So you’re in an American bar.
It’s loud, but you can make out what people are saying.
You hear a fellow drinker talking about hitting books…
…another is talking about twisting someone’s arm…
…and it sounds like someone’s been stabbed in the back.
What the heck is going on?
You scratch your head and wonder why you’re still lost even though you can translate the words.
Well, you’ve just had your first introduction to English idioms.
WHAT ARE ENGLISH IDIOMS ?
English idioms are a group of words which have a meaning which isn’t obvious from looking at the individual words.
They have developed over time and so they might seem random to you. English idioms often rely on analogies and metaphors.
Because they’re used so often in everyday English, if you don’t know them, it’s almost impossible to understand the context.
LET´S SEE 5 OF THEM!!!
1. (To) Hit the books
Literally, hit the books means to physically hit, punch or slap your reading books. However, this is a common English idiom among students, especially American college students who have a lot of studying to do. It simply means “to study,” and is a way of telling your friends that you’re going to study. It could be for a final exam, a mid-term test or even an English exam.
“Sorry but I can’t watch the game with you tonight, I have to hit the books. I have a huge exam next week!”
2. (To) Hit the sack
Just like the first idiom, the literal meaning of this would be physically hitting or beating a sack (a large bag usually used for carrying things in bulk such as flour, rice or even soil). But actually to hit the sack means to go to bed, and you’d use this to tell your friends or family that you’re really tired, so you’re going to sleep. Instead of saying hit the sack you can also say hit the hay.
“It’s time for me to hit the sack, I’m so tired.”
3. (To) Twist someone’s arm
To twist someone’s arm literally means to take a person’s arm and turn it around, which could be really painful if you take it exactly word for word. If your arm has been twisted it means that someone has done a great job of convincing you to do something you might not have wanted to to do.
And if you manage to twist someone else’s arm it means that you’re great at convincing them, and they’ve finally agreed to do something after you’ve been begging them.
Tom: Jake you should really come to the party tonight!
Jake: You know I can’t, I have to hit the books (study).
Tom: C’mon, you have to come! It’s going to be so much fun and there are going to be lots of girls there. Please come?
Jake: Pretty girls? Oh all right, you’ve twisted my arm, I’ll come!
4. (To be) Up in the air
When we think literally about something up in the air, we have the idea that something’s floating or flying in the sky, perhaps an airplane or a balloon. But really if someone tells you that things are up in the air it means that these things are uncertain or unsure; definite plans have not been made yet.
“Jen have you set a date for the wedding yet?”
“Not exactly, things are still up in the air and we’re not sure if our families can make it on the day we wanted. Hopefully we’ll know soon and we’ll let you know as soon as possible.”
5. (To) Stab someone in the back
If we take this idiom literally we could find ourselves in a whole lot of trouble with the police, as it would mean taking a knife or another sharp object and putting into a person’s back.
However, as an idiom, to stab someone in the back means to hurt someone who was close to us and trusted us by betraying them secretly and breaking their trust. We call the person who does this a back stabber.
“Did you hear that Sarah stabbed Kate in the back last week?”
“No! I thought they were best friends, what did she do?”
“She told their boss that Kate wasn’t interested in a promotion at work and Sarah got it instead.”
“Wow, that’s the ultimate betrayal! No wonder they’re not friends anymore.”