Number one for English language teachers

Your English: Idioms: word

Type: Article

Not for the first time, Tim Bowen’s article on idioms is too brilliant for words.

‘Work is a dirty word as far as she’s concerned’. Here, a dirty word is used to describe something that you do not like or do not approve of.

To emphasize a particular quality that someone or something has, the phrase too … for words can be used, as in ‘Forgetting my lines in front of all those people was just too embarrassing for words’.

The expression or words to that effect can be used to report the general meaning of what someone has said, rather than their exact words, often because the exact words are very direct or offensive, as in ‘He told me to go away, or words to that effect’.

If you want to give the shortest answer possible, without explaining anything, the expression in a word can be used, as in ‘Did you enjoy the film? In a word: no’.

If you are so surprised or angry that you cannot answer a question or do not wish to comment on a situation, the expression ‘Words fail me’ can be used, as in ‘What did you think of today’s referee? The referee? Words fail me’.

Take my word for it means ‘believe me’, as in ‘Take my word for it, the view from the top floor is amazing!’

If you have the last word, you either win an argument by making the final statement, as in ‘You always have to have the last word, don’t you?’ or you make the final decision about something, as in ‘The President is the one who has the last word on this matter’.

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