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Your English: Idioms: The elements

Type: Article

Spring is in the air but you might want to hold fire on organizing a barbecue as the unpredictable weather might pour cold water on your plans. Tim Bowen braves the elements.

There’s no smoke without fire means that if something bad is being said about someone, then there is probably a good reason for it. The person in question might decide to fight fire with fire, however, and criticize the people who are criticizing him or her. If you find yourself in the line of fire, you are liable to be criticized for something, and if something draws fire, it attracts severe criticism, as in 'The proposed merger is drawing fire from all sides'. If someone holds fire, they wait before taking action, as in ‘The banks have decided to hold fire and not raise interest rates for the time being’.

If something is in the air, people all have a similar feeling, especially a feeling that something new or exciting is happening, as in 'There was a feeling in the air that it was time for a change’ or ‘Spring is in the air'. If your plans are up in the air, on the other hand, you have not yet decided what to do. If something disappears in a sudden or mysterious way, we can say that it has vanished into thin air and, similarly, something can appear out of thin air, as in 'It just happened, out of thin air'. If you are lucky enough to find yourself walking or floating on air, you are extremely happy for some reason.

In that situation, you simply have to hope that no-one pours cold water on your plans (does or says something to spoil them). If you are a strong and confident person, any criticism may simply be water off a duck’s back to you (you are completely unaffected by it) and any bad things that happened in the past will now just be water under the bridge (gone and forgotten).

In someone has gone to earth it means they have disappeared, as in, 'The criminal escaped from prison last week but now appears to have gone to earth. Authorities are at a loss as to where he may be.' If you come or are brought back down to Earth (with a bump) it means that you face the reality of a situation. For example, 'Jack was boasting all week about winning the race, but he was brought down to earth with a bump when the new kid beat him and he only managed third place.'

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