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Series: How I Met Your Mother
(from left to right) Barney, Robin, Ted, Marshall and Lily engaged in their favorite activity.

Future Ted: Kids, I'm gonna tell you an incredible story — the story of how I met your mother.
Future Son: Are we being punished for something?
Future Ted: (confused) No.
Future 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 "best 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 good effect, admitting to parts where the narrator honestly had no first-hand recollection of the events, doing very swift flashbacks to build up to a punchline or events are recalled 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 wonderfully complex universe of seemingly unimportant events and myriad callbacks. Besides the concept itself, there is one other unusual element: the resident Wacky Guy is the best groomed and best dressed person in the show.

Flames burned higher still after the release of the show's finale, one of the most controversial since LOST. A spinoff named How I Met Your Dad was announced in November 2013 and will be a gender-flipped version of the show, following an unrelated set of characters. Fan reaction has so far been divisive. However, on May 14th, 2014, CBS announced that it would not be picking the pilot up. While the creators and FOX are allowed to push the show elsewhere, it won't be on CBS. On July 11, 2014, Carter Bays confirmed that they will no longer be working on the spinoff and as a result, it's currently on Development Hell.

Now with a Ho Yay, Hey, It's That Guy!, and recap pages (which could use some Wiki Magic right about now). 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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    A-C 
  • 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 realise that his design (an unusually phallic skyscraper) looked like a giant penis & 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
      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 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!"
    • 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'.
    • Barney and Robin later attempt to weaponize it, tricking a woman into thinking her boy friend proposed to her, to get them to break up. It backfires.
  • 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.
  • 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)
  • 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 breakup in season 2, but it seems that late in season 5 it becomes a Yoyo Plot Point.
  • All Women Are Lustful: Lily and Robin certainly are (particularly the former).
  • Ambiguously Bisexual: 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 the Way.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Anachronic Order: A very common trope on this show, where a scene will happen, and then cut back to it later to show the scene from some other perspective. For example, "Swarley," "Zip, Zip, Zip", the whole storyline involving the goat. Also, in a twist, "Three Days of Snow" and "The Leap".
    • 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.
  • 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, family unfriendly, 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 Montage: "Murderrrrrrr! Climb aboard the murder traiiiiiiiiin!"
  • Another Story for Another Time: Used very much, but it was once subverted when it comes to the story with the security guard and his band.
    "They had one song, it didn't suck, the end."
  • Anti-Climactic Unmasking: After 8 seasons, The Mother was bound to be this.
  • 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 Welding: The 200th episode of the series, "How Your Mother Met Me," in spades. The same night Marshall & Lily got engaged and Ted met Robin, the Mother's first love died; Her first night out afterwards was St Patrick's Day in 2008, where she ran into Mitch, A.K.A the Naked Man, who was her teacher at Orchestra Camp & attempted the Naked Man on her that night, when she became the first one in three to reject it after leaving with him to retrieve a Cello; Darren weaseled his way into her band by responding to her ad for a new room mate after Cindy moved out; she met Louis, her first boyfriend after Max's death following a gig & passed Ted (In the green dress) on her way out of McLarens, which Louis had last been in when Barney & Ted ran it as "Puzzles" for a night.
  • Artistic License - Geography: The portrayals of Argentina, big time. It seems the creators see Argentina as a mix between Hawaii, Philippines and Mexico, inhabited by a white tribe of sub-Saharan Africans with a Mexican accent. The show portrays what looks like a Caribbean island more reminiscent of Hawaii, or Southeast Asia, full of hippies, nature lovers, and the like, living in communal shacks or tents, in the wilderness, having sex in public (with a Mexican accent, which sounds extremely different to an Argentinian accent).In real life, there are very small towns, but there are no tribal villages. While there are beaches on the ocean shore, most of them are too far south, making it quite cold, even in summer. Not to mention that the water is barely above the 10ºC (even in summer). There are mountains, but nowhere near the ocean: as a matter of fact, they're at the other side of the country. And both recreational and medicinal drug use is illegal as is female nudity (both of which the show portrays as a normal, everyday occurrence). To say that Argentinian fans were pissed is a major understatement.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Barney has "AD... something. Can we have class outside?" He's actually a surprisingly realistic portrayal of it.
  • Author Appeal: The creators have their own band and they wrote the opening theme. Thus it starts to make sense why so many of the characters like obscure indie music.
  • Babies Make Everything Better:
    • 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 "Daisy" in season 9, 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.
  • Back for the Finale: Almost every character who interacted with the five main characters has come back for at least a cameo.
  • Bad Date: Ted's dates often end badly.
  • 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.
  • Batman Gambit: The Scuba Diver. 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.
    • Similarly, epically, The Robin.
  • Beta Couple: Marshall and Lily, the often boringly perfect couple.
  • Big Applesauce
  • 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."
  • 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.)
  • Boggles the Mind: Invoked by Ted, who tries to use a Scrabble game to broach the subject of whether Robin has ever been married.
    Ted: 'Husband'
    Robin: There's no 'P' in 'husband'
    Ted: Hmm... you seem to know a lot about husbands...
  • A Boy, a Girl, and a Baby Family: Marshall and Lily 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.
    • 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.
  • Borrowed Catch Phrase: Mildly lampshaded:
    Ted: Permission to say "Lawyered"?
    Marshall: I'll allow it.
    Ted: Lawyered!
    • Barney: In-Lawyered!
  • Brand X: 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.
  • Brick Joke: There's one or two in nearly every episode, not to mention several that span the seasons.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Canadian Equals Hockey Fan: Robin is Canadian, so of course she's a hockey fan. When she gets drunk and turns "Super-Canadian", she puts on a Vancouver Canucks jersey.
  • Calling Your Bathroom Breaks: Lily does this from time to time, probably as a result of spending every day with kindergarteners.
  • Caretaker Reversal: In one episode, Robin is sick and Ted takes care of her. When he goes to kiss her, she tries to refuse, but he goes ahead anyway. Immediately after, we see Ted in bed, Robin taking care of him.
    Ted: So worth it.
  • The Casanova: Barney
  • 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."
  • Catch Phrase:
    • Barney:
      • "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)" *huff* (name), just... Okay?"
      • "(Something) five!"
    • 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.
      • 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...."
      • "NOBODY ASKED YOU PATRICE!!!"
    • Ranjit:
      • "Hellooooo!"
      • "To the (insert vehicle here)."
    • One for the whole group:
      • "I am not a (Something)!...And what is that?!"
    • 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 Paradox:
  • Celebrity Resemblance: It's actually brought up in the show that Ted (Josh Radnor) bears a strong resemblance to John Cusack.
  • The Chain of Harm: This is known as the Chain of Screaming. When someone screams at a subordinate, the subordinate must scream at someone lower, who in turn screams at someone else, and so on until someone screams at the original screamer and the cycle is complete. Marshall's attempts to break the chain do not go as well as he hoped.
  • 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 Shilling: For Don in season 5.
  • The Chessmaster: Barney thinks of himself this way, concocting all sorts of plans with varying degrees of success. Lily Aldrin is a better example - even Barney acknowledges her amazing powers of manipulation.
  • Christmas Carolers: To explain their sudden appearance on someone's doorstep on one occasion, Ted says he and the others are carolers and sing "Silent Night".
  • 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.
  • Cleveland: Ted hails from the city of Shaker Heights, Ohio: a real-life first-ring suburb of Cleveland (also the hometown of series creator Carter Bays).
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Barney at times seems to be a more grounded version of one of these. He's perfectly capable of functioning in the world, but occasionally displays a brand of logic that wouldn't make sense to anyone else but him.
    • Also Marshall, who believes in, among other things, the Sasquatch and the Loch Ness Monster.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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).
  • 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 Narrator!Ted saying they never learned where the pineapple came from.
  • 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 at the wrong point of the actual story.
  • 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.
  • Covert Pervert: Lily.
  • Cradle of Loneliness: Lily is shown holding a pillow dressed in Marshall's clothes while he's away.
  • Crazy Memory: Occurs with Barney at times.

