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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

To Turn Over a New Leaf

To Turn Over a New Leaf -  To make a fresh new start to begin again; to reform and begin again; to start behaving in a better way

Example 1
Nina: I am so out of shape! When I was walking up the stairs to class this morning, I could barely make it. I was so tired that I just wanted to sit down. I’m only 26, so I don’t think that should be happening to me.

Vince: It sounds like you need to turn over a new leaf and start exercising more! Why don’t you sign up at a new gym and start working out?
Nina: Do you really think I need to do that much and actually go to a gym?
Vince: Well, yes. It will motivate you to work out every day if you are paying for it.
Nina: I guess you’re right. I definitely need to turn over a new leaf and start exercising. Maybe I’ll sign up at that new gym down the street.
Vince: Yes, it’s a pretty good gym, but it’s really expensive! You should try to look for some other gyms to see if you can get something cheaper. They should have some good deals now at the beginning of the year. This is the time when everyone wants to turn over a new leaf.

Nina: Good idea!

Example 2
Bob: I cannot believe how much Bill has changed since he got out of rehab! He is like a new person.

Ken: Yes, he has really turned over a new leaf. I’m so glad that he finally decided to accept the fact that he is an alcoholic and then found treatment.

Bob: I know. He tried to hide it for so long, but everyone could see that he was out of control. He was drunk almost every day!

Ken: I just hope he stays sober and doesn’t drink again.

Bob:  I think he will be OK. Once he turns over a new leaf, everyone will support him.

Ken: I agree.

Explanation: When it’s the new year or even the start of something new, it’s time to make a fresh start, to do something different, and to turn over a new leaf! In this case,  “leaf” means a page—a fresh, clean page or to turn the page and start a new chapter of your life. It can also mean to start behaving in a better way.  In the first example,  Nina is still young, but really out of shape, so she decides to start exercising to get in better shape. In the second example, Bill is an alcoholic, so he needs to make a fresh start and start behaving in a different way. For more information, please visit:

Thursday, December 19, 2013

On Thin Ice

On Thin Ice -  In a risky or difficult situation. 
Example 1
Nikki: I’m so nervous right now. I’m on thin ice with Dave and I still have to sing with him again tonight when we go out Christmas caroling in the mall.

Ned: What do you mean you are on thin ice? I thought you both loved singing Christmas songs together.
Nikki: That was before I started seeing Todd. I mean, I like Dave as a friend and he is really fun to sing with, but I don’t want to date him. When he saw me out with Todd last night at the restaurant, he seemed really upset.
Ned: Wow, that’s tough. Maybe you should just talk to him about it and tell him how you really feel.

Noriko: Yes, I probably should since I really want to keep him as a friend. Wish me luck!

Example 2
Bob: What’s wrong, Ken?

Ken: Well, I’m afraid I’m about to lose my job. I’m really on thin ice with my boss and he is watching every move I make.

Bob: Really? Why is that?

Ken: Well, recently I’ve been going out with my friends and partying a lot. We stay out really late and it is so hard for me to get up in the mornings. I’m supposed to be to work by 9:00 AM, but I’ve been late a few times.

Bob:  What do you mean by “late?”

Ken: I came in around 10:15 AM a few days. My boss was so angry because we are busy right now and other employees had to cover for me.

Bob: Wow, I can see why you are on thin ice at work. You shouldn’t be late again.

Ken: Yes, I know. I’m really trying to make it on time every day.

Meaning: To be on thin ice means to be in a risky or difficult situation. In the first example, Nikki is on thin ice because she went out with another guy and her friend became upset because he likes her. In the second example, Ken is on thin ice, or is in risk of losing his job, because he has been late a lot to work.  For more information, please

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

To Get in the Holiday Spirit

To Get in the Holiday Spirit - to have good feelings about the holidays 
Example 1:
Santa Claus: Merry Christmas, everyone!  

Noriko: Wow! I can’t believe how beautiful the mall looks with all these Christmas decorations. And look over there! It’s Santa Claus posing for pictures with the kids.

Nikki: Yes, Santa Claus is getting everyone in the holiday spirit.
Noriko: I’ve never had my picture taken with Santa before. Do you think it would be strange if I did it now?
Nikki: Why not? Let’s get in the holiday spirit! It will be a nice souvenir for you to take back to Japan with you.

