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Idiomatic Expressions - Part 1

Idiomatic Expressions - Part 1


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Idiomatic Expressions - 1

Hello! In this lesson we will learn some idioms in very common use. Idioms are expressions whose meanings are not predictable from the usual meanings of the constituent words used. English has a great many idioms! We will learn only a small percentage of the many idioms in English, but we will learn some very common ones and some very crucial ones. We will try to group idioms into meaning clusters to make them easier to remember.

Idioms are most crucial when they signify a lack or a loss of some sort. So we will begin with the idioms of lack, complaint, discomfort, and danger.

We have several ways of saying there is no more of something. If David asks, "Do we have any tuna?", Jennifer might respond, "No, we're all out of tuna." or "No, the tuna is all gone." Or of course, we can say "There isn't any tuna."

There are several ways of telling someone to be careful. We sometimes say "Watch out!" or "Look out!" or "Watch your step!".And of course, we can say "Be careful." or "Take care.".

There are several ways of saying that something doesn't function properly. We can say "It doesn't work."or "It isn't working.", "It is out of order.", or of course, "It's broken.".

When Jennifer is at work, she might realize the copier is not operating properly. She might say "The copier doesn't work." and then she might hang a sign reading "OUT OF ORDER" on the copier.

You might hear someone say "I'm broke.". This is very different from the preceding "broken.". "To be broke" means to have no money. To be absolutely without money is "to be flat broke.". David might say "I can't go out to eat tonight. I am flat broke.".

There are many ways of saying (translate: I am going to vomit.) Probably the most common way of saying it is "I am going to throw up." or "I have to throw up.".  A less polite way is "I am going to puke." or "I have to puke.". Sometimes people say "I am going to be sick."."To be sick" in this context means to vomit.  The most polite way of saying this, if there is any polite way at all of notifying your friends of this impending personal disaster is "I am going to vomit.". If you are lucky, you will see an exit, in which case you may say "Excuse me." and make a run for it, with no further explanation at all.

It is sometimes very embarrassing to make a mistake, and there are various ways of saying you have done something incorrectly. "I goofed up." is one way. "I messed up." is another way. The most straightforward way is to simply say "I made a mistake.".

If you are in business, you may hear that someone got "fired", "pink-slipped", "terminated" or "RIFed". All of these expressions refer to losing a job by being (translated being fired.) David's colleague might say to him, "I got pink-slipped," or "I got fired.". The term "RIFed" is an acronym for "Reduction in Force" Theproper response to such a sad announcement is "I'm sorry to hear that.".

Let us move into a less depressing area of life – asking or telling people to wait. We have several expressions which ask people to wait. For example, Jennifer might "call" David on the phone. David will "answer the phone"  While he is talking to Jennifer on the phone, David might say to Jennifer "Hang on.", "Hold on.", "Just a minute." or "Just a second" or "Just a sec.".  However, if he wants to ask a client or other businessperson to wait, he should ask "Can you hold for a moment?" or "May I put you on hold for a moment?" or "Can you hold, please?".When he is finished on the telephone, he will "hang up".

If David wants to tell Jennifer a secret, he might say "Just between you and me …" or "This information doesn't leave this room. …" or "Keep this under your hat. …" If David wants to tell a secret to a colleague at work, he says "In confidence … " or "I want to tell you something in confidence. …"

Mr. Johnson, as the boss, might sometimes "call a meeting".The workers will all "go to the meeting". During the meeting, Mr. Johnson might say to people "Please raise your hand if you have something to say.".When the meeting is finished, people will say "The meeting "is over.". Someone might call Mr. Johnson on the phone, and he might or might not "answer the phone". He might ask his "administrative assistant" "Could you answer the phone?"Someone might knock on his door, and he might or might not "answer the door".

When David gets home from work, Jennifer might say "David, can you do me a favor?". She might ask David "Could you run an errand" or "Could you do some chores?".   He might tell her "I want to go work out at the gym".  She might tell him "I am going to hang around." or "I am going to hang out at home.". She might say "I am going to sit around the house.".

David might say "I am going to call it a day."or "I've had it." when he comes back tired from the gym. He might say "I'm bummed." or "I'm bummed out.". Jennifer can look at his face and say "I can tell." which means that she can discern his feelings.  He might say "Can you tell I am tired?"  She might say "Yes, I can tell." or "No, I can't tell." which means she cannot notice his tiredness.

David might decide that he needs to take a shower. He might think "I have B.O." or "I have body odor.". He is going to brush his teeth because he might think "I have bad breath." too. He thinks "I am going to get some zzz's." But Jennifer says "Let's get out and about.". She might suggest "David, why don’t you get dressed up?" and say "Let's go out on the town.".  David might think she is joking: "You're kidding", he might say, or "You're pulling my leg.".
But Jennifer won’t "give up". She might say "Come on, David!" "Let's go!".
Listen to the dialog. You will hear a few new idioms, so pay attention!

David:  Do we have any chocolate cake?

Jennifer:  No, we're all out of chocolate cake.

David:  That's a bummer.

Jennifer:  Should we go out on the town?

David: We can't. We're flat broke.

Jennifer:  Maybe you're flat broke! I'm not!

David:  No kidding?

Jennifer: No lie. The cake is on me!

David: All right! Hang on! Let me get my sweater!

David starts by asking "Do we have any chocolate cake?".He could have said "Is there any chocolate cake in the house?"

Jennifer answers with an idiom: "No, we're all out of chocolate cake.". She could have said "The chocolate cake is all gone.".

David mutters "That's a bummer.". He could have said "That's depressing." or "That bums me out." or "That's a downer.".

Jennifer asks "Should we go out on the town?". She could have said "Should we go out and about?" or simply "Should we go out?".

David says "We can't. We're flat broke.". He could have said "We're broke." or "We're completely broke.", "We're out of money." or "We don’t have any money." or he might have said "I don’t have a dollar to my name." or "I'm in the red.". The expression "to be in the red" comes from accounting – when the accountant wrote the numbers in red ink, it meant they were negative numbers. When he wrote the numbers in black ink, it meant they were positive numbers. So if you hear someone say "I'm in the black." or "We're in the black.", it means they have money.

Jennifer surprises David by saying "Maybe you're flat broke! I'm not!". Jennifer is being sarcastic. She means that she has money, even if David doesn’t' have any money. She could have said "Maybe you don’t have any money, but I have some." or "You might be out of money, but I'm not.".Jennifer could have said "I have money to burn!" which means she has a lot of money – or "My money is burning a hole in my pocket.", which means she wants to spend her money.

David says "No kidding?" He wants to know if she is telling the truth. He could have said "Are you kidding?" or "Is that the truth?" or "Are you pulling my leg?" or "No lie?" or "Honest?" or "Really?".

Jennifer responds "No lie.". She could have said "I'm not kidding.", "Honest.", "I'm not pulling your leg.", "That's the truth.", or simply "Really.". Then she says "The cake is on me!". This is an idiom which means that Jennifer will pay for the cake. She could have said "I'm buying.", "I'm taking care of it.", "I'll pay for it.".or "It's on my dime.".  This last expression – "my dime" comes from the days when a public phone call cost ten cents, or a "dime". The expression "my dime" came to be a slang expression for anything that a person paid for.

David says "All right! Hang on! Let me get my sweater!". Instead of "Hang on!", David could have said "Hold on!", "Wait a minute.", "Just a minute,"," Just a second.", "Just a sec." . If David saw that Jennifer was leaving without him, or was far ahead of him, he might have said "Wait up!" or "Wait for me!".

Wonderful! You have learned many idioms that are used in everyday life. "Let's speak English. Come on!"