Adult Speaking Class, Level 3 / IELTS: English expressions

25th August 2020

A database of common UK & USA expressions, phrases and idioms for students who want to learn more, in order to increase their command of and respect for the English language. I have provided my IELTS students with half a dozen (a dozen = 12, therefore half a dozen = 6. Having said that, a ‘baker’s dozen’ = 13 … welcome to English !) idioms, but this blog is aimed at students who are willing to go above the barest minimum.

We kick off (start) with expressions and idioms, as they are tremendous fun, then move on to collocations. How words fit together is a powerful tool in learning English … huge chunks of texts suddenly group themselves into small word blocks, enabling you to predict what will be said (especially useful in listening exercises).

Finally, we wrap up with some negotiation phrases. In the next blog, I’ll give you a chance to use these in sentences, but for now, familiarise yourself with a handful of new expressions … it could be right up your street.

Alice Sara Ott - It was a very emotional and intimate... | Facebook
Alice Sara Ott – German-Japanese pianist. I recommended her to a musician friend and he said it was right up his street.

Expressions / idioms

Ring any bells ? // do you remember //

More or less // not exactly but approximately

Get the gist // do you understand the main point ?

Right up your street // this is something you will really like

Rabbiting on // UK slang, especially in London … talking too much

Piece of cake // no problem, very easy, sure

Tongue in cheek // not being serious about something

Tongue in Cheek: Idiom Meaning - English Expression Videos - YouTube
“I think Donald Trump is the greatest US President …” Do you think President Obama would say this and be serious ?

Keep your hand in // to practise something so you don’t forget how it’s done

Bucket down / raining cats and dogs // raining very heavily

Have a go / give it a bash / give it a shot // to try something

Call it a day // to stop work and go home early

Go ahead // sure, do it

Under one roof // everything in one place

Through thick and thin // together in good times and bad times.

Through Thick and Thin (2015)

To spill the beans // to tell a secret, or to share some private information

I should cocoa // UK slang, old-fashioned = I really don’t believe it or you

kick-off // A sports expression from football – means to start

tied up / snowed under / rushed off our feet / flat out / up to my eyes // very busy

daylight robbery // much too expensive, very over-priced.

on your bike // go away !

Norman Tebbit's dad getting on his bike, looking for work until he ...

to throw a wobbly // to become angry and shout and curse

Bang up to date // totally modern and new or completed all your work on schedule

otherwise engaged // busy – a polite way of saying ‘go away’

I know where you’re coming from // I understand what you are saying and how you think

to get hold of someone // try to make contact with someone by phone, in person, email etc

speak of the Devil // to talk about something and then they appear

to be into something // to really enjoy or like something or someone

to put something over someone / to pull the pull over someone’s eyes // try to trick or cheat someone

There’ll be Hell to pay // you will be in BIG trouble !

Hell breaks loose // people will be very angry and upset

I’ll give you a bell / a shout // I will call you on the phone

Knock off / to finish work

knock it off // stop doing that !

That’s proper loud // UK slang ‘proper’ meaning very – that’s very loud

Well chuffed // extremely happy

come again ? / You what ? // UK slang for say it again, please

What do you reckon ? // What do you think of something ?

Collocations

To run a business

To conduct / carry out a survey

Can I have a word with you / a quick word

Do you have minute ?

Voting with their feet

Can I put you on hold ? / to be put on hold / Hold the line

A victory for common sense

I’m none the wiser

On the button / on the money

get the hang of it

scraping the barrel

Scraping The Barrel Cartoons and Comics - funny pictures from ...

Negotiation Language

Negotiation Table Stock Photos And Images - 123RF

I fail to see the relevance

I don’t see how that applies

That’s as maybe

I don’t get/see your point / I think you are missing the point

I don’t see where you’re going with this

I beg to differ

I appreciate that

You raise an interesting point

Having said that

Interesting that you say that

I think / feel that

In my opinion

I take issue with that

I don’t know about that

Adult Speaking Class, Level 3: New Slang (when you notice the stripes). Idioms & expressions

15th July 2020

I recreated the shirt from the New Slang music video : TheShins
The US band The Shins with their song ‘New Slang’

Notes, new idioms & slang

Why the long face ? Someone looks miserable or unhappy.

