Questions tagged [expressions]

This tag is for questions which a dictionary cannot answer asking the meaning of a particular expression.

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46 votes
6 answers
12k views

Does the English language have a word explaining a song in your head that you can't stop singing?

Sometimes after listening to a popular song you can't stop repeating it in your head. Is there any term for this in English? You can't say the same in Russian using one word.
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41 votes
5 answers
219k views

What does "Nailed it" mean?

I came across a few combinations of 'nailed it' or 'nailed down' in various contexts. According to the blog-posts, it seems to be widespread on the internet. However, I have never heard these ...
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35 votes
7 answers
5k views

English equivalent of a Spanish expression that translates to "iron fist, crystal jaw"

There is an expression in Spanish Puño de hierro, mandíbula de cristal whose English translation is iron fist, crystal jaw. But that doesn't make sense to an English person (I suppose) because I used ...
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  • 353
30 votes
9 answers
24k views

Is "She is under the shower" a proper English sentence?

There is currently a debate on Duolingo about the proper translation of a sentence to English (the original language isn't the point of this question). The sentence, literally translates to "She is ...
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29 votes
3 answers
11k views

Why is it correct to say "me busy."?

I was playing Warcraft. I clicked on my peon. He told me: "me busy. leave me alone." Why is it OK to say it that way instead of just "I'm busy."?
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29 votes
4 answers
25k views

Was it impolite for me to say "That's alright" when someone ran into me? Are there any better expessions?

I was travelling on a crowded bus. Someone suddenly ran into me and touched me when the bus stopped suddenly. The man said sorry to me. I did not get angry because I could see there was an auto ...
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  • 5,465
29 votes
7 answers
192k views

Difference between "in time" and "on time"

I have an appointment at 8 and I arrive there at 7:55, is it "on time" or "in time"? What about "the nick of time"?
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  • 681
28 votes
5 answers
6k views

Why do native speakers use the present continuous tense when talking about people in a picture? Why not the past continuous tense?

This is some sentences in a flyer test. I took this photo by the lake last Saturday, Grandma. It looks lovely. Do you know any of these people? Yes, I do. The man who’s reading the newspaper ...
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  • 15.1k
27 votes
10 answers
55k views

Is 'no more' used to mean 'dead' in English?

Do the English or the Americans use no more to mean 'dead'? For example, do they say "He is no more" to mean "He is dead"?
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27 votes
3 answers
6k views

Meaning of "8 going on 48"

I don't understand what this expression means: Little adults are the children that parents describe as 'eight going on forty-eight'.
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  • 1,153
25 votes
9 answers
21k views

Phrases that express "afraid of wife" in English

Are there any English idioms that are used to describe a man being afraid of wife? In Chinese there are lots of ways to express it, formal ways, condescending, or colorful. Please describe the ...
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  • 2,122
25 votes
6 answers
68k views

If something seems too good to be true, it probably is (not?)

I've bumped into the following expression a few times already: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. To me, the correct way to say it would be: If something seems too good to ...
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  • 536
24 votes
8 answers
20k views

English equivalent of "garam" (warming) food?

I want to know how we say in English when we want to say that almonds or other dry fruits are "hot" for our body. I am an Indian, and in India, we use the word garam which literally means hot in ...
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  • 1,110
23 votes
3 answers
9k views

"I immediately got her with child"?

In th English translation of The Kindly Ones, a 2006 novel by Jonathan Littell set during World War II and its aftermath, the narrator states: the source I picked a woman from a good family; she ...
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  • 2,915
23 votes
5 answers
398k views

"Hope this help" or "Hope this helps"?

I often see people write "hope this helps" at the end of a communication, especially when they are trying to answer other people's queries about computer problems. Recently, my English ...
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  • 5,465
22 votes
7 answers
19k views

What to answer to "you're too kind"?

I told a guy I knew that he looks good in a pink shirt. He told me: "Thank you, you're too kind". What is the appropriate English answer in this case? Also I'm not sure if the guy's answer ...
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  • 221
18 votes
6 answers
513k views

What's a professional synonym for "would love to"?

