Apr 4, 2016

Speak English like an American (idiomatic expressions for LESSONS 16–20)

65 cards
  • LESSON 16
    1. keep someone posted — to provide up-to-date information

      Keep me posted about your plans for the summer. If you’re going to be at your cottage on the lake, I’d love to come visit.
      Good luck selling your house and keep me posted! I’d love to know how much you get for it.

      • your guess is as good as mine — I don’t know; I don’t know any more than you do

        Will we ever find intelligent life on other planets? Your guess is as good as mine.
        Will Ted graduate on time? Your guess is as good as mine!

        • learn the ropes — to learn the basics

          Mark learned the ropes of the restaurant business by working as a cook at Outback Steakhouse.
          David worked at a big law firm for 10 years where he learned the ropes. Now he runs his own law firm.

          • get the hang of something — to learn how to do something; to acquire an effective technique

            Billy had trouble learning how to ride a bike, but after a few months he finally got the hang of it.
            When I went snowboarding for the first time, I kept falling down. But after a while, I got the hang of it.

            • second nature — a behavior that has been practiced for so long, it seems to have been there always

              Karen has been arguing with her husband every day for the past 20 years, so by now it’s just second nature.
              With practice, riding a unicycle becomes second nature.

              • pain in the neck — an annoyance

                Yesterday I had to stay home all day and wait for the repairman. What a pain in the neck!
                Alice wants me to drive her to the airport early tomorrow morning. That’s going to be a pain in the neck!

                • round up — to gather people together

                  The town rounded up 200 volunteers to search for the hiker, who was lost in the woods of Yosemite National Park.
                  Let’s round up some volunteers to help bake cookies and pies for the bake sale.

                  • at first — in the beginning

                    Nicole didn’t like Don Quixote at first, but after 200 pages she started to get into it.
                    Don’t get discouraged if you don’t succeed at first. The important thing is that you keep on trying!

                    • to tell you the truth — to speak openly; to admit

                      To tell you the truth, Ted isn’t a very good student.
                      To tell you the truth, I didn’t even want to attend Katie’s wedding. But I knew she’d be offended if I didn’t go.

                      • piece of cake — very easy

                        Nicole finished her physics test in just 25 minutes. It was a piece of cake.
                        The driving test is a piece of cake. Don’t worry about it.

                        Synonym: easy as pie. — You should have no trouble passing the driving test. It’s as easy as pie.

                        • in any case — whatever the fact is; certainly

                          We can either go to the new Star Wars movie or see a play tonight. In any case, you’ll need to be at my house by six o’clock.
                          You’ll probably be too tired on Sunday to come over. In any case, give me a call in the morning to discuss.

                          • in person — personally; in one’s physical presence

                            Tim hoped that he and Svetlana would get along as well in person as they did over the Internet.
                            After hearing so much about Donna’s boyfriend, I’m looking forward to meeting him in person.

                            • give someone a ring — to telephone someone

                              Give me a ring tomorrow so we can discuss plans for this weekend.
                              If you’re free on Saturday, give me a ring and we can go to the movies.

                              Synonym: to give someone a buzz (slang)

                            • LESSON 17
                              1. sell like hotcakes — to sell fast; to be a popular item

                                Those new Fubu blue jeans are selling like hotcakes. All the girls love them.
                                Stephen King’s new novel is selling like hotcakes.

                                • sold out — completely sold

                                  Becky was really disappointed when she found out that the Britney Spears concert was sold out.
                                  Susan’s cookies were very popular at the bake sale. In fact, they sold out in just 20 minutes!

                                  • blow it — to spoil an opportunity

                                    The actress got nervous and forgot all of her lines. She really blew it!
                                    I’ll give you one more chance, but don’t blow it this time!

                                    Synonym: to screw up (slang) — I can’t believe you screwed up during the interview by asking for six weeks of vacation before you even got the job offer!

                                    • be sitting pretty — in a good position (often financially)

                                      After Chad won the lottery, he was really sitting pretty. He quit his job and bought a mansion in Malibu, California.
                                      Gina was one of the first people to work at Amazon.com, and she made millions on her stock options. Now she’s sitting pretty.

