the cockamouse, a creature Lily and Marshall discover in their apartment, never clearly seen by the viewer.
      • In "Matchmaker", they argue at first over whether it was a mouse or a cockroach, only to come to the conclusion that it's some sort of mutant hybrid of the two. They make multiple attempts to kill or trap it before Marshall manages to throw it out the window... only to discover it can fly. They quickly shut the window.
      • In "The Perfect Cocktail", Ted encounters it at The Arcadian when he and Zoey spend the night there, but while Zoey freaks out Ted is surprisingly chill. It has apparently had babies since then.
      • In "Last Forever", a second sighting of the cockamouse convinces Lily and Marshall to sell their apartment (partly because Lily is pregnant).
  • Beautiful Condemned Building:
  • The Season 6 story arc involving Ted, Zoey, and the Arcadian plays with this. Ted is hired to design the new headquarters for Barney and Marshall's company, GNB, which seeks to demolish the Arcadian, an iconic building which has fallen into disrepair, to make room for Ted's building. Zoey protests the demolition because she sees the Arcadian for the beautiful building it once was, and while Ted goes back and forth on the issue due to his feelings for Zoey, he ultimately decides that it's an eyesore that should be destroyed to make way for something new.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Ted and Zoey in Season 6, mostly because of their disagreement over the Arcadian, mentioned above. While Ted falls for Zoey when he first meets her, they quickly develop a mutual dislike of each other when their opposing views on the Arcadian are revealed, and Ted discovers that she's married. They eventually become attracted to each other, and while Zoey leaves her husband for Ted, they continue to butt heads on just about everything, before breaking up when Ted ultimately sides with GNB and gets the Arcadian demolished.
  • Berserk Button: Robin, whenever she talks to, is in the same room as, or even hears somebody mention Patrice. No, seriously, only once since her introduction has Robin not yelled at the top of her lungs regarding her.
  • Beta Couple: Marshall and Lily are the only stable couple throughout the show's nine seasons, acting as a stable contrast with the always-dramatic Ted-Robin dynamic and Barney's pornomancing. Still, there are occasional cracks in the "perfect" exterior. Lily's abandoning Marshall to go to San Francisco, and his admission years later that it still ate at him underneath that he and their son Marvin might be Lily's second choice—what she settled for after her art plans didn't work out, underlies their relationship through the series.
  • Big Applesauce: The faults of New York have come up throughout the series. Marshall may have been mugged in one episode and the vermin problem is exaggerated with the "cockamouse".
  • The Big Board: Used by Barney a few times, sometimes to plan out a prank and other times to figure out how to best score in a specific circumstance. Ted managed to see the key to their dilemma in "The Drunk Train" by highlighting a line of letters in the chaos on the board, specifically that they needed to "GET DRUNK."
    • Also used to (fail to) identify Barney's stalker in "The Bracket."
  • Big "NO!": Barney has a habit of doing this to close episodes.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: A handful of women of the week, but Lily is a rare example that gets portrayed in a positive light.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Ted winds up meeting the mother, and Robin becomes a very successful journalist, Barney becomes a proud father and Marshall and Lily are happy enough. However, the mother died six years before the present and Robin and Barney divorced three years after getting married. This just paves the way for Ted and Robin to get together in the finale.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Lily and Robin fill the redhead and brunette roles respectively, with the blonde role filled by several of Ted or Barney's love interests (Stella, Zoey, Quinn.)
  • A Boy, a Girl, and a Baby Family: Marshall and Lily eventually have Marvin, Daisy and an unknown/unseen baby, probably a girl (from Marshall's line about putting "her crib in the shower.")
  • Bowdlerise: Future!Ted does this during his narration, which he lampshades;
    • When Lily discovered an old answering machine message about her;
    Ted: *Answer-machine* You gotta get over that Grinch!
    Future!Ted: But I didn't say "Grinch". I said a bad word. A very, very bad word.
    Ted: Oh Fudge!
    • Later subverted in the same episode;
    Ted: She stole all the christmas presents! What a Grinch!
    Future!Ted: That time I really did say Grinch.
    • Ted makes Lethal Weapon family-friendly for his kids in "Murtaugh."
    Danny Glover on-screen: I'm too old for this—
    Future!Ted: Stuff! He said, "I'm too old for this stuff."
    • On another occasion, Lily asks Marshall to watch his language in telling a story from work, because their unborn child has just developed ears. Barney is the lampshader in this case.
    Marshall: I'm gonna grab those corporate employees by their sweaty dangling hands and squeeze, until those greedy sons of parents realize I'm the baddest mother nature lover around.
    Barney: It's like watching The Breakfast Club on TBS.
    • A Running Gag is that marijuana is censored out to be "sandwiches"
  • Book Ends: Many seasons ended this way.
    • Season 1 begins and ends with Ted making a gigantic romantic gesture to Robin. It also begins with Marshall proposing to Lily, while it ends with them calling the wedding off.
    • Season 6 begins and ends "a little ways down the road," where Ted is nervous on a very big wedding day.
    • Season 7 begins and ends "a little ways down the road," with Ted visiting the bride at the Wedding.
    • The show as a whole begins and ends with Ted giving Robin the Blue French Horn.
  • Borrowed Catch Phrase: Mildly lampshaded:
    Ted: Permission to say "Lawyered"?
    Marshall: I'll allow it.
    Ted: Lawyered!
    • Barney: In-Lawyered!
  • Brand X: The fictional Glen McKenna scotch shows up frequently.
  • Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: Between Lily and Marshall in the first seasons. Also several with Ted, Barney and Robin.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs:
    • In episode "The Matchmaker", Ted is told by Ellen the matchmaker that there are no women for him, and he replies with the following, hinting at their previous conversation: "But I'm an architect. And you said I'm cute. I'm a cute architect."
    • In episode "Miracles", Barney has a serious accident. His friends jokingly ask him what he saw.
      Marshall: Hey, Ted said that right before the accident, his life flashed before his eyes. You know, all the stuff he loves. Did that happen to you?
      Lily: Oh yeah. I know what he saw. Boobs.
      Marshall: Scotch.
      Lily: Money.
      Marshall: Suits.
      Lily: A suit of money.
      Marshall: A suit of boobs. A giant boob wearing a suit of money.
      Lily: And the boob is lactating scotch.
      Marshall: I guess that's pretty much everything you love, right?
    • In episode "The Mermaid Theory", future Ted tells his kids that Robin and Marshall, historically, had three solid conversation topics: cold weather, sports, and cold-weather sports.
    • In "Knight Vision", Barney and Robin lie to the Reverend about Lily having bad habits.
      Reverend: Does Lily have any... problems that you're aware of?
      Barney: Drinking.
      Robin: Drugs.
      Barney and Robin: ...she's been drinking drugs.
  • Breakfast in Bed: In the episode "Robin 101", when Barney starts doing uncharacteristically romantic things for Robin, including giving her breakfast in bed, Robin suspects that Barney is cheating on her.
  • Broken Aesop: In "Little Minnesota," Ted learns that he needs to give his sister a fresh start and not prejudge her for her past mistakes. Which would be a fine lesson if he were in fact judging her for her past mistakes, but instead he's rightly judging her for the mistake she made earlier that day of apparently sleeping with Barney. Somehow the lesson becomes "you should trust someone even if they're demonstrably untrustworthy, because they might just be pretending to be untrustworthy as a prank."
    • In "Shelter Island", Ted's Aesop is all about don't invite your ex to your wedding, however, if everyone stuck to the rule, he wouldn't have met the titular mother.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer:
    • Barney is very good at… whatever he does.
      • Will we ever learn what he does? In the final season we learn that he does PLEASE. His job is to Provide Legal Exculpation And Sign Everything. He's the company fall guy. So he's very good at that. Also, he's been colluding with the feds since day one, so he's also very good at that. Explains why he has so much free time for scams.
    • Pete, Marshall's college-buddy who drunkenly plays Edward Fortyhands, is actually a highly skilled surgeon.
    • Speaking of Marshall's school buddies, his friend Brad from law school passed the bar on the first try, is very skilled at controlling a jury, and wound up being hired by Marshall's firm very quickly despite having an intentionally atrocious interview and betraying Marshall while working for a rival firm.
  • The Bus Came Back: Happens twice with Ted's first serious girlfriend in the series, Victoria. She's put on a bus to Germany towards the end of season 1. They break up over the phone shortly after, and that's the last we see of her for years. In season seven, she returned early and then for the season finale.
  • Business as Unusual: Ted and Barney convinced the owner of McLaren's not to close early and let them lock up. They open the bar for a couple of hotties they had been trying to hook up earlier and a few of their friends... the entire Arizona Tech marching band.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Barney invokes this when telling Marshall about his first time sleeping with Robin, though strangely but not surprisingly, the invocation has nothing to do with Robin.
    Marshall: I'm fairly certain that if these contracts aren't executed precisely, we will be at war with Portugal.
    Barney: Forget that! That's a Tuesday for me.
    • Also a running theme of third season episode "The Bracket." Interestingly, averted for one of the finalists since you would think that it would apply (from Barney's perspective, it's very standard procedure… it's only interesting from the audience's perspective).
  • Butt-Monkey: Ted takes a fair amount of abuse, mostly in dating or being mocked for his dating skills.
    • Barney—Full episodes have revolved around him getting slapped in the face. And he was hit by a bus, for crying out loud.
    • Robin too, especially with regards to her frustrating news anchor jobs and past career as a teen pop star.
    • And if the above three aren't the butt monkeys, chances are, Marshall is one as he freaks out about random things or receives Amusing Injuries in strange accidents.
  • But You Were There, and You, and You: When Marshall tells the story of how he mastered the Slap of A Million Exploding Suns, the three masters he learned it from are portrayed by Robin, Lily and Ted. He even goes as far as to say he "made love" with the master that Lily portrayed, despite this amounting to him admitting to cheating, in front of his wife and their friends.
  • Calling Your Bathroom Breaks: Lily does this from time to time, probably as a result of spending every day with kindergarteners. One Roadtrip Episode features her expressing her need to pee multiple times throughout the episode, including when she is riding on top of the car.
  • Car Ride Games: On road trips, the characters play a game called Zitch Dog. There is just one rule: if you see a dog, the first person to say "Zitch dog!" gets a point. Whoever has the highest score by the end of the car ride wins. Marshall easily beats anyone because he's unusually good at playing ovo188. He beats Ted in "Arrivederci, Fiero" and he owns Lily and Barney in "Shelter Island."
  • Casting Gag: Neil Patrick Harris didn't officially come out as gay until a few years into the show (it was sort of an open secret beforehand). This made Barney's aggressive heterosexuality and his issues with his gay brother James even funnier. There is a whole ordeal with Barney opposing James' marriage, not because it would be a same-sex marriage but he because was opposed to marriage in general (Harris has since married David Burtka).
  • The Cast Show Off: All of the leads (with the sole possible exception of Alyson Hannigan) are pretty accomplished singers, which has been showcased in various ways. Additionally:
    • Neil Patrick Harris is a magician. He serves on the Board of Directors of Hollywood's Magic Castle. As such, Barney is also a fan of magic, and he uses his tricks to impress girls and set an 'INTERVENTION' banner on fire. It was an intervention to try and stop him doing so many magic tricks. Specifically, those involving fire.
    • Both Jason Segel and NPH are very talented pianists.
    • And of course, Robin Sparkles.
    • The Mother herself. Cristin Milioti is a Tony-nominated Broadway actress and part of the reason she was cast was for her musical abilities. Proven in "How Your Mother Met Me," when she shows off her ukulele skills and gorgeous voice in a cover of Edith Piaf's "La Vie en Rose."
  • Catchphrase:
    • Barney is a fountain of them, which is acknowledged in-universe as an annoying habit of his in "Spoiler Alert". Here are most of them-
      • "Legen—wait for it—DARY"
      • "Challenge accepted."
      • "True story."
      • "SUIT UP!"
      • "Hey, haaaave you met (insert name here)?"
      • "AWESOME!"
      • (After being asked about his job) "Heh, please".
      • (When someone, usually Ted, doesn't go along with one of his schemes/stories; Ted uses this one just about as often as Barney)" *huff* (name), just… okay?"
      • "(Something) five!"
      • "YEAH!"
      • "What up?!"
      • (After advising how someone should have sex) "Have sex with her, crazy monkey style…! (someone interrupts)"
    • Marshall:
      • "LAWYERED."
      • "Come again for Big Fudge?"
    • Lily:
      • "You sonuvabitch!"
      • Season 9: "Thank you, Linus."
    • Ted:
      • "Fun fact" followed by an architecture fact that people usually ignore.
      • (Anytime before Marshall and Lily starts getting kinky with each other) "Please don't…"
    • Future Ted:
      • "Kids…"
      • …but I'll get to that later.
      • You see kids, if (I had not done X)/(X had not happened), I never would have got to meet your mother.
    • Robin:
      • "But um…"
    • Ranjit:
      • "Hellooooo!"
      • "To the (insert vehicle here)."
    • For the whole group:
      • "How dare you! …and what is that?!"
      • "Be cool, [person]! Damn!"
      • Season 9: "What the damn hell?!?"
    • Also referenced and played with in "The Stinsons", where the actor playing Barney's son tried to give his character the catch phrase "Tyler no likey".
    • The TV Guidance column of the Canadian Maclean's magazine has pointed out that the show has also indulged in single-episode catchphrases, which may or not be referenced later on but are otherwise contained only to that episode (many Barneyisms fall into this category).
    • The Blitz:
      • "Aw, man…"
  • Celebrity Resemblance: It's actually brought up in the show that Ted (Josh Radnor) bears a strong resemblance to John Cusack.
  • Character Blog: Barney's Blog
  • Characterization Marches On: Barney was always an unrepentant womanizer, but in the earlier seasons he was more of a "date a woman for a few weeks, then dump them" instead of priding himself on being the master of the one night stand. Women still hated him, but the group knew a few of his brief girlfriends. He constantly bemoaned the concept of doing anything other than seducing and bedding women and it becomes very significant in later seasons that he has next to no experience with relationships of any sort, however brief they may have been.
    • This happens to Robin a lot as her personality didn't really get developed in the first season. For example, she doesn't seem to have any problems socializing with other women in the first episodes and she isn't that much of a tomboy.
  • Character Signature Song: All but Ted got one.
    • "Let's Go To The Mall" for Robin.
    • "Happy Lily Day" for Lily.
    • "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" for Marshall.
    • "Barney Stinson, that Guy's Awesome", or alternatively, "Nothing Suits You Like A Suit" for Barney.
    • "La Vie En rose" for The Mother.
    • "Sandcastles In The Sand" for Robin and Barney.
    • "You Just Got Slapped" for Marshall and Barney.
  • Cheer Them Up with Laughter: The gang puts up an attempt to cheer up Marshall a bit during the wake of his father's funeral.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: A fifth season episode revealed that all the main characters would relapse into smoking at various times but due to Ted being an Unreliable Narrator he never mentioned it until then (Robin was shown smoking once in the second season, implying it was a regular thing for her). Robin is going through a very rough time and is on the roof smoking. The implication is that it was such an important and stressful moment that Ted clearly remembered the cigarette and found it worth mentioning years later. After this, smoking is shown erratically.
  • Clueless Aesop:
    • The episode "Double Date" ends with Ted ending it with a girl because he thinks that you shouldn't just accept your partner's flaws, but should naturally like them.
    • "Farhampton" has Klaus telling Ted of Lebenslangerschicksalsschatz, and says that if you don't know that you love someone the second you meet them, it's not true love.
    • In "Bad Crazy" it's said that if a woman is acting crazy, the fault lies with the man that she's dating. This is one of the show's only examples of The Unfair Sex. Specifically, Robin accuses Ted of being responsible for Jeannette's insane behavior because he's been sending mixed signals to her... despite the fact that Jeannette stalked Ted for over a year and even started a fire so that she could meet him. The woman was obviously crazy long before she and Ted ever started dating.
    • The unfortunate tendency the characters have to leave their decisions up to the "universe," rather than make a choice on an issue. Sure, everyone, don't bother to make a real decision, fate will do that for you! Luckily, towards the end of the series the group starts rejecting that philosophy and gets more of a Screw Destiny attitude.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Barney makes hot, sweaty monkey love to this trope.
    • In the Pilot episode:
      Ted: So these guys think I chickened out. What do you think?
      Barney: I… can't believe you're still not wearing a suit!
    • Episode 2x03 "Brunch": When Barney shows a picture he took of Ted's dad having an affair with Wendy the Waitress, Ted is naturally mortified. Barney assumes this Angst is because Ted's dad violated his duties, not as a husband, but as Barney's wingman. He called dibs on Wendy first, dammit!
    • Episode 3x11 "The Platinum Rule": Barney becomes convinced that an ex-girlfriend is trying to kill him.
      Barney: I dump her, and she says, "no hard feelings." She's a psycho, what other explanation is there?!
    • Episode 4x06 "Happily Ever After": Robin recounts her childhood in Canada, in which her father ignored her gender and tried to instill masculinity in his "son". (Her full name is Robin Charles Scherbatsky Jr.) This culminates with Scherbatsky Sr. witnessing Robin kiss a hockey teammate at age 14; he has an utterly pompous Heroic BSoD ("Oh my god… I have no son.") This kind of thing really screwed up Robin's life. After the story is finished…
      Barney: You poor thing. You had to grow up in Canada. With America RIGHT THERE.
    • Episode 4x13 "Three Days of Snow": Barney explains how he plays a game called "Party School Bingo" where he takes a list of the Top 25 party schools in the country, arranges them on a bingo card, and fills in a space every time he sleeps with a girl from that school.
      Ted: So how many people are in on this Party School Bingo thing?
      Barney: Oh, it's just me.
      Ted: Then what's the point, then?
      Barney: The point is to get five in a row.
      Ted: And what do you get when you get five in a row?
      Barney: I get Bingo.
