Do you have what it takes? (Everyday idioms in newspapers)

by Kate Woodford​
As part of an occasional series on the subject of common idioms, we recently posted a blog which featured the idioms which we heard in spoken English during the course of a week. This week, we’re taking a different approach, picking out the idioms used in a range of national newspapers that were published on the same day. As with the previous post, we have only included the most frequent idioms – in other words, the sort of phrases that you are likely to hear or read nowadays.

One newspaper reports that a politician has criticized doctors as a group, claiming that they do not understand how their patients suffer when they wait a long time to be treated. Doctors, the politician complains, are ‘out of touch’.  To be out of touch is to not have the most recent information about a subject or a situation. On a different page, the same newspaper complains that a large sum of public money (330 thousand pounds) has been spent on equipment that will never be used. ‘£330k down the drain!’ reads the headline. Money down the drain (informal) is money wasted.

Another newspaper reports that a request by many people to stop a building from being destroyed has ‘fallen on deaf ears’. A request or warning that falls on deaf ears is not listened to. On the same page, the newspaper writes that the people of one country have ‘taken to the streets’. When people take to the streets, they show that they are against something by going to a public place and shouting, often while carrying signs. Elsewhere, the newspaper promises that cures for some diseases are ‘on the horizon‘, meaning that they are likely to happen soon.

In the gossip pages of a tabloid newspaper, it is reported that an actor has said something very negative about a more famous actor. ‘Sounds like sour grapes’, says the newspaper. If you describe one person’s criticism of another person as sour grapes, you mean that they are only angry because the person they have criticized has something that they want. In the sports pages of the same paper, there is a report of a cricket match. It is claimed that the winning side are now ‘sitting pretty’. To be sitting pretty is to be in a good situation. (Often, it relates to money, though not in this case.)

Finally, also on the sports pages, a reporter confidently claims that a young football player ‘has what it takes’ to be a star player. If you have what it takes to do something, you have the qualities and talents that are needed to be successful.

If you are finding these idiom posts useful, do tell us and we will try to provide more.

66 thoughts on “Do you have what it takes? (Everyday idioms in newspapers)

      1. Kate Woodford

        Thanks, Ajay! We regularly focus on idioms in our posts so keep coming back. Best wishes from Cambridge.

    1. Shukri M. Mohamed

      Certainly yes, l am finding these idioms very useful, to say the very least. I find myself obliged to report that every and each post, by The Ladies of Cambridge Dictionaries, is extremely useful and has a salubrious effect, as well. Many thanks.

  1. oscar torres

    Of course I find these idioms post very useful and I¨m glad you are doing that task. I think that for us, english students as a second language, is a practical way to be aware of the day-to-day curse of the colloquial expressions!

  2. so happy for this a post English so is very great for you teacher I hope to impove my
    English i want every day I hope to be Doctor
    to help people world thank you so much all of you

    1. katewoodford

      That’s a great idea – thanks! I shall do some research and see what I come up with. Thanks for the feedback. Kate

  3. Flonz

    The article is interesting and useful. It makes the idioms easy to understand and remember. It would be very nice if could have this topic regularly.

  4. MilO

    I prefer this approach to the subject. This kind of idioms fascinates me as they cover more aspect of common news . please keep alive this series.

  5. katewoodford

    Thanks, everyone, for your lovely comments! Keep coming back to our blog – we have all sorts of interesting posts planned. Kate

  6. Great post.
    Right on spot (is that an idiom or am i an idiot ?).
    Please give me more i love this topic and its the firs time is a blog about it (never knew that its called idioms)

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hi there! You are certainly not an idiot! Thanks for your feedback. Actually, the phrase you want is ‘spot on!’. We will certainly do more posts on idioms, so keep coming back!

  7. mabelbarrios50

    Enchanted with this post. I’m Venezuelan and love to research through English language for better understanding. I’ve founded it very interesting and I hope more information about this topic from you. Thanks a lot.
    by Ritamábel

  8. Very useful and it gives us the chance to enrich our vocabulary (instead of using several words to form a sentence to use an idiomatic phrase) and the way we express ourselves.

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  11. Carolina

    Thanks forma the blog! It is very useful. I am learning english and this expressions help me to be more natural when i speak!!

  12. Pingback: Do you have what it takes? (Everyday idioms in newspapers) | nataliaeydelman

  13. Oltjana

    Hello I am oltjana and I am from Albania Thank you so much for the wonderful work you are doing😊. I really appreciate every single article written about idioms! It is really helping me improve my English for my toefl test. If you have some advice for me to further improve I welcome everything.

    Thank you very much again!

    1. Oltjana

      Hello I am oltjana and I am from Albania Thank you so much for the wonderful work you are doing😊. I really appreciate every single article written about idioms! It is really helping me improve my English for my toefl test. If you have some advice for me to further improve I welcome everything.

      Thank you very much again!

  14. Marina

    I am addicted to these articles! I came across this rubric while trying to translate the difficult title of one American newspaper. Thinking of running a similar project for those studying my language!

  15. Qing

    I have a question about English idioms. Are they generic to be used in all the English speaking countries or not? For instance, an idiom works in England, but doesn’t work in Australia? Thank you.

  16. Qing

    Another question is when should I use idioms? How do they sound like to native speakers? Natural, informal? Can I use them in a business email or in a business conversation? Would it sound too casual or on the opposite it sounds natural? I sometimes feel confused and don’t know if it is a proper situation to use idioms. Many thanks.

  17. Rafael

    This is certainly a great place to learn idioms which are really necessary for an English learner. Keep on the good job you are doing so far.

  18. Lam

    Interesting idioms. Just one question: Why did you write ‘In the sports pages of the same paper…”? Is ‘in’ the right preposition?

  19. Đoàn Phùng Hải Nam

    It is quite hard for a Vietnamese student like me to understand all of this but i will try to get to know better and get along with your culture. Oh, and this blog is very useful for my study.

  20. Sandra

    Hi Kate, loving your idioms’ blog. Apart from being so useful to improve my English they also make me laugh! -brilliant idea, keep it going please.

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