Apr 4, 2016

Speak English like an American (idiomatic expressions for LESSONS 11–15)

67 cards
  • LESSON 11
    1. crunch numbers — to perform calculations (especially financial calculations)

      Example
      Scott loves to crunch numbers, so he decided to become an accountant.
      Wendy spends all her time at work in front of the computer crunching numbers and analyzing sales data.

      • take it or leave it — accept or reject an offer, usually a final one

        Example
        The highest salary we can offer you is $50,000 a year — take it or leave it.
        I’m offering to do the dishes for one week if you’ll help me with my science project. Take it or leave it.

        • make a living — to earn enough money to support oneself

          Example
          Many people laugh at him, but Bill actually makes a living selling gourmet dog food.
          Danny makes some money playing his guitar on street corners, but not enough to make a living.

          • twist someone’s arm — to persuade someone; to convince someone

            Example
            Ted didn’t want to get another tattoo on his back, but Amber twisted his arm.
            Okay, you’ve twisted my arm. You can borrow my new car and drive it across the country.

            • worth one’s while — worthy of one’s effort or time

              Example
              It would be worth your while to audition for the game show Jeopardy. You’d probably win a lot of money.
              Let me make it worth your while to work weekends. I’ll pay you an extra $10 per hour on Saturdays and Sundays.

              • can’t complain — things are going well; I’m fine

                Example
                “How’s business, Mike?” — “Can’t complain. I sold a lot of computers this month.”
                “How are things going at your new job?” — “Can’t complain.”

                • out of the question — impossible

                  Example
                  My friend Emily wanted me to climb Mount McKinley with her, but I told her it was out of the question.
                  You want to borrow my new car and drive it across the country? I’m sorry, but that’s out of the question.

                  • Now you’re talking! — you’re saying the right thing

                    Example
                    You want to offer me free tickets to the J. Lo concert? Now you’re talking!
                    You’d like to offer me a $10,000 raise and a comer office? Now you’re talking!

                    • drive a hard bargain — to be tough in negotiating an agreement; to negotiate something in one’s favor

                      Example
                      I wanted to pay less for the car, but the salesman drove a hard bargain.
                      Eric drove a hard bargain and got the company to raise their salary offer by $15,000.

                      • sweeten the deal — to make an offer more attractive

                        Example
                        IBM offered to sweeten the deal by giving John a company car if he agreed to work for them.
                        We really want you to take the job here at Magna Corporation, so let us know what we can do to sweeten the deal.

                        • get the ball rolling — to get started

                          Example
                          Let’s get the ball rolling on this project. We’ve only got one week to finish it.
                          If we don’t get the ball rolling on our vacation plans soon, we’ll end up going nowhere.

                          • How’s it going? — How are you?

                            Example
                            How’s it going?” I asked Ted. “Everything’s fine. How are you?” he replied.
                            How’s it going?” Vladimir asked me. “Not bad,” I replied.

                          • LESSON 12
                            1. like pulling teeth — very difficult

                              Example
                              It’s like pulling teeth getting Max to talk about his girlfriend.
                              Kyle hates to study. It’s like pulling teeth getting him to do his homework every night.

                              • pitch in — to help

                                Example
                                Nicole offered to pitch in and clean up her neighborhood beach. She picked up five plastic cups and an old towel.
                                If you need my help, just ask. I’d be happy to pitch in.

                                Synonym: to lend a hand, to lend a helping hand; to help out

                                • things are looking up — things are improving

                                  Example
                                  Elizabeth found a wonderful new job and just moved into a beautiful new apartment. Things are looking up for her.
                                  Things are looking up with the economy.

                                  • For heaven’s sake! — a way of expressing emotions such as surprise, outrage, or impatience

                                    Example
                                    Hurry up, for heaven’s sake! You’re going to be late for school.
                                    Oh, for heaven’s sake! Yesterday, I made three dozen chocolate chip cookies, and today there’s only one cookie left!

