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English Idioms and Proverbs - For Learners Only

My dear friends! I managed to get sick and to lose my voice a few days ago. So, if I can't teach either my students or my band, I decided to teach you some American and British sayings, idioms and proverbs. My idea is the following. First, I will post a few expressions with the examples asking you to explain what they mean. I'd like to say there are so many English idioms that you can't know them all! So, the idea of speaking/listening any foreign language well is to be able to understand the general meaning of the phrase or episode. So, I will answer each reply trying to lead you all to the true meaning of each expression. If no one succeeds, I will tell you what it means, OK? So, let's start with a few expressions and see if you like it or not.

1.  to have many irons in the fire.

I prefer not to have many irons in the fire to be rather successful in what I try to do.

2.  to beat about/around the bush.

Instead of beating around the bush, he came straight to the point.

How long are you going to beat around the bush? Will you answer my question at last?

3. to take a grip on oneself.

She was very upset but she took a grip on herself.

When she was told her husband had been killed, she felt such despair and grief she couldn't do anything. But she realized she had to arrange his funeral and she took a grip on herself and started taking care of it.

4. to be taken aback.

He said something that made her be taken aback.

She didn't expect him to confess to love and when he did it, she was taken aback and didn't know what to say.

5. A proverb "Deep will call to deep".

It is not strange you like him. Deep always call to deep!

You are looking for the friends who are like you. Well, deep will call to deep!

Train your gray cells! Enjoy this challenge! And I would ask the native speakers not to tell the meanings of the idioms, OK? It is for learners to guess!

Well, guys! As I see some of you like thinking and experiencing, I will add a few more idioms. But I would ask you not to use  dictionaries. If you look up the meanings, this discussion will be almost senseless. The idea is to guess, OK?

1. to look up to.

He/she is a person everyone looks up to. (I'd like to say that the meaning may be different).

Some political leadres, scientists, public people and others did so much that we will always look up to them.

2. between the devil and the deep sea.

It seems that all peacemakers are destined to get between the devil and the deep sea.

Being a married man he had a lover and he was always between the devil and the deep sea.

3. to be cut out for.

He seems not to be cut out for this position.

Some people are cut out for being teachers.

4. to have what it takes.

Because my lawyer didn't have what it takes, he lost my case.

I think you have what it takes to work this job.

5. A proverb. Diamond cut diamond.

You might have been  wrong persisting in your opinion, but I realize that diamond cut diamond!

They couldn't arrange a settlement with each other for a long time as diamomd cut diamond.

6. As it is the first day of spring, I'd like to ask you the question. What do you think Americans mean saying "Do you have a gun in your pocket or you are just glad to see me?" when they see their smiling soul-mates? It is not an idiom, but try to guess its meaning, OK?

Good luck!

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Tags: idioms, proverbs

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Comment by Danny Clark on March 18, 2016 at 11:16

Thank you, Elen! You succeeded at last and should be proud of yourself!

Comment by Elen on March 16, 2016 at 17:51

Yes :)) And I would find it earlier if I was more focus in your examples :)

Comment by Danny Clark on March 15, 2016 at 9:46

Dear Elen! Yes, yes, yes!!!! You've guessed it! It  means "to admire and/or to respect". Do you see power of logic now? (Smile!)

Comment by Elen on March 14, 2016 at 18:11

To look up to means to have some persons "very high in your eyes". I mean to have very much appreciation towards them. I think i understood it now.

Comment by Danny Clark on March 12, 2016 at 11:15

Dear Elen! Now No2 is exactly what it means. I'd like to add there may be not only two people, but also two hostile sides, feuding parties, etc.

4 and 5 are also right.

As to No1, I really wonder you can't guess it. It is the easiest of all the rest. So, let me ask you a prompting question. Can you describe your positive feelings to different outstanding people: artists, scholars, political leaders? Sure, your feelings may be different, but I mean only positive. If you are not able to guess this time, I will tell you its meaning. I have no idea to torment anyone here. I'd just like to show you all the strength of logic and to explain how to use it in learning foreign languages.