Noriko: OK. Let’s do it!

Christmas Carolers
Example 2: 

Bob: Oh, I’ve been so busy at work. I’m just exhausted! And now, my girlfriend wants me to go to a stupid Christmas party tonight that her company is having. I don’t want to go.

Ken: I know what you mean. I can’t get in the holiday spirit this year. Maybe I’ve just been working too hard.

Bob: Well, a few days of rest and relaxation would help a lot. I’ll definitely get in the holiday spirit once my vacation starts!

Ken: Where are you going this year?

Bob:  We are taking a ski trip to Big Bear. We’ll definitely have a white Christmas with all that snow.

Ken: That’s enough to get anyone in the holiday spirit!

Meaning: To get in the holiday spirit means to become excited about  or to have good feelings about a major holiday, especially Christmas. Someone who gets in the holiday spirit starts participating in all the events surrounding that holiday like buying gifts, sending cards, and putting up decorations. This idiom is especially useful during winter! For more information, please

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Party Pooper

Idiom:  Party Pooper; used as a noun.

First Example:  

“All of us wanted to have a summer barbecue at the beach this weekend, but when we mentioned our idea to Cindy, she immediately started to complain about how hot the sun was and how much trouble it would be for us to carry the food.  She is such a party pooper!”

Meaning:  A Party Pooper is a person who often tries to reduce the interest or enthusiasm of others.  In this example, the majority of the group was very enthusiastic about having a summer barbecue party at the beach.  However, Cindy did not share their excitement over the idea and immediately started to complain about it.  The idiom, Party Pooper, is often used to describe someone who does not share the same interest as the group and often tries to discourage them either intentionally or unintentionally.  This idiom can be used as a non-offensive way of describing someone who often disturbs the fun of others.  The idiom is most commonly used as a noun.

This idiom is from the book "Everyday Idioms for Reference and Practice – Book One" which is used in the LSI Intermediate Conversation Class.

For more information, please visit

Pick Up the Tab

Idiom:  To Pick Up the Tab; used as a verb.

First Example:  

“Sam had invited Alice to an expensive restaurant for dinner.  Since this was their first date together, Sam had picked up the tab for the night.”

Meaning:  To Pick Up the Tab means to pay for the cost of something, usually a meal.  In this example, since Sam had invited Alice out on a date, it is customary in most Western societies for men to pay for the first meal of a date.  This idiom can apply to any situation where somebody intends to pay for the full price of a meal.  This idiom is used as a verb in this example.

This idiom is from the book "Everyday Idioms for Reference and Practice – Book One," which is used as the primary textbook in LSI’s Intermediate Conversation classes.

For more information, please visit

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

on any given day

Example 1: On any given day, you can find me reading a book at Starbucks. I go there almost every day to study.

Example 2: There are lots of street performers on the Venice Boardwalk. If you go there on any given day, you'll certainly see something interesting.

on any given day is used the same way as any day

This idiom can be found in Reading Horizons 1st Edition which is used to teach Reading/Vocabulary in level 6. For more information, please visit

on the spot

Example 1: Greg asked Jan to marry him and she said yes on the spot. She didn't need time to think.

Example 2: In the United States, it's customary to open gifts on the spot, as soon as they are received.

Explanation: on the spot can be used the same way as you'd use the word immediately

In example 1, Jan said yes immediately to Greg's proposal. In example 2, it explains how Americans usually open gifts immediately after they are received. 

This idiom comes from Reading Horizons 1st Edition which is used in the level 6 Reading/Vocabulary classes. For more information, please visit

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

To be a joke

Idiom: To be a joke
Context #1:
Jack: Last night I took my girlfriend to see that new action movie starring Sylvester Stallone.
Tony: How was it?
Jack:  It was a joke! The acting was so bad. And the side effects were kind of stupid too.
Tony: Yeah, I heard the reviews weren't that good.
Context #2:
Christine: Tonight I'm going to attend that public meeting at city hall. They're going to vote on the new law that will ban fireworks within the city limits.
Bonnie:  Really? Good luck!  I stopped attending those meetings because they're always a joke! The city government never listens to the people and it seems like no progress is ever made at those meetings.
Meaning: "to be a joke" is a common idiom in American English that is used to express the idea that something is dumb, boring, or not worthwhile. It is always used in a negative way, with a little mix of sarcasm too.  Practical idioms like this are taught in the Listening and Speaking classes at Language Systems International.  For more information please visit

