In this lesson, you will learn 7 commonly used English idioms and phrases related to the body. For each idiom I give you a full definition, an explanation of the meaning and some examples. All of these idiomatic expressions are common in spoken English. This tutorial will be particulary useful to ESL students looking to expand their vocabaulary.
to get cold feet
This means to suddenly become too frightened or nervous to do something important. When we get cold feet, we are so nervous that we change our minds. We decide not to do what we are supposed to do.
Jane wanted to resign from her job but she got cold feet and decided to stay.
to cost an arm and a leg
If something costs an arm and a leg, it is very expensive.
David Beckham’s new car cost an arm and a leg! (This is in fact the past simple tense – The past form of “cost” is also “cost”)
to pull someone’s leg
= to try to make someone believe something that is not true (as a joke). If we are joking with someone and we tell them a lie to trick them, then we are pulling their leg. This is a British English idiom and it is quite informal but very common too.
Jane: “Mark, your car isn’t in the driveway. It has been stolen!”
Mark: “Oh no, I’ll call the police.”
Jane: “No, it’s not true. I’m pulling your leg.”
to have a sweet tooth
= to like eating sweet foods. If someone really likes eating sweets and cakes and chocolate, then we say they have a sweet tooth.
David eats 2 bars of chocolate every day after lunch. He has a sweet tooth.
to give someone a hand / to lend someone a hand
Both of these idiomatic expressions mean “to help someone” They are 2 different ways of saying the same thing.
Your bags look heavy. Would you like me to give you a hand?
David lent Mark a hand with the sales report.
(Notice the preposition “with” before the noun phrase)
to be an old hand at something
This means to be very experienced at something. To be very good at something. We are not referring to someone’s age.
Mark: “My computer isn’t working. Who can fix it?”
Jane: “You should ask David. He’s an old hand at repairing computers.”
(Notice we use the preposition “at” before the noun phrase. In the above example, “repairing” is a gerund. It is a verb acting as a noun.)
keep your hair on
= Calm down.
= don’t be angry with me.
This is a very informal expression when we are telling someone not to get annoyed or angry. It has quite an aggressive tone so be careful to whom you say this!
Mark: “I’m sorry, I have lost the keys.”
Jane: “Oh you stupid idiot!”
Mark: “Keep your hair on! I’ll find them.”