                                      • chitchat — casual conversation; gossip

                                        Peter told Heather to stop the chitchat and get back to work.
                                        Okay, enough chitchat! Let’s start discussing this week’s reading assignment.

                                        Synonym: to shoot the breeze
                                        Note: Chitchat can also be a verb. — Amber and Ted were chitchatting all night long.

                                        • right away — immediately

                                          When Meg realized her house was on fire, she called the fire department right away.
                                          You need some sugar for your cookies? I’ll bring some over right away.

                                          • take off — to become popular; to grow suddenly

                                            Julia Roberts’ career took off with the film “Pretty Woman.”

                                            Note: “Take off” has several other meanings:
                                            1. to remove. — Please take off your shoes before coming inside our apartment. We just vacuumed this morning.
                                            2. to leave. — We’re taking off now. See you later!
                                            3. to deduct. — The waiter forgot to bring us drinks, so he took $10 off the bill.
                                            4. to leave the ground. — The airplane took off on time.

                                            • rest assured — be sure

                                              Rest assured that the police will find the thieves.
                                              Rest assured I’ll take good care of your dog while you’re on vacation.

                                              • do one’s best — to try as hard as possible

                                                Although Ted did his best, he still failed his chemistry test.
                                                You might not get a perfect score on your history test, but just do your best.

                                                Synonym: to give it one’s all

                                                • burn the midnight oil — to stay up late studying or working

                                                  Michael burned the midnight oil studying for his algebra test.
                                                  The project is due tomorrow and we’re far from finished. We’re going to have to burn the midnight oil tonight.

                                                  • deliver the goods — to meet expectations; to do what’s required

                                                    Peter thought Bob wasn’t delivering the goods, so he fired him.
                                                    I’m depending on you to finish the job on time. I know that you can deliver the goods!

                                                    Synonym: to cut the mustard. — If you can’t cut the mustard here, you’ll have to find a new job.

                                                    • tall order — a task or goal that is difficult to achieve

                                                      It’ll be a tall order to find a new governor as popular as the current one.
                                                      You want me to figure out how to clone your pet rabbit? That’s a tall order!

                                                    • LESSON 18
                                                      1. get the show on the road — to start working; to begin an undertaking

                                                        We can’t afford to waste any more time — let’s get the show on the road!
                                                        Kids, let’s get the show on the road. We don’t want to be late for the movie!

                                                        • lighten up — to stop taking things so seriously

                                                          Lighten up! I’m sure Ted was only joking when he said your guitar playing gave him a headache.
                                                          Don always takes his job so seriously. He needs to lighten up.

                                                          Synonyms: Chill out! (slang); Take it easy!

                                                          • lend a hand — to help

                                                            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.

                                                            • fool around — to waste time, or spend it in a silly way

                                                              If we keep fooling around here, we’ll be late to the restaurant!
                                                              Stop fooling around! You’ve got lots of work to do.

                                                              Note: This expression also can mean to have casual sexual relations. — Steve and Tanya were fooling around in the back seat of the car when a policeman knocked on the window.

                                                              • night owl — a person who enjoys being active late at night

                                                                Sara goes to sleep every night at 3 a.m. She’s a real night owl.
                                                                I never go to bed before midnight. I’m a night owl.

                                                                • help out — to give assistance; to help

                                                                  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

                                                                  • Way to go! — Good work!

                                                                    You won $2,000 in the poetry writing contest? Way to go!
                                                                    That was an interesting article you wrote. Way to go!

                                                                    • big shot — a powerful or important person

                                                                      Martin has become a real big shot in Hollywood. This year he produced several movies.
                                                                      Adam is a big shot in Silicon Valley. He started a very successful software company.

                                                                      Note: This expression can also be used in the negative sense, to mean somebody who thinks they’re very important. — Now that she’s been promoted to vice president, Beth thinks she’s such a big shot!

