Number one for English language teachers

Your English: Idioms: call (n)

Type: Article

Stuck on idioms? Make this Your English your next port of call.

‘Stranded drivers said the emergency services had gone beyond the call of duty in providing help in appalling conditions’. If an action is described as beyond the call of duty, it is far more than a person is normally expected to do as part of his or her job.

Apart from its literal meaning, a wake-up call can also be used to describe a bad experience that warns people to change something, usually the way they behave, as in ‘The low test scores should act as a loud wake-up call to teachers’. 

A close call is a dangerous or unpleasant situation that you have just succeeded in avoiding, as in ‘Phew! That was a close call! I was sure he was going to skid right into us’. 

If you have first call on something, you are the first person to be offered the opportunity to have it or buy it, as in ‘Season ticket holders will have first call on tickets for the big match when they become available’. 

If you say that there’s no call for a particular sort of behaviour, you indicate that someone is behaving in a rude or unreasonable way, as in ‘There’s no call for that sort of language. Remember there are children present’. 

A person who is on call is available in case they are needed at work, especially if they are a medical worker or a member of the emergency services, as in ‘I’m not sure if I’ll be able to join you this weekend. I’m on call’. 

Your next port of call is the place you are going to visit next. This could be a country, a city or even a pub, as in ‘Where’s your next port of call, John?’

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