Unit 66 - Idioms & Proverbs

Unit 66 - Idioms & Proverbs

You know the world of English is a fun and exciting place to be. I’m so glad you could join me for another lesson.

Hi everybody, this is Misterduncan in England, how are you today? Are you okay? I hope so! Are you happy? I hope so!

In today’s lesson we are going to look at a part of the English language that causes such a lot of interest and observation to those learning the language and for those who speak English as their first language.

In this lesson we are going to take a look at …Idioms and proverbs.

An idioms is a casual form of expression, often used to make a point or explain a situation or express a feeling, without actually using words directly related to them.
They are non-literal expressions. Idioms are frequently used in spoken English and can consist of just a couple of words, right up to long sentences.
Idioms are often used in everyday life, but not always universally. We can describe slang as a form of idiom. However slang is often seen as being restricted to individual groups of people, such as teenagers, or cultures within a society.

Idioms are often used to convey a thought quickly and succinctly. Idioms are not always to the point. They express things metaphorically. They are often described as a turn of phrase. A figure of speech or a colloquialism.
I could not really talk about idioms, without giving some examples of them, so stand-by for those. Remember there are thousands of idioms in existence and they don’t just occur in English. So here we go with a selection of English idioms.

Examples of idioms- Animals

Ants in your pants: to be restless and fidgety. “You seem to have ants in your pants”
A little bird told me: to find out something that is a secret. ‘A little bird told me you’re getting married’
The cat has got your tougue: you are speechless or unable to speak. ‘Has the cat got your tougue?’
Let the cat out of the bag: reveal a secret by accident or on purpose. ‘He let the cat out of the bag’
Chicken out: to refuse to do something because of fear ‘You chickened out of the fight’
Clam up: to become silent and suddenly stop talking. ‘He was about to give his speech when he clammed up’
Copy cat: a person who steals another’s idea or does the same as them ‘You are such a copy cat’
Dog’s dinner: to dress in clothes that do not suit you or to wear too much makeup. ‘She is dressed like a dog’s dinner’
Drop like flies: a situation where many things fall or become sick at the same time. ‘ The sheep are all becoming ill, they are dropping like flies’

Have a cow: to become angry or upset over something (more often used in the USA) ‘Caml down, don’t have a cow’
Horse around: to behave childishly and waste time. ‘He spent all day housing around’
In the dog house: to be in trouble or to be scolded for something you did. ‘The husband came home late; he is in the dog house’
Make a beeline: to move straight towards something without stopping. ‘She made a beeline for the shoe display’
 Monkey business: to be doing something bad in secret. ‘There is some monkey business going on here.’
Pig out: to eat lots of food greedily. ‘I sat watching TV all night and pigged out’
Rainning cats and dogs: used to describe a heavy rain shower ‘It’s raining cats and dogs outside’
Take the bull by the horns: to face a problem or deal with a difficulty. ‘It’s time to take the bull by the horns’
Till the cows come home: to do something for a very long time. ‘I’ll wait here till the cows come home’

Idioms: Body parts:

All ears: you are listening carefully, to concentrate on what a person is saying. ‘Tell me what you want, I’m all ears’
Break a leg: wish someone good luck, normally before giving a performance ‘Go out there and break a leg’
Cold feet: to change your mind and refuse to do something. ‘He got cold feet the day before his wedding’
Cost an arm and a leg: something is very expensive ‘Do you like my new car? It cost an arm and a leg.’
Eat your heart out: used to reinforce a victory over someone in a spiteful way ‘I won the prize, so eat your heart our’
Two faced: a person who is kind to you in person, but says bad things about you to others. ‘My boss is so two faced’
Play by ear: to do something without making plans or having any expectations ‘I don’t know how long I will stay there, I’ll play it by ear’

Hair raising: a scary moment of experience ‘The roller- coaster ride was hair raising’
One foot in the grave: to appear ill or near to death ‘You look like you have one foot in the grave’
Lip service: to say nice things to someone, but not mean them, to be insincere ‘ To keep my boss happy I must give him lip service’
Give someone the elbow: to push someone away or remove them from your life. ‘I had to give my girl friend the elbow’
Pain in the neck/ pain in the ass: an annoying thing or person ‘My neighbor is such a pain in the neck’
Hate someones guts: to despite a person deeply ‘I hate my boss’s guts’
Not have the stomach: to be unwilling or afraid to do something ‘I would climb the mountain, but I haven’t the stomach for heights’

General Idioms:

