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Common English Sayings

June 1st, 2010

The English language has many common sayings for an intermediate to advanced English student to be familiar with. The sayings are sometimes as short as two words and may not translate in a logical way. Thus, it is good to know what the common sayings actually mean when a student hears the sayings in English conversations or reads them in English literature. Adding them to English conversations is also a wonderful way to sound like a native English speaker. Here are some English sayings that are good for a student to know.

“Cross your fingers”

In some English speaking cultures, the act of a person crossing their pointer and middle fingers is considered to be a kind of prayer for a good outcome in a situation. For instance, a friend of a student waiting for a grade to be announced may tell their friend to cross their fingers as a kind of prayer for a good grade. Here is an example of the saying in a sentence: “Cross your fingers and hope for the best.”

“Greek to me”

This is a common English saying that basically means that the person speaking is not experienced with a topic or subject. This saying should only be used in this way by someone who doesn’t actually speak or read Greek. The person is basically saying that the topic or subject could just as well be written in Greek, as it is equally meaningless to the person. Here is an example of the saying in a sentence: “They had never played a game of golf before, so the rules of the game were Greek to them.”

“Once in a blue moon”

This is an English saying that references a relatively rare lunar event that apparently has nothing to do with the moon appearing blue. The reference is to the concept of something called a “Blue Moon”, which is the name for the second full moon when two full moons occur in one month on a calendar. The saying is used for describing rare things and also to describe rare events. Here is an example sentence: “A white cat with green eyes is only seen once in a blue moon.” This simply means that such a cat is rarely seen.

Get to the point”

This is an English phrase that is used to ask that a person skip any unnecessary introduction to something they are trying to say to another person. It is commonly spoken to a person who is giving a speech prior to asking for a favor or prior to telling someone something that may be difficult to say. For instance, if someone is asking for a favor and begins by talking about how much they have done for the other person. Here is an example sentence: “The person asked their friend to get to the point and ask to borrow the pen, instead of just hinting that they would like to use the pen.” Using this phrase is not really recommendable, as it could sound rude. It can be okay to use the phrase when a person is in a hurry.

“All bark and no bite.”

This is a common English saying that is based on the concept of barking dogs. The saying is commonly used in reference to a person who is speaking threats, but may not actually follow through on what they are saying they will do. This would be similar to a dog that only barks loudly, but does nothing. This term is also used to refer to people who yell and act scary, but are actually nice. A common example is a coach of a sports team. A coach may yell at team members, but the coach doesn’t actually want to harm anyone. Here is an example of the saying used in a sentence: “The coach yells at the team, but the coach is all bark and no bite. “

“Backseat Driver”

This is a common English language saying that is based on the concept of a person sitting in the backseat of a car and telling the driver how to drive. The saying can be used to refer to people who criticize the way that another person does something, instead of doing it themselves. The saying could be used in a variety of situations where a person in the audience is telling a person how to do what they are doing. For instance, this could be a person in a kitchen watching a person cook and telling them how to cut the vegetables, instead of helping the person cook by cutting the vegetables. Here is an example of the saying used in a sentence: “That person doesn’t play golf, but they are always saying how professional golfers could improve their golf swings.”

“Back to the drawing board”

This is a common English language saying that refers to the concept of a drawing board used for early stages of planning a building or project. The saying is used in situations where a project needs to be started over in a new way. Here is an example of the saying used in a sentence: “Humanity is a failure, so it’s time to go back to the drawing board.”

This is a good list of English sayings to know and use in English conversations to sound more like a native speaker.