Idioms

By 10 June 2018 Video lessons 10 Comments
idioms in American English

Hey there, and welcome to Speak English with Christina, where you’ll have fun becoming fluent in American English. I’m your English coach Christina, and this month, I’m challenging you to understand real American English.

Maybe you understand videos for learning English, but in real conversations in the real world, it’s harder for you. So all this month, I’m going to challenge you with special videos featuring real, fast American English. Today, we’re focusing on idioms.

Let’s go!

The audio & video extracts in today’s episode are from my new course Understand Real American English. You’ll see, it helps you decode fast spoken English and feel comfortable in real conversations, and it’ll be available soon!

In conversations, we Americans use a lot of idioms and chunks (or typical little expressions, if you prefer.)

The problem is that some of these are not easy to guess. Here are the idioms & chunks you’ll learn today:

to blow a tire
on your way to work
to live paycheck to paycheck
to set some aside for a rainy day
To throw a wrench into things

Now, just to give you some context. In this conversation, I’m talking to Zachary, who runs a special restaurant in Mississippi, where I’m from.

What makes this restaurant special?

Well, first, his restaurant is a non-profit organization that trains people to in restaurant skills and life skills. Second, there are no prices on the menu. You pay what you want. So even if you don’t have a lot of money, you can still enjoy a very good meal in a nice restaurant.

Let’s listen to the conversation

Let’s listen to the extract once, just to hear it. There are no subtitles when you watch it the first time in the video, because real life doesn’t have subtitles.

Don’t worry, it’s normal if you don’t understand much for now. Just listen to the sounds.

Zachary: Especially in this industry …

Christina: Uh-huh (affirmative).

Zachary: … if you’re working, no one is making a millionaire out of you by working in a
restaurant …

Christina: Yeah, exactly.

Zachary: … um, you know. So it’s planning ahead for the times like, you know, you go out
to work and you blow a tire on your way to work and you’re living- Norm- … most
restaurant people I know live paycheck to paycheck …

Christina: Yeah, yeah.

Zachary: … so there’s no 150 extra bucks to go get a new tire.

Christina: Yeah, right. Yeah.

Zachary: So it’s about managing your money in a way and learning to set some aside for
when stuff like happens, it …

Christina: Like for a rainy day …

Zachary: Exactly.

Christina: … you have a cushion, yeah.

Zachary: That way, it doesn’t just throw a wrench into everything.

Christina: Yeah.

Zachary: Because then if you can’t go to work, you can’t keep your job, and then, it’s …

Christina: And then, you don’t have any more money, and then, it’s just a downward spiral

Now, let’s look at these expressions more closely, so you can learn what they mean.

“To blow a tire on your way to work”

If you blow a tire, this is what happens

Not what you want to happen while you’re on your way to work, which just means, while you’re going to work.

Listen again, this time with the subtitles:

Christina: Yeah, exactly.

Zachary: … um, you know. So it’s planning ahead for the times like, you know, you go out
to work and you blow a tire  on your way to work and you’re living- Norm- … most
restaurant people I know live paycheck to paycheck …

Christina: Yeah, yeah.

To live paycheck to paycheck

If you live paycheck to paycheck, you don’t have any savings. You earn just enough to sustain you until the next paycheck.

So it’s not a good financial situation. That’s why Zachary says most people in the restaurant industry don’t have an extra 150 bucks, or dollars to go get a new tire if they blow a tire.

Let’s see that extract again:

Zachary: … um, you know. So it’s planning ahead for the times like, you know, you go out
to work and you blow a tire  on your way to work and you’re living- Norm- … most
restaurant people I know live paycheck to paycheck …

Christina: Yeah, yeah.

Zachary: … so there’s no 150 extra bucks to go get a new tire.

Christina: Yeah, right. Yeah.

To set some aside for a rainy day

Since most people in the restaurant industry live paycheck to paycheck, and don’t have extra money for repairs if they blow a tire on their way to work, it’s good that they learn to save some money in case bad things happen.

That’s what we mean when we say “set some aside for a rainy day.” We’re not talking about the weather!

No, to set some money aside for a rainy day means to save some money to cover unplanned expenses in case of bad events, like car repairs.

Let’s see that extract again. Listen for the expression:

Zachary: … so there’s no 150 extra bucks to go get a new tire.

Christina: Yeah, right. Yeah.

Zachary: So it’s about managing your money in a way and learning to set some aside for
when stuff like happens, it …

Christina: Like for a rainy day …

Zachary: Exactly.

Christina: … you have a cushion, yeah.

Finally, there was one more idiomatic expression in that conversation…

To throw a wrench into everything

I want to challenge you! Go back, listen to the full conversation again, and see if you can catch where Zachary says “throw a wrench into everything.”

Then try to guess what it means. Put your guess in the comment, and we’ll see if you’re right!

Watch the video, so you can train your ear to understand better, and stop feeling embarrassed in conversations.


To understand more conversations like this one, join my online course Understand Real American English, available later this month.

Thanks to 10 unscripted dialogues, complete lessons, plus worksheets, you’ll learn to decode real conversations between fast-talking Americans.

Click here to get 4 bonus extracts from the course when you click here!

Thanks for watching Speak English with Christina, and I’ll see you next time!

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