Teaching EFL – Idioms Part 4

Idioms: Laugh

In a recent report on the UK fishing quotas, it was claimed that if proposed changes were implemented, foreign-based multi-nationals would be laughing all the way to the bank, in other words making a lot of money very easily.

To be laughing means to be in a very good situation, especially as a result of something you have received, as in ‘If this deal goes through, we’ll be laughing‘. On the other hand, if you don’t know whether to laugh or cry, you feel confused and uncertain about what to do when something bad has just happened, and when other people fail to treat something seriously enough, you can tell them that it is no laughing matter.

If a person is always good for a laugh, they are fun to be with, and if something is a good laugh, it is an activity, situation or experience that is fun. However, if you say that someone is not exactly a laugh a minute, you mean that you think that the person is not funny or enjoyable at all and may be very serious or boring, as in ‘I’m not looking forward to spending six hours on the train with him. He’s not exactly a laugh a minute, is he?’

If you have the last laugh, you end up being more successful than someone who did something bad to you, especially if they laughed when you failed before, as in ‘United thought they’d got the three points but Cityhad the last laugh with two goals in injury time’.


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Idioms: Love

A scientific study carried out in 2004 claimed to prove that love at first sight is a true phenomenon and that many people decide what kind of relationship they want within minutes of meeting someone. Apparently, in some cases, it can only take a few seconds for a person to decide that someone is going to be the love of their life.

One wonders whether this feeling will last, whether love will blossom (continue to grow) and whether people who meet in these circumstances will remain madly in love or head over heels in love for long periods of time. Perhaps they have a love nest where they can conduct a love affair, although this will clearly mean that they are not married, at least to each other. Sometimes such affairs are conducted in public and it can be embarrassing for other people to watch lovebirds who are all lovey-dovey (excessively and demonstrably affectionate) in public.

Occasionally a third person may be involved and a love triangle may develop, which may end in tears for all concerned. Years later there may be no love lost between the former lovers (they can’t stand each other). Of course there are many people who would not contemplate an illicit relationship for love nor money (not under any circumstances) and even if they have a love-hate relationship with their partner, they remain together. Shakespeare observed that “the course of true love never did run smooth” and it seems to be the case that people can fall out of love just as quickly as they can fall in love with someone.


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Idioms: Mind

As the human mind is so central to our existence, it is hardly surprising that the word mind is used in a wide range of idioms. You often need to make up your mind (make a decision) and having done so you might change your mind (change your decision). Sometimes you may find it necessary to speak your mind(say exactly what you think even though it might upset someone) or give someone a piece of your mind(tell them exactly what you think, especially when you are angry with them).

Remembering and forgetting are clearly associated with the mind, so we have bear in mind and keep in mind (as in, ‘Thanks, I’ll bear that in mind‘ and ‘Keep that in mind when you come to make your decision’) and slip one’s mind (as in, ‘I meant to invite him but it completely slipped my mind‘).

Sometimes you might have a lot on your mind (be worried about something). In such cases, you might need something to take your mind off it (make you stop thinking or worrying about it). If you stop worrying, you can say that something is a load off your mind, as in ‘Knowing that you’ll be here to help is a load off my mind‘. If you are in two minds about something, you are not sure what to think about it or not sure what decision to make, but if you set your mind on doing something, you are determined to do it. The last thing on your mind is something that is not important enough to worry about, especially when you have more serious problems, as in ‘Cleaning the house is the last thing on my mind at the moment’.



Idioms: Mountain

After their 3-0 defeat in the first leg, they will have a mountain to climb in the second’. If you have amountain to climb, you have a very hard, if not impossible, task to fulfil. If you have a mountain of work to do, this also suggests an arduous task, as in ‘He was buried under a mountain of paperwork’.

To move mountains means to do something so difficult that it seems almost impossible or to make strenuous efforts to achieve something difficult, as in ‘They called on the international community to move mountains to help the flood victims’. If you make a mountain out of a molehill, you treat a minor problem as if it were a really serious problem, as in ‘Some people believe that the so-called swine flu epidemic was a fuss about nothing and that the authorities were making a mountain out of a molehill‘.

If you are on the slippery slope, you are in a situation that is getting worse and will become extremely bad unless it is stopped, as in ‘There is a widespread belief that these policies will put us on the slippery slopeto government control of the internet’.

To be over the hill means to be no longer young and therefore no longer able to do the things you could do in the past, as in ‘At 35, he is regarded by some people as over the hill but he is still capable of doing a good job for the team’. By contrast, if you are at the peak of your powers, you are at the time when you are your most successful, as in ‘Beethoven was 19 and at the peak of his powers when Napoleon’s army occupied Vienna’.


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