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IDIOMS and EXPRESSIONS DICTIONARY


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IDIOMS & EXPRESSIONS – A


What is the Meaning of the Idiom

to have ANTS IN ONE’S PANTS?

Definition:

to be restless, probably because you are anticipating something

Example:

Let’s pack our things quickly.  The kids have ants in their pants, and they are driving me crazy.  They are anxious to get to their cousins’ place. Remember:  Replace ONE’S with the correct possessive adjective  e.g., my, your, his, her, their, our  

 

 

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What is the Meaning of the Idiom

to COST (or spend) AN ARM AND A LEG?

Definition:

It’s very expensive!

Examples:

1. Buying that new car cost me an arm and a leg.  I won’t be going anywhere for vacation this year.

2. My fitness club membership is costing me an arm and a leg. I am going to look into buying some equipment I can use at home.

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What is the Meaning of the Expression
FAIL TO TAKE INTO ACCOUNT?

Definition:

  • to not consider something along with other things
  • to ignore, or not think about, something because you don’t know it is important

Examples:

1. When we moved from our house to an apartment we failed to take into account how hard it can be to live with neighbours so close.

2. When he did his income tax, he failed to take into account the extra income he had from private jobs. When he got audited, he had to pay a lot of back taxes.

 

 

 

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What is the Meaning of the Expression
PAY ATTENTION?

Definition:

give notice to someone or something

Examples:

1. I’m sorry; I wasn’t really paying attention to what you were saying. What did you ask me?

2. Ask Mom if you can have $20 when she is talking on the phone. She never pays attention to what she is doing when she is on the phone.

3. Okay, everyone! Pay attention! Your teacher will give you some instructions and then you will work in small groups.

 

 

 

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What is the meaning of the expression
RIGHT AWAY?

Definition:

immediately

Example:

1. When we heard the news we went to the hospital right away.

2. Can you come over right away? The dog ran off and I need someone to stay with the baby while I go look for him. (Note: The dog is a male. In English, domestic animals are typically referred to by their gender. i.e., him, her.)

3. A:  This is due tomorrow. Do you have time to look after it?    B:  Yes. I can do it right away.

 

 

 

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What is the Meaning of the Expression
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF?

Definition 1:

To take advantage of someone means to exploit that person, or to treat the person in an unfair way so that you gain something.

Example:

In some countries, taxi drivers take advantage of tourists and charge them a higher rate.

Definition 2:

make good use of the opportunity available to you

Example:

My friends from Mexico came to visit me in Canada. They took advantage of the mountains and snow, and learned to snowboard.

Note:

These two definitions have very different meanings.

The first meaning is negative. The second meaning is positive.

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IDIOMS & EXPRESSIONS – B


What is the Meaning of the English expression
(be/get) USED TO someone or something?

Definition:

Note:  This is the definition for BE USED TO, not for USED TO.

be familiar with something (or someone), through experience, so that it is no longer as difficult, or surprising

Examples:

1. He doesn’t scare me. I am used to big, loud men.

2. I know the traffic is crazy, but I don’t mind driving here. I suppose I am used to it because I grew up here.

3. Before the divorce, she was used to a very high standard of living. Now she has to be careful with her spending.

4. If it is your first winter in Canada, you might think you can’t survive the cold weather. You will, though, get used to it and it becomes easier. Many newcomers to Canada love the snow and enjoy winter activities.

 

 

 

Note:  Many vocabulary words have more than one definition.  This page may not include all the definitions.

 

 

 

What is the Meaning of the Expression
a BIG DEAL?

Definition:

something considered to be important

Examples:

1. Meeting his family for the first time is going to be a big deal.  

2. A: Oh, sorry! I forgot to bring that book you lent me. I wanted to return it to you today.

B. Don’t worry about it. It’s no big deal. I’m not in a hurry for it. You can give it to me next time we see each other.

Note:

Correct:  It is not a big deal.

Correct:  It is no big deal.

Incorrect:  It is no a big deal.

 

 

 

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What is the Meaning of the Idiom

A BIRD IN THE HAND IS WORTH TWO IN THE BUSH?

Definition:

a bird in the hand FB size

Having something that is certain is better than taking a risk for more, or for something better because if you take a chance you might lose everything.

 

Example:

I don’t like my job.  There is another area of work that interests me, but I would need to quit my job, take a 3-month course, and then apply for a new job when I finished the course.

I decided to stay at my current job. I figure a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

 

Apparently, Russians have a similar idiom:  Лучше синица в руках, чем журавль в небе

 

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What is the Meaning of the Idiom
A BITE TO EAT?

Definition:

A bite to eat means something to eat.  It suggests a simple meal, rather than an elaborate formal dinner.

Sometimes this is used with the verb grab. See example 3.

Examples:

1. Let’s have a quick a bite to eat before we leave home so we don’t have to stop somewhere and buy lunch.

2. See the STORY Confessions of a Whiner exampleWe could have a bite to eat before we head back.

3. Summer is a great time to grab a bite to eat at a restaurant patio.

 

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What is the Meaning of the Expression
BACK AND FORTH?