    • Episode 4x15 "The Stinsons": When Barney watches movies…
      Barney: Hey, The Karate Kid's a great movie. It's the story of a hopeful, young karate enthusiast whose dreams and moxie take him all the way to the All Valley Karate Championship. Of course, sadly, he loses in the final round to that nerd kid. But he learns an important lesson about gracefully accepting defeat.
      Lily: Wait, when you watch The Karate Kid you actually root for that mean blonde boy?
      Barney: No, I root for the scrawny loser from New Jersey who barely even knows karate. When I watch The Karate Kid I root for the karate kid, Johnny Lawrence from the Cobra Kai dojo. Get your head out of your ass, Lily.
      • The same episode has him revealing that he roots for Hans Gruber in Die Hard (believing him to be the title character), Principal Vernon in The Breakfast Club (the only one who wears a suit) and The Terminator (and proceeds to start crying over his death scene, saying "And she doesn't even help him!")
      • That explains the life-size Imperial Stormtrooper armor in his living room.
      • King Joffrey's parents were related, and he was a fair and wise leader. (s9e1)
  • Coming of Age Story: For grown-ups. The series follows them emotionally maturing, following their passions, and starting families.
  • Complexity Addiction: Barney often inexplicably comes up with incredibly elaborate and complicated schemes and solutions, completely overlooking the fact that there's a far simpler solution right in front of him.
    • When he and Ted are trying to determine which of them is better with women, he suggests a several-month multi-round international championship with a panel of judges. Ted suggests they pick one woman and see who she goes for.
    • In "Something Borrowed" when Marshall shaves part of his head right before his wedding, Barney and Ted's best idea to cover it is an "authentic Native American headdress." When Lily is informed of the problem, she finds Marshall a hat.
      Marshall: "HAT. We thought of authentic Native American headdress before we thought of HAT."
    • Robin asks Barney to explain his "Weekend at Barney's" play.
      Barney: What's to explain? I play a dead guy, and Ted and Marshall carry me around.
      Robin: Okay, and based on that, girls want to sleep with you.
      Barney: Big time.
      Robin: But you're dead.
      Barney: Yeah. Except not really, obviously.
      Robin: But the girl thinks you're dead.
      Barney: No, she thinks I'm alive.
      Robin: Which you are.
      Barney: Exactly.
      Robin: Except you're dead.
      Barney: Exactly.
      Robin: Except you're alive.
      Barney: Exactly.
      Robin: Okay, so instead of, of being an alive person pretending to be a dead person pretending to be an alive person, why not just be an alive person?
      Barney: Okay, let's start from the beginning. [slow and enunciating] The movie is called Weekend at Bernie's. My name is Barney....
    • In "No Questions Asked", Ted, Barney, and Robin all come up with overly complicated ways to sneak into Lily's room, even as Marshall tries to tell them the lock is broken and they can literally just walk in.
  • Compressed Vice: Frequent. The episodes "Intervention" and "Spoiler Alert" establish at least one of these for every character (though notably, "Spoiler Alert" mostly called out existing flaws for most of the characters).
  • Concert Episode: In "Tick Tick Tick Tick, Tick, Tick", Lily, Marshall, and Ted attend a concert together. Lily sends them off to get some nachos for her, and they spend the rest of the evening hallucinating while high on "sandwiches" (Future Ted's euphemism for marijuana). It is then revealed that they've only been gone for a few minutes instead of the perceived hours of the whole concert.
  • Connected All Along: The entire reason Ted starts the story 8 years before he met Tracy is because of this. The seemingly random events, even stuff we thought got settled all those years ago, it all informs the story of that last weekend and everyone's lives. That's why the story had such long scope.
    • It's revealed throughout the course of the show that Ted and Tracy crossed paths numerous times throughout the series: Ted accidentally taught the wrong college class once, and Tracy was in it; Tracy was at a St. Patrick's Day party that Ted attended; etc. They never actually met because it simply wasn't the right time. They both had to get to a place where they were both really ready to be someone else's one and only. Had they met sooner, it wouldn't have worked out well.
  • Continuity Lockout: Given the amount of continuity, callbacks, references and plotlines the show has have over its run it's all but inevitable for this to occur on some level. However, steps are taken to simplify things and catch new viewers up. The framing device allows for a lot of concessions for this take, such as Ted specifically reminding his children about past events ("Remember when I said…" is frequently used). On the whole, the episodes are self-contained and don't run together very tightly even with seasonal subplots running along. The built-in narrator prevents the need for "Previously on…" segments and sometimes even the "As You Know" info-dump includes information that hadn't been revealed in a previous episode anyway (such as in "Nothing Good Happens After 2AM" regarding what happened to Robin during the previous episode). Longtime viewers are rewarded with subtle details that they can catch while newer viewers aren't completely oblivious to what is going on.
  • Continuity Nod: All the time, as the creators do a lot of planning ahead due to the multiple flashback nature of the show. In an interview, they revealed that while shooting Season Two, they also shot a scene that they don't plan to use until the series finale.
  • Continuity Porn: So, so, so much. Pretty much every single episode has at least a few callbacks to previous episodes, the show is rife with unlampshaded running jokes, and sometimes events in an episode will explain or go into detail about a scene or line of dialogue from a previous one (e.g., pretty much everything involving Marshall, Ted, and Lily's college years). Word of God tells us that their greatest regret was the Ted serving as narrator saying they never learned where the pineapple came from. They also get to make heavy use of foreshadowing to turn this on its head, because they knew where a lot of the characters would end up in their lives.
  • Continuity Snarl: The unique storytelling format of the show comes in handy since it is easily possible that episodes overlap or may not even be in complete chronological order. After all, "old Ted" is just telling his kids a story and it is shown that he alters the story (how he got over Robin's rebound boyfriend Gael) or leaves out details (the dirty joke, Victoria's story in "Game Night"). Sometimes he even makes mistakes, as he was close to telling the story of the goat in the middle of a different story that happened a year before.
  • Cool Teacher: Ted's students are really fond of him. Well, once he finds the right room. Ted possibly stops being a cool teacher when Zoey turns his students against him and he delivers the ultimatum of failing anyone who skips class.
  • The Couch: Both in Ted and Marshall's apartment and in the bar downstairs.
    • Since Marshall and Lily bought their apartment, an increasing number of episodes play there as well.
  • Couch Gag: In syndication, every episode ends with a different rule from the Bro Code.
  • Couple Theme Naming: Ted Mosby is the hero of the story, telling his kids how he found the love of his life and their mother. The mysterious woman is revealed to be called Tracy McConnell and has the same initials as Ted.
  • Cradle of Loneliness: Lily is shown holding a pillow dressed in Marshall's clothes while he's away.
  • Cross-Referenced Titles: Hoooooo doggy.
    • The last two season 2 episodes "Something Borrowed" "Something Blue" and the last two season 8 episodes "Something Old" "Something New" are references to the famous tradition for weddings. The season 2 ends with the wedding of Marshall and Lily while season 8 ends with the preparations for the wedding of Barney and Robin.
    • "Slapsgiving", "Slapsgiving 2: Revenge of the Slap" and "Slapsgiving 3: Slappointment in Slapmarra" all involve Marshall giving a slap to Barney because the latter lose a bet.
    • Season one episode "The Slutty Pumpkin" and season 7 "The Slutty Pumpkin Returns" both has the girl who dresses as a sexy pumpkin for Halloween.
    • Season 7 episode "Good Crazy" and season 8 episode "Bad Crazy".
    • Season 2 episode "First Time in New York" and season 9 episode "Last Time In New York".
  • Curse: In Blitzgiving, the curse of the Blitz afflicts whoever leaves their friend group before the night is over. The curse will cause awesome things to only happen after the Blitz leaves the room. The curse is passed when another member of the group leaves early.

  • A Day in the Limelight: Despite Ted being the main character and narrator, the show is generally more of an ensemble instead of focusing solely on Ted. Despite this, several episodes are structured slightly different to highlight other characters narrating the story in some fashion. Season 5 had "Perfect Week" where Barney imagines an interview with a sports commentator on his attempts at 7 for 7 one-night stands. Season 6 had "Oh, Honey" where Marshall is learning about Ted's complicated situation with Zoey via multiple phone calls while staying with his Mom (and ultimately gathers all the pieces of the puzzle). Season 7 had "Symphony of Illumination" where Robin takes over narrating the story from the future, though it does have future Ted take over at the end. The final season has an episode devoted to the titular Mother, although again, Ted does take over right at the end (other than that one scene with Ted, and a setup shot with Ted and Barney, none of the regular cast show up at all).
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • We have Barney as the Deadpan Snarker... and Lily... and Ted... and Marshall... and Robin... and Tony (Stella's fiancee).
    • Particularly notable in that they all actively try to be snarky, instead of having the mysterious talent for blase pitch-perfect snark that most sitcom characters have.
    • Future!Ted tends to be very snarky about his and his friends' immature or bizarre past behavior, most strongly in "Dowisetrepla".
  • Death Glare:
    • Lily's "you're dead to me" look.
    • Also, Robin's angry stare (Don't ever take a picture of it… she will punch you. And you will cry. For the third time. That night.)
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: All of the main group has a few traits/issues/habits that did result in them having to face the consequences:
    • Barney being the Lovable Sex Maniac has often brought considerable tension between him and the rest of the group, showing that being that uncaring will make it hard for people to like you. And his philandering did result in him knocking a woman up eventually.
    • Ted being way too picky about his future wife resulted in him marrying in his late thirties, wasting a lot of his life during it, and undermined his potential relationships during.
    • Marshall is often shown to be too trustworthy for his own sake. It resulted in him getting himself into a lot of unnecessary trouble via helping people who took advantage of his kindness.
    • Lily can sometimes be jarringly selfish, with breaking up with her fianceé to "find herself" across the country, manipulating the love lives of her friends to ensure an idealized elderhood for herself, demanding that her family (with one young child and being pregnant with the other) move to Rome with her, meanwhile setting her husband's career back a decade and despite that everyone (including her) knew the move was a bad idea. No wonder the secondary crisis of the last season was about her marriage troubles because of this.
    • Robin being almost comically against kids thus not even planning to have them eventually leads to a major disappointment when she found out that she turned sterile, and right around the time she was finally skirting with the idea of childbearing.
    • "Murtaugh" has Barney trying to do a list of things which Ted and Marshall made of things they are too old to do now they are 30, such as piercing your ear or crash on a friend's futon. Trying to do them in 24 hours means that Barney is unable to complete it, ending up in pain, with a badly infected ear and acknowledging he is too old for this.
  • Deconstructive Parody: Of the romance genre, Ted believes in true love but his desperation for marriage distracts him from obvious flaws or from how he treats others. In season one, he believed that destiny will guide him to his soulmate but he realises in the final season that he can't keep relying on fate to provide him with happiness and good fortune. In season one, he tries to break up a wedding by seducing the bride because he believed they were soulmates through a dating service.
  • Deconstructed Trope:
    • Runaway Bride / Disposable Fiancée is beautifully deconstructed through Ted being left at the altar by Stella with the groom doing nothing to deserve the bride disappearing on the day of the wedding with only a note to explain her actions. He was left with serious emotional baggage that would affect his future relationships.
    • The show deconstructs Amicable Exes with Ted unconsciously pining after Robin after their amicable breakup and it has been pointed out by others how part of the reason why his relationships with other women fail is because part of Ted still wants to get together with Robin. It is likewise with Barney and this comes back to bite him when he slept with Robin while dating Nora.
    • The show also appears to be deconstructing True Companions. While the gang undeniably care for each other and go to great lengths for each other, they are becoming more dysfunctional because they are meddling too much into each other's affairs. In fact, it's been pointed out to Ted that since he has such a close group of friends, it's near impossible to find someone to enter that bubble and many of his relationships have failed because of that reason.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: Of Love at First Sight. Ted falling for Robin at first sight is deconstructed numerous times through the years, and yet the final scene of the series is him trying to get her back, with the implication that it works this time.
  • Desk Sweep of Passion: Robin is dating an Argentinian guy Gael. When they're in Argentina and he sweeps off some fruit with the words "I must have you" and sits her on the table, Robin is turned on. When he sweeps off stuff in her New York apartment, she just desperately cries, "Ooh, Laptop! Laptop! Laptop!"
  • Despair Event Horizon: About halfway through the 8th season all to the finale, this is Ted's state. This starts getting serious in the episode "The Time Travelers", in which Ted realizes that all of his friends have moved on with their lives, with Robin and Barney engaged and Lily and Marshall raising their first child. He believes to have lost Robin to Barney, and is guilty over feeling this way for his best friend's fiancée. He loses all hope of finding the love of his life in New York and decides to leave to Chicago and restart there.
  • Devoted to You: Ted doesn't stop pining for Robin, even after realizing she is far from what he looks for in a woman.
    • Scooter to Lily. He showed up at her wedding to try to win her back and got a job at her school to be near her.
  • Disappointing Promotion: Inverted by Barney. Throughout the series, his actual job remains a mystery until the final season when under the influence of alcohol he finally admits that his dismissive chuckle and "Please" actually means "Provide Legal Exculpation And Sign Everything", essentially making him a Fall Guy for Goliath National Bank. Basically Barney goes from being a minimum wage barista to enjoying a generous compensation package in exchange for signing legally dubious documents which could implicate him in GNB's corporate malfeasance. As it turns out this was an elaborate revenge plot against a GNB executive who stole his girlfriend, as Barney turned FBI informant and had the executive arrested and his division shut down after the events of the series.
    Barney: Best job ever!
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Steal his girlfriend and then openly mock him in front of that same girlfriend, what's Barney's response? Plan and execute a 10-year-long scam focused on getting the guy arrested and taking every cent he's made. Justified in that the guy in question was actually a criminal and is still a first rate jackass.
  • Disappeared Dad: Barney's father abandoned him when he was very young. His mother tells him his dad is Bob Barker, former host of the Price is Right, which he deludes himself into believing is true. His friends go along with it in order to spare his feelings.
    • Though eventually he does reveal that he is aware that Bob Barker isn`t his father when his half-brother James goes to meet his own father. In his words:
      Barney: (with a sad, almost broken look on his face)"I'm not insane. I know Bob Barker isn't my father."
    • Later, he does get to meet his own father and calls him out after he saw that he started a new family.
  • Distant Finale: Almost inevitable, given the Framing Device.
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: The opening theme is the very end of "Hey Beautiful" by the Solids; two creators of the show are members of the band. There are also two episodes where the theme tune is performed by members of the cast:
    • In "Hopeless", as part of Barney's attempt to make his friends seem more interesting to his dad, he tells Jerry that he and his friends are in a band, cutting to the whole group performing the theme tune together.
    • In "46 Minutes", when Marshall and Lily briefly leave the group, Barney takes command of the group, performing an altered form of the theme tune called "How I Met Your Barney". Later in the same episode, this happens again when Stripper Lily and Not Marshall join the group, but this time it's a Russian version of the tune.
  • Double-Meaning Title: Obviously, the show is about how Ted met the mother of his children. The finale implies that it's even more the story about how he met the step-mother of the children, Robin.
  • Double Standard: In Season 3 Ted is bitter over Robin appearing to move on from their relationship, and the jealousy is generally shown in a humorous light, with the rest of the gang not really having any sympathy and it being clear that the audience isn't expected to. In Season 5 when Robin is upset by how quickly Barney's moved on from their relationship, she becomes the centre of attention with everyone treating Barney like a complete jerk, and the flashbacks to Robin crying over it are one of the show's few sincere, joke-free moments.
    • Of course, Ted was jealous of Robin's moving on several months after the break-up, after Robin had been on vacation for a long time—the other characters knew Robin had gone though her own mourning period. Barney recovered from their split almost instantly and was back to his self-centered, womanizing self basically overnight.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: A couple of examples:
    • In the 4th episode, Ted dates a girl who, it transpires, studies Krav Maga. Granted, he acts like a jerk towards her, but the public beating she doles out to him at the episode's end—during which no one in the crowded restaurant attempts to help or intervene—is hardly justified. To make matters worse, when he tells his friends, and his children, what happened, all any of them do is laugh because he 'got beat [sic] up by a girl'. Even worse, in a later episode, Ted reveals that the crowd in the restaurant cheered her on. Furthermore, for anyone who knows a little about Krav Maga, it is an Israeli martial art. The premise behind it is that, in a real fight, no quarter is given to the enemy. You fight to inflict maximum pain and damage in order to accomplish your goal and ensure your safety. Everything is permitted, including eye-gouging and Groin Attacks.
    • In a seventh season episode, Robin tells Barney that she is pregnant (so she thought at the time). He then responds with several insensitive questions or statements. After each one, Robin punches Barney hard, in the face, knocking him to the floor. This is played for laughs.
    • The girls of the group have often hit the guys. This includes slaps to the face and punches to the throat. By contrast, the guys rarely even hurt each other outside of the slap bet, and the closest they came to putting a hand on the girls are obviously empty threats. There's a good reason for that. By Ted's own admission, Marshall growing up with his brothers have made him insane when it comes to fighting and he has no sense of proper use of force. If Marshall fights anyone for any reason, it will be a no holds barred Curbstomp Battle.
  • Downer Ending: Some episodes, such as "Bad News" and "Tick Tick Tick," end with a character in a depression that later episodes have to rectify. This show's normally very happy and upbeat, but some endings really hit hard.
  • Dramatic Pause: Barney is a big fan of these, whether it's as part of his catchphrase, or just when he's announcing something to the group.
    • One such pause spans across the break between seasons 2 and 3, with the last line of season 2 being Legen--wait for it!, and the first (non-recap) line of season 3 being …dary!
  • The Driver: Ranjit, the cab driver in the pilot, who pops back up every once in a while.
  • Drowning Our Romantic Sorrows: Barney and Ted, both ex boyfriends of Robin's, go on a drinking binge together and bicker about which of them is right for Robin. Ends with them both professing their love for her outside her window.
  • Dumped via Text Message: In one episode, Ted is reconsidering girls that he broke up with for seemingly petty reasons now that he's ready to settle down. He considers Natalie, whom he attempts to reunite with... only to get the door slammed in his face. When the gang asks why she reacted so badly, Ted revealed that he broke up with her over the phone. Which wasn't too bad... until it's revealed that he didn't even speak to her and just left a voicemail. While all her friends were in her apartment in hiding for her surprise birthday party, earning Ted a major What the Hell, Hero? from his friends.