Lose your head- blow your top- have a fit- throw a wobbly: to become uncontrollably angry
To sulk over something and ignore someone
In the dumps: to be sad and miserable
At a loose end: to have nothing to do
A chip off the old block: a child who resembles its parents
Hidden under a bushel: a talent or ability hidden from others
Go Greek: do the same things as the local people whilst on holiday
Hit the nail on the head: to give the exact answer or solution to a problem
Butter fingers: normally said after a person has (accidentally) dropped something with or without it breaking

A loose cannon: a person who can get out of control and become a liability or problem
Thick as a brick: used as an insult to say that a person is stupid ‘He’s as thick as a brick’
All mouth and (no) trousers: a person who talks about doing things, but never does them ‘He’s all mouth and (no) trousers’
Pick a bone with someone: talk about a serious situation concerning you and the other person ‘I have a bone to pick with you’

Within all the forms of spoken English there are thousands of idioms in existence. They express most forms of action or situation. Some idioms are playful and harmless while others can be spiteful and malevolent.


Proverbs are somewhat different to idioms by the fact that they tent to convey a direct message or meaning, usually in the form of a phrase or sentence. The words used tent to have a great meaning and are not as cryptic or hidden as those used in idioms.

Proverbs are often used as guides to help us on our way through life. They exist as little pieces of wisdom or thought. A proverb is often referred to as a ‘saying’ or ‘phrase’.
Proverbs can have a religious or philosophical meaning. A proverbial sentence can provide inspiration and food for thought. On of the most famous creators of proverbs was the Chinese philosopher ‘Confucius’ or Kong Zi who was born over two thousand years ago in a part of China, known today as Shandong.

Examples of proverbs:

Look before you leap: thick carefully before you do something or make a decision
Make hay while the sun shines: do something while you have the chance and do not waste an opportunity

Once bitten, twice shy: you never make the same mistake twice
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: do not putt all your hopes (money) on one thing, or you might lose everything.
A fool and his money are soon parted: think carefully before spending your money
Do not judge a book by its cover: never assume anything about something based on its appearance, looks can be deceiving
Marry in haste, repent at leisure: do not do something without thinking about it carefully first (such as getting married)
Don’t count your chickens before they hatch: be realistic about the outcome of something, do not built your hopes too high.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater: during the process of making changes or a move, make sure you are not losing something important
His bark is worse than his bite: a person who is not as tough or dangerous as they seem to be
It’s better to be thought of as a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt: sometimes saying nothing or staying silent is the best way to act.
There is no point crying over spilled milk: getting upset over a foolish mistake or accident will not change what happened.
Idioms and proverbs are not exclusive to English, as they exist in many other languages too.

In formal English, colloquial idioms are used much less, which often leads to them being left out of oral English education, however they do serve as a very useful way of both expanding you word power and liking words and expressions together. You may not always hear idioms being used, but that does not mean that they are not out there.
Just like slang, there are times for using them and times when they should be avoided. Proverb are used in both formal and informal English. For English students they can also serve as a useful way of remembering new words and their meanings.

I hope today’s lesson has left you feeling tickled pink and on top of the world and that you will drop in for another lesson real soon. This is Misterduncan in England saying thank you for watching me, teaching you…and of course…ta-ta for now

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Sentence explanation:

1.They are non-literal expressions. Idioms are frequently used in spoken English and can consist of just a couple of words, right up to long sentences.

Literal: Nghĩa đen. non-literal: Nghĩa bóng.

Frequently: (adv): thường xuyên, thường.

Spoken English: Tiếng Anh nói, giao tiếp, văn nói.

Consist of: bao gồm, chứa. a couple of: một vài, một nhóm.

Up to: cho đến, đến tận.

=>Thành ngữ diễn đạt theo nghĩa bóng. chúng thường được dùng trong văn nói và có thể chỉ gồm một cụm từ, cũng có thể là một câu dài.  

2. Proverbs are somewhat different to idioms by the fact that they tent to convey a direct message or meaning, usually in the form of a phrase or sentence.

Trong câu trên:

Somewhat: phó từ: Hơi, một chút

Different to/ from: khác với

The fact that: Trong trường hợp ta muốn dùng mệnh đề chứ không phải cụm danh từ ở vị trí mà không được phép dùng mệnh đề thì ta dùng ' the fact that' trước mệnh đề đó. Trong câu trên, đứng sau 'by' ở trên thì sẽ là một (cụm) danh từ, nhưng đằng sau nó lại là một mệnh đề 'they tent to...sentence' nên the fact that đã được dùng trước mệnh đề đó.

Convey: Truyền đạt, mang ý nghĩa

=>Tục ngữ hơi khác với thành ngữ ở chỗ là chúng thường mang ý nghĩa khái quát, thông điệp trực tiếp, thường là dưới dạng một cụm từ hoặc một câu.

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