She can talk the hind legs off a donkey ! Talking non-stop !

The tip of the iceberg.

The Unusual Meaning and Origin of the Idiom 'Tip of the Iceberg ...

Piece of cake No problem, easy, no trouble

Same thing, day in, day out everyday is exactly the same, very boring.

On the lookout looking for something

Cooking the books cheating with the company accounts. Writing false information.

Insurance Company Broker Caught Cooking the Books - Workers ...
Pros and Cons of Utlizing a Traditional Grading Scale

A bright spark someone who is very clever

You’re pulling my leg ! joking but pretending to be serious.

The boot’s on the other foot the situation has changed.

You can’t miss it you will certainly recognise it when you see it, when you are there.

Big time ! (US modern popular culture) Absolutely, totally, very, very much

Brass monkeys it’s extremely, painfully cold

Once in a blue moon something that happens extremely rarely

Bob’s your uncle there you are ! No problem, all fixed ! (UK slang)

Now … your turn

Practice using these saying in everyday conversations … answers, as per usual, at the end of the blog.

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1) I love the beach. but I rarely go, just ……………………………….

2) If you’re late for class again, the teacher will be furious …….

3) You look so sad ……………………… ?

4) I’m freezing ! It’s ……………………. in here

5) Seriously ? You can marry three wives in UK ? No, you’re ……..

6) Oh, my job is so tedious, …………………………

7) She wouldn’t shut up ! She ….

8) It’s no problem; I’ll clean your laptop, remove the virsus and Trojans and ………

9) I used to earn more than my wife but she got a big promotion, so now …………. She earns more than me !

10) I need a new pair of shoes. I’m ………………… for some high quality Italian leather.

11) The accountant was sacked. He was ……… but that was not all ! That’s just the …………………… He was also stealing computers and selling them.

12) This lesson was a ………………… for me because I’m such a ……………….

13) I didn’t use ‘you can’t miss it.’ Write your own sentence.

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Answers

1) once in a blue moon

2) big time

3) why the long face ?

4) brass monkeys

5) pulling my leg

6) Same thing, day in, day out

7) can/could talk the hind legs off a donkey.

8) Bob’s your uncle

9) the boot’s on the other foot.

10) on the lookout

11) cooking the books / tip of the iceberg

12) piece of cake / bright spark

Well, if you’re such a bright spark, write you own sentences and test your partner.

BONUS: what expressions can you hear in this song ?

NOTE TO TEACHERS; IF POSSIBLE, TURN OFF THE OVERHEAD SO STUDENTS CAN’T SEE THE SONG TITLE.

Ms Nanci Griffith: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmvyBTXuRQw

Phrasal verbs and collocations: The next level. Dialogue practice

15th June 2020

General English - Shakespeare | British Council

This level of English is for students who live, or plan to live, in English-speaking countries.

I advise my students to learn Standard English, as that will help them to communicate with other non-native speakers. Clarity in both pronunciation and meaning is paramount (of most importance).

However, that is NOT how everyday people speak in everyday situations. Therefore, here’s a set of examples and new vocabulary that you will need. Furthermore, you will feel more confident, using the language and vernacular of those around you.

Dialogue practice

phrasal verbs / collocations / idioms / adverbs

vocabulary:

fond – to like something.

more than likely = very probably, about 90% sure. 

sip – to drink a very little.

rival – competitors 

Two friends are athletes meet each other Stock Video Footage ...

A: Hi, how’s it going with you ?

B: It’s going incredibly well today. I want to celebrate. Fancy a beer ?

A: I’m not so fond of beer, I prefer coffee. How does that sound ?

B: Brilliant ! Highlands or Coffee bean ? Which one ? I can’t make up my mind.

A: Is Highlands far ? They are Vietnamese, a rival to the American company.

B: It’s quite far. We ‘ll have to take a taxi. More than likely it will rain.