  • DVD Commentary: Season 2's "Arrivederci, Fiero" had its writer Chris Harris and star Jason Segel doing a commentary, which involved them stripping to their underwear. For season 3's "The Chain of Screaming", Segel demanded to do the commentary with Harris, who hadn't even written the episode. Before recording, Segel had done shots. During recording, he continued to drink vodka (with Harris) and also produced twelve condoms. For season 4, they went further and recorded a commentary in the personas of "David Ellis Duncan" and "Evan Rock".
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The show is generally pretty amazing for its continuity porn and call backs, but they were willing to change that for little things.
    • The first few seasons would have a few quirks that worked themselves out, including some odd musical cues for scene changes similar to Seinfeld and the fact they regularly rotated to different spots in MacLarens instead of being bound and determined at their favorite booth.
    • Also in the first episode, Ted mentions his perfect woman would be able to quote lines from Ghostbusters, but he doesn't mention anything about Star Wars, which would soon after be established as his all time favorite film.
    • In episode 6, Robin mentions she never played team sports as a kid and only played tennis. Later episodes have her as an avid hockey player.
    • Early in the first season, Marshall claims he's never been in a fight before, when it was later established he and his brothers used to fight, brutally, for fun. Likewise, Robin claims she never played team sports, and later it turned out she was a hockey player.
    • In "Belly Full of Turkey," Robin makes fun of America being the leading nation in handgun violence. This was before later seasons established her as a borderline-reckless Gun Nut who learned to shoot at a young age and even threatens to shoot people a couple of times later in the series.
    • Early on in the first season the son and daughter actually did occasionally interact with future Ted, mostly to complain about why he doesn't just skip directly to telling them how he met their mother. After that, all their appearances until near the end of the show's run were via Stock Footage.
    • The Stormtrooper in Barney's apartment is actually a Clone Trooper in the early episodes.
  • Easily Forgiven: Averted after Stella leaves Ted at the altar. The gang actively encouraged Ted to let her have it afterwards.
    • Also averted with Zoey when it was revealed she lied when she said she erased a recording of Ted praising the Arcadian and almost ruined both Ted and Barney's careers. Barney and Robin actually went to tackle Ted in the streets to prevent him when he was reconsidering getting back with Zoey.
    • Initially averted with Lily after she breaks off her engagement and goes to San Francisco. When she comes back, everyone has trouble welcoming her back, but she comes back unnaturally fast. Ted, Robin, and Barney seem to completely take her back immediately, and even she and Marshall are awkward but mostly amicable. Midway through the season, however, it's revealed that Ted still harbors some resentment about it. In season nine, seven years later, it is revealed that Marshall still harbors resentment over this. He fears that if Lily has to again choose between an arts career and her family, she will choose the career even if it means abandoning her family.
  • 11th-Hour Ranger: The mother does not join the cast until the final season, and she does not appear until in person until the Season 8 finale.
  • Embarrassing Ad Gig: Robin was in an ad for adult diapers in order to compete with her popular co-anchor, Becky. The rest of the gang, who don't know about the commercial, assumes she's embarrassed because she slept with Randy while drunk, and she goes along with it to hide the truth. She's later caught in the lie and confesses while believing the commercial will never actually be used. Future Ted then states that it ran for seven years.
In a later episode, Sandy shows all of his and Robin's co-workers various embarrassing videos she's been in, including the commercial.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: Theodore Evelyn Mosby; Robin Charles Scherbatsky.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Robin Sparkles and Swarley.
    • "That's just how I Roll… land."
  • Embarrassing Old Photo: Marshall. He makes a weird face on every picture ever taken of him.
    • Inverted for Barney, who never looks bad in photos (except for in "Rally", when he was way too drunk).
    • Lily's naked painting of Marshall.
    • Ted and his best friend at ten, a balloon.
  • Embarrassment Plot: The episode "Game Night" focuses on the gang finding an old tape of Barney singing to his ex-girlfriend begging her to take him back. The only way they persuade him to tell them about it is by revealing their most embarrassing moments.
  • Emotional Regression: A running gag throughout the series. In "Sandcastles in the Sand" they discuss the phenomenon and Marshall tries dubbing it "Revertigo," as Robin met her old boyfriend and despite him being a loser she became a giddy teenager again.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: In "Daisy", Ted is onto Lily, suspecting her to have started smoking again. His elaborate summation ends with him reaching into a flower pot and triumphantly pulling out... a pregnancy test. Apparently, all the changes Ted saw with Lily were due to her new circumstances.
  • Epic Fail: Barney's schemes tend to alternate between this and unbelievable successes, with very little middle ground. For example, the entire bachelor party he tries to throw Marshall, in which absolutely everything goes wrong; attempting to pull off the "Naked Man" and getting thrown onto the streets in the middle of the night with no clothes; his attempts at completing the Murtaugh List; and also when he tries to get out of a speeding ticket in "As Fast As She Can" and ends up in a holding cell.
    • Played with in the episode where he runs he marathon with no training, in which he combines both unbelievable success and unmitigated failure.
  • Escape Call:
    • There's an episode which revolves around this, with Barney and Robin arguing over whether it's fair to use this to get out of dates based on bad first impressions. It backfires spectacularly; the date does indeed go poorly, but Robin gets a genuine emergency call, and can't convince the scorned-feeling guy that this is the case.
    • Another episode of the show has a variation, with Lily (sitting in another part of the bar) calling Ted while he's chatting with a previous Girl of the Week and an old college friend of hers, to advise her dense male friend that the two girls are competing for his attention.
  • Eskimos Aren't Real:
    • Robin's boyfriend Nick in "Splitsville" is so dumb that when Ted tells him the term Gypsies is outdated, he remarks he thought they were made up like dolphins and goblins.
    • Robin thought the North Pole wasn't real, and nor were reindeer.
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: Robin's teen-singer alter ego was known as Robin Sparkles.
  • Executive Excess: Whilst his exact job is left unrevealed until late in the series, it's clear from the start that Barney Stinson is a senior figure in Goliath National Bank. Likewise, the man has pretty much dedicated his life to seducing and sleeping with as many women as is humanly possible, boasting to have slept with over two hundred at one point and regularly creating massively complex schemes to convince his latest target to sleep with him (afterwards he rarely sees them again). He's also revealed to be a compulsive (although highly skilled) gambler.
  • Exhaustion-Induced Idiocy: As a child, Ted's mother always had a rule about bed time which was to never stay awake past 2am. True enough, Ted stayed awake past 2am and nearly had an affair with Robin while he was still with Victoria. Future-Ted admitted that he should have just gone to bed than lie to an emotionally vulnerable Robin.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Lily moved to San Francisco for the summer and when she came back her normally red hair was dyed much darker, and commented on by the characters. Also we can know in which year the flashback is taking place by Lily's hairstyles (jet black with a blunt fringe in college, bright red short in 2005-2006, dark red in 2007, dark red with bangs in 2008, wavy red the following years).
  • Extra-Long Episode: The season eight premiere, as well as the final episode were broadcast as hour-long shows.
  • Extremely Short Intro Sequence: The intro sequence lasts for only 15 seconds, with simplistic, photographic snapshot-style effects, and scatting theme music.
  • The Faceless: At first, played straight with Barney's mom. In a later episode, unexpectedly subverted.
    • The Mother of course. Her face is always hidden, usually by a yellow umbrella until the season eight finale.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Basically Marshall and Lily are the only two of the five who have a Romantic Relationship and stay that way. Ted and Robin (and Barney) have had seemingly well developed romances that have failed in the end, which sometimes seem to make the show flirt with Status Quo Is God. But still, they seem to only be really fortunate in getting one night stands.
    • Note that the entire show is told in flashback by Future-Ted, and as of the "present day" all three of Ted, Robin and Barney have gotten married. Thus, it is a Foregone Conclusion that this trope will eventually be subverted.
  • Fake-Hair Drama: Doug Martin is willing to fight people over what they may think of his toupee.
  • Falling-in-Love Montage: Ted has a stock montage where he gives a girl a flower, feeds her sauce while she sits on his counter, and they go for a walk (or jog!) in the park. This has been used with at least three different women.
  • False Cause: The premise of the show is that Ted's telling his kids how he met their mother, but it takes a while to get there. An episode in the second season was built around this fallacy. In reality, as revealed by the series finale, Ted's telling the kids about his relationship with Robin and doesn't even realize he's asking their permission to move on from their mother.
  • Fanservice: Just ponder on the amount of time Barney has spent shirtless across various episodes. Nobody's complaining.
  • Feeling Their Age: Invoked via "The Murtaugh List." Ted puts together a list of things you can't do once you pass a certain age. Barney takes it as a challenge and ends up injuring himself. Ted is meanwhile challenged to do things he is too young to start doing, such as going to bed at 8:30. When he can't go to sleep that early he marathons the Lethal Weapon movies and realized that Murtaugh never let his age stop him, so he shouldn't either.
  • Female Rockers Play Bass:
    • Early in the series when Ted describes his ideal woman, one of the qualities she has is "plays the bass." Many seasons later, we meet the mother and she does, in fact, play the bass in a band and is the only female member, where she's pushed around by the lead singer (and complete Jerkass) Derek, despite her having seniority.
    • During the series there is a Girl of the Week named Stacey Gusar who is the bass player in a reggae band. While the makeup of her band is unknown, what is known is that she spends the entirety of the episode being subject to the manipulations of Ted and Barney regarding a bet.
  • First Girl Wins: Marshall and Lily met as they were moving into their college dorms. They are also each others' first and only sexual partners (though for Lily, this may be a technicality), a point of pride for the couple.
    • This is also averted for Robin. Until the season finale where Ted is implied to have ended up with Robin after Tracy dies. This makes it a rare case where both the first and last girl wins.
  • Flashback, Flash Forward, How We Got Here and Separate Scene Storytelling: Firstly, the entire series is a flashback. Secondly, even that involves a lot of flashing both directions.
  • Flexibility Equals Sex Ability: Barney, in particular, loves this trope.
    • Barney, trying to get Ted to go out after breaking up with Robin, suggests "Female acrobats from Montreal. Super flexible."
    • Barney, trying to get straight-laced Ted to agree to have a bachelor party, tells Ted that he's lined up "three of the most physically and morally flexible exotic dancers you've ever seen." When Ted rejects the offer, Barney tells him he's still going to have his night with them anyway.
    • Barney, this time trying to abstain from sex with anyone but one particular woman, is directly propositioned by a woman at Ted's wedding. He tries to wave her off, saying "There are currently no positions available" but her response of "I'm a yoga instructor. Every position is available" causes him to audibly grunt in arousal and frustration.
  • Food Slap: Drinks to the face are an occupational hazard for Barney Stinson. "Eventually, you'll be able to anticipate it, and when you do… free drink!"
  • Forbidden Fruit: For Barney, Lily. He's shown growing obsession with seeing her naked, or at least her breasts, because she's been exclusive with Marshall pretty much the entire series. She finally does flash him but its to keep him from winning a bet that would allow him to touch them.
  • Foregone Conclusion:
    • Most women are identified as "Not the mother" to the audience well before their relationship with Ted ends. Other times, Future!Ted simply tells the viewer how things will end and the story is how they will get there.
    • Perhaps the most blatant example of this is Robin. Future Ted reveals in the very first episode that Robin is not the mother, but that doesn't stop Ted from chasing after her and declaring his love to her several times over the span of the show.
    • In "The Pre-Nup" Future Ted announces that of the couples at that point of the story (himself and Victoria, Marshall and Lily, Barney and Quinn, and Robin and Nick), one of them will have broken up by the end of the following day... and then immediately admits that it obviously isn't Marshall and Lily, who have repeatedly been established as still being married in 2030.
  • Foreshadowing: Future Ted will often explicitly say "More on that later" when it comes to various plot points brought up. As well, the writers purposefully foreshadow something in the next season (or even several years with regards to the goat incident) and DON'T have plans on it at the time, used as a fun exercise to keep things interesting. Ted in the green dress was apparently the most difficult, as the context of him saying "Now we're even!" sounded victorious rather than merely a bet or blackmail.
    • In season six they introduce Michael Trucco as Nick, a crush Robin had from years prior, who was stated to show up later on. Trucco had schedule conflicts in the following season and so they introduced Kal Penn as Kevin to fill in as Robin's love interest for that season (with the assumption that Kevin's story arc was adapted from the intended arc for Nick). Trucco's schedule cleared up and they brought him back in the eighth season, but it is noticeably less story-heavy than originally implied.
      • While the finale was highly controversial, most of its plot had been heavily foreshadowed. The Mother never appears in flashforwards, which was thought to allow hiding her identity to the audience but is consistent with her being dead, a fact that was bluntly hinted at in Vesuvius when Ted states that her regrets not spending more time with her when he could (and starts crying at the implication of The Mother not attending her daughter's wedding), both Ted and Barney see the bride in her dress, which bring bad luck on both of their marriages, Robin is a much bigger part of the story than the mother and Marshall always wins his bets.
    • Whenever we see Barney actually doing his job, it's always to do with a massive crisis where the company might get taken down by a government agency, or go to war with North Korea. All Barney ever says about his job is, "Heh, please". Come the last season, we learn that the entirety of his job is to be the fall guy in just that sort of occasion.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: "The Stinson Missile Crisis" is Robin telling the story of how she assaulted a woman to her court-ordered therapist, instead of the usual kids. The therapist keeps lampshading how she keeps talking about Marshall and Lily and Ted, but she insists it's all connected.
  • Formula for the Unformulable: Barney writes a formula on a huge whiteboard when he tries to figure out how to make his friend/crush Robin sleep with him again. The formula includes the right amount of nostalgia and booze (and lots of mathematical operations). The solution is to get her to Ted's wedding, Ted being her ex-boyfriend and great friend.
  • Framing Device: First off there is the 2030 narration by Future Ted, but within the show there is sometimes internal framing devices such as a character(s) recounting a story in the "present" to the rest of the group. Notable instances include "The Pineapple Incident," "Drumroll, Please," "Lucky Penny," "How I Met Everyone Else", "The Playbook", "Disaster Averted", "Symphony of Illumination", and "Oh Honey".
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: In "The Time Traveller" Robin writes a message to Marshall on the wall in the women's bathroom. The voiceover only reads the start and the end which start out sounding like a legitimate apology and confession, ending with a twist where Robin revealed she was just trying to keep him reading this so someone ended up coming in and catching him. If you actually read the message though, she confesses to having been raised as a cat as a baby and not being allowed on the furniture and having to "poop in a box".
  • Fictional Board Game: Lily's dad hopes to make his fortune developing the next iconic board game. His attempts include one called "Diseases" and another about stepping on things in the dark. He finally finds success with "Light's Out".
    • However, it was the "Lights Out" game that Future Ted said was successful, the Slap Bet game just exists in universe.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Zigzagged.
    • While Ted and Marshall's apartment is of a reasonable size and Ted has always had a solid job as an architect, Marshall spent the first few seasons as just a law student. As Marshall explains it, he earns "negative $200 dollars a week.". It later becomes somewhat more plausible when Lily moves in (thus adding another source of income) and eventually Marshall graduates and begins earning money. This apartment is explicitly referred to as "a rent-controlled apartment on the Upper West Side."
    • Robin lives by herself in a roomy place initially as a cable news reporter doing fluff pieces, but she does later become head anchor. She might have money leftover from her Robin Sparkles career. In the final season it is revealed that her family is very wealthy and thus money is not really an issue for her.
    • Averted by Barney, who has some undefined corporate job and seems to be the most financially secure of the group, so his very spacious apartment is quite reasonable.
    • Also averted by Lily's apartment early in season two. Lily, with no job and her credit shot, could only get an apartment that was at best 10' x 10' with an exposed toilet, a Murphy's Bed that hits the wall and a combination refrigerator/oven/stove/sink.
    • Played with when Marshall and Lily inherit a nice house in the suburbs and initially decide to sell it so they can stick to the inner city. Upon returning to their apartment (which was supposed to be exceptionally nice and outside their price range) they found it incredibly cramped and barely big enough for their couch, complete with a reorganization of the original set. As they complain about how small it feels the others try to convince them otherwise, the implication being that they've lived in the city for so long they see their apartments as being bigger than they really are.
  • Frothy Mugs of Water: In-universe, and ironically: all references to marijuana usage are replaced with "eating sandwiches" when Ted relates the story to his kids.
    • Which can become hilariously nonsensical when, for example, they put "sandwiches" in their brownies.
    • Although in the first season, it was referred to as weed.
  • Frozen Dinner of Loneliness: Ted has an Imagine Spot where he winds up eating frozen dinners alone, calling the number on the side of the box just for some basic companionship
  • Funny Background Event: Used more than a few times, but one notable example was in S7E4 "The Stinson Missile Crisis," where Robin beat the hell out of a random blonde bimbo accidentally called by Barney's ColdCall 5000 to the utter ignorance of Barney and Nora, who were on a date at the time.
  • Funny Flashback Haircut
    • Marshall was very proud of his rattail as a teenager and even wrote a letter to his 30-year-old self to keep it forever, hoping it will at least hang down his knees at that age.
    • In college Ted sported ridiculously voluminous curls and Lily had untypical raven-black hair and unflattering bangs.
    • Barney wasn't always the notorious Ladies Man we know today. He used to have a ponytail and an ugly goatee.
    • Back in her days as Canadian pop singer "Robin Sparkles", Robin had a blonde, puffed up 80s mane in the late 90s.

  • The Gambling Addict: Barney. Apparently, he used to think that gambling was for suckers until Marshall convinced him to take a $1 bet on a play at the Super Bowl. Barney instantly becomes enraptured.
  • Games of the Elderly: Lily likes to imagine her and Marshall playing bridge with their friends in their old age. However, Lily has no idea how to play bridge, so she makes up the rules in her imagination.