    D-F 
  • Daddy's Girl: Invoked in the finale. After years of convincing himself he'll never find "the love of his life", Barney gets someone pregnant in 2020, and the resulting daughter becomes that love of his life.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Future Ted has a tendency to immediately deflate Ted's promises, among other things.
  • 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.)
  • Deconfirmed Bachelor: Barney. To some extent, Robin as well.
  • 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.
  • Deconstruction: The entire finale can easily be viewed as a deconstruction of a HUGE number of tropes, from tv shows to character tropes to audience reactions. It is so biting with how Reality Ensues that it is a main reason why the Grand Finale was so controversial, all along the irony of the episode name "Last Forever." A brief rundown goes as follows:
    • After so much time and effort with building Robin and Barney together and spending a season on a "legendary" wedding, their marriage lasted only three years because of fundamental differences they ignored, Robin's Married to the Job and Barney had abandoned so many of his own interests to be with her that he had nothing to do. There is also significant foreshadowing in retrospect that their relationship will not end well, with them riding off the belief that just because they love each other it will work out. Most weddings tend to be amazing but the success rate remains the same.
    • After they divorce, Barney goes back to his womanizing ways and it is fully depicted as pathetic. His excuse for reverting after so much Character Development is THE SAME excuse after his first relationship with Robin, that if he couldn't make it work with her there was no one else who could make it work. It also runs on the precept that characters can grow but they are still fundamentally the same person, changing that makes them someone else entirely. Him eventually fathering a child is the most logical end point for a man who has had as many sexual partners as he has.
    • After they divorce, Robin's job takes her away from the city for long periods of time and whenever she visits the old gang, all she sees is her ex-husband picking up random skanks and two sets of friends being Happily Married with their own families. Seeing Ted with Tracy, Robin feels that choosing Barney over him was a mistake and missed out on real happiness by rejecting Ted. She spent several years estranged from the group before reconciling during Ted and Tracy's marriage.
    • Marshall passes on a prestigious judgeship offer to give Lily a chance to fulfill her dream of working in the artistic field. He justifies it saying things will work out eventually. They do, but it takes several years and he had to suffer as a corporate lawyer once more before things start going their way. Lily appreciates the sacrifice but regrets being a part of why he is miserable now. Plus she takes Robin leaving the group the hardest, being one of her closest female friends.
    • Ted meets Tracy, the love of his life and the mother of his children. They were absolutely perfect for each other, but their history isn't exactly a fairy tale as their engagement lasted years because of Ted being a stickler for the perfect wedding and Tracy getting pregnant with their daughter Penny around the same time of their first wedding date, with Luke following soon after. Tracy ended up dying from an unspecified illness, leaving this perfect couple able to be together for 11 years. True love and a happy relationship doesn't always last forever. The final shot of the series is Ted reconsidering his love for Robin, as despite everything he went through to be happy with Tracy that doesn't mean he doesn't still love Robin in some way.
  • The Determinator: Barney.
  • 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.
  • 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. Then, 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-gouching 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." 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.
  • The Driver: Ranjit, the cab driver in the pilot, who pops back up every once in a while.
  • 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 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 favourite film.
  • 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.
    • At first played completely straight with Lily after she breaks off her engagement and goes to San Francisco. 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 Lilly has to again choose between an arts career and her family, she will choose the career even if it means abandoning her family.
  • 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.
    • Lily's naked painting of Marshall.
    • Ted and his best friend at ten, a balloon.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Eskimos Aren't Real:
    • Robin's boyfriend Nick is so dumb in "Splitsville" 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.
  • Everything's Better With Robin Sparkles.
  • 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 (bright red short in 2005-2006, dark red in 2007, dark red with bangs in 2008, wavy red the following years).
  • 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.
  • Fanservice: Just ponder on the amount of time Barney has spent shirtless across various episodes. Nobody's complaining.
  • 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.
  • Five-Man Band: Despite it being a sitcom, the group fits this trope.
  • Five Philosophy Ensemble: Ted is The Conflicted, Marshall is The Optimist, Robin is The Cynic, Barney is The Apathetic and Lily is The Realist.
  • Five Temperament Ensemble: Ted is Leukine, Marshall is Phlegmatic, Robin is Melancholic, Barney is Sanguine and Lily is Choleric.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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 East 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 strongly 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.

