In any language, there are words or phrases which are well known and used regularly to instinctively describe a situation or feeling. But..they are almost impossible to translate directly into another language with the same meaning!
If you have native English-speaking friends or colleagues – or if you live and work, or have spent you extended periods in the UK – you will often hear some ‘strange’ words or phrases that you don’t know. Most of these words and phrases are used instinctively and informally, but sometimes they do ‘pop up’ (occur) in other situations, including professional contexts. And they can leave you a bit confused.
Here are 5 commonly used expressions – with their meanings and the usual contexts when they are used – which you can try to incorporate into your next conversation…And surprise your friends and colleagues with your knowledge of colloquial language!
1. ‘Pull a blinder’
This complimentary phrase is used when you think someone has used great skill to achieve something that was difficult – and you weren’t expecting it!
“I didn’t think we were going to win that contract but Sarah pulled a blinder with that final presentation!”
2. ‘Drop a clanger’
As an opposite to number 1, this expression is used to when someone says or does something that is an obvious mistake, and causes embarrassment or shock to the listeners
“Tom dropped a clanger when he told everyone in the office about his pay rise – just after the boss said nobody would get one this year!”
3. ‘Flog’ (verb)
A very informal word meaning to sell something – usually quickly and cheaply
“We’ve got too much stock of that cheese and it will be out of date soon – we need to flog it all as soon as possible!”
4. ‘(Throw) a spanner in the works’
English has several interesting phrases to describe when things don’t progress as planned! When something happens which causes a problem or disruption to pre-ordered plans or something that is in progress, we use this phrase.
“That strike has thrown a spanner in the works! We’ll be delayed for weeks if they don’t sort it out.”
5. ‘Splash out’ (verb)
Have you just had a bonus or received some extra cash you don’t need for essentials? Or have a celebration to organise and want it to be very special? This phrase is used when you want to be extravagant with your money and spend a significant amount on a particular item or event.
“I’ve always wanted to go on a Safari so I decided to splash out on one when I got my bonus last month. I can’t wait!”
Even if you don’t use these native English phrases yourself, hopefully you will recognise them if you hear your English-speaking colleagues use them – and know exactly what they mean!
If you want to broaden your English and learn more of these common phrases British people say, get in touch to find out more about our online courses that can help you improve your spoken English.