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: Despite having a cast of five with Two Girls to a Team for most of its run, there are only six main characters throughout the show's history. The titular mother was Promoted to Opening Titles in the final season.
  • Gentle Giant: Marshall is a fairly big guy and based on that alone can be fairly intimidating, but he is one of the mildest and friendliest people you could imagine.
    • Marshall's whole family is this - he is shorter than his father and all his brothers, and even his mom is over 6 feet. They can be violent around each other in their family ovo188, but other than that they are all mild-mannered and kind individuals.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff:
    • In-Universe, autotune remixes of Ted's wedding speech meltdowns were surprisingly popular in Finland. A bunch of his "fans" even took the effort to come to Punchy's wedding to watch him in action.
    • A literal example shows up in season 7's "Field Trip". Ted takes a group of students out for a field trip, and they somehow manage to pick up a German family. Ted and Barney decide to use their diverse group to do some polling, and ask who among them likes the 'Hoff; nobody but the Germans raise their hands.
    • The Wedding Bride (the movie loosely based on Ted and Stella's story) is so popular all over the world that it's well known even in North Korea (it's Kim Jong's second favorite movie).
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: At a Halloween party Barney (dressed as a devil) and another guest (dressed as an angel) argue about whether or not Ted should urinate from the roof... at least until the angel asks Ted and Barney for marijuana.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Lily's your dead to me look features a close up of her face and glowing red eyes that "kill" the recipient. The crazy eyes that indicate a woman is insane glow red and white.
  • Graceful Ladies Like Purple: Robin, Lily and many female characters frequently wear purple outfits/dress. The Mother was also wearing one in her first official appearance.
    • Doubles as an Arc Symbol, because purple and yellow are opposites on the color wheel. All those ladies, except The Mother in her debut, aren't The Mother, and The Mother's symbol, for years, was The Yellow Umbrella.
  • Grand Romantic Gesture: Ted is fond of these. He also coins the Dobler-Dahmer Theory which discusses and deconstructs them: A Grand gesture is charming if the recipient reciprocates the affection of the actor, but it comes across as creepy if the feeling isn't mutual.
  • Granola Guy: Barney was once one of these… until he suited up for the first time to deal with Shannon dumping him. Possibly lampshaded when Shannon said she was over "the whole granola thing."
    • Marshall, Lily, and especially Ted went through phases of this in college.
  • Gratuitous German: Provided by Klaus during his brief stint in season eight and once by Heidi Klum in "The Yips". For Klaus, it's mostly just dropping a single word that can be understood in context (mein liebling! = my darling!) or is pretty widely known (Schnitzel, wunderbar, Kindergarten), but there's some that just goes over the top for comedy. Klum only provides the first of the following examples.
    • Ach du meine Güte. Nichts klappt mehr, überhaupt gar nichts mehr. So eine Scheiße. (presented as a single word for the yips, but actually a sentence spoken very quickly) - Oh my god, nothing works anymore, nothing at all. What a shit.
    • Lebenslangersschicksalsschatz - Lifelong treasure of destiny. (For Ted, The Mother)
    • Beinaheleidenschaftsgegenstand - Thing that's almost what you want but not quite. (For Ted, Robin)
    • Schlauchmachendejungen - Hose that makes the boy. (penis) (For Ted, his penis)
    • Sie sprechen deutsch? Das ist wunderbar! Ich habe keine Freunde, die deutsch sprechen in Amerika, das macht mich so einsam. So einsam. - You speak German? That's wonderful! I have no friends in America who speak German; that makes me so lonely. So lonely.
  • Groin Attack: Lily comes up with the idea of an electric collar, or more appropriately, a shock ring to keep Barney in line. Also, Ted punched Barney in the nuts when he found out that Barney slept with Robin. In his defense, Barney did say Not in the Face!.
    • In "Last Words" Ted and Barney's storyline is the two of them trying to make Marshall laugh in order to cheer him up during his father's funeral, and after showing him funny online videos fails, Barney decides to go for more close to home comedy, and knee Ted in the groin. Ted didn't approve of this.
  • Growing Up Sucks: In later seasons, this becomes the central theme of the show. In the final episodes, they dial it up to eleven. You have your friends and your life in your 20s, and it's amazing, but eventually you move on. You leave that life behind, you move on... and those friends aren't the center of your life anymore.
  • Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: Done by everyone at different points.
    • Barney shed his longer, hippie-like locks in favor of a sleeker look when his girlfriend dumped him for a businessman.
    • Lily had stark black hair in high school and college, while in the modern-day it varies between red and dark brown.
    • In late high school/early college Marshall had very flat, matted hair. In his teens, he sported a mullet.
    • Ted had slightly longer hair but it was very curly, almost to the point of looking permed.
    • Everyone's hair except for Barney changes in the flash-forwards, to more conservative "parent" haircuts. In particular, Ted has a more businesslike combed and parted hair (unlike his "bedhead" look of the present), Marshall is balding and Lily has short, frizzy blonde-ish hair. In the flashforward to when Marshall wins the election to State Attorney General (the campaign being the reason for his hair loss), Lily is wearing her hair in a typical "politician's wife" style.
  • Handsome Lech: Barney. He is tall, rich, charismatic, handsome, and a scumbag who is never above tricking women into sleeping with him.
  • Hands-Off Parenting: Barney's childhood was apparently like this, with his mother leaving him alone for days at a time.
  • Happily Married: Marshall and Lily, they go through some tough times, but theirs is the romance that is the most solid on the show.
  • #HashtagForLaughs: Barney uses hashtags with a hand signal for a hash in the air. #burn
  • Heaven Above: The characters occasionally pray for help (though only to "the universe") in tough spots, and they always do this by looking up and begging. In the case of the first season finale, a prayer to the sky even leads to a uniquely heavenly miracle: a heavy rain inexplicably appears and keeps the protagonist's love from leaving with the wrong man.
  • Heh Heh, You Said "X": Occurs sometimes with the characters, especially between Barney and Marshall.
  • Held Gaze: This is one of Barney's "moves" to invoke intimacy and seduce women (And Ted).
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Ted, Marshall, and Barney. So freaking much. Although Ted and Barney deserve a special mention—considering the number of times they hug, tell each other "I love you", and how some scenes between them seem to be played as a couple getting back together (in "Something Blue" and "Miracles"), it's no wonder no one believes Marshall is Ted's best friend anymore.
  • High-Five Left Hanging: In the episode "I Heart NJ", Barney tells a bad joke and asks for a fistbump, but no one in the gang wants to. Through the rest of the episode, Barney refuses to lower his fist until he gets that bump. By the end of the episode after witnessing Robin quitting her job with another pun, Lily bumps him back, and Barney sighs with relief, but not before Barney makes another bad joke and asks for a high five, to which Lily refuses. Barney only lowered his hand when Robin announces that she's moving to Japan.
  • Hilariously Abusive Childhood:
    • Zigzagged with Barney: His mom mentions the fact that she both drank coffee and smoked cigarettes constantly whilst she was pregnant with both James and Barney. She also used to leave him home alone when he was a little kid for days at a time, later left him with a babysitter for three weeks while she slept around and "got passed around like a bong" and finally told Barney his father was Bob Barker, which he has deluded himself into believing is true, because his real father abandoned him. However, after her The Faceless status comes to an end, we're shown more positive flashbacks involving her playing Santa for Barney, writing him a letter from the Postmaster general to make him feel better about nobody coming to his birthday party, and just generally trying her best to love and support him as a single mother.
    • Robin has a version of this. Her father clearly wanted a son (her middle name is "Charles"), and treated her accordingly. On top of that, his standard for raising a boy included a week where Robin was abandoned in the deep, cold woods, Rambo-style. However, she seems to have no idea that she's messed up and—in fact—thinks her childhood is perfectly normal and that everybody has these kinds of experiences.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: The gag reel. Jason Segal tends to be prominent in them.
  • Height Angst: Played With. Marshall is 6'4" and towers above the rest of the main cast, especially his 5'4" wife, and pretty much everyone else he interacts with in NYC except Brad. But his dad is 6'6", his oldest brother is 6'8", and his other older brother is 7'0" (and even his mom and both sisters-in-law are 6 feet tall), so whenever he goes back home he feels like he's the only one who didn't grow as tall as he should have.
  • Hollywood Provincialism: Pops up from time to time. For example, characters frequently claim the age of consent to be 18, while it's actually 17 in New York.
  • rich palms no deposit bonus codes Nudist:
    • When Ted briefly moves out in season two, Marshall and Lily seize the opportunity to do all the things they wanted to do if they lived alone. The first thing on the list is to stop wearing clothes. However, they soon realize it's not as much fun as they thought it'd be, and is actually kind of cold.
    • The first time Ted doesn't have a roommate, he also starts walking around his apartment naked, though this backfires when he spills hot soup on himself.
  • Honor Before Reason: Marshall quits his high-paying corporate job because he feels like he's compromising his principles, despite being in considerable debt and having a huge mortgage. Twice.
  • Honorary Uncle: Future Ted refers to all his friends as "Uncle" or "Aunt" to his kids, which causes some viewers to believe that the mother is the sister of one of Ted's friends.
    • This extends to their children, as Marshall and Lily's son Marvin is referred to as the cousin of Ted's children (which makes the aforementioned Epileptic Trees even more unlikely).
  • Hope Spot: A major point of the series, no matter how many times Ted gets snubbed or dumped, or no matter how many times he does that to his girlfriends, he never stops looking for the perfect women or let destiny guide him to her.
    • Ted's narration in the official alternative ending has been interpreted as one for Barney and Robin getting back together after their divorce in the finale.
  • Horrible Housing: In season two, Lily is broken up from Marshall and searching for a place to live. The only place she finds is a tiny one-room apartment where the toilet is in the kitchen and the Murphy bed can't pull down all the way without leaning on the opposite wall. One night it gets stuck and when Lily manages to pull it down, it pulls the wall down with it.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Pairing the 6'4" (193cm) Jason Segel with 5'4" (163cm) Alyson Hannigan. Lampshaded in "Three Days of Snow" when Lily is imagining Marshall dumping her for someone "more height-appropriate." Also played for all its worth in "Belly Full of Turkey" when Lily and Marshall visit Marshall's family in Minnesota and she discovers that he is the "runt of the family," even his mom and sister are over 6 feet tall and Lily looks positively tiny and fragile in comparison.
    • Later played with when Marshall refers to Robin (5'9"/175cm) as "freakishly tall."
  • Hypocritical Humor: In a flashback from their college days, when Ted and Marshall were on the road during a snowstorm, Ted learns that Marshall threw out his crackers and water because of his "No food or drink" in his car rule, which irks Ted as he states that Marshall hasn't washed his bedsheets since orientation.
  • I Call Him "Mr. Happy": Barney has several nicknames for his penis - "My Barnana" and "Barnacle Junior" among them. At one point, Marshall's mother refers to her breasts as the "Minnesota Twins".
  • I "Uh" You, Too:
    • When Robin realizes she's in love with Ted
    Robin: Ted?
    Ted: Yes?
    Robin: Falafel.
    • Lampshaded by Ted, who's teaching Barney about Robin 101
    Ted: She doesn't say "I love you," like a normal person. Instead, she'll laugh, shake her head, give you a little smile, and say, "You're an idiot."
    Barney: "You're an idiot"?
    Ted: If she tells you you're an idiot, you're a lucky man.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine:
  • Identical Stranger: Each of the gang has a doppelgänger living in New York and one of their favorite things is to find them. This becomes a plot device of season 5. They are as follows:
    • Lesbian Robin
    • Moustache Marshall
    • Stripper Lily
    • Mexican Wrestler Ted ("I know, mine was the coolest")
    • Fertility Specialist Barney
  • I'll Be in My Bunk: In "Last Cigarette Ever", Marshall imagines getting his teenaged self to quit smoking by showing him a picture of Lily. Teenage Marshall proceeds to quote this trope almost verbatim.
  • Impossibly Awesome Magic Trick: Barney's tricks are often simple enough, but on occasion, some tricks are frankly impossible. Most notably was his trick in "The Magician's Code" which involved him pulling a broadsword out of a 1x1 foot box (that had been scanned by airport security). And that was part of the SETUP.
  • Inconvenient Itch: Marshall realizes he has head-lice halfway through begging to get his job back, and starts "discreetly" trying to scratch it. Eventually, it's too much for him and he screams out "I HAVE LICE!" Suffice to say, he did not get his job back.
  • Inherently Attractive Profession:
    • Ted is an architect. In his plan to charm Robin, he imagines "showing some foxy young thing all his cool architecture stuff" to make Robin jealous. Episode "Ted Mosby: Architect" milks this to the extreme when Barney impersonates Ted because lots of chicks think architects are hot.
      Barney: Dude, lots of chicks think architects are hot. Think about it, you create something out of nothing. You're like God. There's nobody hotter than God.
    • Barney claims that pharmaceutical representatives are the "hot-chick" profession of their generation (like nurses or stewardesses were in the past). He has flings with several of them, then meets a plain one and declares the era of the "hot pharma girl" over.
  • Inhuman Resources: Barney's company. At one point, Ted is hired to design them a dedicated "firing room."
  • Inner Monologue Conversation: Almost all of the characters will have "telepathic" conversations many times, consisting of them making eye contact and a voice-over of what they are "saying" with a tight shot on their faces as they convey the tone. In general, they get extremely accurate with specifics, with Lily catching on to what Marshall was saying while asleep. Ted and Barney doing this in "Three Days of Snow" is rather hilarious, in that all of Barney's thoughts is the Beach Boy's "Kokomo." In one notable instance, Marshall, Lily, Robin and Barney all have one around Ted (who is struggling to pick up what they are doing), where they coordinate a verbal wraparound to convince Ted to dye his hair blonde. Subverted during Lily's bridal shower when Robin telepathically pleads with her, to which Lily nods knowingly and then immediately turns out to have misunderstood everything.
  • Insane Troll Logic:
    • Lily decides to "punish" a sales clerk who was rude to her by stealing a pair of khakis (which did not belong to the clerk, the clerk would have no reason to care that they were stolen, and if caught Lily could have been arrested). What makes even less sense is that Ted pointed out how insane this was, but for some reason was later inspired by the stolen pants he was wearing to stand up to his jerk of a boss.
    • Barney is absolutely convinced the rehearsal dinner for his and Robin's wedding will happen at a laser tag arena, despite everyone and their mother telling him it will not happen. Every one of his reasons for why it will happen is immediately shot down by Robin.
  • Insignificant Anniversary: Robin dates a very clingy coworker. After one night where she didn't call him, he confronts her... but the fight ends when he says he doesn't want to fight, it's their first week-iversary! Robin quickly realizes she needs to dump him.
  • Intimate Artistry: Discussed and parodied. Barney has asked Lily to paint him in the nude and is offering a large sum of money as payment, but Lily is worried that her Marshall will be bothered by the thought of her painting another man naked. Marshall is actually fine with the situation, since he has absolutely no fears that Lily would ever develop feelings for Barney, but pretends to be angry in order to trick Barney into offering more money as an incentive. The episode ends with Marshall and Lily gleefully running off with Barney's payment, while Barney is angry that the painting gave him 'Ken doll' anatomy.
  • In-Universe Factoid Failure: Barney develops "The Platinum Rule" based on mistaking The Golden Rule for "Love thy neighbour." Everyone quickly points out it's actually "Do unto others." Barney usually asks they "just pretend" it's "Love thy neighbour."
  • Ironic Echo: In the finale, after his marriage to Robin has fallen apart, Barney goes back to his old womanizing ways, telling his friends it's ridiculous to expect he'd ever meet a girl, fall in love at first sight, and say something cheesy like, "You are the love of my life. Everything I have, and everything I am, is yours... Forever." Fast-forward to the day his daughter is born and as he holds her in his arms for the first time he tells her those exact words with tears streaming down his face.
  • Irony:
    • Out of the gang, Ted is the one who really wants to get married. However, all of the other four get married before him. Including two with huge aversions to getting married.
    • On a smaller scale, Robin's relationship with Don was full of irony. She only meets him after committing fully to her career over her personal life. However, when given the choice, she chose him over furthering her career. He chose his career when given the exact same opportunity.
    • Similarly, Ted stated in "The Platinum Rule" that if he broke up with Stella it wouldn't be because of some stupid rule. At their wedding she left him at the altar to run off with her ex-husband and the father of her daughter, causing him to have the rule never invite an ex to a wedding.
  • It Runs in the Family:
    • Barney, his brother, and mother are all into promiscuity. When we finally meets his father, he is a reformed party-animal.
    • The Eriksen family are very tall Big Eaters that like mixing candy and mayonnaise into heavy meals of meat. There is an Eriksen three-month-old the size of a toddler. Lily is afraid her kid with Marshall will turn out huge. Also, there is a low birth rate of daughters, Lily and Marshall's daughter, Daisy, is the first Eriksen daughter in 3 generations.
  • It's Cuban: When Ted gets upset by Barney smoking a cigar in his car, Barney mentions that it is a cuban cigar and that people pay to make their cars smell like them.

  • Jesus Taboo: This isn't by any means a religious show, but How I Met Your Mother treats "the universe" as a sort of secular god. For instance, the wise old narrator will say things like "the universe has a plan" while characters will look up to the sky and say "Come on, universe. I'm a nice guy. Send me a miracle" and miraculously find exactly what they need. None of the characters ever refer to this all-powerful, all-knowing, and benevolent planner as God, but only as "the universe." The show only mentions God on two occasions: quick gags and one very special episode.
  • Joke Exhaustion:
    • Barney does this occasionally, such as when he finds out that Marshall wears a nightshirt to bed (including a Peter Pan reference).
    • Also when Barney is accidentally called "Swarley" the laundry list of permutations that the gang uses to mock him is quite long.
    • Ted is trying to defend his ownership and the occasional wearing of red cowboy boots, leading to this exchange:
      Marshall: Okay, today's category, Classic Westerns that Involve Red Cowboy Boots. Robin.
      Robin: The Good, the Bad and the Fabulous.
      Lily: The Magnificent Kevin.
      Marshall: No Country for Straight Men.
