Common idioms with the word ‘head’

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by Kate Woodford

Last month we focused on idioms that included various parts of the body. This week, we look at idioms featuring the most productive part – the head! As ever, we only cover phrases that are frequent and current.

If there is a problem and you bury your head in the sand, you behave as if there is no problem because you do not want to deal with it: This is an environmental catastrophe and we’re just burying our heads in the sand. Someone or something that is head and shoulders above other people or things is very much better than them: There’s no comparison with the other teams – they’re head and shoulders above them. If you keep your head down, you deliberately try to avoid making someone angry, usually by saying little and keeping busy: He’s in a bad mood this morning. I’m just keeping my head down. A discussion that goes over your head is too difficult for you to understand: I must say, parts of the talk went over my head.

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Getting the hang of it (Words and phrases for getting used to things)

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by Kate Woodford

Getting used to things is a part of life. We all deal with situations, tasks or tools that are new to us. At first, they may seem difficult or strange. With time or practice, they become familiar and normal.  In this blog, we look at the language for expressing this idea.

Starting with single words, if you familiarize yourself with something that you don’t know about, you intentionally learn about it, usually to prepare for something: I need to familiarize myself with the new software. If you acclimatize, you become familiar with different weather or surroundings so that you are able to deal with them: More time will be needed for the troops to acclimatize to the desert conditions.

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Twisting arms and sticking your neck out (Idioms featuring parts of the body)

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by Kate Woodford

Parts of the body feature in a great number of English idioms. This week we’re taking a look at some of the most commonly used. How many of these have direct equivalents in your language?

 

Starting with the top of the body, the neck is quite productive! If two people or groups who are competing are neck and neck, they are level with each other and have the same chance of winning: Recent polls suggest the two parties are neck and neck. The strange phrase neck of the woods refers to a particular area. (We usually put the words ‘your’/‘his’/‘her’ etc. or ‘this’ before it): I didn’t expect to see you in this neck of the woods! / Portland – isn’t that your neck of the woods, Gina? If you stick your neck out, you take a risk, often by saying what you think will happen in the future: I’m going to stick my neck out and predict a win for Chelsea.

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The group of death and the underdog (The language of the World Cup)

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by Kate Woodford

With the FIFA World Cup just one day away, we thought you might like to brush up on (=improve what you know about) your tournament vocabulary.

Let’s start by getting up to date. The qualification phase ended in November 2017. In this period, the various countries’ national teams played against each other in order to qualify for (= succeed in getting into) the tournament. From a field of 211, a total of 31 teams qualified, ‘field’ here meaning ‘all the people or teams in a competition’. As always happens, the host nation (= country where the World Cup takes place – this year, Russia) qualified automatically. The resulting 32 teams were put into eight groups of four teams.

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A glimmer of hope (The language of hope)

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by Kate Woodford

For many of us, spring – the season of new beginnings – is a time of great hope. With the flowers and trees in bloom and the temperature rising, it’s a time for feeling positive about the future. With this in mind, we thought we’d take a look at words and phrases related to hope.

Starting with the verb ‘hope’, people sometimes emphasize how much they hope for something by saying they hope and pray that something will happen: I just hope and pray that she’s well enough on the day to take the exam. If you say you hope against hope that something will happen, you very much hope for it, although you know it is not likely: We’re just hoping against hope that the police catch the burglar.

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Out of the blue (Words and phrases for unexpected events)

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by Kate Woodford

Many of the things that happen to us are expected or even planned but some are not. Some of these unexpected events are welcome while others are less so. In this post, we take a look at the words and phrases that we use to relate events that happen when we are least expecting them.

Starting with a really useful idiom, something that happens out of the blue is completely unexpected: Then one day, out of the blue, she announced she was leaving. Two very useful, less idiomatic, phrases with a similar meaning are all of a sudden and all at once. Both mean ‘suddenly and unexpectedly’: All of a sudden, she collapsed. / All at once there was a loud crashing noise.

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We’re on a roll! (Everyday idioms in newspapers)

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by Kate Woodford

We like to keep you supplied with frequent, up-to-date idioms on this blog. One way in which we do this is by reading, every few months, a range of national newspapers that were published on the same day. We then pick out the idioms and phrases in use. As ever, we only include common, current idioms and phrases – in other words, the type that will be most useful to learn.

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On the other hand… (Words which express a contrast)

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by Kate Woodford

You probably know the English expression on the one hand … on the other hand. It is used in the following way for comparing two opposing opinions or facts about something (note that just one half of the phrase is often used):

On the one hand, Maria has experience, but on the other hand, she doesn’t have the precise skills that we’re looking for.

I don’t really want any more work at the moment. On the other hand, I could use the extra money.

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Prodding and urging (Getting people to do what you want!)

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by Kate Woodford

A recent post looked at words and phrases meaning ‘persuade’ but of course, there are other ways to make people do what we want, (and not all of them especially nice!) Let’s take a look, then, at these words and phrases.

You might try to get someone to do something or go somewhere by offering them something attractive or exciting in return. For this we have the verbs entice and lure. Adverts like these may entice the customer into buying things they don’t really want. / They try to lure people into the shop with the offer of free cake.

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Coaxing, cajoling and roping in (Ways of saying ‘persuade’)

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by Kate Woodford

This week we’re looking at the many near-synonyms in English for the verb persuade.

Let’s start with the verb convince, which is sometimes used to mean ‘to persuade someone to do something’: hope this will convince you to change your mind.

A number of verbs mean specifically ‘to persuade someone to do an activity’, for example the phrasal verbs talk into and (informal) rope in: Finn is refusing to go camping but I think I can talk him into it. / We needed two more people to make up the team so we roped in a couple of spectators.

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