On one thread of this blog, we look at the phrases that people use in daily conversation. This week, we’re focusing on expressions that people use to talk about health – both their own health and that of their family and friends. We won’t be looking at individual symptoms. These were covered by my colleague, Liz Walter, in her post My leg hurts: Talking about illness. Instead, we’ll consider the phrases that people use in conversation to talk more generally about health.
Let’s start with a reply to ‘How’s Daniel (doing)?’ when Daniel is ill (UK)/sick (US). Of course, you can say that he’s ill or that he’s been ill recently. However, in conversational English, negative phrases are often heard, such as ‘He hasn’t been (UK)/felt (US) very well.’ Or (UK) ‘He hasn’t been so well.’ More examples are ‘He hasn’t been (UK)/felt (US) so good / so great recently’ or ‘His health hasn’t been great.’
When someone has had specific health problems, but the speaker doesn’t especially want to name them, they might say ‘He’s had one or two health issues recently’. (UK)/ ‘He’s had some health issues recently’. (US)
An idiom meaning ‘ill’ that is often heard in conversation is under the weather: She’s been a bit under the weather recently. Note that this tends to be used for illnesses that are not serious.
A few conversational phrases describe being slightly ill, sometimes with no specific symptoms. In UK English you can use the expression off-colour: I’m feeling a bit off-colour today. You might instead say you don’t feel yourself (UK)/don’t feel like yourself (US): I haven’t been feeling myself for a few days. You can also say that you are out of sorts, (though this expression is confusing as it also means ‘slightly unhappy’): I’ve been feeling a bit out of sorts today.
If you are starting to suffer from an infectious illness, you might say you are coming/going down with it: I hope I’m not coming down with the flu.
If someone has had an illness such as a cold for a long time and they’re not getting better, you might say that they can’t shake it (off): She’s had a cough for three weeks now and she just can’t shake it off. Similarly, you might say that the illness is dragging on: I’m so fed up with this cold. It’s really dragging on.
Let’s look now at the way we talk about people who are getting better. You might say that someone is on the mend, when they’re recovering after an illness: She’s definitely on the mend, I’d say. You might emphasize that they are now able to do the things they normally do by saying they are back on their feet: In a day or so, I’ll be back on my feet. In UK English, if they’re getting better but still not completely well, you might describe them as not a hundred per cent: He’s definitely on the mend but still not a hundred per cent.
Look after yourselves and please stay well.