It’s recently come to my attention that there’s a huge number of English phrases and idioms containing the word ‘face’. There are so many that this is the first of two posts, as ever focusing on the most frequent and useful. I hope you enjoy it!
We’ll deal first with phrases that convey something about the expression on someone’s face. If an emotion is written all over someone’s face, their face very clearly shows it: She was clearly appalled by the idea – it was written all over her face.
Two ‘face’ expressions are used to convey a look of disappointment. We talk about a long face, meaning ‘a face showing sadness or disappointment’: There’ll be some long faces when I tell the kids the holiday is cancelled. We also say that someone’s face falls when they suddenly look very disappointed and unhappy: I told her Karl wasn’t coming and her face fell.
If you keep a straight face, you manage not to smile or laugh, usually when you are joking: I tried to pretend I was cross with her, but I couldn’t keep a straight face.
In UK English, we sometimes say that someone’s face was a picture, meaning that they looked very surprised, (either because of something good or something bad): Her face was a picture when she saw what he was wearing.
Other ‘face’ idioms, as you might imagine, relate to how things appear to be on the surface. For example, we say that someone puts a brave face on it (or puts on a brave face) when they are determined not to appear upset, even though they feel it: She must have been disappointed by the news but I think she put a brave face on it.
We use the phrase on the face of it to say how a situation seems when we don’t know all the facts. On the face of it, it seems like a really good offer, but I think we need to look into it.
If you take someone/something at face value, you accept what they seem to be, without questioning them at all: I took her at face value – I saw no reason to doubt what she said.
We’ll continue the ‘face idioms’ theme in a couple of weeks. Be sure to check in with us regularly.