    G-I 
  • 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.
  • Gay Bravado: a portion of the jokes rely on this.
  • 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.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: See Death Glare.
    • Don't forget the Crazy Eyes.
  • 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.
  • Grand Romantic Gesture: Ted is fond of these.
  • 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."
    • Marshal, Lily and especially Ted went through phases of this in college.
  • Groin Attack: Lily comes up with the idea of a electric collar, or more appropriately, a shock ring to keep Barney in line.
  • 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.
    • 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, Lily is wearing her hair in a typical "politican's wife" style.
  • Handsome Lech: Barney.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hilariously Abusive Childhood:
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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 "Belly Full of Turkey," Robin mocks Ted by claiming that America is the world's leader in handgun violence. However, Ted Doesn't Like Guns while Robin owns several of them, subscribes to Guns and Ammo, and goes to the firing range when she needs to blow off steam. In addition, she's actually threatened people with guns at least twice that we've seen (Gael's friends and a pair of thieves who tried to steal her TV) and suggested that Marshall do the same when he's afraid his boss will fire him.
  • Identical Stranger: Each of the gang has a doppelganger 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 Marshal
    • 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 there are tricks that 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.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Entire scenes are constructed around them. Typically, one is thrown into conversation at the bar, which leads to the entire gang brainstorming a series of them. Often Future!Ted will say "This went on for a while" and the scene fast-forwards to much later as one of the characters makes one last pun and then everyone pauses silently until someone admits they are finally all out of ideas.
    • This is the reason Robin left her job at Metro News 1, because there was at least one lame pun in every other headline.
      Robin: Seriously? Guys, a man died.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    J-L 
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold/Jerkass Façade: Barney
  • Joke Exhaustion: Barney does this occasionally, such as when he finds out that Marshall wears a nightshirt to bed.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
    • Justified in that one can imagine the laughter being of Ted's kids as he recalls the funny moments. Granted, the laughter is of a large multitude of adults, but let's not get nitpicky.
  • 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: The mother.
    • 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.
  • Logging Onto The Fourth Wall: The Other Wiki has a very long list of them.
  • Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Ted
  • 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).
  • Lowest Cosmic Denominator: None of the characters are really religious, but they all believe that "The Universe" has a will and, to some extent controls their life.