    • In the episode "Aldrin Justice", Ted keeps making accidental penis jokes after telling the gang that the building his boss made looks like a penis. He does something similar in a later episode when he is mistaken as a porn star and is interviewed by who he thinks is someone who works for an architecture magazine (and not the adult magazine it actually is) and makes similar accidental innuendoes that are sexual in nature.
  • Joke Name Tag: Barney once tried to scam his way through a dating service with the alias "Jack Package". (It's pronounced pe-KAHJ)
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Lily breaks Ted up with numerous girlfriends, and the most she gets is a telling off. Tends to happen whenever she does something wrong.
    • It might be because Ted is the narrator, and is, therefore, a little bitter, but the impression is certainly there that Tony, the man for whom Stella left Ted at the altar, took the notable points of Ted and Stella's relationship and twisted them to make Ted (or 'Jed') appear a petty, egocentric asshole. This paints Stella as the Houdini as well given that most of the details could only have come from her. In a series that generally gives characters what they deserve, this grates.
    • In an episode Marshall is tricked by a boy that traps him on the roof and steals his cellphone. So he gives a party in Marshall and Lilly's house, sexting an oblivious Lily and, in the end, he also gets money from her before she discovers all.
  • Kent Brockman News: Robin is a magnet for this. The bad puns, the dares, the awkward dancing around the Super Bowl results, the sports guy's on-air bitterness after their failed relationship—and that's just on Metro News One; Japan and the morning show have their own indignities.
  • "King Kong" Climb: On Robin's TV show, a monkey from the Central Park Zoo escapes from his cage, grabs a doll and climbs a scale model Empire State Building. The cameraman tries to get it down by tossing paper airplanes at it. This may not have actually happened.
  • The Lad-ette: Robin, enthusiast of drinking, hockey and guns, and Lily, perpetual winner of drinking contests and hot-dog eating competitions.
  • Landline Eavesdropping: There's one episode where Marshall's mother and older brother were using phones to listen in on the conversations Marshall was having with the rest of the gang about the recent developments between Ted and Zoey.
  • Large Ham: Neil Patrick Harris chews up every scene he's in.
    • He lampshades it in an audio commentary, saying something like "My acting in this show is very subdued".
  • Last Girl Wins: A necessity of the show's framing device, the mother is the last girlfriend Ted meets. First Girl Wins as well, after the last girl, well, dies.
  • Last Het Romance: Robin for a gay ex.
    • Ted ends up being one for Cindy, the Mother's roommate. He dated her briefly, and she even thanked him for making her re-examine her life.
  • Last-Minute Hookup: Ted meeting the mother occurs in the last five minutes of the final episode. But the even truer example is him getting together with Robin in the last seconds of the finale.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: So many. Any new viewer will unavoidably be spoiled about one of, if not all of the following if they go online:
    • Robin is not the mother. This was revealed at the end of the pilot, but it can be lost on a viewer who starts watching with a Season 2 episode with them as a couple where Future!Ted doesn't refer to her as "your Aunt Robin."
    • Ted breaks up with every recurring girlfriend (including those teased as a potential mother) up to the current season:
    • Ted and Victoria break up towards the end of season one.
    • Stella leaves Ted at the altar early in season four.
    • Lily leaves at the end of season one and breaks up with Marshall, but comes back in the next season and they get back together.
    • Barney and Robin sleep together in season three and he falls in love with her. Eventually, they get together in season five.
  • Laugh Track: Averted, then used straight. Early seasons taped episodes without a Studio Audience, then screened the completed episode to an audience and recorded the natural laughter (thus, not technically a Laugh Track, which is pre-recorded laughter). As of season six (and possibly earlier), Neil Patrick Harris has stated they've switched to canned laughter. In any case, the show is one of the few critically acclaimed TV comedies of its era to contain audible audience laughter (as opposed to the entirely canned-laughter-free critics' favorites like The Office, 30 Rock, Scrubs, Arrested Development and so on).
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Zigzagged.
    • Lily and Marshall decide the time is right to have a baby, but have difficulty conceiving. They start to worry that one or both of them may be infertile, but testing shows that they are both completely fertile, and they conceive shortly afterwards.
    • Then there's the situation with Robin. From season one she makes it clear that she never wants kids. However, one episode in season seven begins with her narrating to her and Barney's future kids about how, a few weeks after sleeping with him, she found out she was pregnant. It turns out to have been a scare, however, and she ends up finding out she can't have children. She is devastated despite never having wanted to be a mother, because, as she puts it, "It's one thing not to want something, it's another to be told you can't have it" and know she has to live with the knowledge she can't change her mind even if she wanted to. It is then revealed that the opening narration of Robin talking to her future kids was just something she imagined to help her cope.
    • Barney's stance on children is mixed throughout the series, but overall he is against fatherhood, until babies actually happen. He loves babies, he doesn't like people trying to get pregnant. During the entire run of the series, he seduces countless women and none of them get pregnant...until the series finale, set over multiple years, where he accidentally gets a woman pregnant and is horrified. However, soon after his daughter Ellie is born he completely falls in love with the baby upon holding her in his arms for the first time.
  • Leaving Food for Santa: Marshall talks about leaving lutefisk instead of cookies, "cause that's what Santa needs at 3:00 AM while battling a snowstorm over the Rockies, a sugar crash. Santa needs protein!"
  • Lemony Narrator: Future Ted, at times.
    Ted: I'm not going to give up on her.
    Future Ted: I should have given up on her.
    Ted: This girl is special.
    Future Ted: She was the devil.
    Ted: Things are going to work out with Tiffany.
    Future Ted: No they're not, dumbass.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Barney and Lily's relationship, despite constantly hitting on her. Ted and Lily also have this relationship.
  • Living MacGuffin:
    • In the first season, Robin. She got very little characterization past "the object of Ted's desire" and what characterization she did get was retconned or overwritten in later seasons.
  • Local Hangout: McLaren's, the bar that the gang frequent. They spend a lot of their time there and are close with some of the staff. One episode has them fearful of not being able to return.
  • Logging onto the Fourth Wall: The Other Wiki has a very long list of them.
  • Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Ted spends nearly the entire series pursuing relationships that ultimately will not work out. These have included a married woman, a crazy stalker, a woman who is stringing him along as a backup, and Karen, who keeps cheating on him.
  • Love at First Sight: Deconstructed. Ted desperately wants this to happen to him, and at a few times he thinks it has happened, but mainly it's because he's In Love with Love. Turns out it's a Decon-Recon Switch and the series ends with Ted having fallen in love at first sight anyway. On the other hand, Marshall and Lily really do seem to have fallen in love at first sight (although the story of their first meeting has gone through a few revisions over the years, so it should be taken with a grain of salt).
  • Luxurious Liquor: Barney and Robin both drink scotch compared to the rest of the gang's beer — Barney has a big job at a big, corrupt, banking group and makes "16 craploads" a year, Robin is revealed in the last season to be sitting on a big pot of family wealth (although this could have been gleaned from careful viewings, what with the big, glamorous, mansion lodge home that her flashbacks show). Ted also starts to drink scotch more the later it gets in the show, matching his growing status as a professor at Columbia and successful New York skyscraper architect.

  • Made of Iron: Barney's ploys to get into women's pants, as well as most of his challenges, would severely injure normal people. More often than not, he suffers few to no ill effects.
    • Patrice has this emotionally. Anyone who can take the venom Robin spews at her for no apparent reason is made of stern stuff.
  • Magic Realism: Telepathic conversations, a burger so good that other burgers will forever after taste like feet, a long list of improbable coincidences, Barney's ability to take a good picture even when it should be physically impossible, a rain dance actually working, etc. etc.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: All of the characters, but Marshall and Lily take it to the point of absurdity, including (but not limited to) Barney's childhood bedroom when they're visiting his mother for the first time, and their fertility doctor's waiting room.
  • Man Hug: Barney, Marshall, and Ted have quite a few of these, though they usually aren't overly concerned about appearing oversensitive since they're Heterosexual Life-Partners.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Barney, who has a whole book with a way to seduce women and regularly manipulates his friends.
    • Also, Lily, who sabotaged several of Ted's former relationships and tried to manipulate Barney and Robin.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: So much. The five main characters are: a man who dreams of getting swept off his feet and starting a family, and is ruled by irrational emotional impulses; a man who is gentle, sensitive, prone to hysteria, and committed to the point of clinginess; a man who glorifies stylish clothing and personal appearance to semi-religious levels; a woman who is crude, loud, and often complains that her husband doesn't put out enough; and a woman who is commitment-phobic, hates expressing feelings, loves hard liquor and guns, is uncomfortable with kids, and has the emotional sensitivity of a Frat Bro.
  • Master of the Mixed Message: Robin is this a lot, with both Ted (in the earlier seasons), and later Barney in seasons 3 and 4.
  • Matchmaker Failure: Inverted. Ted learns that Lily has been sabotaging his relationships with women she doesn't think are right for him. One of these women is Robin, who Ted still has feeling for. In fact, he tries to get back together with her in the series finale after his wife dies.
  • Maybe Ever After: In the finale, Ted is implied to get back together with Robin in 2030, but the series ends before we see Robin's reaction.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane:
    Robin: "You tried to make it rain for me."
    Ted: "I DID make it rain."
    Robin: "It was a coincidence."
  • Meet Cute: Being, essentially, a Long Runner TV series version of a romantic comedy, a Meet Cute in some form happens at least every other episode. As a result, it works just about every angle possible, even disregarding Barney's absurd schemes to pick up women. Granted, the BIG Meet Cute happens in the very last episode, but there are several instances that have a charming first meeting and the show goes out of the way to have realistic consequences where the person shows their true colors being racist, slutty, clingy, desperate, etc.
  • Metaphorgotten: Occurs often with Barney, lampshaded in "The Platinum Rule"
    Barney: Remember the old Barney? He was a lion. The king of the jungle. Stalking whatever prey he chose, going in for the kill. Now look at me; de-clawed, neutered. What was once my jungle is now my zoo. And I am forced to mate with the same old lioness, again and again and again and again, while families PAY to watch.'''
    Ted: Yeah, this metaphor's really fallin' apart.
  • Minnesota Nice: Marshall is the embodiment of this, minus the accent (presumably from having lived in New York for several years, though he slips into it occasionally). Lampshaded by Lily and Robin in "The Wedding Bride".
  • The Missus and the Ex: It happens all the time as Robin and Ted broke up but remained very close friends, and later the same happened with Barney and Robin. Sometimes it's a Girl of the Week who's either friendly to Robin or frustrated with Ted/Barney, or she may be a steady girl-friend.
  • Mistaken for Brooding: Barney tells the gang that he found out his ex-girlfriend who broke his heart has a baby. Lily starts trying to comfort him, only for him to reveal that he feels like he dodged a bullet.
  • Mistaken from Behind: Barney spends some time trying to figure out who's been mysteriously cockblocking him, and chases a mysterious blond out of a bar. The first blond he grabs and asks if he ever slept with her and then seriously screwed her over. He realizes it wasn't her, leaves, asks for her number, then leaves again and grabs the right blond.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The Cockamouse, a mutant creature with brown fur, antennae, and exoskeleton that inhabited the apartment.
  • Money Dumb: Lily and Marshall through season 2 and 3. Lily turns out to have been secretly collecting a huge debt in credit cards due to compulsive shopping whenever she is stressed. Marshall is ignorant of this debt, but he actively worsen their situation in season 3 when he decides that they should buy a house instead of renting (as Ted narrates, it was neither a good investment nor was the market any good, as he believed to be). When they have a fallout due to Lily's debt, they still decide to buy the house anyway. Ted mentions in his narration that Marshall says he committed three great mistakes in his life and buying that house was the worst one. Through the following episodes they fall in deep debt fixing one thing after the other and making financial mistakes, it's not until late in season 3 when things start getting better as Ted sells his car to pay part of their debt.
  • Monochrome Casting: Given this is NYC, the sheer whiteness of the main cast and most of their supporting cast is rather glaring. Ted's lack of diversity in the girls he dates is somewhat necessitated by the fact that his children are obviously white.
    • They do a little better than Friends, with Ranjit and James being fairly regular secondary characters, as well as a few love interests, but still leave much to be desired.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: "YOU'RE DEAD TO ME" Lily. Complete with Ominous Latin Chanting.
  • Mundane Utility: Barney is shown to be a talented hairdresser and hibachi chef among many other things and uses his myriad of skills to either get laid or win bets with the main cast. If you were to look at the list of skills he's picked up over the years for these reasons you'd quickly realize he could literally be anything he wanted to and is arguably one of the smarter characters on the show.
    • And yet some of the more basic skills (using a screwdriver, driving a car, etc.) have passed him by.
  • Musical World Hypotheses: When a musical number appears on the show, it always has an explanation.
    • All in Their Heads: "Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit" from "Girls vs. Suits" is imagined by Barney.
    • Diagetic: All of Marshall's songs ("You Just Got Slapped", played on the piano of the apartment; and the songs he recorded for personalized web sites). All of the Robin Sparkles music videos.
    • Adaptation: Theoretically, Ted's "Perfect Date" song is just a spoken monologue told to Barney, turned into a dramatic musical number when the future Ted tells the story to his children.
  • My Own Private "I Do": Lily and Marshall get married outside (with Barney officiating) while the wedding guests are inside waiting for the planned ceremony.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits: Ted's younger sister Heather, to Barney. Robin's younger sister Katie to Katie's boyfriend at the time. Barney's younger half-sister Carly, to Ted.
  • Myth Arc: The whole story revolves around all the things that happened to Ted that caused him to meet the future love of his life.
  • Mythology Gag: In the Russian version, Robin’s equivalent’s ringtone is "Let’s Go to the Mall".
  • Nerds Speak Klingon:
    • "The Duel": Robin goes on date with a nerdy guy to prove a point to Barney. After it starts to go bad, she gets a phone call about Lily being in the hospital. The nerd believes that it is a fake call to get her out of the date and insults her in Klingon.
    • In the "Double Date" episode, Marshall (a huge fan of Star Wars, along with the rest of the male cast) expressed interest in finding a Wookiee-to-English dictionary (or even just an everyday phrasebook). While wearing a Wookiee costume en route to a Wookiee convention.
  • Nested Story: Because of the framing device, every time we get someone telling a story in the show, it's this.
    • Sometimes you get a more typical story within a story, and 'The Platinum Rule' takes this up to eleven as Ted tells the kids the story of Barney telling Ted the story of the time he hooked up with Wendy the Waitress to get him not to date Stella, wherein Robin tells Barney the story of the time she hooked up with the Sports Guy at her station to get him not to date Wendy, with Marshall and Lily telling Robin the story of them becoming a double date couple with the couple down the hall to get her not to do Sports Guy.
    • The opening of season eight has Future Ted telling the story of how he told a random woman the story of Barney's and Robin's wedding. This will be the next two seasons.
  • Neutral in Name Only: The Slapbet Commissioner is supposed to be neutral in all rulings. However, Lily almost unanimously makes declarations for her husband, Marshall, and against The Friend Nobody Likes Barney.
  • New Baby Episode: After a long arc about her pregnancy, "The Magician's Code - Part One" has Lily in labor while her husband Marshall rushes to get to the hospital from his Atlantic City trip with Barney. The baby is born at the end of the episode, named Marvin Wait-For-It Eriksen.
  • Nightmare Fuel: In-universe example: the thought of Marshall slapping him is this to Barney.
    Barney: IneedtogohomeandrethinkhowImakelifedecisions!
  • No New Fashions in the Future: In flash-forwards, character's clothes wouldn't look out of place today. Most egregiously are the children, who are canonically the furthest forward the show can go (2030), but the son is wearing an American Eagle shirt that was sold in stores in 2006 (the year the actor started wearing it).
  • Noodle Incident: One story involves Ted hooking up with a girl in the bar after getting the drunkest he has ever been and waking up next to her and a pineapple. How he hooked up with the girl is explained, unfortunately after nine seasons the pineapple is only explained in a deleted scene.note 
    • Played with as Future Ted frequently will start to explain something bizarre that's happening, decide that he'll go back to it later, leading to the audience only learn the full story a season or two later.
    • We're never told exactly why GNB gets frequently attacked by Ninjas?
  • Nostalgic Narrator: Ted, usually.
  • Not Even Bothering with an Excuse:
    • In one episode Robin is into Barney because she thinks he and Ted were in a fight. She asks him out, but then when she finds out he wasn't, she tries to think of a reason she can't go out with him.
      Robin: (backing out of the room) Oh, I just remembered, I've got that uh… that uh… that… uh… (closes the door)
    • When Robin is wondering if her friends have watched her early morning news show, Barney repeatedly says that he hasn't seen it, while Lily, Marshall, and Ted are trying to convince her that they watch it.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Most of the main cast. Ted's from Ohio, so his accent makes sense, and Robin works in media, so her non-regional diction makes sense. However, Barney grew up on Staten Island, Lily in Brooklyn, and Marshall in Minnesota, with only a few years away for each. They should have noticeable accents.
  • Not in Front of the Kid: This is played with all the time, as Future Ted keeps censoring parts of the story for the sake of his kids. Thus we get things like the guys getting high on "sandwiches", Barney shocking a crowd by saying "kiss her" instead of the F-word (and then telling security to "Kiss off! Who the kiss are you?"), and Roger Murtaugh's Catch Phrase:
    Murtaugh: I'm too old for this sh-
    Ted: Stuff! He said 'I'm too old for this stuff'!
    • And yet, oftentimes oddly averted as well, such as Future Ted telling his kids the uncensored story of how he attempted to win a (literal) championship belt by having sex with two women at the same time.
    • Lampshaded and parodied in the Season 9 trailer:
      • Penny: "You just keep telling us about an endless parade of sluts you banged!"
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: Done solely In-Universe when Robin was trying to prove a point to Barney that she could tolerate any guy for an evening and not have to resort to cheap "get out of a bad date" tricks that he would use. In the middle of the (admittedly bad) date, she got a phone call that Lily was in the hospital after being stabbed with a sword. Her date didn't believe her.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: "NOT NOW, TED!"
