REALLY USEFUL ENGLISH IDIOMS
|THINKING AND LEARNING|
that’ll be the day-
it would be very surprising
on the cards-
touch and go-
Who is most optimistic? Who is most pessimistic?
CHRIS: I think we might get a good pay rise this year.
SAM: That’ll be the day!
TOM: I think it’s on the cards.
HELEN: I think it’s a safe bet. The company’s made a big profit this year.
KATE: You’re right, but it’s still touch and go whether they’ll share it with us.
tie the knot-
take some doing-
not be easy
slip your mind-
A woman was having dinner with a friend and her husband, when she noticed that her friend always called her husband loving names like Honey, Darling, Sweetheart etc. While her husband was out of the room, the woman said, ‘It’s 70 years since you two tied the knot but you still call him those pet names. That’s wonderful. It must take some doing to keep romance alive for so long.’ Her friend answered, ‘The truth is that his name slipped my mind about ten years ago.’
get the hang of-
learn how to do/use something
just like that-
quickly and easily
A golden rule of pronunciation is: use word stress correctly.
You probably know that one part of a word is ‘stressed’ (=stronger than the other parts), for example: PHOtograph, phoTOgrapher, photoGRAPHic.
Listen for the stress in words. Then you’ll get the hang of word stress and be able to use it more. If you can do this, your pronunciation will improve just like that.
make head not tail of-
from the beginning
have a go-
have a try
Learners of English sometimes say, ‘I don’t listen to English on the radio because it’s too fast and I can’t make head nor tail of it.
But think about that. When you were a few months old, learning your own language from scratch, did you understand it all? No! But you listened and learned. Then you learned to speak and read and write. But listening came first. So even if you don’t feel confident, have a go at it.
cut no ice-
have no influence
take to heart-
Statistics prove that flying is a very safe method of transport, but this cut no ice with Jean Fellows, 60, and nobody could persuade her to try to overcome her lifelong fear. That was until her seven-year-old granddaughter told her to be brave and try. It is unusual for the words of a child to carry more weight than those of adults, but Jean took them to heart and finally bought an air ticket. ‘It wasn’t as bad as I thought,’ she said after the flight.
deceiving, being unfaithful
put your foot in it-
unintentionally upset someone
feel angry with yourself
In the film Four Weddings and a Funeral, Hugh Grant meets an old friend, and asks him, ‘How are you, and how’s your girlfriend?’
The man replies, ‘She’s not my girlfriend any more.’
‘That’s good,’ says Grant, ‘You probably didn’t know, but she was two-timing you with someone else.’
The man looks deeply shocked and says, ‘She’s my wife now.’
Hugh Grant realises he has put his foot in it, and he kicks himself for being so stupid.
That would be telling-
it’s a secret
spill the beans-
reveal a secret
let the cat out of the bag-
give secret information too early
A friend has just told you a secret. Then someone asks, ‘What were you two talking about?’ Do you …
(a) smile and just say mysteriously, ‘That would be telling’?
(b) spill the beans?
Your friends are planning a surprise party for someone. Do you …
(a) keep your mouth shut until the party?
(b) let the cat out of the bag the day before?
You’re telling me.-
I know that.
You can say that again.-
I agree strongly.
hit the nail on the head-
describe something accurately
Is B agreeing or disagreeing?
A: He talks too much.
B: You’re telling me! I sat next to him on the bus yesterday!
A: It’s hot today, isn’t it?
B: You can say that again.
A: He’s an intelligent boy; the real problem is that he’s lazy.
B: I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.
pull someone’s leg-
have someone on-
say something untrue (for fun)
pull the other one-
I don’t believe you
TOM: Sam! Help me!
SAM: What’s the matter, Tom?
TOM: I’m hanging from this rock by one hand. I can’t hold on much longer. Call the rescue service quickly!
SAM: Very funny, Tom. Why are you always pulling my leg?
TOM: Sam! I’m not having you on. It’s true! Honestly!
SAM: Pull the other one, Tom!
to say the least-
get it straight-
be clear about it
I can’t imagine
Have you heard this joke?
A: My ears got burnt!
A: I was ironing when the phone rang. Instead of picking up the phone I picked up the iron.
B: That must’ve hurt!
A: To say the least.
B: Let’s get this straight: you said you burnt both ears. Right?
B: How on Earth did you burn the other ear?
A: The person called again.
|DATING AND ROMANCE|
love at first sight-
falling in love immediately
sweep someone off their feet-
make them fall in love quickly
only have eyes for-
only be interested in
There is a romantic story about the nineteenth-century revolutionary, Garibaldi. He was on his ship entering a port when he saw a beautiful woman standing on the shore. ‘That is the woman I am going to marry,’ he said. It was love at first sight. The woman, when she met him, was swept off her feet by his good looks and personality. They were married within days and only had eyes for each other for the rest of their lives.
in your dreams-
it’s very unrealistic hope
play hard to get-
pretend to be uninterested
TOM: I think she likes me.
SAM: In your dreams!
TOM: No, really, I’m sure she does.
SAM: No way! She never even looks at you.
TOM: Exactly! That means one of two things: either she’s embarrassed because she fancies me, or she’s playing hard to get.
SAM: Tom, there is a third possibility …
in a regular relationship
past, not important now
get a life-
(not polite) do something interesting
ETHEL: Have you heard about Jane’s boyfriend?
MAVIS: The one she’s been going steady with for about six months?
ETHEL: No. He’s history. She’s got a new one.
MAVIS: That’s fast!
ETHEL: Yes. And he’s younger than her! Oh! Hello, Jane.
JANE: Haven’t you got anything better to do than gossip about other people? Get a life!
have a thing about-
like very much
pop the question-
ask ‘Will you marry me?’
Dear Romance Magazine
My boyfriend is drop-dead gorgeous, kind and sensitive, and we have a great relationship. He’s also very tall. (I have a thing about tall men, so that’s important to me too!) The problem is that I want to get married and have children, but he doesn’t. I love him, but I know he’s never going to pop the question. What should I do?
pick up the tab-
pay the total
share costs on a date
play it by ear-
not follow a plan
On a first date, who should pay for meals, drinks, tickets etc.? In the old days, the man would pick up the tab, but nowadays nobody is quite sure. Will the woman think he’s a dinosaur if he pays? Or will she think he’s mean if he doesn’t? Will the man be grateful if the woman suggests they go Dutch or will he be insulted? There’s no right answer. You just have to play it by ear. Be sensitive to your partner’s feelings and you’ll probably get it right.