    M-O 
  • 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 way to seduce woman 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.
  • 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."
  • 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). 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • Nightmare Fuel: In-universe example: the thought of Marshall slapping him is this to Barney.
  • 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).
  • 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 in Front of the Kid: This is played with all the time, as Older 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-
    Narrator!Ted: Stuff! He said 'I'm too old for this stuff'!
  • "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 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.
  • Odd Friendship: Barney and Lily are extremely tight, considering Barney is a womanizer and Lily is a nice kindergarten teacher. Or is she?
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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 trampstamp.
    • 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.

    P-R 
  • Pineapple 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 never is.
    • 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?
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: We rarely see most of the main characters at their regular jobs (except for Robin for obvious reasons.) And what exactly does Barney do for a living? Heh, please.
  • 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 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."
  • The Producers Think Of Everything: Because they're Not Allowed to Grow Up, the same shot of the kids has been used every time they appear since the second season premiere. To avert a case of real life Off Model, footage of the kids was shot during the second season with the express purpose of using it when Ted finally meets the Mother.
  • 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 alterego, 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.
  • 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 programme 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) calls her out for wasting her art career. But later, he offers her a job as his art consultant which Lily eventually took it.
  • Queer People Are Funny: Usually with jokes between the main characters.
  • The Rashomon: Used often: for example, "Swarley".
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Possibly to be done intentionally with the mother, as the character has apparently been cast since the first season, and has been filmed in the backgrounds of the events of the show.
  • 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).
  • 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).
    • 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?
  • 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, and Hans in Die Hard. 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.
    • 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 hating 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 Erickson family.
    • "And 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."

    S-U 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: Barney loves to do it. To himself.
  • Sensei for Scoundrels: Barney is this in some of his more *ahem* altruistic moments.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Barney was the bleeding heart hippy and James was the closeted gay jock.
  • 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.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: Marshall and Lily.
  • 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.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Barney, of course.
  • Shipper on Deck: Marshall and Lily ship Barney & Robin. Also Barney and Ted.
  • 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.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: 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's ex-boyfriend (not mentioned once 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Six Is Nine: 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • SoCalization: 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.
  • So Bad, It's Good: In-Universe, the Robin Sparkles videos. The gang is so happy to watch them on repeat.
  • Something Completely Different: "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 Lilly and Ted, but she insists it's all connected.
    • The second Robin Episode also "Symphony of Illumination"
  • Son of a Whore: Fits Barney to a tee.
  • Special Guest: So far 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.
  • 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. This actually ends actually getting worked into 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.
  • Spiritual Successor: to Friends
  • 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.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Scooter, sometimes Ted to Robin.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Stylistic Suck: The Wedding Bride (and its sequel) are overacted, the dialogue is terrible, and Tony's character is an obvious Parody Sue, but all of this is so that Ted has plenty of reasons to hate the movie.
  • 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.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial (or brilliant double-bluff): In the season 8 finale script The Mother was described as "ABSOLUTELY NOT The Mother".
  • 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 Robin 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.
  • 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.
  • Trope Overdosed: Considering that there is now a separate page for each season now, this shouldn't be a surprise.
  • 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.
  • 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 Guys and a Girl: Ted, Marshall and Lily in their college years.
  • 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...
  • 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 except Marshall 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 Lilly's "Catch Phrase", "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, or adding parts that weren't there before.
    • 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
    • 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.
  • Unreliable Voiceover: Happens occasionally when he 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. Foregone Conclusion 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.
  • Unreveal Angle: The narration refers to the Mother 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".

    V-Z 
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • Villain Song: Barney's "Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit", if you consider Barney a Villain Protagonist. Which you should.
  • The Watson: Ted's kids. Also, Robin in seasons 1 and 2, and Kevin in season 7.
  • Well Done Daughter Guy: Robin Charles Scherbatsky... JUNIOR.
    • The male version also most definitely applies to Barney, most noticeably in the episode "Showdown", with Bob Barker.
  • What, Exactly, Is His Job?: 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.
  • 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.
  • Yoyo 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 every one, 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 

...DARY! LEGENDARY!


HouseTropeNamers/Live-Action TVJoan of Arcadia
HouseDramedyJAG
HouseTurnOfTheMillennium/Live-Action TVHow to Be Indie
HouseTrope OverdosedInuYasha
GleeCreator/ 20 th Century FoxIrwin Allen
Hospital HottieImageSource/Live-Action TVBedmate Reveal
The HoneymoonersCreator/CBSI Love Lucy
Hou$e Of Lie$American SeriesHow To Make It In America

alternative title(s): How I Met Your Mother
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