I frequently use the expression "I would love to" when I write e-mails to request things from the other party. As in "I would love to have a call to discuss..." I feel like it conveys humility, ...
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18 votes
3 answers
22k views

How is “any more than” used to compare two different situations?

In the following quote by Billy Sunday Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile. Can anyone please explain/elaborate the usage and ...
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  • 667
17 votes
2 answers
2k views

What does "Stands the wind in that quarter" mean?

I'm reading Mark Twain's The Prince and The Pauper and have come across this sentence in Chapter 23, after the woman has told the court that her pig is worth eight pence and is about to leave when an ...
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  • 3,546
17 votes
4 answers
6k views

Is "Can I help you" a suitable expression for offering help to a stranger?

A friend of mine, who is local to Japan, noticed someone from abroad with a folding map who looked lost, and would like to know whether or not she could say "Can I help you?". She had overheard the ...
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  • 5,667
16 votes
4 answers
2k views

Is "par for the course" used only for negative situations?

The Cambridge Dictionary and the Free Dictionary mention that "par for the course" is to be used with negative events. Is it only used for negative events? If I did something good, for ...
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  • 579
15 votes
8 answers
5k views

Is the expression "very worth" proper English, and if not, what are some alternatives?

Is the expression "very worth" proper English, and if not, what are some alternatives? Example: This presentation is very worth watching in its entirety.
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15 votes
1 answer
3k views

Can I use "they" to refer to my own skills?

Me and my friend had a conversation. [My friend] damn, your listening skills are good [Me] they've improved a lot since I started watching English dubbed anime My friend told me that I can't use &...
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  • 295
15 votes
4 answers
11k views

When can you respond with "affirmative"?

When is it appropriate to respond with "affirmative"? Could some examples be provided? This dialog has been taken from Knight Rider TV series season 2 episode 15: Michael: KITT, analyze these tire ...
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15 votes
7 answers
6k views

Contrary of "As its/their name indicates"

In English we sometimes use the expression "As its/their name indicates" to express the fact that the name of a concept/object/etc. bears part of its meaning, e.g.: As their name indicates, ...
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14 votes
3 answers
5k views

What does "I am all stomach" mean?

What does I am all stomach mean? A: ‘’It’s my turn for a gift. I would like to take you to lunch. To my favorite spot.’’ B: ‘’I am all stomach, professor!’’ Lonely Man Full of Love
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  • 189
14 votes
11 answers
15k views

An appropriate term for an overly by-the-rules person

In Swedish, we've got a term that loosely translates as paragraph jockey. It refers to a person, often a clerk or a referee, who is following all the rules, prescriptions and agreements ad absurdum. ...
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14 votes
3 answers
127k views

"Here you are & Here you go"

When somebody asks you for something and you give it to them, which expression is correct or more common? eg., My little sister plays with toys and she wants to give one of her toys to me. So what ...
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  • 4,217
13 votes
1 answer
4k views

What's the meaning "be from money"?

I've searched online dictionaries but I couldn't find the meaning of be from money. The example is: To anyone who doesn’t know who Matthew is, they just come across as a well-heeled, ...
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  • 5,118
13 votes
2 answers
3k views

What does "beat free" (or "can't beat free") mean?

The Impossible Book – Hey, let’s go for a walk or something! – Oh, I’m kind of busy here… – Busy bee as always. What are you doing? Reading again? Let me see the title. – It’s a ...
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13 votes
7 answers
210k views

Have a nice travel?

I am looking for some kind way of replying to an email when the other person is saying that he will be traveling and asks for more time to complete something. It appears that "Have a nice day" could ...
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13 votes
2 answers
6k views

Some of you will have met me before vs Some of you met me before

I really do not get how "will" and past infinitive is used here. This comes from an example in a textbook, explaining usage of will in assumptions: Some of you will have met me before. I wonder, ...
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  • 1,633
13 votes
3 answers
27k views

"As a child" vs. "When I was a child"

As a child, I was allowed to watch as much television on Saturday and Sunday mornings as I pleased. When I was a child, I was allowed to watch as much television on Saturday and Sunday mornings as I ...
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12 votes
10 answers
6k views

Formal way of saying "I'm not going to kiss your a**"

Is there a more formal and POLITE way of saying "I'm not going to kiss your ass"? I got suspended from work because I used this expression. My coworkers and I were having a conversation with ...
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12 votes
4 answers
48k views

How to decline a help offer politely

I was just wondering how can I decline a help offer politely from someone whom especially I don't know very well. For example, I am moving in a new house and a neighbor sees me carrying boxes and ...
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  • 10.6k
12 votes
5 answers
4k views

What is the equivalent expression for "parla come mangi" ("speak as you eat"), used to tell someone they are speaking too formally or technically?

