American Expression Explanations

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To the average Westerner, idioms and other expressions are common and used everyday.  Even mainstream media outlets use idoms and expressions regulary.  To some who live in other parts of the world, the sayings can be confusing and sometimes taken literally.

NOTE: In the examples, sometimes the pronouns "he" or "she" are used, but that does not mean necessarily that a men or women use the expression more or exclusively.


Dog Eat Dog

If someone says that we are living in a "dog eat dog" world, they mean that it is very competitive and one person will do anything to get ahead of someone else.  Maybe someone in your English class is always trying to answer the teacher's question to look the best.  Maybe it's time for you to work harder!  

Stabbed in the Back

To be "stabbed in the back" is figurativly saying that someone you know betrayed your trust and did something bad to you.  Maybe someone at work did something "behind your back" and took one of your ideas to the boss and used it as their own. If someone in your English class stole your homework, then they stabbed you in the back. 


Take the Bull by the Horns

If one takes the bull by the horns, then we are taking charge of a situation.  If George saw a car accident and took charge of the situation, he would be taking the bull by the horns. 


Straight From the Horse's Mouth

This is one of my personal favorites.  Let's say you heard a rumor that your English teacher was going to quit work. Then later you spoke to your friend during a tutoring session, and she told you that the rumor was true because she heard it from the horse's mouth.  That means she heard it directly from the teacher, not from a third-party. 

An Eye for an Eye

This express is ancient and implies that if you do something bad to someone else, then the same punshment is suited for you. Many people are against this philosophy and say "If we practice an eye for an eye, then the whole world will be blind." In all words, we are all guity of doing something wrong, so how can we accuse others with a straight face. 


Teacher's Note About Expressions

English learners who don't or won't study idioms and expressions are going to miss out on comprehension because the idioms have become so common in everyday speach that not knowing them will put you at a disadvantage.