                                    Synonym: for God’s sake, for goodness sake, for Pete’s sake

                                    • be down in the dumps — to feel sad; to be depressed

                                      Example
                                      It’s not surprising that Lisa is down in the dumps. Paws, the cat she had for 20 years, just died.
                                      It’s easy to feel down in the dumps when it’s raining outside.

                                      • like a chicken with its head cut off — in a hysterical manner; in a frenzy; in a very nervous way

                                        Example
                                        Ken was late for work, and he couldn’t find his car keys. He was running around his apartment like a chicken with its head cut off.
                                        Patricia ran around the school looking for her lost backpack like a chicken with its head cut off.

                                        Note: This idiom is usually used with the phrase “to run around” as in the above examples.

                                        • get going — to get started on something; to set off for a destination; to leave

                                          Example
                                          If you don’t get going on your homework soon, you’re going to be up all night.
                                          We’d better get going to the restaurant now. Otherwise, we’ll be late for our seven o’clock reservation.

                                          Synonym: to get a move on; to get the show on the road

                                          • bite off more than one can chew — to take on more than one is capable of; to take on too much

                                            Example
                                            Jennifer is having a dinner party for 50 people, and she can’t even cook. I think she’s bitten off more than she can chew.
                                            You agreed to host 50 exchange students from Korea? Aren’t you afraid you’ve bitten off more than you can chew?

                                            Synonym: to be or to get in over one’s head. — Jennifer is in over her head with this dinner party!

                                            • never mind — don’t worry about something; forget it; it doesn’t matter

                                              Example
                                              You forgot to pick up eggs at the supermarket? Never mind. I’ll get them tomorrow morning.
                                              Never mind what your friends say. You need to do what you think is right.

                                              • run around — to move about quickly

                                                Example
                                                I’ve been running around all day making final arrangements for our trip to Costa Rica tomorrow.
                                                Debbie is exhausted. She ran around town all day today.

                                                • like crazy — with great speed or enthusiasm

                                                  Example
                                                  When Pete Sampras won the tennis match, the crowd started cheering like crazy.
                                                  Ann ran like crazy, but she still didn’t manage to catch the bus.

                                                  • help out — to give assistance; to help

                                                    Example
                                                    Amber offered to help out in the kitchen by chopping nuts.
                                                    I’d be happy to help out by baking cookies for the picnic.

                                                    Synonym: to lend a hand

                                                  • LESSON 13
                                                    1. get out of the way — to move out of the way; to stop interfering with someone’s plans or activities

                                                      Example
                                                      If you’re not planning on helping us prepare dinner, please get out of the way. The kitchen is crowded.
                                                      Get out of the way! That truck is backing up and it might run you over.

                                                      • feel free — go ahead and do something; don’t hesitate (to do something)

                                                        Example
                                                        Feel free to interrupt me and ask questions during my lecture,” said the professor to his students.
                                                        If you need legal advice, feel free to call my cousin Fred. He’s a lawyer.

                                                        • call it a night — to stop an activity for the rest of the night

                                                          Example
                                                          We spent a few hours walking around downtown Chicago. It was so cold that we were ready to call it a night by nine o’clock.
                                                          Let’s call it a night and meet back at the office at seven o’clock tomorrow morning to finish preparing our report.

                                                          Note: There is also the expression “to call it a day” which means to stop activity for the day.

                                                          • too many cooks spoil the broth — too many people involved in an activity can ruin it

                                                            Example
                                                            After Bob and Susan edited Nicole’s college applications, they were worse than when she started. Too many cooks spoil the broth.
                                                            You don’t need to help us. We have enough people helping already, and too many cooks spoil the broth.

                                                            Note: “Broth” is a clear liquid that forms the base for soups.

                                                            • out of practice — no longer good at doing something

                                                              Example
                                                              Susan studied French in high school, but she hasn’t spoken it since. She’s really out of practice.
                                                              I used to play tennis every day, but I haven’t played in years. I’m out of practice.

