English Corner 2

Common Expressions

Here are some expressions you may hear people say. 

  • Cost an arm and a leg = be very expensive. I really wanted to buy that ring, but it cost an arm and a leg. I have to pay my rent first!

  • The phone was ringing off the hook = got many calls. After I advertized my computer for sale on Craig's List, my phone started ringing off the hook.

  • Shake a leg = hurry. C'mon everyone! We're going to be late. Let's shake a leg!

  • Six to one, half dozen to the other = too similar to be able to see a difference.  I don't see any difference between eating at this restaurant or that one. It's six to one, half dozen to the other.

  • Be + like = said. So, I was like "How are you" and he was like, 'Fine. Why do you want to know?" and I'm like, "Well, what's your problem?" and he's like, "I don't have a problem. You're the one with a problem!"

  • "How do/did you rate?" = How come you're so lucky? You scored (got) front row seats for the U2 concert? How did you rate?"

Animal Metaphors

Americans often use animal metaphors. Here are a few you might find interesting.

  • Fox = used to describe a very attractive and sexy-looking woman. "She's a real fox" is a compliment!

  •  Cougar = an older woman dating a much younger man.

  • Eat like a bird = eat very little as opposed to...

  • Eat like a horse or pig out, both of which mean to eat a lot!

  • Someone can be as stubborn as a mule.

  • You have eagle eyes if you see extremely well.

  • Do you sing like a bird? If you do, then they will love you at karaoke clubs!

  • When you are working very hard, someone might say you are as busy as a bee.

  • On the other hand, that person may call you a sloth for lying around all day doing nothing.

  • If you try to use all of these expressions at once, you may feel crazy as a cuckoo.

Color Idioms

How colorful is your English? English uses colors to express many different things. How many of these are you familiar with? Use them in your English and add color to your life!

  • Black and blue = bruised. My leg was black and blue after I fell off my bike.

  • Once in a blue moon = very rarely. I'm on a diet, so I eat ice cream only once in a blue moon.

  • Out of the blue = unexpected. When the instructor announced a test out of the blue, we were all very surprised.

  • Black and white = thinking of everything or judging everything as either good or bad. I have a hard time talking to my friend about global warming. He sees everything in black and white and just says there isn't any problem.

  •  Green with envy = jealous. When I saw my friend's new iPad I was green with envy. I wanted one too!

  • Pinkie = the little finger on your hand. I like to wear a pinkie ring on my pinkie. 

  • See red = to get angry. When someone said that my girlfriend was ugly, I saw red! I wanted to hit him!

  • White lie = a harmless lie (told to be polite or to do something not seriously wrong). I told my boss a white lie and said that I was sick yesterday when actually I wasn't.

  • White elephant = a useless possession. I cleaned out my attic and threw out that old broken lamp. It was nothing but a white elephant. I don't need it at all.

  • Show one's true colors = show what one is really like. I know that she doesn't like me, but she was showing her true colors when she began yelling at me on the telephone.

An extra note: When you talk about another color with white, always end with "and white." We never say, "white and black"; we always say, "black and white."

Learning a foreign language is never easy - no matter what the advertisements try to tell you! To get better, at speaking, you must practice speaking. If you want to be better at writing, you have to write a lot. If you want to have a bigger vocabulary, you have to learn new words and then use them! You can't just wish yourself better.

Here are a few simple things you can do to get started.

  1. First of all, don't be afraid to make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. They are part of learning.

  2. Use an English-English dictionary, but try not to use the dictionary too much.

  3. Don't pretend to understand when you don't. If you don't understand something, say so.

  4. Be persistent, and don't give up easily.

  5. Form a study group, or study with a partner. However, try to find a study partner who does not speak your language. This will help both of you develop your communication skills!

  6. Praise yourself! This is hard work.