Thank you very much for taking part and being interested!

Comment by Elen on March 11, 2016 at 21:19

Dear Danny, i just found time to come and think again.

I am sorry but i can't find the meaning of No 1.

No 2, ok i make a last try but if it is wrong please tell me the right meaning. So, if i understand well from your example, being between the devil and the deep sea means that you are between two persons who don't get well each other and they shoot responsibilities to you and make you feel guilty?

No 4, maybe i should say, to have what it needs. Sounds more right now?

No 5, oh my God! I really wanted to say "get along with each other" but i wasn't sure if we say it like this. So i chose other words. What a pity :) I used it above anyway :)

Thanks for encouraging me Danny, some idioms are easy and some others are difficult but once someone explain them you can understand and remember them.

Comment by Danny Clark on March 10, 2016 at 11:42

Dear Setareh! Now, you are almost right. 

About No 2. It would be right if your boyfriend and your father quarreled all the time and you were always guilty. Got it?

No 4 means to have all necessary skills and qualification for working some job or doing something.

No 5 may mean what you say but it may also mean that people with stong characters can hardly get along.

Thank you!

Comment by setareh on March 9, 2016 at 19:05

For no 2: My father doesn't like my new boy friend, so I was between the devil and the deep sea. We can use this proverb when we are just stuck between two things that we like both but we kind of have to choose one, right?

If a special job needs some specific skills; we should gain those skills and then we can have the job.

for no 5: for example a calm and kind person can not stop an angry man in an argument only an angry man can stop him:D right?

sorry for my belated reply. Thanks for your explanations. 

Comment by Danny Clark on March 6, 2016 at 11:12

Dear Elen! So glad to hear from you as usual! Now you are right about "to be taken aback". It means "to be taken by surprise".

And now about the others.

I wonder you can't find any explanation of No 1. It is so easy to understand! I'll try to give you a hint. If you want to examine the cealing in your room or something on the top of a building or a tree, you look up. This phrasal verb means that a person you look up to is "higher" than you, but I don't mean his/her stature. Will you be able to guess it now? Will you try again, please?

As to No 2, it may be used in the situation you mean, but it may also be used in the following situation. Imagine that a married man has a mother and his mom and wife are always at war with each other. But he loves them both and takes his  lumps from both. He is always guilty whatever he does although he tries to make peace. Is it clearer now? I will also tell you that the Russian analog of this proverb is :"to be between two fires".

About No 4. You might have meant the right meaning but you said "to have what you need". Such explanation is wrong. You see, I need enough money to live, I need clothing, a car, etc. If you meant the right meaning you should have choosen other words to explain it.

As to No5, you are close to the piont, but it means it's hard for them to get along with each other (one more idiom), to agree, to make a compromise

Thank you very much for your interest to this discussion. When you learn or speak/write any foreign language and if your level is even fluent, you always make some mistakes. I speak rather good French and I lived in Paris working there for some time but I sometimes come across such expressions or idioms I have no idea about. It is natural as any person can't know everything. And, living our liives we learn from our mistakes, at least, we are supposed to do it. So, everything is OK! I am going to post 5 more expressions today for you all to have something to think about! Ha-ha-ha!

Have a great Sunday!

Comment by Elen on March 5, 2016 at 18:07

Ohhh yes yes now it is clear, finally!! To be taken aback: To be surprised.

Now the others:
1. Really i couldn't find it.

2. As much as i thought i ended up in the same thing. I can't think anything than being between the devil and the deep sea means that you are in a hard situation where you don't have any other choice. You are between the devil and the deep sea. In my country we say: In front of you the cliff and in back of you the stream.

3. You already told the meaning, thanks :)

4. To have all necessary qualifications. Isn't it the same with No 4??

5. Two people who have same strong and bad character and they can't coexist together?

Thank you Danny for the more explanations and examples but i still find them difficult... I am sure that i have done mistakes...

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