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Idiomatic Expressions - Part 3

Idiomatic Expressions - Part 3

 

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Idiomatic Expressions – Part 3


Hello! In this lesson, we will learn to use more idiomatic expressions. As we learned in a previous lesson,idioms are expressions whose meanings are not predictable from the usual meanings of the constituent words used.  

There are many idiomatic expressions which use the words "on" and "off". For example, when we want to turn on an appliance or a light, we say "Turn on the light." or "Turn the light on.", "Turn on the TV." or "Turn the TV on.".  When we want to turn it off, we say "Turn off the light."  or "Turn the light off." or "Turn off the TV." or "Turn the TV off.".  We also use the words "on" and "off" when we discuss putting clothing on or taking clothing off. For example, we might say "Jennifer is putting her coat on." or "Jennifer is putting on her coat." or "Jennifer is taking her coat off." or "Jennifer is taking her coat off.".

We also use the words "up" and "down" in many idiomatic expressions. The word "up" often means more and the word "down" often means less in idiomatic expressions. For example, if we want to increase the volume on the radio, we say "Turn the radio up." or "Turn up the radio.".If we want to decrease the volume, we say "Turn down the radio." or "Turn the radio down.".  If we want to go faster in the car, we say "Speed up.". If we want to go more slowly, we say "Slow down.".  "to turn up" usually means to make something go faster or make it louder, and  "to turn down" usually means to make something go more slowly or make it less loud. However, if you "turn down an offer", it means that you say no to an offer.  If someone offers you a job, and you say "I have to turn it down.", it means that you will not accept the job. If you "show up" it means that you arrive somewhere. If you "turn up some information", it means that you find some information.

Many idioms in English use sports terminology as metaphors. For example, if you call someone on the phone and leave a message, and the other person calls you on the phone and leaves a message, you are said to be "playing phone tag." The game of "tag" is a game it which one person is called "it" and the other children chase the person who is called "it".

If someone says "You're it", this means that you are the person who is going to be chased in the game. If you are "it" in the imaginary game of "phone tag", it is your turn to call the other person.  Your friend might say "You dropped the ball." which refers to baseball and means that you did not carry out responsibility as you should have.

Your friend might tell you "It's your turn." which means (translate: It's your turn.) or "The ball's in your court." which refers to the game of tennis, and it is now your turn to hit the ball.

 You might hear the expression "You're up." which refers to baseball and means "You are up to bat.". It means, perhaps, that it is your time to give a presentation or your turn to take some other responsibility for the group.

Sometimes a boss might tell you "Get your head in the game." Or "Keep your head in the game." which are reminders to think about your job responsibilities, and does not refer to a real game at all.

There are many idioms which involve body parts. For example, if someone says "I'm all thumbs." The person means that he or she lacks fine motor skills.

A person who says "I have a green thumb." means to say that he or she grows plants well.

If your boss says that she or he wants to "keep you on your toes", the boss intends to give you very challenging work which will not allow you to relax.

Someone might tell you "Don’t be nosy." or "Keep your nose out of my business.". This means that you are too curious about that's person's private business.  

You might hear someone say "Chin up." or "Keep your chin up.". This expression means to remind someone to be strong in the face of difficult circumstances, or not to be afraid.

Several idiomatic expressions involve the word "mind". For example, if you go into your boss's office, the boss might ask you "What's on your mind?" which means "What are you thinking about?" or "What do you want to talk about?".  

Sometime people say the proverb, "Out of sight, out of mind." which means it is easy to forget about something or someone who is no longer in your physical surroundings.

People sometimes say "I am losing my mind." which means (translate: losing my mind). Another way to say "I am losing my mind." is to say "I am going crazy." or "I am going nuts." These funny, idiomatic  expressions are not used if a person really has a mental illness.

Of course we also have an expression "Do you mind …" which means – do you care – for example, we say "Do you mind if I open the window?". And we have the expression "to mind" which means to obey. For example, we can ask someone "Do your children mind you?" which means: Do your children obey you?

Now that we have seen some idioms, let us listen to the dialog,

David:  Would you turn the TV on?

Jennifer:  Sure. Should I switch the light off or leave it on?

David:  I don’t mind – either way is fine.

Jennifer:  I'll leave it on so I can read.

David:  Turn it down so it doesn't drive you nuts.

David starts this conversation by asking Jennifer "Would you turn the TV on? He could also have asked "Would you turn on the TV?" He could have used other modal verbs – "can, could," or "will"- "Can you turn the TV on?" or "Could you turn on the TV?".

Jennifer says "Sure." The word "sure" could be replaced by "Of course"," okay" or "Yes" or "Yeah".  She asks "Should I switch the light off or leave it on?". The verbs "switch on" and "switch off" mean to turn on or turn off with a switch. The verbs "leave on or "leave off" could be replaced or "keep on" or "keep off." "Should I keep the light on?" means roughly the same as "Should I leave the light on?".

David says "I don’t mind – either way is fine.". The expression "I don’t mind" could be replaced with "I don’t care." or "It's all the sameto me.". We must be careful with the expression "I don’t care". In most situations, it signals an easy-going attitude that would be content in any of the possible situations. But it can also mean that it is not important at all.

Jennifer says "I'll leave it on so I can read." She could have said "I'll keep it on so I can read." or "I'll leave the light on so I can read.".

David says "Turn it down so it doesn't drive you nuts.". David is referring to the volume on the TV. He could have said "Turn down the sound so it doesn't drive you crazy." or "Turn down the volume so it doesn't  drive you nuts.". He means that Jennifer should lower the volume so that the noise doesn't bother her while she reads.

Now that you know what many of the new idioms mean, let us listen to the dialog again. Listen for idioms.

David:  Would you turn the TV on?

Jennifer:  Sure. Should I switch the light off or leave it on?

David:  I don’t mind – either way is fine.

Jennifer:  I'll leave it on so I can read.

David:  Turn it down so it doesn't drive you nuts.

Great! You have learned a lot of idioms! Idioms are like a window into a language, so the more idioms you learn, the better understanding you will have of the people who speak it.   "You're up!"