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

All bets are off

Idiom: All bets are off
Meaning: An agreement that was decided on before is no longer valid. 
This is usually said when someone breaks your trust or does something to hurt your feelings. For example, you trusted that person before but because they did something bad you don't trust them anymore and you'll do whatever you want and not care how those actions affect them.
Paul and Matt are in Vegas.
Paul: Matt, I told you not to tell my sister that I gambled $500 away! I trusted you.
Matt: I know! I'm sorry.
Paul: I can't believe you did that. I've always kept your secrets, but now all bets are off.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

To Sweeten the Pot

Idiom: to sweeten the pot; used as a verb

First Example:
Joseph: Jamal turned down the job offer. 
Olivia: What?! I thought he wanted that position.
Joseph: He does, but he said it's not worth it.  He said it's too much work for not enough money.  But the CEO won't let me increase the salary any more.
Olivia: Is there any other way you can sweeten the pot?
Joseph: What do you mean?
Olivia: Well, you can't give him more money, but maybe you can offer a few more vacation days, or maybe offer him Mark's office since he's leaving.  
Joseph: That's a pretty good idea.  I'm gonna go see what I can come up with.

Meaning: The expression "sweeten the pot" means to make something more desirable.  The expression originally comes from gambling; when players make new bets, they will sometimes say they are "sweetening the pot" as they throw chips in.  This means the pot (i.e. the money that will be won by the person with the best hand) is larger and therefore more desirable to all players.  But while the expression is still used in gambling, the expression is now used in everyday conversation, as seen above. In this example, Joseph offered Jamal a new position, but Jamal turned it down because he didn't think it was worth it. Olivia suggests that Joseph "sweeten the pot" by adding additional incentives like vacation days and a new office to the offer that Jamal might want but that won't cost as much as a salary increase.  

Here's another example:
Natalia: Could you help me move this weekend?  I'll buy you pizza.
Cole: I don't know; you have a lot of stuff.  Isn't there any way you can sweeten the pot a bit more?
Natalia: Ok, then I'll take you to that new seafood restaurant you've been wanting to try.  The meal and drinks will be on me.
Cole: Deal!  What time are we packing the truck?

In this case, Natalia offered to buy Cole pizza if he helped her move, but Cole asked her to "sweeten the pot," meaning he wanted more for his help.  She then offered to take him to a more expensive dinner, which he accepted.

Note: this idiom is related to LSI's upcoming Las Vegas trip over Thanksgiving weekend.  For more information, contact the Marketing Department or ask the front desk at your school.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

To Have An Ace Up One's Sleeve

Idiom: to have an ace/something up one's sleeve; used as a verb

First Example:
Victor: Are you nervous about your audition tomorrow?
Jean: A little, but I think I have a pretty chance at getting the role.
Victor: What makes you so confident?  It sounds like a lot of people are auditioning for this movie.
Jean: Well, I kind of have an ace up my sleeve.  I knew the director when we were kids.  His sister was my best friend.
Victor: Do you think he'll remember you?
Jean: I changed my name when I got married, so he won't recognize the name, but I spent a lot of time at his house.  He has to remember me. 

Meaning: The expression "have an ace up one's sleeve" means to have a secret or surprise that will give that person an advantage.  The expression originally comes from people cheating at poker, when holding an ace (the most valuable card) up one's sleeve would give that person an advantage over the other players.  While it can still used for cheating in poker, the expression now has a less negative meaning when used in everyday conversation, as seen above. In this example, Jean believes that her knowing the director will help her get the movie role she is auditioning for.   Furthermore, the idiom has developed further so that "something" can now be used instead of "ace", with the expression "to have an something up one's sleeve" having the same meaning as the original, as in the next example:

Chris: Are you going to do anything special during the wedding ceremony tomorrow?
Edward: No.
Chris: I don't believe you.  I think you have something up your sleeve.
Edward: Well, promise not to tell anyone.
Chris: OK, I promise.
Edward: I'm going to sing Kate's favorite song to her during the ceremony, but no one really knows.  I want it to be a surprise, and I can't wait to see the look on her face.
Chris: She's gonna love it.    