                                                              • take a break — to stop and rest from an activity

                                                                Example
                                                                Bob always worked 10 hours straight, never taking a break.
                                                                Let’s take a break from our work and go get some ice cream.

                                                                • take over — to assume control

                                                                  Example
                                                                  After 11 hours of driving, I was getting tired. Fortunately, my friend offered to take over.
                                                                  My new boss will be taking over some of my projects.

                                                                  • all the rage — the latest fashion; popular right now

                                                                    Example
                                                                    Have you seen those new alligator-skin cowboy boots? They’re all the rage this season!
                                                                    At Nate’s high school, salsa dancing is all the rage this year.

                                                                    • pick up — to acquire; to learn

                                                                      Example
                                                                      Bob picks up languages quickly. After two weeks in Spain, he was already speaking Spanish.
                                                                      Diana picked up some great new ideas at the workshop.

                                                                      Note: “Pick up” has several other meanings, including:
                                                                      1. to take from the floor or ground. — Pick up the pen you dropped.
                                                                      2. to buy. — I’ll pick up some burritos on my way home.
                                                                      3. to clean up. — Let’s pick up the bedroom before the guests arrive.
                                                                      4. to retrieve someone. — I’ll pick you up at seven for our date.

                                                                      • tricks of the trade — clever shortcuts gained by experience

                                                                        Example
                                                                        The new teacher learned some tricks of the trade from Mrs. Blackstone, who’d been teaching at the school for 40 years.
                                                                        My new job will be easier once I learn some tricks of the trade.

                                                                        • lose one’s touch — to no longer be able to do something well

                                                                          Example
                                                                          I used to make delicious pies, but this one tastes terrible. I think I’ve lost my touch.
                                                                          Dr. Stewart used to be a very good doctor, but recently several of his patients have died. He seems to have lost his touch!

                                                                          • work one’s tail off (slang) — to work very hard

                                                                            Example
                                                                            Don worked his tail off to save money for his son’s education.
                                                                            Bob worked his tail off at the furniture store, but his boss fired him anyway.

                                                                            • know one’s stuff — to have an expertise in a field

                                                                              Example
                                                                              Steve has been an auto mechanic for 25 years. He really knows his stuff.
                                                                              When it comes to cooking, Kristen knows her stuff. She spent two years studying at the Culinary Institute of America.

                                                                              • sweet tooth — an enjoyment of sugary foods

                                                                                Example
                                                                                Amber’s got a real sweet tooth. Last night, she ate a whole box of Godiva chocolates.
                                                                                No wonder Liz is so overweight. She’s got such a sweet tooth!

                                                                                • in good hands — in good, competent care

                                                                                  Example
                                                                                  Don’t worry — your dog will be in good hands while you’re on vacation. We’ll take her to the New York Dog Spa & Hotel.
                                                                                  You’re in good hands with Tony. He’s an excellent driver.

                                                                                  • lend a hand — to help

                                                                                    Example
                                                                                    When Amber saw Susan washing the cookie sheets, she offered to lend a hand.
                                                                                    Would you mind lending a hand in the garden? We need to finish planting these flowers before it starts raining.

                                                                                  • LESSON 14
                                                                                    1. break up with someone — to end a relationship with a romantic partner

                                                                                      Example
                                                                                      When Nicole’s boyfriend told her he didn’t want to see her anymore, she replied, “I can’t believe you’re breaking up with me!”
                                                                                      After dating her boyfriend Dan for four years, Erica finally decided to break up with him.

                                                                                      • be nuts about — to like very much

                                                                                        Example
                                                                                        Ted has every single Metallica album — he’s nuts about that band.
                                                                                        We’re just nuts about our new neighbors. We have them over for dinner once a month.

                                                                                        Synonym: crazy about

                                                                                        • a one-track mind — having all thoughts directed to just one thing or activity; focused on just one thing

                                                                                          Example
                                                                                          Ryan thinks about football all the time. He’s got a one-track mind.
                                                                                          Mia has a one-track-mind. She thinks about boys all the time.