A: Let’s get a move on before it rains cats and dogs. 

B: Too right ! We’ll have to give up getting a taxi once it rains. Let’s go !

At the coffee shop

Juan Ferrer on Twitter: "Iggy Pop and Tom Waits. Coffee and ...

A: Watch out! The coffee’s incredibly hot. Just sip it. What are you up to now ?

B: Just texting the office. They seem rather busy. 

A: You should take a break. Tell them to just do their best.

B: Hold your horses… there ! Finished. Piece of cake.

A: You want some cake ?

B: No, hahaha. ‘Piece of cake’… means no problem. Having said that …

A: Right ! The cakes look amazingly tasty. Shall we … ?

They buy two gloriously large cakes

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A: Let’s dive in ! Wow … I must admit, this is remarkably good. How’s yours ?

B: I think it’s too big for me. Let me try some … oh, blimey, that’s awful !

A: Yes, afterwards, we’ll need to work out. 

B: A minute on the lips, a lifetime on the hips !

A: Do you have a minute ? I’d like to go over something with you.

B: Sure, what’s on your mind ?

A: Which video do you think is better for the students ? We need to inspire them.

B: This one looks good … oh, hold on … the vocabulary is very difficult … good !

NOW … YOUR TURN

Write a short dialogue scene about planning a holiday

1: Have you decided where to go on holiday ?

2: No, I haven’t made up my mind yet.

1: Well, have you thought about …

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Two friends talking in Nigeria

Phrasal verbs and idioms: Dialogue practice

15th June 2020

Continuing the series of short dialogues, to help students see how idiomatic language can be used in everyday conversation.

Depending on the students’ motivation, these scenes can be acted out, which is generally more fun than simply learning from text books.

I have included many expressions and idioms – ask your teacher for the meaning or look up the answer online.

To warm up, elicit some collocations with ‘take’ and ‘make’ then ask the students to listen out for which ones are featured.

Two asian muslim woman standing and talking in the office with a ...

Dialogue: Bear with me

To practise simple past/ past continuous and collocations with ‘make’and ‘take’.

A: How’s it going ? You look busy.

B: Sorry, can you bear with me a moment ? I just need to finish off this report. Take a seat.

A: Sure, take your time. I was making plans with John last night.

B: Really ? What did you decide to do ?

A: We couldn’t make up our minds. I wanted to go to the cinema, he wanted to stay home.

B: There ! All finished. Now I’m going to take a break.

A: Good for you ! 

Two asian business women having a meeting with laptop in modern ...

A: Did you go out ?

B: We were leaving when it began to rain cats and dogs. Also, the traffic was chockablock.

A: So what happened ?

B: We stayed in and ordered take out. We tried English food.

A: Was it delicious ?

B: It was OK, nothing special. The menu was in English … I couldn’t make it out.

A: You should have taken a photo of the food.

Top 10 famous English foods - By food author Howard Hillman
Traditional British food – fish and chips
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Fika – coffee and cakes in Sweden

A: I was thinking about ordering some food. Have you had lunch ?

B: No, I’m starving … I could eat a horse.

A: Let’s go eat. After, we can check out the stores. I’m on the lookout for a pair of trainers.

B: OK, I’ll take my break now. We can take a taxi to SaiGon Centre.

A: Super ! So many shops … but I won’t be able to make up my mind.

B: I’ll help you – piece of cake.

Saigon Centre Tower 1 - The Executive Centre

Idioms Part 3: All above board, nothing under the table.

4th June 2020

Time to put your money where your mouth is !

We’ve had two previous posts chockablock with idioms. Now, when push comes to shove, can you use them in your everyday English. Remember, those studying for IELTS will get extra points by demonstrating a knowledge of idiomatic language … so pull your finger out and put your nose to the grindstone.

This is an extended dialogue sequence. Practice the idioms and intonation and stress. You may wish to try short sections first, before attempting the whole exercise.

Hello, how’s your day been ?

Oh, so-so. And you ? Did you finish off the reports ?

Yes, more or less. 

You better make sure they’re finished. You know what the Director’s like.