In this case, Edward has a surprise "up his sleeve" for his wedding; he will be singing his new bride's favorite song to her.

Note: this idiom is related to LSI's upcoming Las Vegas trip over Thanksgiving weekend.  For more information, contact the Marketing Department or ask the front desk at your school.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Stay Put

Idiom:  Stay Put; used as a verb.

First Example:  
“Small children usually have so much energy and can never sit still for very long.  You should not expect your three year-old to stay put for very long.”

Meaning:  Stay Put is usually used to express the idea of staying in one place and to not move.  In the example above, it is very difficult for small children to stay in one place for an extended period of time.  This idiom can be used as a general verb to relate the idea of staying in one place.  The words, stay and put cannot be separated.

Here is another example:

Second Example:
“If you ever become lost while hiking in the mountains, it is generally a good idea to stay put until help arrives.  It might be more difficult for people to find you if you continue to move around without any sense of direction.”

Meaning: In this case, the idiom, Stay Put, is used to express the advice that you should not move around if you ever become lost.  It is generally easier for search parties to find a lost hiker if they are still in the general area where they had originally intended to go.  In this example, the idiom is being used as a verb.

This idiom is from the book "The Idiom Advantage – Fluency in Speaking and Listening," which is used as primary material in LSI’s Advanced Conversation classes.

For more information, please visit

Breathing Room

Idiom:  Breathing Room; used as a noun.


“Tom is having a really hard time at work.  His boss loves to micro-manage him and controls almost every little thing he does.  If Tom’s boss doesn’t give him some Breathing Room, I think he’s going to quit his job soon.”

Meaning:  Breathing Room refers to giving someone sufficient room to breathe and move comfortably.  It can also mean to give someone sufficient space or independence in his/her daily activities.  In this example, Tom’s boss constantly monitors him and does not give him the freedom to perform his work independently.  As a result, Tom feels that he doesn’t have the freedom to do his work comfortably and at his own pace.  This idiom can apply to any situation where it might be necessary to give someone the space to feel comfortable at doing a particular activity. 

This idiom is from the book "The Idiom Advantage – Fluency in Speaking and Listening," which is used as a primary Idioms material in LSI’s Advanced Conversation classes.

For more information, please visit

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Sooner The Better

Idiom: "The Sooner The Better"

Context #1:
Tom: Can you believe Christmas is only a few weeks away?
Jim: I know! It's crazy! Have you done all your Christmas shopping?
Tom: Not yet, but I'm going to do most of it this weekend.
Jim: The sooner the better... you know how crazy it gets the longer you wait.

Context #2:
Jill: You know, my tooth is really hurting.
Tony: You should go see a dentist.
Jill: But I hate going to the dentist.
Tony: I know. But the sooner the better because what if it is something serious. You'd better not wait.

Meaning: "The Sooner The Better" is a common American expression that is used in a situation where someone should do something as soon as possible instead of waiting or procrastinating. Usually this is used when there is a sense of urgency. Idioms like this are taught at LSI in out Speaking and Conversation classes. For more information please visit

Friday, October 18, 2013

Heart of Gold

Idiom: Heart of Gold

Meaning: to be extremely kind and helpful.

Read the following birthday card message:

Dear Paola,

Happy Birthday! We've never met a person as kind and generous as you! You are always there for your friends when we need you! I will never forget the time when I didn't have money to pay my water bill, and you gave me the money and brought me some water to drink, Thank you also, for dedicating your time  to save so many computers from dying... You truly have a heart of gold! 


Your best friends!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What's the catch?

Idiom: What's the catch?
Meaning: It sounds good, but are there any hidden problems? 

Two friends, Arda and Joao are talking about buying a car

Arda: My friend is selling his car for $1000
Joao: Sounds too good to be true. What's the catch? 
Arda: The air condition in the car doesn't work
Joao: Now I understand why he is selling it for such a low price.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

To Ward Off

Idiom: to ward off; used as a verb

First Example:
Abel: Why do they always hold up crosses in vampire movies?
Yvonne: In vampire legends, it is believed that crosses ward off vampires.
Abel: What does that mean?
Yvonne: Well, they can't touch it, so it prevents them from hurting you.