                                                                      • sell like hotcakes — to sell fast; to be a popular item

                                                                        Those new Fubu blue jeans are selling like hotcakes. All the girls love them.
                                                                        Stephen King’s new novel is selling like hotcakes.

                                                                        • stay up — not to go to bed; to stay awake

                                                                          Ted and Amber stayed up all night talking about cookies.
                                                                          Whenever I stay up late, I regret it the next morning.

                                                                          • Nothing doing! — Not a chance!

                                                                            You want me to buy the Golden Gate Bridge from you for a million bucks? Nothing doing!
                                                                            You want me to write your paper on Catherine the Great? Nothing doing!

                                                                            Synonyms: No way! Not on your life!

                                                                            • get on one’s nerves — to annoy or irritate someone

                                                                              My neighbor’s dog barks all night. It really gets on my nerves.
                                                                              Please stop whistling. It’s getting on my nerves!

                                                                              Synonyms: to get under someone’s skin; to bug someone (slang)

                                                                            • LESSON 19
                                                                              1. put the blame on someone — to name somebody else as responsible for a misdeed or misfortune

                                                                                Mrs. Lopez put the blame on her husband for losing their life savings in the stock market.
                                                                                Don’t put the blame on me that your plants died while you were on vacation. You forgot to tell me to water them!

                                                                                • fair and square — honestly

                                                                                  Did George Bush win the 2000 presidential election fair and square? That depends on whether you ask a Democrat or a Republican!
                                                                                  Tony won the ping pong tournament fair and square.

                                                                                  • give it one’s best shot — to try as hard as one can

                                                                                    Courtney lost the race, but at least she gave it her best shot.
                                                                                    I know you’re nervous about the interview. Just give it your best shot and see what happens.

                                                                                    • give up — to admit defeat; to surrender

                                                                                      Bill gave up golf after realizing he’d never be good at it.
                                                                                      I know you’re 100 points ahead of me, but I still might win the Scrabble game. I’m not giving up yet!

                                                                                      • by a hair — just barely; very narrowly; by a small amount

                                                                                        Larry won the bicycle race by a hair. The second-place winner came in just a second behind him.
                                                                                        Was the tennis ball in or out? I think it was out by a hair. You know the old saying: “When in doubt, call it out!”

                                                                                        • for sure — definitely

                                                                                          This year, Tom Cruise will win an Academy Award for sure.
                                                                                          Mike is the most popular guy in school. If he runs for student body president, he’ll win for sure.

                                                                                          • live with it — to accept a difficult reality

                                                                                            Your boss is an idiot. Live with it.
                                                                                            Your hair will never be straight. Just live with it!

                                                                                            Note: There is also the expression “to learn to live with it,” which means to get used to something annoying or difficult. — Sandra knew that Roger would always throw his dirty clothes on the floor. She’d just have to learn to live with it.

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

                                                                                              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.

                                                                                              • make a fool of oneself — to cause oneself to look stupid

                                                                                                Dan drank too much and then made a fool of himself.
                                                                                                Please stop arguing with me in front of all these people. You’re making a fool of yourself!

                                                                                                • Face it — accept a difficult reality

                                                                                                  Let’s face it, if Ted spent more time studying, he wouldn’t be failing so many of his classes!
                                                                                                  Let’s face it, if you don’t have a college degree, it can be difficult to find a high-paying job.

                                                                                                  • cheer someone up — to make someone happy

                                                                                                    Susan called her friend in the hospital to cheer her up.
                                                                                                    My father has been depressed for weeks now. I don’t know what to do to cheer him up.

                                                                                                    Note: You can tell somebody to “Cheer up!” if they are feeling sad.

                                                                                                    • set the record straight — to correct an inaccurate account

                                                                                                      Ken knew his father was innocent, and he hoped he could set the record straight one day.
                                                                                                      Let me set the record straight. I won the last game.

                                                                                                      • mess up — to make a mistake; to spoil an opportunity

                                                                                                        Amber messed up and put salt instead of sugar in the cookies.
                                                                                                        Ted really messed up on his chemistry test. He got a “D.”