In Italian, when somebody speaks using words that are too erudite, too formal, or too complicated for the context, we say parla come mangi (literally, speak as you eat). What phrase should I use in ...
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  • 20.3k
12 votes
6 answers
147k views

'recently' with present perfect and past

When do we use recently with past tenses? I've come across some sentences in which I don't understand the use of recently. I recently wrote to my grandmother. They were working in Canada recently. ...
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  • 171
12 votes
2 answers
5k views

Why can't I use "Neither" and "Nor" in this sentence...?

A month ago, I gave a comic introduction about me in my English class. During my flow of words, I told, "...I have neither a brother nor a sister". Everyone laughed at me all of a sudden. The ...
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11 votes
2 answers
9k views

What is the meaning of "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"?

I'm watching the movie called Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and I don't get the title. It appears to be some kind of play on words or a double meaning. First, I thought it was just a list of professions ...
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11 votes
2 answers
3k views

meaning of "at work"

John works at a company. He had a business meeting with people from another company, and that's where he first met his wife. When people ask him how he and his wife met, can he say, "We met at ...
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  • 111
11 votes
2 answers
3k views

What are "industrial chops"?

I've seen the expression industrial chops in a few texts, but looking at them all, and seeing the definition of chop in a dictionary did not provide me a clear meaning. In this way, 3D printing is ...
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  • 305
11 votes
4 answers
11k views

What's the meaning of "farmer by trade"?

In the National Geographic Society's Answer Book: Fast Facts about Our World (2010), edited by Kathryn Thornton, I found this line, but didn't understand the meaning of farmer by trade: "Wilson A. "...
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  • 111
11 votes
1 answer
3k views

What does "stop whacking off" mean?

Today my boss came by my desk and told to me "stop whacking off, when will phase 2 of the project be completed?" What does "stop whacking off" mean? I did not know how to respond. What is an ...
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  • 113
11 votes
2 answers
3k views

Does the saying "speaking English like a Spanish cow" exist in English?

In French we have an expression which is: Parler (une langue, l'anglais par exemple) comme une vache espagnole which literally translates to: Speaking (a language, like English) like a Spanish ...
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  • 111
10 votes
7 answers
11k views

"I'm OK with it" VS "It's OK with me"

I need to know how the two phrases: a. I'm OK with it. b. It's OK with me. differ in meaning. Example: 1: Do you like this color? 2: I have no problem with this color. Yea, actually, ... a. I'm OK ...
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  • 13.7k
10 votes
5 answers
2k views

An expression for comparing things accurately in English

I am looking for an idiomatic expression to describe the comparison of things which is so true and vivid. For example: A: "Mainland China and Taiwan are like brothers fighting each other for who ...
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10 votes
3 answers
5k views

A person lacking money who shows off a lot

There is a proverb in our language which is used when someone tries to show off and pretend to be very rich and also try to spend much money, and somehow prepare well-brand clothes to keep up with the ...
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  • 13.7k
10 votes
5 answers
13k views

Is "thirty past seven" acceptable?

If it is seven thirty, we can also say "half past seven". I am wondering whether "thirty past seven" is acceptable.
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10 votes
2 answers
9k views

What does "gas and alcohol don't mix" mean?

I have heard the expression "gas and alcohol don't mix" from the Egyptian president Muhamed Morsy. What does it mean?
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  • 211
10 votes
3 answers
11k views

"Take advantage of" and "make the most of": What is the difference?

For example, if I'm looking forward to spending a month in Spain, I could say: I will take advantage of the opportunity to learn Spanish. I will make the most of the opportunity to learn ...
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