Idioms are a very useful and important part of the English language. They present a big challenge for ESL students. The expressions almost never make any sense when translated. This guide aims to assist the ESL student in a practical use of some more common expressions. ESL teachers can also use this to assist their students.
Blow a fuse- This is what happens when an electrical circuit breaks. Then power is lost. We can also say this if someone is very angry.
Example: He really blew a fuse yesterday. I never saw him so mad.
It’s like shooting fish in a barrel– A barrel is another word for a large bucket. If fish are in a bucket with no water, this means they are dead. So it would be very easy to shoot dead fish.
Example: Somebody challenges you to make a very easy basketball shot. You reply with, “It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. “
I’m all ears– This means you are listening so intently that your whole body is like two giant ears. You really want the person to know you are listening.
That cost me an arm and a leg- An arm and a leg is a very high price. It seems like it would cost a very large amount of money. We say this if something is too expensive.
Example: Someone asks you if you are listening, you can say “I’m all ears.”
A Bad Egg– If you buy twelve eggs, they are normally all good. We say this when one person is bad out of the group.
Example: Two of three brothers are doctors. One goes to jail. We can say he is a bad egg.
I got a bone to pick with you– This is normally said if you are mad at somebody.
Example: Your friend picks you up from the doctor’s office. You later tell him “I’ve got a bone to pick with you.”
Opened a whole new can of worms- We say this when a problem comes up after one was just resolved.
Example: You fight with your girlfriend. You think you just made up. Then, she finds a picture of a girl on your cell phone. She replies: “That just opened a whole new can of worms.”
Like a fish out of water-A fish belongs in water. A fish out of water feels out of uncomfortable.
Example: You’re at a party. You see a guy in the corner who nobody wants to talk to. You can say to another friend: “See that guy. He is like a fish out of water.”
I’m going to give you knuckle sandwich-This is my personal favorite. When you go to punch, you make a fist. Your knuckles are the first thing to hit the other person. This means they are going to eat your knuckles like a sandwich. You don’t have to really want to hit the person. It can be a joke.
Example: A father tells his son to go to bed. The boy refuses. The dad tells him, “Boy, I am going to give you a knuckle sandwich.”
What’s your favorite expression?