When I work with people to uplevel their English communication, they often tell me that idioms are a challenging area. Not only to understand when English-speaking people use them in conversation, but also how to use them yourself to help your English sound more natural.
Each language has its own unique idioms & they’re an important part of how we communicate. We like to use expressions that paint pictures & surprising images, which create impact & are memorable.
They can be tricky though because the imagery of the idiom in English may be different from your own language, or the expression not even exist.
Here in the UK, we especially love our idioms. According to Professor Jenkins, chair of Global Englishes at the University of Southampton, speakers of English as a first language may not be that good at adapting their speech for international people, so their language isn’t always simple & clear.
In these current times, I think idioms about staying positive are particularly helpful, so here are my top ones explained & how to use them. If I’ve missed any you want to know about, then let me know & happy to answer any questions!
Keep your chin up.
Meaning = stay positive despite challenging situations or when you’re feeling down.
Example = Even though the news isn’t very good at the moment, it’s important to try & keep your chin up and focus on the positive news of the vaccination rolling out.
There is light at the end of the tunnel/ The end is in sight.
Meaning = You may have been experiencing some difficulties, but you can finally see that they’re going to end soon & happier times are coming up.
Example = The project has had some delays & issues, but now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Example = The project has had some delays & issues, but now the end is in sight.
Hang on in there.
Meaning = Said to somebody to encourage them to keep going & not give up.
Example = I know this isn’t your ideal job role, but I think you should hang on in there & see if it improves in the next few months.
Look on the bright side.
Meaning = Look at the positive side of your current situation & be grateful for it, even if there initially doesn’t appear to be anything positive.
Example = I know you don’t like working with Harry, but look on the bright side, at least it’s only temporary & he’s finishing on the project in March.
Every cloud has a silver lining.
Meaning = Even the most negative of situations may have an unexpected positive outcome. Just like the sun is always there behind the clouds.
Example = When Sheila’s landlord decided to sell the flat & she had to move home, it was a real hassle. But every cloud has a silver lining & she’s now found a bigger flat in a nicer area.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
Meaning = You have to make the most of difficult situations & make a decision to take an action which could bring you a positive result from it.
Example = When Nigel was made redundant, he wasn’t sure what he was going to do next, but he took the opportunity to set up his own business, which he had been thinking about for years. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
When one door closes, another one opens.
Meaning = it might appear that you’re in a negative situation, but completing that stage of your life makes room for new opportunities.
Example = Claire had been at that company for ages so when she finally left, it meant she had time to build up her network again & that’s when the new role came up in Australia.
Hope you have found these idioms useful! Why not try one or two of them out next time you have a conversation in English! Let me know how you get on.
If understanding English idioms is helpful to your business conversations, find out about my Business English coaching.
Victoria Rennoldson, Founder of Perfect Cuppa English
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