  • Not So Remote: The punchline for Ted and Marshall's snow adventure in "Arrivederci, Fiero."
  • Not Staying for Breakfast: Modus Operandi of Barney.
    • When Lily crashes at Barney's place for a while, he is in awe of her ability to make his previous night's date so uncomfortable that they can't leave his place fast enough.
  • N-Word Privileges: Lily says she doesn't want to read their baby stories about monsters and Marshall responds with "Don’t use the ‘M’ word. Only they can call themselves that.”
  • Obliquely Obfuscated Occupation Barney's exact job has still not been explicitly revealed. "Heh, please." It's known that he works for "the company" that bought out GNB, and hints dropped throughout the series suggest that he's involved in some highly illegal activities, which by his own admission may lead to him "washing up onshore with no teeth or fingerprints".
    • He once mentions that he should be in jail for perjury, since he covered up something his company was involved in.
    • Season nine finally reveals that his job really is PLEASE—Provide Legal Exculpation And Sign Everything. He is essentially the company's Fall Guy for when they are investigated by the FBI (which they are, because Barney's been working with the FBI the whole time).
  • Odd Friendship: Barney and Lily are extremely tight, considering Barney is a womanizer and Lily is a nice kindergarten teacher. Or is she?
  • Old Shame: A few In-Universe examples…
    • For Robin, it's "Canadian Teen Popstar" Robin Sparkles, and her hit songs "Let's Go To The Mall" and "Sandcastles In The Sand", as well as staring in a Canadian edutainment show. She's so humiliated by this that she would admit to being married and doing porn before admitting to being Robin Sparkles.
    • Inverted with Marshall. When Ted points out that in college, Marshall wore a beanie, grew a soul patch and requested everyone refer to him by some ridiculous alias, Marshall immediately retorts that he doesn't regret that for one second. Perhaps the only exception to this is his "Beercules" persona (where, thinking it's all part of his initiation as a fraternity pledge, he drunkenly ran across the campus naked, with two beer cans in his hand), which he isn't really ashamed of, but rather thinks of it as unbecoming for someone he wants his future kids to look up to.
    • Barney's video to Shannon begging her to come back to him (and serenading her) when he was still a hippie.
    • Future Ted is often embarrassed by Modern Ted's role in some of the stories. Similarly, Modern Ted is embarrassed about College Ted.
    • One episode even revolves around one of the old shames of each character (such as Ted's rereturn).
  • Omnidisciplinary Lawyer: Marshall is explicitly going to law school for the sake of becoming an environmental lawyer. However, he spends the majority of the series as a corporate lawyer for one evil Mega-Corp or another. He also acts as counsel for his friends whenever they get into a scrape with the law.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: Used frequently on the show, usually due to Ted telling events out of sequence, or forgetting important details. The scene with him and Robin walking in covered in spaghetti sauce after Lily makes a fuss about some detail in her wedding is expanded on much later, for instance. Events occurring when characters are drunk (or having just eaten a sandwich) are also played this way, with the beer goggle actions happening first and what really occurred coming later, though this falls under "Rashomon"-Style.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: In-Universe Robin's Canadian accent pops up outside of flashbacks a few times (one time it comes back when she was very drunk), at other times it may just be Cobie Smulders' actual Canadian background.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Lily's "You're dead to me" look.
    • Also, one plays before the seventh slap
    • And one at the end of the deleted scene that explains where the pineapple came from.
  • On the Rebound: Occurs a few times:
    • Gael, Robin's Latin Lover whom she picked up on a trip to Argentina. The relationship explicitly happened because Robin was so torn up by her breakup with Ted that she needed something.
    • In response to Gael, Ted rebounds with a Hard-Drinking Party Girl named Amy, which results in him getting a butterfly tramp stamp.
    • Several of Barney's plays to pick up women involve targeting vulnerable women who have just broken up.
    • Ted actively didn't pursue a girl until some time had passed after her breakup so that he wouldn't be the rebound guy.
    • Parodied in the episode "Rebound Bro" where, after "breaking up" with Ted, Barney latches onto a new bro, only to break up eventually.
  • Orphaned Setup: Late in the fourth season, Alyson Hannigan had her baby and the show wrote Lily out by having Barney tell a very offensive joke. Yes, it's very offensive. The show gives the set up but never the punchline. Because, yes, in reality, it's a very offensive joke. Thus Lily has to take a break from Barney and disappears from the show.
    Lily: I give up. What's the difference between peanut butter and jam? note 
    Barney: [[punchline with Future Ted saying he won't tell the punchline]]
    Lily: Yeah, I can't hang out with you any more.

  • Painful Rhyme: Deliberately played with in the first verse of "Let's Go To The Mall". The lyrics wouldn't normally rhyme, but in a thick Canadian accent, they do.
    Come on Jessica, come on Tori
    Let's go to the mall, you won't be soree
    Put on your jelly bracelets and your cool graffiti coat
    At the mall, having fun is what it's all aboat
  • Paper Destruction of Anger: In the promo material/DVD extra set between seasons 2 and 3, Marshall and Lily spend their honeymoon in Scotland. Lily is excited to be there and wants to enjoy her time, but Marshall only wants to sit by Loch Ness and search for Nessie. Lily bears with him and says she's happy as long as she knows they are going to see A Midsummer Night's Dream in Edinburgh on Thursday... Later she angrily tears the tickets in pieces because Marshall refuses to leave his spot.
  • Pest Episode: Lily and Marshall find a pest of indeterminate species in their apartment. Marshall claims it's a cross between a cockroach and a mouse — a cockamouse.
  • Pink Is Erotic: The "Lusty Leopard" is a strip club in New York City that uses a pink slogan, pink neon lights and some of the strippers have pink outfits. Quinn "Karma" Garvey is one of these strippers and has a pink motif as she's a sexually confident woman who enjoys her job as a stripper.
  • Platonic Co-Parenting: Ted and Barney seriously consider going this route in one episode, figuring that they might never find love, so why not settle down and adopt a child together? They eventually realize they're being crazy and decide not to do it, but not before we get some adorably (and hilariously) shippy conversations about it.
  • Pocket Dial:
    • Ted keeps pocket-dialling his friend Marshall when he's drunk at Saint Patrick's Day party. Marshall's phone actually records scraps of Ted's evening, and those scraps speak badly about Ted as a person. For example, he was making out with a married woman or drank champagne, exploiting somebody else's bill. Marshall feels very uneasy and anxious about Ted's character and thinks Ted has not been himself lately.
    • Played With in the episode with Marshal's dad funeral. Everybody of the Eriksen family shares their last moments with him and everybody has something very heart-warming to tell, except for Marshall. His father's last words to him were that he should watch a surprisingly good "Crocodile" Dundee III. However, he later finds a voice message from his father on his cell. He listens to it, but it's just a pocket dial, which makes Marshall even more depressed. However, as he listens to it, it's revealed that he actually found out that he was making a pocket phone call and said a couple of nice words, though of course he didn't know they would his last to Marshall. For the funeral speech, Marshall decides to go with the Dundeee story to make people smile and laugh tearfully, and he keeps his story about the pocket dial to himself and his closest friends.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: Lily quotes that oh-so-famous line, "Hi. My name is Rodrigo DeGoya. You killed someone I love! Prepare to dance!"
  • Pottery Barn Poor: Marshall and Lily after they move into an expensive apartment, are revealed to be in serious debt, and have a huge mortgage. Marshall is unemployed for a good portion of this stretch, but their financial difficulties are mentioned very rarely.
  • Power Dynamics Kink: In "Mosbius Designs", Ted hired a secretary to help him run an architectural firm out of his apartment. The new secretary is given the key to the bathroom and prevents Robin from using it without his permission. Robin finds this sexy and the two begin sleeping with each other. When Ted fires his secretary and he loses control of the bathroom key, Robin loses interest.
  • Power of Friendship: Future!Ted is pretty clear to his kids that life will occasionally (or even frequently) suck really badly, but if you have friends to accompany you on your journey through it, it'll never be completely terrible.
    • He also notes that the pull of friendship is more powerful than any number of problems, complications, and conflicts that might get in its way: "Friendship is an involuntary reflex; it just happens."
  • Prenup Blowup: Barney and Quinn break up after a fight over ridiculously long and idiotic pre-nups, when they realize they don't trust each other.
  • Product Placement: The show was used to promote the upcoming X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie in the episode "Mosbius Designs." Technically, it's an example of Wolverine Publicity.
    • A fake placement for Goliath National Bank...member FDIC.
    • The computer screen with map and Bing search engine logo displayed in "Subway Wars", as well as Maury Povich (again) with an X-Box and Kinect.
    • The whole show is full of very recognizable cell phones. The fact that both Ted and Robin had the same silver Motorola RAZR was a plot point late in season 1. Also, most of the cast has iPhones. They are incredibly aware of the details though—Ted had a Verizon LG phone when they found his alter ego, so they gave him a Droid 2 in "Bad News".
    • Various Macs can be seen. Some of them are obvious and not covered up at all but some of them are more or less succesfully covered by a globe.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Barney's womanizing is Played for Laughs, glossing over any possible long-term effects of his conquests.
    • Also applies to Lily as she is deceitful and manipulative yet again nobody calls her on it.
    • Ted actually does call her on this during one episode over her obvious attempts to break him up with Karen. Of course, it kind of falls flat considering that he ends up breaking up with Karen anyway. One wonders if she planned it that way.
    • Also, note that while the most Barney ever gets from the gang is mild ribbing and vague disapproval (mixed in with a fair helping of them being genuinely impressed by some of the lies he's convinced girls to believe), anyone who breaks the heart of any of them gets instantly hated by them all. In fairness, treating your friends' pain as more urgent than a stranger's is Truth in Television for most people.
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes:
    • Okay, so you wouldn't expect a character like Barney to sincerely give the 'puppy dog eyes' look, but since he's played by NPH, he is REALLY effective at it. For example, in "Stuff" when he wants everyone to stay for his awful play; and also the ending of "Benefits" during the scene with Robin.
    • Lily, especially when she regrets breaking up with Marshall in early season two. The fact that Alyson Hannigan is an absolute master of that look almost makes the idea that Marshall wasn't interested in getting back with her a plot hole.
    • This is a major component of the second episode, where Ted is trying to recapture the magic he had with Robin. She repeatedly says she is not looking for anything too serious and can just tell Ted is enamored with her because he has that look in his eyes.
    • Scooter, Lily's ex from high school, turns out to be even better at this than she is. Despite knowing he's still in love with her, Lily just can't bring herself to tell him that she's never going to come back to him no matter what. It's actually bad enough that Marshall himself is unable to tell Scooter off either, and ends up telling Scooter than the Ericson men have a history of dying early from heart problems and he might have a shot with Lily once Marshall is dead.
  • Purely Aesthetic Glasses: Ted gets very upset when his "spectacles" break during a road trip with Marshall, but later confesses that they were just decorative.
  • Pursue the Dream Job:
    • Marshall Eriksen dreamt of being a lawyer so that he could help the environment. He had several well-paying corporate jobs, but ultimately decided to pursue his ideal job. However, after a big environmental case which ends up in a Pyrrhic Victory, he decided to become a judge which was approved in the Season 8 finale.
    • Lily's dream career is Played With. She's a kindergarten teacher and fairly satisfied with her job. However, she would love to become a professional artist. Her work is quite nice, but only on amateur level. She goes to have professional classes in a selective art program and later tries selling some paintings, with mixed success. One episode was based on her trying to figure out what she would love to do with her career, and finally, she says she did figure it out: she starts her old-new job as a kindergarten teacher. However in Season 8, the Captain (Zoey's ex-husband) makes her realize she's wasting her art career. But later, he offers her a job as his art consultant which Lily eventually took.
    • Ted's working his dream job as an architect, but for a while he's working on the corporate headquarters for Goliath National Bank, Barney's evil corporation, getting shut down on all his best ideas, so he quits to start his own firm, hoping to design interesting buildings for decent people.
  • Put on a Bus: Alyson Hannigan and Colbie Smulders were heavily pregnant in the fourth season. The show covered it with objects, baggy clothes, and handbags, as is the norm, but Hannigan had to give birth, so she was written out for several episodes at the end of the season with the excuse that Barney had told such an offensive joke (What's the difference between peanut butter and jam?) that she had to duck out for weeks.
  • Queer People Are Funny: Usually with jokes between the main characters.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: The show frequently shows the same event from multiple perspectives, part of its fun with Anachronic Order. Sometimes it relies on temporarily Unreliable Narrator to highlight that the viewpoint character was dishonest or intoxicated. Other times, though, it's using Once More, with Clarity! instead.
  • Rated M for Manly: Barney's apartment is over the top dude-cave. All dark, giant TV in every room, professionally lit porn, a bed with one pillow, a comforter but half a duvet...
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Robin is a pale-skinned, dark-haired beauty. She's treated as exceptionally gorgeous woman and many, many men fall for her.
  • Real Time: Though individual episodes frequently play with time, the show's broad timeline progresses in real time. When a specific time frame is identified for an episode, it's close to the episode's air date. This also affects the series' plot; if we can assume Ted's daughter to be 15 years old in 2030, she would have been born around 2015, which means Ted would have needed to meet the mother by 2014. This holds up in later episodes such as "Trilogy Time", where we flash forward to 2015 and see Ted holding his infant daughter.
  • Real Men Hate Sugar: Subverted in the character of Marshall—he's a good boyfriend and a dependable mate, but also fond of brunch, pink drinks with fruit in them, and a class of activities often considered feminine. This bothers his friends.
  • Rebound Best Friend: In season 3, after Ted and Barney fall out after Barney violated The Bro Code after sleeping with Ted's ex-girlfriend Robin, Barney goes on to find a rebound bro through Randy, which didn't work out in the long run, as Randy was a socially inept newbie who gets an erection after getting a nosebleed, and a terrible wingman. But being a good sport, Barney gives Randy a confidence boost and helpful advice on interacting with women regarding his nosebleed.
  • Redemption Rejection: It's a Running Gag that, no matter how much other characters may try to convince him otherwise, Barney will never abandon his manipulative The Casanova ways.
    • This trope is ultimately defied later in season 8 when Barney burns The Playbook and proposes to Robin to show that he's ready for actual, honest-to-God, commitment (while still being a master manipulator).
  • Relationship Revolving Door:
    • Ted and his high school/college girlfriend Karen. They'd have a cycle where he'd catch her cheating, break up, then eventually get back together.
    • To a lesser extent, Barney and Robin. They hooked up in season three, dated throughout season 5, broke up, almost hooked up in season 6, hooked up in season 7, then got engaged in season 8. And then they got married in season 9, only to divorce in the last episode. Almost every period where they weren't dating involved an Unrequited Love Switcheroo.
    • Ted and Natalie have apparently gotten together and broken up a total of three times.
  • Remember the New Guy?:
    • The show makes this trope part of its regular routine, as the show is framed as the recollections of an Unreliable Narrator; Ted is regularly shown to remember things that are out of order or skips over events and people that he deems unimportant to that particular story. A lot of events and characters are only mentioned when they actually become relevant.
    • The introduction of Doug from McLaren's seems to be based on this trope; Future Ted first mentions him under the impression he's talked about him before, but upon being told he hasn't, he explains who he is, and says he was always "around". During which, footage from old episodes is played with Doug edited in, as if he was always there.
  • Re-Release Soundtrack: How I Met Your Mother was met with music licensing problems, leading to Chumbawumba's "Tubthumping" being replaced on a 90s high-school mix with a generic-sounding song.
  • Retail Riot: One episode referred to a particular shoe sale as a "feeding frenzy." A flashback shows women literally fighting over the shoes, and upon losing a pair Lily tells the other women that "she'd made the list, bitch."
  • Retcon: This happens every once in a while in minor ways, mostly justified with Future Ted narrating "Didn't I tell you about ___?"
  • The Reveal: In the season eight finale the Mother is finally revealed when she is seen buying one train ticket to Farhampton (presumably on her way to Barney and Robin's wedding).
  • Revenge via Storytelling: Tony holds major resentment over main character Ted Mosby for dating Tony's baby mama Stella. This is extreme enough that Tony eventually creates a fictionalized version of their Love Triangle as an in-universe Romantic Comedy where the Romantic False Lead is a Jerkass named Jed Mosley.
  • Revised Ending: After fan outcry post-series-finale, the creators decided to include the other option they had considered to end the series on the DVD release. It consists of a highlights-reel of the major plot points of the series, complete with voiceover by Future Ted on how all these things led him to the Mother. In the montage, Barney and Robin share a warm look accompanied by narration about "things falling apart and getting fixed" that implies perhaps there's hope for them, the Mother does not die, and the series ends with Ted meeting Tracy at the station.
  • Rhyming Episode: The episode "Bedtime Stories" is entirely in nursery rhymes.
  • Robot Athlete: As part of the fictional "Robots Versus Wrestlers".
  • Romantic False Lead: Many, especially for Ted. These include Victoria, Stella, Karen, Kathy, Natalie, Royce, Stacy, Mary, Vicki, Blah-blah, Holli, Amanda, Jen, Amy, Cindy, Zoey, and Robin (not really).
    • Tracy, the titular mother herself, is actually a romantic false lead as well. Possibly one of the more notorious examples on television.
    • Robin gets some herself. Most notably Ted himself, Don, Gael, Nick (the Bad Boy CHEEEEEEEEF), and Barney.
    • Barney has Nora, Quinn, and Patrice (not really).
  • Romantic Runner-Up: The series has a loose love triangle between Ted, Robin, and Barney. It goes without saying that Ted Did Not Get the Girl. Or did he?
  • Romantic Wingman: Barney acts as main character Ted's wingman, largely by introducing him to women with a game he calls "Haaaave You Met Ted?" He also does this for his gay brother, and vise-versa, as their ‘targets’ never overlap.
  • Roommate Com: Ted lives in New York with Marshall and Lily who have been together since college and get engaged in the pilot. Ted realizes he's ready to settle and goes on a quest for his soul mate. A womanizer Barney and Ted's gorgeous love interest Robin complete the group. Robin also becomes roommates with Ted at some point.