                                                                                          • Give me a break! — that’s ridiculous; that’s outrageous

                                                                                            Example
                                                                                            You want me to pay $3 for one cookie? Give me a break!
                                                                                            You expect me to believe that excuse? Give me a break!

                                                                                            Note: You might see this written in its informal, conversational form: “Gimme a break!” This is usually how the idiom is pronounced.

                                                                                            • go ahead — to continue; to proceed without hesitation

                                                                                              Example
                                                                                              We have more than enough food for dinner. Go ahead and invite your friend to join us.
                                                                                              Let’s go ahead and buy our plane tickets now.

                                                                                              Note: “Go ahead” can also be used as a noun, as in the expression “to give somebody the go ahead,” meaning to give somebody permission to move forward with an activity.

                                                                                              • crank out — to produce rapidly or in a routine manner

                                                                                                Example
                                                                                                Last night, Nicole cranked out 200 signs for her campaign.
                                                                                                We just bought a new printer at work. It can crank out 20 pages per minute.

                                                                                                • plug away (at something) — to proceed with a boring or routine task; to keep trying

                                                                                                  Example
                                                                                                  Only 842 more cookies to bake. Let’s keep plugging away!
                                                                                                  Don’t give up on chemistry class. If you keep plugging away, you will eventually learn the material.

                                                                                                  • make out — to kiss with much passion

                                                                                                    Example
                                                                                                    Ted and Amber started making out at the stoplight and didn’t realize that the light had turned green.

                                                                                                    Note: “Make out” also means:
                                                                                                    1. to manage. — How did you make out at the doctor’s today?
                                                                                                    2. to understand or see with difficulty. — It was so foggy, I could barely make out the street signs.
                                                                                                    3. to prepare a check or other payment. — Please make out a check for this month’s rent.

                                                                                                    • take a break — to stop and rest from an activity

                                                                                                      Example
                                                                                                      Bob always worked 10 hours straight, never taking a break.
                                                                                                      Let’s take a break from our work and go get some ice cream.

                                                                                                      • treat someone like dirt — to behave in a nasty way towards someone; to treat someone poorly

                                                                                                        Example
                                                                                                        Nobody was surprised when Nicole’s boyfriend broke up with her, since she treated him like dirt.
                                                                                                        I feel sorry for Jeffrey. The kids at school are very nasty to him. They really treat him like dirt.

                                                                                                        • love at first sight — an immediate attraction

                                                                                                          Example
                                                                                                          It took Allison several months to fall in love with Karl. It wasn’t love at first sight.
                                                                                                          Tony liked Tara immediately. It was love at first sight!

                                                                                                          • head over heels in love — very much in love

                                                                                                            Example
                                                                                                            During the first years of their marriage, Brad and Jennifer were head over heels in love with each other.
                                                                                                            Sara is head over heels in love with Mark. Unfortunately, he doesn’t even know her name!

                                                                                                            • crunch time — a short period when there’s high pressure to achieve a result

                                                                                                              Example
                                                                                                              The entire month of December is crunch time for Santa Claus.
                                                                                                              May is crunch time for many students. It’s when they have their final exams.

                                                                                                            • LESSON 15
                                                                                                              1. basket case (slang) — someone or something in a useless or hopeless condition

                                                                                                                Example
                                                                                                                After working a 12-hour day and then coming home and cooking dinner for her family, Tanya felt like a basket case.
                                                                                                                After running the marathon, Brian felt like a basket case.

                                                                                                                Note: You may also see the expression “economic basket case” to describe an economy that is doing very poorly. — After years of dictatorship, North Korea is an economic basket case.

                                                                                                                • nervous wreck — a person feeling very worried

                                                                                                                  Example
                                                                                                                  Ted was a nervous wreck before his chemistry test.
                                                                                                                  Whenever Nicole rides on the back of her friend’s motorcycle, Susan is a nervous wreck.

