Search This Blog


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Take A Toll On / Take Its Toll On

Idiom: to take a/its toll on; used as a verb

First Example:

Sharon: Wow, you've been working late a lot lately!
Geoff: Yeah, and it's beginning to take a toll on me.
Sharon: What do you mean?
Geoff: Well, I've been really stressed, and my health is getting worse because I haven't been going to the gym or getting enough sleep. I've gotten sick twice in the last two months!
Sharon: Wow, maybe you should take some time off.
Geoff: I'm planning on it, once I get this report finished.

Meaning: When something "takes a toll on" something, it means that the subject is having a negative effect on the object of the idiom.  Usually, the idiom "take a toll on" is used when a person or thing has been doing a certain action a lot, and that action is starting to have a negative impact on the person or thing doing it.  In the example above, Geoff has been working late a lot, and the extra time at work and stress is having a negative impact on, or "taking a toll on", Geoff's health.  The expression can be used with the word "a" or "its" interchangeably, so the example above could have also been "Yeah, and it's beginning to take its toll on me" without a change in meaning.  Look at another example involving an object that is being affected: 

Michael: I need to get a new car.
Jennifer: I thought you said you would never get rid of that BMW?
Michael: Yeah, I love the car, but traffic is really beginning to take its toll on the engine.  I've broken down twice in the last month, and there's a weird sound coming from under the hood.
Jennifer:  How old is the car?        
Michael: It's from 1972, and it was great when I drove short distances, but I don't think it was made for sitting in traffic.  Hopefully I can find a collector who wants to restore it.  Then I can use the money as a down payment on something a little newer and more reliable.

In this example, Michael says he needs to get a new car because the traffic is "taking its toll" on his current car.  He thinks sitting in traffic is having a negative effect on the older car, so he is thinking about selling it and buying something newer.  Notice that Michael used "its" instead of "a" in the idiom (although "taking a toll" would also be technically correct in this instance).

This idiom is from LSI's new edition of "Reading Horizons," which will be used in the Level 6 Reading classes. For more information, please visit

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

To Take Something To Heart

Idiom: to take __  to heart; used as a verb

First Example:
Chrissie: Can you believe Patti said that?
Steven: What did she say?
Chrissie: She said that I should just quit the tennis tournament now so that I'm not embarrassed later. She said she's going to kick my butt!
Steven: Oh, you shouldn't take anything she says to heart.  She's just very competitive and loves talking trash* to her opponents.
Chrissie: Really?  She was so aggressive that she kind of scared me.
Steven: She's not going to hurt you, and I'm sure you're not the only person she has said that to.  Just focus on how good it's going to feel when you prove her wrong.
Chrissie: Yeah... I guess I am a more experienced player.
Steven: There you go.  Keep telling yourself that!

Meaning: When people "take something to heart," it means that they consider a comment as being personally significant.  Usually used with a noun or "it" in the middle, the expression is often used with a negative when telling someone not to take something personally.  In the example above, Chrissie is worried about Patti's comment, but Steven says that Patti is always aggressive when she competes, and that Chrissie shouldn't take her comments to heart.  The expression can also be used without a negative, as can be seen in the following example from an email: 

Hi Lou,

Thanks for your feedback on my behavior at work.  At first, I got a little defensive after you told me I "shouldn't be preaching at work."  I thought you were attacking my religious beliefs, and my feelings were hurt.  But then I thought about how I would feel if someone was forcing their beliefs on me at work, and I realized that you were not attacking me personally; I was just making you uncomfortable!  So I took your comments to heart, and I'm sorry I made you uncomfortable. I will try not to talk about religion at work any more, and if I'm ever making you feel uncomfortable again, please let me know.


In this example, Maureen is writing an email to Lou thanking him for feedback on her behavior.  In the email, she says that his comment about preaching at work initially hurt her feelings, but that she eventually understood, and that she took his comments to heart.  This means that she applied them to herself and it made her change her opinion and/or behavior.

*Note: to "talk trash" means to speak in negative, insulting or abusive ways; it is commonly used when speaking to competitors.

This idiom is from LSI's new edition of "Reading Horizons," which will be used in the Level 6 Reading classes. For more information, please visit