Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Hi, I'm Vanessa from SpeakEnglishWithVanessa.com. Are you ready to expand your vocabulary? Let's do it. A few months ago I made this video, 50 Important English Phrases, and you loved it. Unfortunately there were a lot of phrases that I didn't include in that lesson. Of course there are more than 50 phrases that are important in English, so good news. Today I'm going to help you to grow your knowledge, expand your vocabulary, and learn 50 more important phrases in English. These phrases are divided into different categories like animals, body, work, transportation, wisdom. This will just help you to categorize them in your mind and help you to remember them, I hope. You are definitely going to hear these when you watch English movies and TV shows and have conversations. We use them all the time. Let's get started with our first category. Our first category are idioms that have to do with animals or animal characteristics. For each of these idioms, I'm going to be telling you the idiom, then giving you a sample sentence. I want you to think about what might this idiom mean in that context, and then I'm going to tell you what the definition is. This is going to test your context skills. Of course, it's just one sentence, it's not a whole conversation, but I hope that this will help you be able to understand these when you hear them in conversation so that you can get the full picture. All right, let's start with the first one. A little bird told me. "A little bird told me it was your birthday. Here's a present." Mmm, this is when you know a secret but you don't want to reveal who told you. So, if you're giving a little present to your friend and your friend thinks that you don't know that it's his birthday, you might say this sentence, "A little bird told me it was your birthday today. Here you go." As the crow flies. "As the crow flies I'm pretty close to the school, but because of lots of one-way streets it takes me a long time to get there." What do you think this means? As the crow flies. A crow is a kind of bird. It's really big and black. There's a lot of crows in my yard and they always make loud caw sounds. Caw, caw, caw. They're always really loud. I'm not sure why they chose this for this idiom, but this means that if you take the straightest distance, not accounting for one-way streets, just a straight distance, as the crow flies, "I'm not that far from my school, but because of one-way streets it takes me forever to get there." To kill two birds with one stone. "I wanted to bake cookies with my son and I needed to make another English lesson for you here on YouTube, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone, and I did both." Have you seen the lesson where I baked cookies, chocolate chip cookies, with my three-year-old son? You can watch this up here. It is a delight. It was delightful to film that with him and to eat cookies together. What do you think this idiom means? Hmm. It means that you're getting two things done at the same time. You're saving time and you're being efficient. Curiosity killed the cat. Well, it's getting close to Christmas time here in the US, and if a package arrives at our door and my son says, "Hey, I see we got a package," I might say, "Hey, curiosity killed the cat. Don't ask questions around Christmas time." And that's kind of hinting that probably this is a Christmas present for him and I don't want him to open that package. I'm kind of warning him about being too curious. So this is the meaning of the idiom that being curious can sometimes get you into trouble. Cat got your tongue. "What's the matter? Why are you so quiet? Cat got your tongue?" Imagine if a cat got your tongue. Mmm. This is talking about being speechless or not talking, being quiet, and usually it's probably because you can't think of something to say. "Oh. Oh, wow, she just told me something really shocking. Uh, I can't say anything." And the other person might say, "What? Cat got your tongue? Why aren't you saying anything?" To bark up the wrong tree. The word bark is the sound that a dog makes. Woof, woof. Bark, bark. Or we might say in the sample sentence, "My sister was barking up the wrong tree when she accused me of taking her favorite shirt. It was in the dirty laundry the whole time. I didn't do it." What do you think this means? It's when you believe or pursue something that's wrong. So she was accusing me of taking her favorite shirt, but I wasn't the one who did it, it was just in the dirty laundry basket. I want to let you know that we often use this idiom to talk about sexuality. For example, the famous TV host Ellen DeGeneres is married to a woman. So, if a man flirts with Ellen DeGeneres, she might say, "Sorry, you're barking up the wrong tree." That means, you believe that I'm going to be interested in you? But that's not true. You are believing something that's not true. So we often use it in those situations. Our final idiom for the animal section is to be packed like sardines. Have you ever eaten sardines? They're the little fish that are often packaged in a little tin or in a can, and there are often a lot in that can. So what do you think about this sentence? "When everyone got in the train, we were packed like sardines." This is something that hasn't happened much in the year 2020 but we can remember back to the good old days when we were all together, lots of people together. Well, when you are packed like sardines, you feel like that little fish that's smashed into a tin or into a jar or a can. You are packed like sardines. In our next category, there are a lot of idioms that have to do with the farm, or farm-related vocabulary. But don't worry, you don't have to be a farmer to use these or understand them. I hope that they will be useful to you. The first one in this category is, when pigs fly. "I told my husband that I would stop eating chocolate when pigs fly." This is something impossible, something that will never happen and you can use it in those situations. "I will never stop eating chocolate. I will stop eating chocolate when pigs fly." To put all of your eggs in one basket. Hmm. When you're applying for a job, don't put all your eggs in one basket. You should apply to multiple companies. Mmm, to put all your eggs in a basket. Are you applying to become a