aka “Vocabulary Game with Amber & Paul” or “Fifteen Fixed Expressions” (less exciting titles)
Learn more English expressions in this episode by listening to another vocabulary game with Amber Minogue and Paul Taylor.
The series of episodes featuring ‘fixed expressions’ and vocabulary games continues in this episode. The previous ones, entitled “Ten Fixed Expressions” (283) and “Ten More Fixed Expressions” (285) featured me testing Paul’s knowledge of multi-word expressions in English. He did better in the second episode than the first, although maybe that’s because of the way I explained the expressions rather than because of Paul’s lack of vocabulary. Nevertheless, the wider aim of these episodes is to teach you, my listeners, some vocabulary in the form of multi-word expressions.
[DOWNLOAD] [AUDIOBOOK OFFER] What is a ‘fixed expression’?
Essentially, a fixed expression (according to me) is a vocabulary item comprising of a few words that always go together. That includes idioms, sayings, phrasal verbs, well-known quotes and collocations. All these things are lexical items which are included in the catch-all title of ‘fixed expressions’. The words are fixed together. They’re not just individual words combined, but they are discrete items of vocabulary in their own right.
So, fixed expressions are essentially ‘lexical chunks’. They’re not types of shelf unit or ikea furniture or anything like that. They’re just phrases in English. That should be clear.
I realise that the more I explain, the more confusing it is, so I’ll stop explaining now and we can start playing the game.
Let’s Play the Game
This time Amber is involved.
All three of us have short lists of five expressions.
We’re going to do three rounds of this game.
Round 1: Amber vs Paul (Luke is the Question Master)
Round 2: Paul vs Luke (Amber is the Question Master)
Round 3: Luke vs Amber (Paul is the Question Master)
Rules of the Game
The Question Master defines an expression without using the words in the expression.
The QM can also give little hints if necessary.
The two competitors race to guess the expression.
A point is awarded to the one who guesses the question right. If both competitors guess the expression at the same time, they both get a point.
Listeners can try to guess the expressions too. Did you guess them? Did you beat us?
If you don’t know the expression, listen carefully because we will explain, repeat and give examples.
So, it’s a fun game and a learning opportunity too, in one Great British package.
The Expressions in the Game
Here you’ll find lists of the fixed expressions in this episode. Listen to the episode to get the full definitions and examples, or search for the definitions online.
1. to be hard up
2. to be in the loop / to stay in the loop / to keep someone in the loop
3. “been there, done that, got the t-shirt”
4. to bend over backwards (for someone) (to do something)
5. to give someone the benefit of the doubt
1. to get your foot in the door
2. to show your true colours
3. over my dead body
4. in mint condition
5. to bite the bullet
Paul’s Expressions – Theme: Body Parts
1. to have two left feet
2. to be/fall head over heels in love with someone
3. (to do something) by the skin of your teeth
4. (give it some) elbow grease / (put some) elbow grease (into it)
5. to put your foot in your mouth
There are plenty of other expressions in this episode, so if you notice any other good ones please add them in the comments section below.
p.s. I’m going on my honeymoon in a couple of days so there will be no new episodes for a couple of weeks, but LEP will be back :)
Recently on FB I asked my followers to send me some fixed expressions (phrases, idioms or just individual words) that they like or think are worth learning. I ended up with about 200 phrases. The idea was that I’d do one episode with these phrases, but obviously I underestimated the number of responses that I’d get and now I have a huge database of nice, chunky and rather British fixed expressions which I can deal with in episodes of the podcast. I have vetted the list for any expressions that I don’t see myself using very much, so they’ve all been given the LEP seal of approval, meaning they’re all expressions which are perfectly valid and that you should know.
What’s a fixed expression? It’s a collection of words (a phrase) which has one specific meaning. Those words are fixed together and it might have a particular idiomatic meaning, or at least a specific meaning which is
Episode 1 in the series – I’ve invited Paul Taylor to my place, and we’re going to do an exercise to help you to learn these phrases and give you some listening practice. What we’ll do is that I will explain the phrase to him and we’ll see if he can guess which phrase it is. Then we’ll give some examples and have a quick discussion based on the expression, before moving on to the next one.
What you can do is just try to guess the phrase I’m talking about, and then check out our discussion to hear the phrase being used naturally. All the phrases are listed on the page for this episode.