  • Rooting for the Empire: In-universe. Barney apparently applies this trope to the majority of movies he's seen. He gets called out on rooting for Johnny in The Karate Kid, and the rest of the group bring up a plethora of movies, all of which he roots for the villain in them, including Principal Vernon in The Breakfast Club, Hans in Die Hard, and the actual Empire. Barney also refuses to accept that the characters he roots for are villains.
    Barney: "Hello? It's called The Terminator."
    • Later, he off-handedly references Harry Potter as the villain of his titular books, and even later he comments that Joffrey was "a kind and wise ruler."
  • Rule of Perception: Frequently used, this became one of the hallmarks of the show. They constantly play with the use of the narrator in how the story unfolds and in how the characters perceive a situation. One notable episode "Three Days of Snow" has Ted explain "This is a three day story" and we see three different plots going on simultaneously, only for a twist in that each story takes place on a different day. In another episode "No Tomorrow," Ted believes himself to be experimenting with the unusually fortuitous night he was having at a bar, but when Marshall shows him an accidental audio recording made of the evening it replays the evening where Ted's dialogue is the same but changed from curious and respectable to sleazy.
  • Runaway Bride: Deconstructed, as it is shown from the perspective of the groom who is abandoned. Ted tried to do right by everyone and ended up the one burned and single. The fact he was left at the altar gave him a good deal of emotional baggage that he struggled to hide in developing any new relationships.
  • Running Gag: Dozens and dozens of them.
    • The telepathic conversations.
    • Marshall slapping Barney periodically due to him winning the Slap Bet.
    • Robin being a former Canadian pop star.
      • Whenever Barney finds out there was another project she did as a pop star, he immediately runs off to find it.
    • Ted constantly correcting people if they say something wrong.
    • Ted or Marshall being called a woman.
    • Barney never saying what his actual job is. ("Heh, please.")
    • Ted and Robin automatically saluting phrases like "private thing", "major concept", and "general idea."
    Lily: You don't salute privates!
    • Marshall's obsession with the supernatural and constant belief that mundane events have supernatural explanations. This includes him pulling out a big book of mundane things written by crazies and, very dramatically, saying a date followed by this ridiculous thing. Ex. "November 15, 1843, a young couple looks out to the mountains and sees a bright white light floating around. They took a photograph of it, but the light didn't show in the picture. They deleted that picture (shown here) and agreed never to speak of it again.
      • He's also quite the fan of cryptobeasts such as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.
    • Robin's love of guns.
    • Many an Unusual Euphemism.
    • Lily's inability to keep a secret.
    • Lily's lesbian crush on Robin.
    • Marshall always winning every game he plays and always shouting said game's name once he wins.
    • Ted's intense hatred of New Jersey.
    • The Intervention banner.
    • Ted being called a douche.
    • Robin's ridiculous jobs.
    • Ted's need to have the perfect hair.
    • Ted's obsession with the Empire State Building.
    • Ted to Marshall and Lily: "Please don't."
    • The size of the Eriksen family.
    • ''"But I would walk five hundred miles, and I would walk five hundred more!"''
    • The guys' obsession with Star Wars.
    • Barney's giant televisions.
    • Barney being insistent about being Ted's best friend, despite everyone insisting it's Marshall.
    • Barney thinking that Bob Barker, former host of The Price Is Right, is his father.
    • "Eating sandwiches" representing taking drugs.
    • Robin's inability to tell a funny joke.
    • Barney's religious devotion to the Bro Code.
    • Robin using Canadian words or references to people or places in Canada, and nobody understanding her.
    • Hurricanes of incredibly lame puns, although this has become somewhat rare in later seasons.
    • Marshall's "So… fish are weird, huh?"
    • Barney referencing his blog, which none of the others read.
    • Barney's many high-five variations, including Relapse-Five ("That's when we High-Five… then it's awkward for a bit… Then we high-five AGAIN!") and Hypothetical-Five. He doesn't seem to mind when people ignore his five-invitations, but it is played with in "I Heart NJ" when he won't put his fist down until it is bumped.
    • Members of the group singing a catchy tune annoying another member of the group who cuts them off… then begrudgingly allows them to finish the final note.
    • Barney thinking Wendy the Waitress wants to kill him because he broke up with her. Despite the fact she obviously holds no ill will toward him
    • Barney's fake "historical" stories.
    • The Foreskins' song "Murder Train" playing in the background of violent scenes.
    • Lily getting the Dark!Willow eyes and voice.
    • Robin yelling at Patrice.
    • "J'accuse!"
    • "Yeah, I did."
    • "How dare you! *beat* What is that?"
    • Ted's red cowboy boots and whether they work for him.
    • Ted's pretentious pronounciation of "Renaissance" (ren-ay-sahns instead of the typical ren-uh-sahns). In the final season, even other characters are pronouncing it that way, despite making fun of Ted for doing it earlier.

  • Sad Clown: There's quite a few hints that Barney is one of these, particularly in later seasons.
  • Secret-Keeper:
    • Averted by Lily most of the time but notably played straight when Barney tells her that he's love with Robin.
    • And then averted later on when Marshall reveals she told him after exactly a day.
    • Though she kept the secret of her and Marshall's first meeting for a while. It wasn't fate that brought her to his dorm room- she saw him at orientation and knocked on almost every door in the dorm before she found him.
  • Seduction-Proof Marriage: Frequently used by Marshall whenever the gang gets into strip clubs or gay bars. He is still flattered by the attention of gays, though.
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: Constantly, one of the Running Gags of the show involve Future Ted fast-forwarding through some of their more long-winded discussions including Canadian themed sexual innuendo, candy as allusions to female body parts and, their most heated argument EVER, ducks vs. rabbits.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Occurs sometimes with Barney, usually as a coping mechanism, (e.g., "Cleaning House").
  • Self-Deprecation: In the Season Nine Comic-Con trailer, Ted's kids (who are all grown up) are incredibly pissed at their dad for dragging the story too long in eight years and wanted him to get to the point how he actually met their mother.
    • Then there's future Ted himself who is so honest about the embarrassing things that happen to him you almost forget he's the narrator.
  • Sensei for Scoundrels: Barney is this in some of his more *ahem* altruistic moments. One of his first interactions with Marshall was trying to teach him to live life by cheating on Lily, he tried to teach Randy how to pick up chicks, he taught two young men how to enjoy strip clubs more, and n preparation for his wedding he decides to spend the day teaching two loser men how to get women.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Barney was the bleeding heart hippy and James was the closeted gay jock.
  • Sentimental Shabbiness: Marshall absolutely loves his Fiero that nearly managed to hit 200,000 miles. The season 2 episode "Arrivederci, Fiero" revolves around the car's demise and the group of friends recall their road trips and adventures, telling stories how they all became closer because of the car. The car was a gift from Marshall's brothers who played a bunch of mean pranks on him. Robin and Lily made a mess in the car by spilling their Thai food in it, and they also broke windows to make it look like someone else broke into the car.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Ted does this all the time, 'cause he's pompous like that.
  • Sex Dressed: Happens pretty frequently, but mostly to Lily and Marshall.
  • Sex in a Shared Room:
    • There's a college flashback to when Marshall and Lily had sex in Marshall and Ted's dorm. When they consider doing it again, Ted, who was in the other bed the whole time, is quite scarred and quietly asks them not to.
    • An audio example occurs when Marshall and Lily have sex, not realizing that Marshall's mom is still on the phone and can hear everything.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Certain long-running story arcs came to an anticlimactic end:
    • In season 4, Ted's wedding to Stella. All of the buildup, all of Ted pursuing Stella and winning her and her daughter over, and minutes before the finish line, Tony (Stella's ex-boyfriend who never appeared before the episode) sweeps Stella off her feet.
    • After an entire season set during Barney and Robin's wedding weekend, they end up getting divorced minutes into the next episode. Additionally, Barney's character development is all but undone in the final episode. Barney began the show as a womanizer who was terrified of commitment, but over time he became less selfish and learned how to be in a relationship. But after his divorce from Robin it's shown that he has gone right back to his womanizing ways by trying to have a "perfect month" where he has sex with a different woman each night for 31 days in a row. He had gone through probably the most character development of any of the main cast, but the finale showed him approaching fatherhood with less maturity than he had during a pregnancy scare in the fourth season. note 
    • After spending 9 seasons building up the Mother of Ted's children, it's revealed in the finale that she died six years ago.
    • Also, throughout the series is has been illustrated time and time again that Ted and Robin are incompatible as a couple. In season 9 a big deal was made about Ted finally letting Robin go, and a little later on a big deal was made about Robin finally letting Ted go. Then in the final episode all this is undone; Robin divorces Barney and starts thinking that she should have married Ted instead, and Ted's lingering feelings for Robin are so obvious that his kids tell him they've known for a long time how he feels about her.
  • "Shaggy Frog" Story: Barney's stories will allegedly illustrate a point, but inevitably end up merely highlighting his sexual prowess.
  • Share Phrase:
    • "Would you just… okay?" occurs very frequently (but subtly) between several characters, mostly Barney and Ted.
    • "Come again for Big Fudge" is said by at least three characters.
    • Season 8 also gives us "You are X" - "How dare you!... what is that?"
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Barney, of course.
  • Shipper on Deck: Marshall and Lily ship Barney and Robin. Also Barney and Ted. When Ted says he's going to ask The Mother out on a date, they're also immediately on board with it.
  • Ship Tease: Lily and Marshall demonstrate a decidedly threesome-esque vibe towards Ted during Seasons 1-4. This seems to fade in later seasons as they concentrate on starting a family.
  • Shooting Lessons From Your Parents: Robin, who was practically Raised as the Opposite Gender, was taught by her father how to shoot when she was a kid. When Marshall is depressed from his break-up with Lily, she takes him to a shooting range to cheer him up.
  • Shout-Out: Has its own sub-page dedicated to intentional references and Shout Outs.
  • Show Within a Show: The different shows Robin has hosted (Metro News One, briefly that show in Japan, now a pre-morning talk show at Channel 12). See seasons 4, 5, and 6 below for more examples.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: Marshall and Lily.
  • Signature Instrument: Tracy is the titular mother and she is strongly associated with both a bass guitar and a ukulele. She plays the bass in a band and Ted specifically said he wanted to date a bassist, and her guitar case was used a lot to tease viewers before the reveal. Her second signature instrument is a ukulele as almost any manic-pixie dream girl from the New Tens is playing this quirky instrument. Tracy has one and plays it a lot; it's her Tragic Keepsake which she got from her First Love just before he died.
  • Silly Prayer: In one episode when Barney goes to church after hearing he may have gotten one of his one-night stands pregnant:
    Hey God, it's me, Barney. What up? I know we don't talk much, though a lot of girls call out your name because of me. Awesome. But God...If you can get me out of this...I swear I will never, ever, ever, ever- [phone rings] Ooh, hang on, bro.
  • Single Sex Offspring: The Eriksen family is said to only have male offspring. During the last season, Marshall becomes the first Eriksen in a long time to have a daughter.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Marshall, toward Lily. For the most part. Marshall can't even fantasize about another woman without feeling wrong… unless he goes through an elaborate fantasy in which Lily dies and he grieves but eventually makes good on her dying wish, which is for him to sleep with whomever it was he is fantasizing about.
  • 6 Is 9: In the episode "Bad News", the numbers 50 to 1 are hidden in the episode as a countdown until Marshall receives the news of his father's death. A file folder Barney is holding is marked with the number 9, and later the folder is picked up upside down, now representing the number 6 in the countdown.
  • Sliding Scale of Continuity: Level 3 (Subtle Continuity).
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Waaayyy over on the idealistic side, albeit in a rather snarky way. The finale shifts it over to cynical through, see the Deconstruction trope above for details… and the alternate ending slides it back to idealistic by not only keeping Tracy alive, but also implying that Barney and Robin may have gotten back together after breaking up twice.
  • Slut-Shaming: The show plays this straight most of the time. Though it is played in the following examples:
    • Barney is a serial-user man-whore, and his friends tend to treat him as disgusting more often than heroic. Even when they're genuinely impressed with his "achievements" their disgust usually outweighs that.
      Ted: You should be proud. You should be tested, but you should be proud.
    • Lily is Marshall's My Girl Is a Slut, with the pair of them having an incredibly active sex life, but Marshall makes a huge fuss about the possibility that he wasn't the one to take her virginity. At the same time, part of his problem was that he gave her his, and she had told him she gave him hers, and for years they'd been mutually proud of each being the only person the other had ever had sex with.
    • Ted's generally after true love and not one night stands. The show tends not to heap abuse on him when he does go for one night stands, but it's usually either not shown (as when he and Robin broke up) or shown in a negative light (as when Marshall spends a morning shaming Ted for a litany of bad decisions, including hooking up with a married woman).
    • Robin has fewer conquests than Ted, but she's had a one night stand with Mitch, inventor of The Naked Man!. After the gang spends a few minutes admiring Mitch's ingenuity, Marshall says, "I call slut!" And Robin spends the majority of the episode trying to justify what she did so she doesn't feel bad.
    • Examined (shallowly) in a first-season episode where Ted goes to an awards ceremony with a prostitute who really is a paralegal from Barney's apartment building, just like Barney described her; the rest of the group assume she's a prostitute based on when Barney called her to introduce her to Ted and his deliberately evasive answers to questions about her. The cast generally treats her pretty poorly when she's not around, at least until they find out the truth. Then they treat Barney poorly.
  • Snow Means Love: The second Barney and Robin kiss after becoming engaged, it begins to snow. It also continues to snow while they bask in the moment and when Marshall and Lily are reunited with baby Marvin.
  • So Bad, It's Good: In-Universe, the Robin Sparkles videos. The gang is so happy to watch them on repeat.
  • Soul-Crushing Desk Job:
    • Marshall dreams of becoming a lawyer because he wants to save the environment. In season one, he gets an internship in a company where his friend Barney also works. One episode shows them having fun, enjoying a war of pranks with a guy who works in a building opposite of theirs. When he later gets a stable job at another corporation, he quits very soon. Later he gets a job at the company where Barney works, but he doesn't work with Barney and gets yelled at constantly, which he takes very hard. He also hates himself for working for a corporation that destroys the environment.
    • Ted works as an architect, which is a job he loves, but one episode shows his incompetent, past-his-prime boss who gives him meaningless tasks (like creating brown styrofoam trees for a model of a skyscraper which looks blatantly phallic) and generally is just abusive to his team. When Ted gets promoted to project manager, his former boss acts like a dick and tries to undermine him at every opportunity.
  • Space Whale Aesop: Barney frequently misses the point in an outlandish fashion. The gang usually calls him on it, and he usually doesn't notice.
  • Special Guest: Includes: Wayne Brady, Bob Odenkirk, Bryan Cranston, Danica McKellar, Britney Spears, Heidi Klum, Mandy Moore, Enrique Iglesias, Regis Philbin, Tim Gunn, Nicole Scherzinger, Ben Vereen, Jennifer Lopez, Sarah Chalke, Alan Thicke, Alex Trebek, Maury Povich, (the voice of) Harvey Fierstein, Alexis Denisof, Jorge Garcia, Katy Perry, Boyz II Men, Orson Bean, Bob Barker and The Price Is Right set.
  • Spit Take: Taken to new levels in the season seven episode "Mystery Vs History", where this is something of a Running Gag. In fact throughout the series, characters will take a sip of a drink just to perform a spit take.
  • Spoof Aesop: The narrator sometimes gives these out, e.g. "I won't bother telling you not to fight, because that's pointless, but don't fight Uncle Marshall." "And that's how we learned to forget what we had learned five seconds earlier." "Don't try to make your wife/husband jealous or he/she might beat the snot out of someone." etc etc.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Once Barney became the Breakout Character he started getting more and more focus in the plot, turning it into a Justified Trope: Ted meets the mother at Barney's wedding, so in order for the story to move forward, Barney's relationships have to be focused on.
  • Streisand Effect: In-Universe, Robin is at risk of suffering this thanks to a lot of Old Shame. It hits hard when she gets a research job at a national news agency in season six. Ted advises her to steer into the skid and just own it in order to avoid this. She eventually does just that and is welcomed in as a full member of the team.
  • Squick: In-Universe, everyone is frequently disgusted by Barney's exploits. On one occasion, Barney was horrified by his mother's exploits.
  • Staging an Intervention: Has a whole series of funny interventions, dealing with behaviors from spray-tanning to fake British accents to organizing funny interventions. The following are a list of people the gang have held interventions for, and the reasons why (from Intervention Banner page):
    Barney: frequent magic tricks, specifically those involving fire.
    Barney: not taking off the old man suit.
    Barney: give his father a second chance and have dinner with him.
    Lily: use of fake British accents.
    Marshall: refusing to take off a Cat-In-The-Hat type hat.
    Marshall: constant use of charts.
    Robin: obsession with spray tans.
    Ted: marrying Stella before they knew each other.
    Ted: for his pretentious pronunciations; for example: "encyclopædia". (Not actually seen)
    Ted: love for a married woman.
    Stuart: for drinking. (This was done with other people, and inspired them to hold later interventions)
    The Gang: for hosting too many interventions. (Called the "Intervention" intervention.)
    Barney: for his plan to move in with Quinn. (Called the Quin-ntervention.)
    Robin: her obsession with Barney
  • Stalker with a Crush:
    • Scooter is obsessed with Lily. They were high school sweethearts and several years later, he still wants her.
    • Ted pursues Robin constantly, despite the fact that she always says "no"; however, she wants to be friends with him and has some feelings for him as well.
  • Standard Office Setting:
    • Barney works at an extremely well-paying, mysterious corporate job. He has a huge, luxuriously furnished office. It's decorated with eye-catching motivational posters, one of them is notably for "awesomeness". He even has an adjoined bathroom for himself.
    • Ted works as an architect in New York. Season 2 episodes sometimes show his workplace, which is a modern open space office, with bosses having their own offices.
