This exercise on idioms is kindly provided by Karen Richardson. She only agreed to do it on condition that she could use some of her favourite idioms. Naturally, I agreed. The idea is just that: you get to listen to some teachers talking their way through some of their favourite idioms. As an added bonus, Karen also cleverly links together a series of connected idioms – most of most which relate to fabric! To get you started, can you think of any idioms relating to?
Some questions before you listen
You will hear Karen talk about books she likes to read.
- Try to identify the idioms and phrasal verbs in each of these questions first
- Can you guess what each idiom might mean?
- What is it like outside in the depths of winter?
- What is covered with a blanket of snow?
- Where does Karen curl up with her book?
- Is Karen interested in what goes on between the sheets?
- How does she feel about cloak and dagger stuff?
- Where do people creep around in the books she reads?
- When was Sir Caruthers done in?
- How do the ends of the books turn out?
- Does the undercover detective talk to the people separately?
- Who does the detective unmask at the end of the book?
- Is it good news for culprit, when the detective says “It’s curtains for you”?
- Like owner, like pet. Where do Karen’s cats curl up?
Listen and answer the questions
Read the transcript
Sometimes it is good to read and listen at the same time
In the deep depths of winter, when the garden is covered by a blanket of snow, and everything is still and peaceful outside, there’s nothing I like more than curling up on the sofa with something to read. I don’t bother with women’s magazines though. I’m not all that interested in reading about this film star and that pop star and what goes on between the sheets. No, give me a good murder mystery any day. I love all that cloak and dagger stuff, books in which people creep around country manor houses in the middle of the night, and in which the maid screams and drops the breakfast tray as she notices that someone has done in kind old Sir Caruthers in the middle of the night. Books in which it always turns out fine in the end when the undercover detective gathers everyone together and unmasks the culprit with the words, “It’s curtains for you young man. Take him away constable”. Yes, a good book, a comfy sofa, soft snow glistening outside, the cats curled up at my feet; what could be nicer?
Match the definitions
Now that you have listened to the idioms in context, can you match them to their definitions?
1) the depths of winter
2) a blanket of snow
3) to curl up
4) to go on
5) between the sheets
6) cloak and dagger
7) creep around
8. to do in
9) to turn out
10) an undercover detective
11) to unmask
12) to be curtains for
a) to move around quietly
b) secret or mysterious (especially in crime and spy novels)
c) in bed
d) to reveal
e) to murder
f) the coldest and darkest months of the year
g) to lie down comfortably
h) a policeman either not in uniform or working secretly
i) to be the end for (an announcement of bad news)
j) to happen
k) a quite deep layer of snow
l) to finish
Read the answers
1) the depths of winter = f) the coldest and darkest months of the year
2) a blanket of snow = k) a quite deep layer of snow
3) to curl up = g) to lie down comfortably
4) to go on = j) to happen
5) between the sheets = c) in bed
6) cloak and dagger = b) secret or mysterious (especially in crime and spy novels)
7) creep around = a) to move around quietly
8. to do in = e) to murder
9) to turn out = l) to finish
10) an undercover detective = h) a policeman either not in uniform or working secretly
11) to unmask = d) to reveal
12) to be curtains for = i) to be the end for (an announcement of bad news)
If you want to learn some of these idioms, the best way is to try and use them yourself and make them personal to you by using them in a way that means something to you. Here’s a simple suggestion:
- choose the idioms you like and think are useful to you (idioms are personal – you may not need all of these)
- make a few sentences using the idioms – make the sentences true for you – that way you are much more likely to remember them
- try telling a story (it can be brief) using some of idioms – say it aloud
- think about ways of recording the idioms (writing words down is a way of using and learning them)
You might also try asking yourself some of these questions and try and use some of the idioms in your answers:
- What is the weather like in your country? (depths of winter) (blanket of snow)
- Where and when do you like to read? (curl up)
- If you are busy, why is that so? (go on)
- What sort of books do you enjoy most and why? (cloak and dagger) (unmask) (undercover detective)
- Can you remember a time you were unnecessarily worried about something? (turn out)
A little about Karen
Aside from being a super teacher, Karen is also a consummate professional in writing materials for language learners (any typos here are definitely mine). Her extensive list of publications include books on English for Business, Law enforcement and for young learners – all available at a good bookshop near you now!