A bad egg
A person in a group who has a negative effect on the rest of that group. “He’s a bit of a bad egg”, or just simply a bad person.
Have you ever had a bad egg in a training group at work?
Were there any bad eggs in your group of friends as a child growing up?
A cash cow
An investment that brings in a reliable source of steady income. E.g. an apartment which you rent out, or shares that you purchased in a thriving business.
What’s the most common form of cash cow?
If you had 50,000 to invest, what would you invest it in?
a fine line between x & y
When there is a very subtle or small difference between two rather distinctly different things. E.g. “There’s a fine line between madness and genius”.
Do you think there is a fine line between madness and genius?
Other fine lines?
Stand up comedy and … ?
a flash in the pan
Something that is a very quick and sudden success, but it’s a success that doesn’t last. Brief success.
Would you rather be a flash in the pan (make loads of money but then disappear from fame – become anonymous) or a long lasting success who is constantly in the public eye?
Can you think of anything that we thought would be a flash in the pan but wasn’t?
What do you think will be a flash in the pan now? Is the Apple Watch a flash in the pan?
a pain in the neck
Something really irritating or annoying. Something really inconvenient in your life.
Someone who is certain to succeed, or certain to win a competition. Someone or something which we assume will be a success. For example, for an entrance exam to a university – we expect this girl to pass. In fact, it’s almost impossible to imagine that she won’t qualify for the course. She’s a shoo-in.
I always thought it was spelled ‘shoe’ – like somehow there’s a shoe in something, or it’s really easy to throw a shoe into something.
Where did you go to university? Were you a shoo-in for entrance? How about your exams?
Do you follow football? Who do you think will qualify/win the 2018 world cup?
A total cock up
A complete mess – when someone messes something up completely. They tried to rob the bank but they forgot to load their guns and one of them got trapped in the vault and the other didn’t know what to do. They both were recorded by CCTV cameras and got arrested.
Origin unknown (it doesn’t refer to a penis) – it’s more likely to refer to a bird, like perhaps the accidental startling of a woodcock during a hunt.
What’s the biggest cock up you’ve ever made?
Great, brilliant, fantastic. British slang. Also the name of one of the picture cards in a deck of playing cards.
When was the last time you said “That was ace!”
What was the last film you saw that you thought was ace?
All gone to pot
It’s all gone bad. It’s deteriorated. Like, “it’s all gone to the dogs”.
E.g. “My diet has gone to pot since coming home for Christmas.” or “London’s just gone to pot since Boris Johnson took over” or “The whole country is going to pot under this conservative government”.
Has its origins in the idea that farm animals would be eaten (cooked in a pot) when they were past their best (for producing eggs or whatever).
Do you think the world is going to pot?
All hell broke loose
When things suddenly become chaotic and out of control.
E.g. When they announced a flash sale of Louis Vuitton handbags, all hell broke loose in the department store.
My response to the film Taken 3, plus 12 expressions with the word ‘take’. [Download]
*Spoiler alert* – I might give away some details of the story line, although I think you probably have a good idea what kind of thing you can expect. Someone did something to his family, and Liam Neeson will use his very particular set of skills to find them, he will hunt them down and he will kill them. There will be loads of high-octane action, some very questionable moral actions, and the usual offensive stereotypes of foreign people.
You should know that I’ve talked, at length, about Taken 1 already on this podcast.
Yesterday I went to the cinema and tweeted “I’m on my way to see Taken 3…” Naturally, some people wanted me to talk about it on the podcast, so here it is.
In a nutshell, this film is bad – it’s total pants, it’s piss poor, it’s lame, it’s cheesy, and frankly, it’s dull. It’s like a b-movie, but with Liam Neeson. It retains few of the redeeming qualities of the original, brings nothing new to the table and just looks like everyone involved is just doing it for the money. That’s not to say it was without enjoyment – I did enjoy it a bit, perhaps because I’d lowered my expectations before going into the cinema.
Expressions with Take
There are loads. Here are 12. Listen to the episode to hear full explanations and examples.