farmer? No. In this situation we're talking about diversifying. Don't put all of your hope, all of your dreams, in just one option. Instead, you should apply to multiple companies. It's not a good idea to put all of your efforts and resources in just one place. Don't count your chickens before they hatch. "I wanted to buy a car with my end of year bonus that I was expecting from my job, but my friend told me not to count my chickens before they hatch." Hmm, not to count my chickens before they hatch? This means that you shouldn't assume something is going to happen. You should wait until you are certain. You're not sure if you're going to get that end of year bonus from your company, so don't buy a car in advance. Instead, wait until you have the money and then you can buy the car. Don't put the cart before the horse. "Don't put the cart before the horse by quitting your job before you have another one." Hmm. Can you imagine the same idea, counting your chickens before they hatch, putting the cart before the horse. Mmm, this is the same idea, talking about doing something in the wrong order. Before you quit your job you probably should secure another job so that you're not jobless while you're searching for a job. So don't do things in the wrong order. Don't put the cart before the horse. Make sure the cart is behind the horse. Straight from the horse's mouth. "If you don't believe me, ask him and hear it straight from the horse's mouth." Mmm, if your friend tells you that he just quit his job because he got a job as an advisor to the entire company, wow, this is a big promotion, you might not believe it. So you might say, "Hey, ask him and get it straight from the horse's mouth." Is that guy a horse? No, it just means hear it directly from the source. Instead of hearing it from someone else, hear something directly from the source, the horse's mouth. A needle in a haystack. "Trying to find my friend in a crowd was like trying to find a needle in a haystack." Do you imagine that this is an easy task or a tough task? Very tough task. Maybe impossible. If there is a needle in the middle of a haystack, good luck trying to find it. In fact, this happened to me, literally, last year. My two-year-old son, Theo, dropped a basketball pump needle in our grass. We were pumping a basketball in the grass. We should not have done this in the grass, we should have done it on the sidewalk. But he dropped the needle and I knew almost exactly where it fell, but do you know what? It took almost one hour, it took me, my husband, two neighbors and my son trying to find that needle in the grass. It was almost impossible. Thankfully we found it, but this is a really tough task to find a needle in a haystack, or in my case, a needle in the grass. To hit the hay. "Are you hitting the hay?" No, when we say, "Hoo, after learning these 50 idioms, you are probably going to be ready to hit the hay." That means, you're so tired you want to just go to sleep. Maybe at the end of a long day you say, "All right, I'm going to go hit the hay. I'm so tired, I'm going to go hit the hay." You're not sleeping in a barn, you're just going to bed. Our next section of idioms have to do with the body or different body parts. They might seem a little bit strange when you first hear them, but stick with them and you'll be able to use it. Our first one is, break a leg. This sounds kind of like a mean thing to say, right? "Hey, I hope you break your leg." No, if you say, "Break a leg," to someone, think about this situation. "Before I went onstage for the performance, my fellow actors told me to break a leg." Are they evil, terrible people, trying to make me get hurt? No, this simply means good luck, and it's something that you can use usually in a performing or competing situation. If you're performing or competing, you can say to other people, "Break a leg." In fact, sometimes it's seen as bad luck if you say, "Good luck," to someone who's giving a performance. So if you are a singer and you're going to sing in front of other people, if someone says to you, "Good luck, you can do it," you might think, "Oh, no, I'm going to fail." Because in some situations, depending on how superstitious your theater group is or your singing group is, saying good luck can be considered bad luck. So instead, this expression, break a leg, is used for these professional, competing or performing situations. Pulling my leg. "I thought my dad was telling me a serious story, but it turns out he was just pulling my leg." Is my dad pulling my leg? No. In this situation it just means that he's teasing me or telling me a joke. I want to tell you a little story. I live in the mountains, and as I've mentioned before, there's black bears everywhere. Sometimes there's a black bear walking down my street, really. But one time I was at the store and my hands were full of grocery bags. I had just bought some food and I was walking towards my car when I saw a black bear in the parking lot, and the black bear started to chase after me, maybe he wanted my food, and I started to run. You should not run when you see a black bear. But that was just my instincts. I ran and I got my bags and I started running and the black bear caught my shoe and he started pulling my leg, just like I'm pulling yours. Ha ha. Do you get it? Do you understand this joke? If you don't, first of all, don't worry, this story is not true at all. Well, it is true that there are black bears in my neighborhood, but a black bear has never chased me at the grocery store. Instead, black bears are really shy and timid, and usually if you just go, "Roar," and make a loud noise, they run away. They're very shy. But I wanted to tell you this story. When I was little I loved to tell this joke because usually people are listening like, "Oh, really? Oh, really? Oh, really?" And then you say, "The black bear was pulling my leg." This is literally, he's pulling my leg, and then we say, "Just like I'm pulling your leg," or, "Just like I'm pulling yours." And this is called a punch line. That means it's the end of the joke, it's something funny that was said, and it means, "Ha ha, I'm just teasing you. I'm just telling a joke." So, if you have any English friends or English-speaking friends who know this idiom, you can tell this little story, this little joke, and maybe they'll get a good