                                                                                                        Synonym: screw up (slang)

                                                                                                        • sure thing — an outcome that is assured

                                                                                                          Gary bet all his money on a horse named Trixie, thinking she was a sure thing.
                                                                                                          Nicole has a good chance of getting accepted to Yale, but it’s still not a sure thing.

                                                                                                          • go wrong — to make a mistake; to go astray; to malfunction; to work incorrectly

                                                                                                            Follow the directions I gave you, and you can’t go wrong.
                                                                                                            Something went wrong with my neighbor’s car alarm system, and the alarm wouldn’t stop ringing all night.

                                                                                                            • Get real — be serious or realistic about what’s going on

                                                                                                              You think you won’t get a speeding ticket when you drive 85 miles per hour? Get real!
                                                                                                              You think you’re going to win $1 million in the lottery? Get real!

                                                                                                            • LESSON 20
                                                                                                              1. sweep something under the rug — to hide something, often a scandal

                                                                                                                “Senator, don’t try to sweep it under the rug. Everybody knows about your affair with the intern.”
                                                                                                                Let’s just sweep this incident under the rug and move on.

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

                                                                                                                  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.

                                                                                                                  • knock oneself out — to work very hard at something (sometimes too hard)

                                                                                                                    Ted knocked himself out getting votes for Nicole, and she didn’t even say thank you.
                                                                                                                    I really knocked myself out getting these free concert tickets for you and your girlfriend. I hope you appreciate it.

                                                                                                                    Note: “Don’t knock yourself out!” means don’t work too hard at something or for someone; it’s not worth it. — Don’t knock yourself out for Jeremy — he won’t appreciate it anyway!

                                                                                                                    • get one’s act together — to get organized; to start operating more effectively

                                                                                                                      If Ted gets his act together now, he might be able to get into a good college.
                                                                                                                      We’d better get our act together. Otherwise, we’re going to miss our flight.

                                                                                                                      • blow things out of proportion — to exaggerate; to make more of something than one should

                                                                                                                        They sent a 12-year-old boy to jail for biting his babysitter? Don’t you think they’re blowing things out of proportion?
                                                                                                                        Sally called the police when her neighbor’s party got too loud. I think that was blowing things out of proportion.

                                                                                                                        Synonym: to make a mountain out of a molehill

                                                                                                                        • as a matter of fact — in fact; actually

                                                                                                                          We need more milk? As a matter of fact, I was just going to ask you to go shopping.
                                                                                                                          This isn’t the first time Andy has gotten in trouble at school. As a matter of fact, just last month he was suspended for an entire week.

                                                                                                                          • one’s heart goes out to someone — to feel sorry for someone

                                                                                                                            My heart goes out to the Richardsons. Their home was destroyed in a fire.
                                                                                                                            Naomi’s heart went out to all the people who lost their jobs when the auto plant shut down.

                                                                                                                            • taken aback — surprised (almost always in a negative sense)

                                                                                                                              Nicole was taken aback when her friend Rosa told her she no longer wanted to hang out with her.
                                                                                                                              I was taken aback when my friend asked me if she could borrow my toothbrush because she forgot hers at home.

                                                                                                                              • get a handle on — to gain an understanding of

                                                                                                                                This new computer program is very difficult. I still haven’t gotten a handle on it.
                                                                                                                                Once you get a handle on how the game works, please explain it to everybody else.

                                                                                                                                • throw the book at someone — to punish or chide severely

                                                                                                                                  When Ted failed his chemistry test the second time, his teacher really threw the book at him.
                                                                                                                                  The judge threw the book at Matt for stealing a football from the store. He’ll be going to jail for six months.

                                                                                                                                  • rant and rave — to talk loudly, often in anger

                                                                                                                                    A customer in the video rental store was ranting and raving that the DVD he rented was broken.
                                                                                                                                    Please stop ranting and raving! Let’s discuss this issue in a calm manner.

                                                                                                                                    • find out — to learn; to discover

                                                                                                                                      Al is calling the theater to find out what time the movie starts.
                                                                                                                                      David had a big party at his house while his parents were away on vacation. Fortunately for him, they never found out.

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