1. Take someone for a ride = to rip someone off
2. Take someone to the cleaners = to rip someone off, or to beat someone
3. Take something for granted = to undervalue something which is actually very valuable to you
4. Take it on the chin = to be strong and resilient in the face of criticism or adversity
5. Take it out on someone = to express your anger/frustration by being nasty or aggressive towards someone else
6. Take advantage of something = to make the most of it, to exploit it
7. Take it easy = relax
8. Overtake = to move in front of someone (e.g. in a car)
9. Take over = to take control of something (to acquire)
10. Takes one to know one = In order to know something you have to be that thing too
11. To have what it takes = to have the necessary qualities to do something
12. Give or take = approximately
In the last episode I attempted to explain ways that prepositions are used in English, and I failed because I wasn’t prepared. I managed to get across the idea that prepositions are complicated because they’re used in combination with other words, and that you have to remember vocabulary in ‘chunks’ but the idea was also to present you with some useful lists of preposition collocations. This time around I’ve done some more preparation. I’ve spent a bit more time on it and so for round 2 I think we should get a proper grip on the subject, while also having some fun noticing prepositions in an improvised story. [Download]
We all know that prepositions are one of the most difficult aspects of English grammar and vocabulary. That’s also why they’re hard to teach. They don’t conform to easy-to-teach rules, like other aspects of grammar. Instead, it’s about patterns and collocations. So, often the best way to learn these collocations is to see them as chunks of vocabulary, and try to notice them as they are used naturally. In this episode the idea is to give you a chance to do that by listening to a made-up story which includes loads of verb + preposition collocations.
Let me break it down in a simple way. Here are some “facts” about prepositions.
1. A preposition is always followed by a noun or something like a noun (e.g. a gerund or a noun phrase).
2. We use prepositions to talk about time, position and movement – and these are the easy ones. For example, “The cat is on the chair, the mouse is under the table, the monkey is on the branch. I’ll see you on Sunday at 3 o’clock. The train went into the station. The monkey fell out of the tree. The cat jumped off the chair.” etc etc. These are ‘easy’ because the prepositions seem to have specific meanings of their own, and they don’t change depending on which noun or verb you’re using.
3. The more difficult part is the way we use prepositions to attach nouns to other parts of the sentence. Prepositions tend to collocate with different adjectives, verbs and nouns. For example we say “He’s been accused of murder” and “I’m accustomed to the smell from the restaurant downstairs” and “This flat has really good access to the underground station”. What does collocate mean? It means that these words ‘just go together’. They’re friends. They always hang out with each other. Why? That’s the difficult thing to explain. I’d say – don’t focus on the individual meanings of prepositions. Instead focus on the way they just collocate with other words, and then learn those words together. So, don’t just learn the word “accuse” but learn the phrase “to accuse someone of something”. Don’t just learn the word “doubtful” but learn the phrase “doubtful about”, don’t just learn the word “comply” but learn the phrase “to comply with” and also the noun “compliance” and “to be in compliance with”.
4. Prepositions can be hard to hear because of the way they’re pronounced. They’re not usually the ‘meaning words’ in sentences, and so they can be pronounced using ‘weak forms’ of pronunciation (schwa sounds). Pay attention to the way prepositions are pronounced by native speakers in fluent speech.
There are 4 key points about prepositions, and also reasons why they’re tricky for learners of English.
Really, I am sorry. This makes life much more difficult for you, but you must get used to it right here and now. Accept that you’re now learning phrases, and once you’ve accepted that, every step you’ll take from now on will be in the right direction.
So, it’s these preposition collocations which are the tricky things. Learners of English struggle to know which preposition to use in the right moments. Sometimes these are influenced by the first language. For example, many French people say “It depends of…” e.g. “It depends of the cost” and of course it should be “it depends on the cost”. Watch out for the L1 influence.
What can you do?
– When you’re learning words – don’t learn them in isolation. See how they connect with other words in a sentence. Remember the prepositions that go with them. This will actually help you to become more fluent as prepositions are good transition words. They help you turn individual words into phrases, and those phrases into full sentences.
– Notice when you listen. Just pay attention to the preposition collocations you hear.
– Listen a lot and read a lot. Eventually, a lot of the most common preposition collocations will just go into your subconscious after being exposed to them so many times. After a while you’ll develop an instinct for the right collocation.
– Check out some lists to help you. You could test yourself by looking at some collocation lists (e.g. on this page). Cover the preposition and then try to remember it. Say it out loud. Check your answer. Say the phrase (it’s important that it passes through your mouth, and across your lips). Make full sentences, in different tenses in order to practise.