laugh. If they don't understand this idiom, maybe it's a good time to teach them. Keep an eye out. Take your eye out? No. Keep an eye out. "Keep an eye out for snakes when you're hiking, they're everywhere." A couple of years ago, my husband Dan and I saw a huge, thick rattlesnake right beside the trail where we were hiking, and it was a little reality shock for me because when I hike I'm just looking at the trail, I'm not really thinking about every possibility. But now, because of that experience, I try to keep an eye out for snakes and always just remember that they could be there and to keep an eye out for them. Can you imagine what this means? It means to be on the lookout for something. This is like active searching, so now, whenever I step off the path or if I step over a log or especially for my kids, if they're running ahead of me, I need to make sure that they're safe because snakes are much more dangerous for children, so I want to keep an eye out for snakes. This is actively looking. Keep your eyes peeled. That sounds awful. Usually, for a banana, you peel a banana. But to keep your eyes peeled? What about this sentence? "When I go hiking I keep my eyes peeled for snakes. I keep my eyes peeled for snakes." We can imagine your eyelids are kind of like a banana peel, so you're keeping your eyes open, you're peeling your eyes so that you can be on the lookout for snakes. This is the exact same meaning, to keep an eye out, to keep your eyes peeled for something, this is the exact same thing. See eye to eye. "We may not see eye to eye on all issues, but we both love cats." Mmm. This means that you agree, or don't agree, with someone else. We see eye to eye on something. It's very important when you have children that you and your spouse, this is your husband or wife, need to see eye to eye on parenting. How are you going to teach your children, discipline your children, you need to agree on how you're going to do that. You need to see eye to eye. My eyes were bigger than my stomach. "When I put all this food on my plate for Thanksgiving, my eyes were bigger than my stomach." Mmm. This means that I thought I was hungrier than I really was, so I put lots of food on my plate. Oh, my eyes were getting big and excited, and then when I ate, oh, my stomach couldn't actually eat all of that food. Bite off more than you can chew. "Right now I'm creating two new English courses but I think I might have bitten off more than I can chew. I'm going to need to delay one of them." Mmm. This means that I overcommitted. I'm doing too much. I bit... more than I can chew. It's just too much food, or figuratively, too much work. Keep your chin up. "I know that learning 50 idioms is tough, but keep your chin up. You can do it." This is talking about having courage or strength during a difficult time. Keep your chin up, it's a great word of encouragement. A chip on your shoulder. "When he missed the game-winning shot because the other player hit the ball out of his hands, he left the game with a chip on his shoulder." Does that mean that there's actually like a potato chip on his shoulder? No. Instead, this means that you have some kind of grudge or grievance or this kind of hard feeling because of something else. When you feel like someone did something wrong to you that wasn't fair, maybe you have a chip on your shoulder. He missed the basket at the end of the game, but it's maybe because someone hit it, maybe it's because it was his fault. We don't know, but in any case, he had a chip on his shoulder. He had this angry feeling inside of him because of how he was wronged. Bend over backwards. Mmm, can you bend over backwards? We might say that car companies are bending over backwards to sell cars nowadays. Because of the difficult economic situation people aren't buying new cars, so car salesmen have to bend over backwards to sell cars. Mmm. This means they have to make a great effort in order to do something. They have to put in a lot of effort to sell cars. Add insult to injury. So, the injury is when you get hurt and an insult is a mean word. If you get hurt, if you fall on the ground, and someone says, "You're so dumb, you fell on the ground," that's awful. You're hurt and then someone says something mean to you, how terrible. Look at this situation. I accidentally locked my keys in my car, and then, to add insult to injury, my phone battery died so I couldn't even call a locksmith. Mmm. You see, one bad thing happened, I locked my keys in my car, and then another bad happened, my phone battery died so I couldn't call anyone for help. To add insult to injury. This is about making a bad situation ever worse, to add insult to injury. Rub salt in the wound. A wound is if you get a cut or it could be a lot worse, and you put salt in that wound. Ouch, that sounds awful. Let's look at this situation. My kids woke up really early and grumpy. They were not happy, and then seeing my friend's pictures of her kids happily playing together just rubbed salt in the wound. Mmm. My friend wasn't doing something bad, she was just sharing about her day, that's no problem. We love to share pictures, especially of our families, but, for me, I was already having a tough situation. My kids woke up early, I was tired, they were grumpy, they were not happy, and then, that was not good, but then it got even worse when my friend showed me, "Look, we're playing together. We're having a happy time." Oh, it makes me feel not too good. So, it is rubbing salt in my wound. Does that sound familiar? Mmm. It's making a bad situation worse. Yep, this is exactly the same as our previous idiom. It's making something that was already bad even worse. Go behind someone's back. Mmm. "When I told my teenage daughter that she couldn't go on a date, she went behind my back and climbed out her bedroom window to go on a date with him." Hmm. Do you get a sense that this is a good thing? No, this means that you're doing something bad secretively. She snuck out the window, not exactly a good thing to do if you want to build trust in a relationship, but here she is going behind my back. Our next category are idioms that have to do with work and productivity. So, if you are a student, if you are working at a job and you have a lot of projects to do, I'm sure you'll be able to use these idioms to describe your daily life.