Life around the world

Tuesday, 31 May, 2016 - 12:47

My weird and wonderful language

by LouiseH

When you are learning a foreign language one of the hardest things to grasp is how and when to use colloquial idioms and expressions. Often used in both spoken and written language these idiomatic phrases are very important to be able to fluently understand and speak in English but can be very confusing! However, using one of these phrases correctly when speaking or writing to an English speaker is very impressive and demonstrates that you are comfortable with the language.

Here is a list of my top 5 weird and wonderful British expressions ... use them wisely!

1. When pigs fly
This expression is one of my favourites and I use it all the time. It is used primarily when speaking and infers the idea of ‘never’. It means that something is extremely unlikely or impossible. For example,"I will forgive him when pigs fly!" "When do you think you will get a gym membership, Louise?" "When pigs fly!"

2. Is the Pope Catholic?
This expression is a perfect example of stereotypical British sarcasm which we love to use when speaking amongst friends. This expression basically means: 'Yes, obviously!' For example, “Would you like to come on holiday to Spain with me this summer?” “Uh, is the Pope Catholic?!”

3. Penny for your thoughts?
This question is used in a situation when someone appears thoughtful or is very quiet seeming lost in thought. In that situation you might use this expression if you wanted to ask your friend what they were thinking about or let them know you’re there to talk to about anything that is bothering them. But remember that you don’t actually have to pay them a penny if they do tell you what is going on! For example, “You’ve been a bit quiet this evening, Pete. Penny for your thoughts?”

4. To feel a bit under the weather
I use this expression in many different situations but most use it to refer specifically to feeling ill, or unwell. You would not use this phrase if you were feeling extremely unwell. It is only for those times when you are feeling a little ill, or suffering from something mild like a cold or a cough. However, this can also be used to refer not only to physical ill health but also to feeling emotionally low. For example, “You have been sneezing a lot this morning, Catherine!” “Yes, I am feeling a bit under the weather; it must be hay fever.”

5. It’s the best thing since sliced bread
There are many other phrases which convey the same message as this phrase (my personal favourite is, it’s the bee’s knees!). This expression means that something is brilliant, fantastic. It means that you haven’t seen or heard or experienced something this great in a long time. For example, “This new laptop is the best thing since sliced bread! It's the bee’s knees.”

I hope you all have fun trying out some of these English expressions!

Language level

Do you have a favourite expression in English or in your own language? Can you translate an equivalent expression from your mother language?

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