  • Standard Snippet: Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 11, third movement is played whenever one of Barney's plays for getting women from his "playbook" is shown.
  • Straight Gay: Barney's brother James, played by Wayne Brady.
  • Standardized Sitcom Housing: Pretty much all of the apartments and houses that appear.
  • Steel Eardrums: In S 5 E 17, "Of Course," Robin at first averts this with the proper protection while letting off steam at the firing range, but when she confronts Barney with how she really feels, she gets so upset that she empties the remaining clip at the target without replacing her hearing protection. Barney covers his ears when she starts firing again.
  • The Stinger: Happens during every season finale:
    • Season 1: While Ted and Robin finally get together, Lily leaves Marshall for her art program in San Francisco, and the season ends with the group comforting Marshall outside the apartment on a rainy night.
    • Season 2: Marshall and Lily are married, while Ted and Robin announce that they've broken up.
    • Season 3: His friendship with Barney restored, Ted proposes to Stella.
    • Season 4: Future Ted reveals that he had taken the job as a professor, and The Mother was in his first class.
    • Season 5: Marshall and Lily decide to have kids.
    • Season 6: Barney is revealed to be the groom at the wedding where Ted meets the Mother.
    • Season 7: Robin is revealed to be Barney's bride.
    • Season 8: The Mother is seen purchasing a ticket to Farhampton, where she will perform at Barney and Robin's wedding.
    • Season 9: Future!Ted, 6 years after The Mother's death, outside Robin's apartment with the blue French horn.
  • Stripping Snag: In an episode the gang is stricken by the curse of the Blitz, which basically means that while the cursed person is not present everyone else experiences awesome adventures. In the second half Barney has the curse, but at the end of the episode he enters an elevator with an attractive woman in a long dress. When the elevator goes down her dress gets stuck in the door and you hear textiles ripping. In that moment you know that Barney is freed from the curse.
  • Stylistic Suck: The Wedding Bride (as well as its sequel) is overacted, the dialogue is terrible, and Tony's character is an obvious Parody Sue (however, remember that Ted—who has his reasons to hate the movie—is the one telling us about it).
    • And yet, in-universe it's the fourth highest earning movie of all time within a couple of weeks.
    • Pretty much everything Robin Sparkles made, though intended to be (and are) So Bad, It's Good.
    • Lily's and Barney's plays (Barney's intentionally so).
    • Kenny Rogers reading an audiobook about Sparky is boring and repetitive, though it ends with that episode's An Aesop.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Girl/Tsundere: Robin.
  • Supporting Protagonist: This happens to some extent as Barney's emotional growth outpaces Ted's in the later seasons. See: Spotlight-Stealing Squad.
  • Surprise Pregnancy: We get three at the end of the series.
    • Lily turns up pregnant with her and Marshall's second child in the last episodes.
    • The Mother surprises Ted with a pregnancy while they're planning their wedding.
    • Barney knocks up the last girl trying for a perfect month, and dedicates himself to being the perfect dad when his daughter is born.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • After Robin and Barney initially break up, due to being completely incompatible as a couple, the two, despite both having continued reservations, decide to reunite and marry, only for them to divorce as despite trying the two are both still too different kinds of people to work as a couple.
    • Ted quits his job after wasting months doing nothing having been fired (unknowingly) by GNB and starts his own firm... and goes nowhere.
  • Surprise Incest: Happens to Barney twice in the series.
    • He spends all night grinding on a girl in a dance club, only to learn she is his cousin.
    • While going over the guest list for his wedding, he finds that he and fiancé share a cousin. Luckily, the cousin was adopted.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial (or brilliant double-bluff): In the season 8 finale script The Mother was described as "ABSOLUTELY NOT The Mother".
  • Take That!: In "Sorry, Bro," Ted stumbles upon a Creed CD in his girlfriend's dorm room. He is utterly disgusted, and decides he needs to break up with her. It turns out that Lily planted it there to sabotage their relationship. Also, it was Marshall's CD.
  • Team Dad: In one episode, they specifically mention that Ted is the "group dad". This is followed by a montage of Ted doing very dad-like things: telling bad jokes, lecturing the others, and embarrassing them at a restaurant. When Lily tells him this, Ted responds with a stern, "I don't think I like your tone, young lady."
    • Marshall sometimes counts, especially when paired with Lily; they're occasionally referred to as the "parents" of the group.
  • Team Mom: Lily, in many ways she's the emotional center of the show, with all of the others often coming to her for advice.
  • Tender Tears: Occurs a number of times with, surprisingly, Barney. It's never full-on crying, but he tears up while marrying Marshall and Lily (though he tries to hide it and fails spectacularly); not to mention when he thinks Marshall and Lily are getting a divorce; when Bob Barker says he's proud of him on The Price is Right; while discussing Field Of Dreams with the guys; whenever Robin mentions Ted (who was temporarily done with their friendship) in "Rebound Bro"; when Robin and Ted start sleeping together in "Benefits" (Lily points out that he's "weeping openly"); after Marshall slaps him in "Slapsgiving"; and when Stan suggests what to text to Ted as Holli in "The Three Days Rule". There may be more.
    • Marshall has a notable crying scene as well after he gets chewed out by Artillery Arthur at his high-paying lawyer job.
  • That Night Felt Like Months: The final season takes place mostly over just a few days leading up to Barney and Robin's wedding.
  • There Are No Therapists: Parodied in season 7, since Robin starts dating Kevin, her therapist. In an episode he proceeds to point out that the group suffers from Separation Anxiety, Denial, amongst others social dysfunctions.
    • Parodied also early on in which Barney comments that he has a therapist, but ignores what he says, including valid points about Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
  • Three-Month-Old Newborn: Exaggerated; Marshall's nephew is three-months old but the size of a toddler to illustrate how tallness runs in the family.
  • Third-Person Flashback: Lampshaded in an episode. While Barney and Robin are discussing something within a closed room, Robin says how hard it is to measure any men since she and Ted broke up. Future Ted then says "I wasn't there but this is how I imagine it happened."
  • This Is Going to Be Huge: Or in this case, legen-WAITFORIT.
  • Three Plus Two: Flashbacks of their college years shows Ted, Marshall and Lily having the Two Guys and a Girl dynamic. Ted met Barney in 2001, while he met Robin at the series premiere.
  • Title Drop: Almost every episode title gets dropped at some point in it, and the show's name also gets dropped from time to time.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Barney fits this role to a "T."
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Robin and Lily, respectively, mostly by their hobbies and interests.
  • Tough Room: Averted because the creators hate this trope. Any time a character is intentionally telling a joke, the actor playing the character telling the joke will be the only actor in the scene who's been told the joke beforehand. This ensures that the rest of the characters will laugh, or at least smirk, at the joke because the rest of the actors haven't heard it before.
    • Which sometimes leads to Hilarious Outtakes. The Green Testicle story from "Game Night", for example.
  • Trivial Tragedy: In one episode, Barney rips a suit jacket, rushes it to a tailor, cries when he's told it can't be saved, and has it cremated. Another episode features him mourning a tie that got a little ketchup on it.
  • True Companions: The core five, obviously. They're all very different from each other, but they love one another more than anything else in the entire world and are pretty much Friendship Moment personified.
    • It's mildly deconstructed by Victoria in the seventh season, they are such a close-knit group of friends, with Ted at the center of it, that it became almost impossible for Ted to find someone who can enter that bubble. Many of his relationships have failed specifically because of it.
  • True Love Is a Kink: Barney requests stories of being Happily Married from Marshall like children ask for fairytales at bedtime. In a romantic sense, Marshall and Lily are these to one another since day one of their relationship and never had any other relationship since then, barring the time Marshall almost had a rebound with a loony barista. They bring mementos when they're apart, and they get cranky when they don't have sex, and when they do, they do it literally in a jiffy.
  • Tsundere: Lily's a Type B.
  • Twitchy Eye:
    • Happens sometimes with Barney, generally when he's freaking out about something, such as receiving another slap from Marshall.
    • Then happens to both Marshall and Robin when they try to hang out just the two of them.
  • Two Girls to a Team: The gang had this line-up for most of the show's run until the titular mother joins and makes the show a Gender-Equal Ensemble.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: Ted, Marshall and Lily in their college years.
  • Ultimate Job Security: One episode has Barney and Marshall work on providing Marshall with this. Food Guy, Toy Guy, etc. all have security because they're that guy. Marshall lands on being Sports Guy (running a fantasy baseball league). Barney already has this because, heh. Please.
  • The Unfettered: In a strange sense, Barney. As soon as he utters the words "Challenge accepted!" he will do anything to make sure he wins. And I do mean anything
  • Unintentional Final Message: Marshall's father pocket dial to Marshall.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Ted has shown some Jerkass tendencies in certain episodes that make it hard to root for him at times.
    • All the characters are this once in a while, but Barney is a straighter example: usually, he's a despicable (though entertaining) dick who the viewers are never sorry to see get royally screwed over due to his own arrogance or stupidity, which makes the rare times where he is legitimately sympathetic all the more poignant.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Grinch"; "eating a sandwich"; "playing the bagpipes"; "read a magazine."
    • Also Lily's "Catchphrase", "You, Son-of-a-bitch!". She uses it with Marvin a couple of times, but modifies it to "You, Son-of-a-Me!".
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The gang gets into some very loud, very bizarre arguments in their booth at McLaren's. Nobody else in the bar ever so much as looks up from their beer to glance at them.
  • Unreliable Narrator:
    • While you can generally trust what Bob Saget says (per the show's creators), Future Ted usually edits his story to his kids, cutting out some of the stuff he did, adding parts that weren't there before, or exaggerates things (usually for comic effect).
    • Even when he is trying to tell the truth, he sometimes misremembers things. Future Ted will also admit when the events he recalls are questionable in their veracity, such as events he wasn't actually there for:
      Future Ted: I wasn't there, but this is how Aunt Robin swears it happened.
      [Robin, riding on a bicycle, does a flip ten feet in the air over a parked car]
    • In "The Rough Patch", Future Ted admits that Barney and Robin just let themselves go a little bit, and his memory of Barney's fatness and Robin's haggard appearance is exaggerated.
    • The series finale explains the real reason why Ted is telling the story to his kids which explains why his narration tends to skew in certain directions. He is trying to explain to his kids why Robin is such a great person without making it seem that he regrets marrying the Mother instead of Robin.
    • While Word of God implies that Future Ted is trustworthy, some events that involve a sudden change in character or happen quickly and randomly can cause suspicions. For example, in Season 8, Barney sharply chides Ted when he starts to offer him advice about Robin, reminding him that he's the one marrying her, in a tone that suggests this was a much more longstanding problem than Future!Ted had described.
  • Unreliable Voiceover: Happens occasionally when Ted tells his children that something occurred, but the audience is shown the truth (such as Ted's last day with Victoria in season 1, where he says that they walked over the Brooklyn Bridge and various other romantic things), but the footage shows them just spending all day in bed.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Robin just loves switching it up. She spends the first half of season 1 being the object of Ted's affection, then they switch, then they switch again when she discovers he hadn't broken up with Victoria. Then she spends pretty much all of season 7 and 8 switching with Barney. We know they do wind up getting married.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension:
    • Typical given the very blatant romantic focus the series has always had, but also addressed in some fresh ways. Ted and Robin's relationship is ultimately a centerpiece of the show, starting from their initial date in the pilot, to when Ted gets his first serious girlfriend and all the way to finally getting together in the season one finale. When Ted is engaged to Stella, Robin doesn't claim to want him back but admits that those feelings they had for each other don't dissipate easily. They later agree to a "40 and unmarried" pact, a back-up in case neither find luck in romance. This all comes to a head in the seventh season, as Ted learns a hard truth that he isn't going to find "the one" if he's always wondering if things might work out with Robin.
    • Barney and Robin are a more traditional example of this, with the requisite Unrequited Love Switcheroo and plenty of Ship Tease.
  • Unreveal Angle:
    • The narration refers to the Mother (Ted's future wife) many times, yet her face is never seen and her voice is never heard. Her ankle is briefly glimpsed in "Girls vs. Suits", and a dark figure carrying a yellow umbrella (which signifies the Mother) is seen in "Wait for It" and "No Tomorrow". Two episodes showed Ted's wedding, with his face glowing in happiness, but his bride is covered under her veil or she's shown from the back ("Milk" and "Lucky Penny"). She eventually appears in full at the end of the eighth season finale, "Something New".
    • In "Slutty Pumpkin", Ted reminisces about a Halloween party four years ago where he met a girl in the sexiest pumpkin costume. (The gang calls her the Slutty Pumpkin.) Supposedly the costume was carved in strategic places and the girl was amazing. She's only shown from her back, and the strategically carved costume is not shown in full either. The creators hoped to bring her back, and wanted to keep casting open to make her easier to slot into whichever season they put her in.
    • In "Matchmaker", Marshall and Lily confront a creature living in the apartment, apparently a cockroach-mouse hybrid — a cockamouse. The creature is heard and we see the characters' reactions, but that's about it. Finally, it flies away.
    • In the several early episodes of season 2, Ted keeps talking about a skyscraper that his boss designed. It's supposed to look like a giant penis. We see a head architect unveiling the model, everybody in the office claps except for Ted who is super confused. Other times characters are shown reacting to it, for example Lily and Robin. The design is never revealed in the show, but later the production released a picture of it.
      Marshall: Well, all skyscrapers kind of look like a...
      Ted: Marshall, it's a 78-story pink marble tower with a rounded top and two spherical entryways at the front.

  • Verbal Tic: Robin's excessive use of "but… umm" on her pre-morning news show served as the basis for a Drinking Game in "Jenkins." This is actually a case of an Ascended Meme, because it was Cobie Smulder's own cover when she was struggling with a line and fans noticed.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Carter Bays and Craig Thomas created the series from the idea "let's write about our friends and the stupid stuff we did in New York". Ted is based on Bays, Marshall is based on Thomas, and Lily is based on Thomas' wife Rebecca.
  • The Watson: Ted's kids throughout the show serve as the framing device, Robin in seasons 1 and 2 and Kevin in season 7 let the show do flashbacks.
  • Wedding Bells... for Someone Else: The entire final season takes place at Barney and Robin's wedding. However, the prior seasons faked out the identity of both the bride and the groom when they had flash-forwards to the time of the final season.
    • Season 6 opens with Ted talking about the two important days in a relationship: the day you meet a girl and the day you marry her. Cut to Ted in a tuxedo and Marshall approaching him and asking if he's nervous. The implication here is clearly that this is Ted's wedding day and that he's marrying the mother of his kids. The season finale reveals it's his friend Barney's wedding and Ted's nervous because of his best man duties.
    • Season 7 ends with Barney (already revealed to be the groom) proposing to his girlfriend, Quinn. However, the very last scene reveals the bride to not be Quinn, but Robin, Barney's ex-girlfriend (and also Ted's ex-girlfriend and the big love of his life).
  • Wedding Ring Defense: Inverted twice:
    • Lily removes her engagement ring in an early episode because she misses the attention she used to get from random men.
    • Robin begins to resent her engagement ring after noticing that men don't treat her as well now that she's "taken".
  • Wedding Ring Removal: Played for Laughs in an early episode, in which Lily removes her engagement ring after she finds herself missing the attention of random men hitting on her.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Robin has this kind of relationship with her abusive father.
    • This also most definitely applies to Barney, most noticeably in the episode "Showdown", with Bob Barker.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Lily is a mild example as in one episode she admits she had been sabotaging Ted relationships since she believed the girl wasn't the right girl for him she turns out to be right
  • Wham Shot: Many.
    • In the Season 6 finale, what we believe to be Ted's wedding pans to the real groom: Barney.
    • In the Season 7 finale, Barney has just proposed to Quinn. A flashforward reveals the bride at the wedding: Robin.
    • In the Season 8 finale, the face reveal of the Mother.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Given often to Barney and especially Ted. Occasionally given to Lily, though hers are far less in the foreground.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer…: Lily firmly believes every problem can be solved the same way she would deal with her kindergarten class.
  • Whip Pan: Used all the time.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Marshall.
  • Wolverine Publicity: If you've seen advertisements for the show but not the show itself, you could be forgiven for thinking that Barney is the main character.
    • Lampshaded by Jason Segel in the Season 4 blooper reel. Segel and Neil Patrick Harris pretend to pose for a TV Guide cover and Segel jokes that Harris will be the only one who actually ends up on the cover.
  • Yet Another Baby Panda: One of Robin's biggest career complaints.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: This seems to be Lily's intent with Barney. She believes he has boyfriend/husband potential in him. Barney, at this point, disagrees, but he isn't quite as insufferably smug about "remaining awesome" as in earlier seasons.
  • Yo-Yo Plot Point:
    • Ted and Robin's relationship. The first episode proved she wasn't the mother, but their relationship (or lack thereof) has become a major plot point many times.
    • Robin's dissatisfaction with her career in Season 4. There was a pattern of Robin hating her current news reporter job, quitting it, discovering a supposedly-awesome job… and the cycle repeats with that job apparently being terrible too.
    • Marshall's career follows a similar trend. Get a job doing environmental law, decide to go into soulless, corporate law for the money instead, get fed up and quit. Repeat. This happened in season 1 (turning down an internship with the NRDC for one at Altrucell), season 3 (turning down a job at the NRDC for one at a soulless law firm, then quitting), season 4 (giving in and getting a job at GNB, quitting), season 6 (get an internship at the NRDC, quitting to find something that pays more), and season 9 (getting a judgeship, turning it down to go to Italy and winds up going into soulless corporate law).
  • Your Mom: It becomes a Running Gag where Barney keeps insisting in a vague way that he slept with Ted's mom and Ted keeps asking if he really slept with his mom.
  • Zany Scheme: Occurs fairly often, with the most insane and elaborate schemes coming from Barney, who has a tendency to go way over the top with everyone, as well as having an inability to back down from a challenge. In one episode, it's revealed he hired actors to play his fake wife and son for years so that his mother would be proud of him.

    Season-specific tropes 


Alternative Title(s): HIMYM


Barney Stinson

Barney proves why he is awesome.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

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