Number one for English language teachers

Your English: Idioms: sweep

Type: Article

Don’t sweep your issues with idioms under the carpet! Tim Bowen is here to make sense of them.

If a team sweeps the board, it wins everything, as in ‘Last year, Durham swept the board, winning all four domestic competitions’. This achievement can also be described as a clean sweep.

If an individual or a political party sweeps to power, they win an election by a very large number of votes, as in ‘After 18 years of Conservative rule, it was no surprise when Labour swept to power in 1997’. Conversely, if a political party is swept from power, it loses an election by a very large number of votes.

To sweep to victory means to easily win a competition or an election, as in ‘City swept to victory with a powerful first-half performance that saw them score four times in the first twenty-five minutes’.

The expression to sweep someone off their feet has two meanings. If a strong wind sweeps you off your feet, it lifts you up in the air, as in ‘The wind was gusting at up to 80 miles an hour and, at one point, a particularly strong gust nearly swept us off our feet’. It can also mean to have a strong effect on someone so that they quickly become attracted to you in a romantic way, as in ‘Donald was hoping to sweep Helen off her feet but she just laughed at him when he asked her to dance’.

If you sweep something under the carpet, you try to avoid dealing with a problem by pretending it does not exist, as in ‘The government was accused of sweeping a whole string of sensitive issues under the carpet’.

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