Like any other language, English has a lot of idiomatic expressions. Idiom is an expressions that is made of words that mean something different from their literal meaning but can be understood because of their popular use. One example is «it’s raining cats and dogs», which means that it’s raining heavily. Are there really dogs and cats coming down from the sky? No! Which is why it is important to look at these expressions as a whole and not just try to understand each word separately.
Many idioms come from the world of sport. If you are not familiar with American sports, these expressions might be hard to understand. Here are some common examples:
To be on the ball: to be quick to understand and react to things.
Tomorrow’s presentation is very important so you better be on the ball!
The ball is in your court: if the ball is in someone’s court, they have to do something before any progress can be made in a situation.
I told John I was interested, now the ball is in his court. If he wants to see me, he should call me himself.
A whole new ballgame: a completely different situation, often one that is difficult or that you know little about.
I run a few kilometers every morning, but running a marathon is a whole new ballgame.
To throw in the towel: to give up; to admit that you are done and cannot succeed at your current job or task.
I know working on this project hasn’t been easy but I think it’s too early to throw in the towel.
To back the wrong horse: to make the wrong decision and support a person or action that is later unsuccessful.
When I chose Ivan to present at the conference, I clearly backed the wrong horse. He arrived late and he was not prepared at all.
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