I know. If things aren’t done, all hell breaks loose !

Better keep on his good side. What else do you need to do ?

File some invoices, send off some emails and I need to get hold of Anna in HR.

I think she’s off sick today. 

That’s a pity. Did you finish the wages ?

Yes, piece of cake ! Now I’m going through all the bank statements for the last quarter.

Not cooking the books I hope. Are we still going out tonight ?

Oh, sorry, I can’t know. Something’s come up.

What ? I thought you wanted to see the film. Johnny Depp’s in it.

I know, but I have to work late. Why don’t you ask the Director ? He’s really into cinema.

I don’t think so !

Why not ? He’s such a charming man.

Well, I beg to differ. He’s an old windbag and he drinks like a fish !

Johnny Depp Is Face of Christian Dior Parfums | Hollywood Reporter
Mr Johnny Depp
46 Best Plays - Comedy images in 2018
My manager drinks like a fish
The Smiths - This Charming Man (Acoustic Version) - YouTube
A charming man
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Writing false numbers – cooking the books
Are men really talking too much? We've done the maths | Stuff.co.nz
Talk, talk, talk … what an old windbag !

Idioms: a piece of cake

1st June 2020

New expressions for working life

Office Etiquette 101 | Kamdora
I’ll be with you in just a tic … bear with me

I start my speaking classes by explaining that I do not teach English, but Englishes; how the same sentences can be pronounced in Standard English, or in my London accent, in my east London accent, in my (attempt at an) American accent etc …

For those working towards an IELTS qualification, these distinctions are point-earners. Similarly, a knowledge of idiomatic English is so beneficial, not just for boosting scores, but for making students feel they are learning real English; this is how people REALLY speak.

Have a gander at this

(This is London slang meaning take a look at this):

11 of the UK's best farmers' markets ~ Rosemary and Pork Belly

You telling me they’re chattin’ away in Standard English ? Pull the other one.

(Are you trying to make me believe that the people are talking in Standard Queen’s English ? I don’t believe you).

English, as you can see and hear, is a multifaceted language, and I see so many problems in listening exercises, due to speed of speech, accents and unknown words or phrases. So let’s tackle idioms – expressions you will hear everyday, from street markets to politicians being interviewed on the news.

Let’s kick off (start) with some common idioms and expressions:

bear with me = please wait a short time

seems to me = I think, I believe but I can not be certain

do you follow ? = do you understand ?

hold the line = please wait on the phone a very short time

I’ll get back to you = I’ll reply to you as soon as possible (ASAP)

the day after tomorrow = in two day’s time

hit the ground running = to start work at a fast pace immediately

24 / 7 = all day, every day 

Now … practice: What idiom or expression ?

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“6 – 3 = 6 ……. ?”

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“I’m exhausted, I’ve been working …”

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“No, I’m busy tomorrow, how about … ?”

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“Let’s all work with energy and be successful. I want us to … !”

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I’ll see if the manager is in …

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“Well, I’m not sure of the answer, let me … “

Work in pairs – try to make sentences using these new idioms.

Japanese High School Girls Stock Video Footage - 4K and HD Video ...
PRACTICE TIME


Idioms – A random selection. Which do you know ? Which can you use in a sentence ?

same old, same old = same thing everyday, as always

stuck in a rut = no progress or change at all. Doing the same thing in life

raining cats and dogs = extremely heavy rain

chockablock = too busy to move – traffic

cooking the books = cheating with the accounts

cost an arm and a leg + very expensive

straight up  = serious, not joking

pulling my leg  = joking with me

learning the ropes = learning what the job involves

snowed under = very busy

let’s call it a day = we can finish work now

can you run that by me again ? = please repeat.

Team game

Teams ask each which idiom fits for:

Time to finish work // Bad weather // Stuck in traffic // Too much work

The accountant was writing false information // I am new at a job // iPhone 11 is not cheap // Sorry, can you explain again //

Everyday same thing // I must change jobs //

Are you joking with me ? // No, I am honest.

Aussie traveler is VERY honest about how he will spend two weeks ...

“You can believe me, mate !”