Definition:

  • go between two places (either real or imaginary), over and over
  • go short distances in one direction and then in the opposite direction, over and over again

Examples:

1. The old tire swung back and forth in the gentle breeze.

2. She kept going back and forth between the two job offers, uncertain about which one she wanted to accept.

3. He paced back and forth outside the operating room.

4. Her skirt swung back and forth as she quickly walked down the street.

5. My grandmother has rocked a lot of babies in her life. Now, when she stands, she sways back and forth as though she has a baby in her arms, even when she doesn’t.

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What is the meaning of the expression
BACK AND FORTH?

Definition:

go short distances in one direction and then in the opposite direction, over and over again

Examples:

1. Her father walked nervously back and forth outside her hospital room.

2. I went out to my car and then realized that my sunglasses were in the house. So I ran back into the house to get them. Then, when I got back to my car I realized that I had left my car keys on the table so I had to return to the house again. I wasted almost 10 minutes running back and forth!

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What is the Meaning of the Expression

(on one’s) BUCKET LIST?

Definition:

A bucket list is a list of things you want to do, or hope to do, before you die.

Example:

Most of the things on my bucket list involve traveling. What about you? What’s on your bucket list?

 

This expression comes from the idiom KICK THE BUCKET.   KICK THE BUCKET is an old expression in English but did you know that BUCKET LIST is quite new to the English language? It started with the 2007 movie The Bucket List.

 

 

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What is the Meaning of the Idiom
BURN YOUR BRIDGES?

 

Definition:

do something that makes it impossible to return (to a place or state)

Examples:

1. She is very angry with her boss and she plans to quit. I hope she doesn’t say anything stupid and burn her bridges.  There are not a lot of good jobs available and she will need a good reference.

2. He would like to get back together with his old girlfriend, but unfortunately, when they broke up he really burned his bridges. He said some terrible things to her.

 

 

 

 

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What is the Meaning of the Idiom
BURN THE MIDNIGHT OIL?

Definition:

stay awake very late at night because something needs your attention

Examples:

1. I’m so tired. Our baby was sick last night, so I burned the midnight oil in order to take her temperature regularly.

2. You look exhausted. Have you been burning the midnight oil a lot lately?

3. We have to finish this project before Friday. We are going to have to burn the midnight oil for a few nights.

 

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What is the Meaning of the Idiom

to be AS BUSY AS A BEE?

Idiom-BUSY AS A BEEDefinition:

to be very busy; to be occupied with many tasks

Often this means you have produced something tangible (i.e., something that is visible, physical).

Examples:

  • Look at you, Grandma!  You’ve been as busy as a bee this morning!  You baked cookies, and cupcakes, and a cake!
  • Julie has been as busy as a bee getting her things ready for kindergarten.

 

 

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What is the meaning of the expression
BY ONESELF?

Definition:

alone; without another person

Click for more teaching on REFLEXIVE PRONOUNS.

 

Example:

1. I flew home by myself last summer. It was nice to spend time with my parents without having to look after my children.

2. Her four-year-old is very proud. He recently learned how to tie up his shoes by himself.

3. Thanks for offering to help, but it is probably easier if it do it by myself.

 

 

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What is the Meaning of the Expression
to NOT BELIEVE one’s EYES (or EARS)?

This expression can take several forms, such as:

I DON’T BELIEVE MY EYES (or EARS)

I CAN’T BELIEVE MY EYES (or EARS)

I COULDN’T BELIEVE MY EYES (or EARS)

Note:  When you change the subject, remember to change the possessive adjective to match.

He couldn’t believe his eyes. / She couldn’t believe her ears.

 

Definition:

to be amazed, or shocked, by what you see

This can be used for either positive or a negative experiences.

Example:

He couldn’t believe his eyes.  He was witnessing a robbery.

 

 

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What is the Meaning of the Expression

DRAW BLOOD?

Definition:

to cause someone to bleed, or (medically) to extract blood from someone

Examples:

1. He bit my arm so hard, he drew blood.

2. This lab tech is so good at drawing blood you won’t even feel the needle go in.

present –DRAW
present participle – DRAWING
past –DREW
past participle –DRAWN

 

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What is the Meaning of the Idiom
EAT LIKE A BIRD?

Definition:

to eat very little

Examples:

  • I am worried about my grandmother. She eats like a bird. I worry that she isn’t getting enough nutrition.
  • If Josh goes out with a girl and she eats like a bird, he won’t ask her out again. He says it is an indication that she is artificial and pretentious*.  He likes a girl who is honest enough to eat a full meal on a date.

 

*pretentious:  attempting to make others think you are someone better than what is true or honest

Important Cultural Tips

In western cultures (such as Canada), the following table manners are important:

  • chew with your mouth closed (do not let others see the chewed food in your mouth);
  • chew and drink quietly;
  • do not talk with food in your mouth;
  • do not drink from a soup bowl; and
  • absolutely no burping.

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What is the Meaning of the Expression
one’s FLESH AND BLOOD?

Definition:

part of your family; a near relative

This is often used to emphasize that someone is related to you by birth, and that your connection to that person is, or ought to be strong.

Note:

Replace one’s with a possessive adjective that fits your meaning (e.g., my, your, his, her, our, their)

Example:

His brother, his own flesh and blood, didn’t even come to his funeral.

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