                                                                                                                  • rule of thumb — a useful principle

                                                                                                                    Example
                                                                                                                    When cooking fish, a good rule of thumb is 10 minutes in the oven for each inch of thickness.
                                                                                                                    “Ted, as a rule of thumb, you should always plan to study for your chemistry tests for at least two hours.”

                                                                                                                    • conventional wisdom — a widely held belief

                                                                                                                      Example
                                                                                                                      According to conventional wisdom, a diet high in salt can cause high blood pressure.
                                                                                                                      Challenging conventional wisdom, the psychologist said that sometimes it’s healthy to be in a bad mood.

                                                                                                                      • turn off — to cause to feel dislike or revulsion

                                                                                                                        Example
                                                                                                                        I used to be friends with Monica, but she gossiped all the time and it really turned me off.
                                                                                                                        At first, Sara really liked Jacob. But when he started talking about all his ex-girlfriends, she was really turned off.

                                                                                                                        Note: The noun form, turn-off, is also common and usually describes something that causes the opposite sex to respond negatively. — When Jake started talking about all his ex-girlfriends, it was a real turn-off for Sara.

                                                                                                                        • no wonder — it’s not surprising

                                                                                                                          Example
                                                                                                                          Brian’s entire body is in pain. It’s no wonder since he ran a marathon yesterday!
                                                                                                                          No wonder you’re cold — it’s January and you’re walking around outside without a coat!

                                                                                                                          Synonym: small wonder

                                                                                                                          • pull an all-nighter — to stay up all night to do work

                                                                                                                            Example
                                                                                                                            Ted pulled an all-nighter to study for his chemistry test and ended up falling asleep in class the next day.
                                                                                                                            I’ve got a 20-page paper due tomorrow morning, and I haven’t even started writing it yet. I guess I’ll be pulling an all-nighter!

                                                                                                                            • look like — to have the appearance of

                                                                                                                              Example
                                                                                                                              Before agreeing to go out on a date with her, Keith wanted to know what my cousin Maria looked like.
                                                                                                                              Please tell me what the cover of that new book looks like so it will be easier for me to find it in the bookstore.

                                                                                                                              Note: The expression “it looks like” can mean “it is likely that”. — It’s snowing, so it looks like the schools will be closed today.

                                                                                                                              • in reality — in fact; actually

                                                                                                                                Example
                                                                                                                                Ted thinks it’ll be easy to become a rock star. In reality, it will take years of hard work.
                                                                                                                                I know you think it’ll be easy to get cheap tickets to a Broadway play. In reality, we’ll have to wait in line for hours!

                                                                                                                                • load off one’s mind — a relief

                                                                                                                                  Example
                                                                                                                                  When Amber called Ted to tell him that she arrived home safely, it was a big load off his mind.
                                                                                                                                  Finishing her English essay was a load off Nicole’s mind.

                                                                                                                                  • a big head — arrogant; too proud of oneself

                                                                                                                                    Example
                                                                                                                                    Stop bragging so much about the award you got at work! People will think you’ve got a big head.
                                                                                                                                    Jenny has such a big head. No wonder nobody wants to be friends with her!

                                                                                                                                    Synonym: to be full of oneself. — Joan is really full of herself. She’s always talking about how smart she is.

                                                                                                                                    • What’s up? — What’s going on? What’s new?

                                                                                                                                      Example
                                                                                                                                      What’s up? I haven’t spoken to you in a long time.
                                                                                                                                      You never call me anymore. What’s up with that?

                                                                                                                                      • do the trick — to achieve the desired results

                                                                                                                                        Example
                                                                                                                                        Juan changed the light bulb and said, “That should do the trick!”
                                                                                                                                        My house is difficult to find, so I’ll put 10 large balloons on my mailbox on the day of the party. That should do the trick.

                                                                                                                                        • I’ll say! — Yes, definitely!

                                                                                                                                          Example
                                                                                                                                          “Did you enjoy the Madonna concert?” — “I’ll say!
                                                                                                                                          “Your sister must’ve been very happy after winning $50,000 in the lottery.” — “I’ll say!

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