Meaning: The phrasal verb "ward off" means to try to keep someone or something away.  A "No Trespassing" would be used to "ward off" trespassers (people who shouldn't be in a place), just like crosses are used in the above example to "ward off" vampires.  "Ward off" can be separable, but usually only with a pronoun, as in the following example:

Abel: Huh. I don't know much about vampire legends.  Is anything else supposed to ward them off?
Yvonne: Yeah, lots of stuff.  Garlic, holy water, sunlight, fire.  They're scared of a lot of stuff.
Abel: I guess that's good to know if I ever run into a vampire.        

Meaning: You can see an example of a separated "ward off" in Abel's question, when he asks if anything else can "ward them off."  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

to dress up

Idiom: To dress up; used as a verb

First Example:
Nadia: Wow, you're dressed up for work. What's the occasion?
Phillip: I'm going to my friend's wedding this afternoon, so I figured I'd just wear my suit to work rather than change later.
Nadia: Well, you look very nice. You should dress up more often.
Phillip: Thanks.  I do feel nice.

Meaning: The phrasal verb "dress up" means to dress in clothing you wouldn't normally wear.  It can be used to say someone is wearingn formal clothes, as in the example above, where Phillip is "dressed up" in a suit for a wedding.  In addition, you can use "dress up" when a person puts on a costume, such as for Halloween, as in the next example:

Maria: Are you going to dress up for the Halloween party?
Neil: Nah.  Wearing costumes is for kids.
Maria: What are you talking about? I love dressing up.  My friends and I plan out our costumes every year.  We have so much fun.
Neil: Huh, maybe I should reconsider then.  What are you dressing up as this year?
Maria: I can't tell you! It's a surprise! But you should dress up as Dracula! You kind of look like Bela Legosi.

Meaning: In this case, "dress up" is used for costumes.  Notice that "as" can be added to "dress up" when specifying what/who someone is dressing up as.  In this example, Maria won't say what she is dressing up as, but she says Neil that Neil should dress up as Dracula since he looks like the actor who played Dracula.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

To be scared stiff

Idiom: "To be scared stiff"

Meaning: To be really frightened of something; when something frightens you so much, you cannot even move any part of your body.

Example #1:

Jill: Trevor, you look a little pale. What's wrong?

Trevor: I just went to Knott's Scary Farm last night and I still haven't recovered.

Jill: What do you mean? Isn't that supposed to be fun?

Trevor: Well, it wasn't fun for me. All these crazy looking people and monsters kept jumping out to grab me when I was walking or going on the rides. At one point, I was scared stiff and I couldn't even move a muscle.

Jill: You know that those monsters are just people dressed up in costumes to look scary, right?

Trevor: Yes, I do. But once I arrived there in the dark, they seemed real! Then, when I got home I had the worst nightmare I've ever had and I woke up scared stiff. I couldn't even get up to turn on the light!

Jill: Wow! Maybe you shouldn't go out on Halloween anymore!


Example #2:
Sarah: You are not going to believe what happened to me last night!

Jackie: What?

Sarah: Well, I was spending the night at Jennifer's house and I was sleeping on her sofa. For some reason, I woke up in the middle of the night, sensing that I wasn't alone. I heard heavy breathing and saw the shadow of something coming toward me. I was scared stiff! I actually thought it was a monster or something!

Jackie: Really? What happened after that?

Sarah: It came closer and closer. I was still scared stiff and could not move at all. Then, all of a sudden, a cute little puppy jumped up on the sofa and started licking my face! It was Jennifer's new dog, Cuddles. He is so cute and playful!

Jackie: At least you had a happy ending!

Meaning: To be scared stiff means to be so afraid or frightened of something that a person cannot move any part of the body. In the first example, Trevor went to Knott's Scary Farm on Halloween and became frightened when he was there, even though he knew it was all fake.  In the second example, Sarah thought a strange creature was going to attack her in the middle of the night, but it ended up being a cute, little puppy. This idiom is especially useful around Halloween! For more information, please