– Listen to Luke’s English Podcast (of course!)
Let me explain my approach for this episode of the podcast.
In this episode I’m planning to do this:
– I’ve prepared fairly long lists of common collocations with prepositions. Verb + prep, adjective + prep and noun + prep lists. You can check them out on the webpage if you like. Those lists are really useful in themselves. So this is already a really useful resource.
– I’m not just going to read out the lists. That would be boring and not that useful.
– I’m going to try and just make up some kind of story – completely improvise it – and use as many of the preposition collocations as I can. Try to notice them. You could go through the list and kind of ‘tick’ them off as you hear them, or try to notice them without the list.
– Bear in mind that the story is completely made up. The main thing is I want to keep it fun and interesting, while also presenting some language to you.
– There are 3 lists. They’re all quite long. I don’t know how much I can achieve in one episode. I might end up dividing this into three stories. One for verb + prep collocations, one for adj + prep and one for noun + prep. We’ll see.
– When I’ve finished I’ll go through the lists, and I’ll give you a chance to test yourselves.
– Then you can revise by testing yourselves using the lists, you can write your own stories using the prepositions and vocabulary, or you could record yourself reading or improvising a story. Don’t worry if you can’t improvise. That’s a different thing altogether. You should try to produce meaningful sentences using these phrases though. It’ll help you to remember them. Try to make your sentences personalised and very vivid – that’ll help you remember them all.
– You’ll also be picking up vocabulary here from the verbs, adjectives and nouns that collocate with all these prepositions. Just google them or look them up in a dictionary if you don’t know what they mean. I’m not explaining word meanings here, just presenting language.
Verb + Preposition Let’s go with the first story. *Start by opening your eyes – you’re standing in a courtroom. You ask the lawyer what’s going on. You’ve been accused of stealing a biscuit. You’ve got no idea what happened. Then the judge comes in…*
accuse (someone) of ([doing] something)
add (something) to (something else)
admire (someone) for ([doing] something)
agree on (topic)
agree with (someone)
apologise to (someone) for ([doing] something)
apply to (a place) for (something)
approve of (something)
argue with (someone) about (topic)
arrive at (a building, room, site, event)
arrive in (a city, country)
ask (someone) about (someone/topic)
ask (someone) for (something)
believe in (something)
belong to (someone)
blame (someone) for ([doing] something)
borrow (something) from (someone)
care about (someone/something/topic)
comment on (topic)
compare (something) to/with (something else)
complain to (someone) about (something)
concentrate on ([doing] something)
congratulate (someone) for/on ([doing] something)
consist of (some things)
consent to ([doing] something)
contribute to (something)
count on (someone) to (do something)
cover (something) with (something else)
decide on (topic)
depend on (someone) for (something)
discuss (something) with (someone)
distinguish (something) from (something else)
dream about/of (someone/something)
escape from (somewhere)
explain (topic) to (someone)
excuse (someone) for ([doing] something)
forgive (someone for ([doing] something)
get rid of (something)
graduate from (a place)
happen to (someone)
help (someone) with (something)
hide (something) from (someone)
insist (up)on (something)
introduce (someone) to (someone else)
invite (someone) to (an event)
keep (something) for (someone)
matter to (someone)
object to (something)
participate in (something)
pay (price) for (something)
plan on ([doing] something)
pray for (someone/something)
prefer (something) to (something else)
prevent (someone) from ([doing] something)
prohibit (someone) from ([doing] something)
protect (someone) from (something)
provide (someone) with (something)
recover from (something)
rely (up)on (someone/something)
remind (someone) of (something)
rescue (someone) from (something)
respond to (someone/something)
save (someone) from (something)
search for (something)
separate (something) from (something else)
scold (someone) for ([doing] something)
smile at (someone) for ([doing] something)
speak to/with (someone) about (topic)
stare at (something/someone)
stop (someone) from ([doing] something)
subscribe to (something)
substitute (something) for (something else/someone)
subtract (something) from (something else)
succeed in ([doing] something)
suffer from (something)
take advantage of (someone/something/ situation)
take care of (something/someone)
talk to/with (someone) about (topic)
thank (someone) for ([doing] something)
travel to (somewhere)
vote for (someone)
vouch for (someone)
wait for (someone/something)
wish for (something)
work for (company/something/someone)
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