An English language course will generally cover everything you need to know about the English language, from how to pronounce certain phrases to covering the oft-confusing homonyms English throws up.
One thing a traditional English language course won’t necessarily cover, however, are the many odd phrases used in the UK on a daily basis. While these idioms (a phrase that has both a literal and figurative meaning) are second nature to someone born and raised in the UK, they can be very confusing to someone living in the UK for the first time!
Here are five commonly used phrases that, should you choose to study English in Manchester, you’ll hear quite often over the course of your studies, along with their meaning.
You’ve probably heard that we’re fond of a cup of tea over here in Britain – and you’d be right! However, we don’t always sit down with a set of china cups for ‘a spot of tea’…
Hot beverages are commonly referred to as ‘a brew’, particularly in the North of England (the phrase is also used, albeit slightly less, in the Midlands and South too!). This is because traditional tea is made by brewing tea leaves in a bag in hot water, although the phrase ‘brew’ can also refer to a cup of coffee. Practically meaning ‘Would you fancy a cup of tea?’. when someone asks you if you fancy a brew, they’re asking if you’d like a hot drink!
A phrase you’ll often hear spoken by footballers and guests on popular daytime television shows, ‘at the end of the day’ is typically used, to sum up events or information and provide the ultimate meaning (according to the speaker) of it all. However, these events don’t necessarily have to occur over the course of a single day; the phrase can be used when talking about hours, months or even years!
A quick word of warning: this phrase was once voted the most irritating expression in the English language by Oxford University, so don’t use it too often!
Another tea based expression – we did warn you, didn’t we?! This phrase is another idiom; occasionally, someone might say ‘not my cup of tea’ to signify that a certain ‘brew’ isn’t theirs. More commonly, however, the phrase is used to express that something isn’t to someone’s liking; it can be used to refer to food, movies, TV shows, sports and more or less anything you can express an opinion about. An example: ‘Coronation Street? I know it’s a popular UK soap, but it’s not my cup of tea!’
When someone asks you to ‘give them a ring’ or ‘a bell’, it means phone them! This is one of the more confusing phrases in the English language, as the phrase is technically literal – a phone rings or chimes like a bell – but can also be interpreted as giving someone a piece of jewellery or a handbell!
Another phrase you might hear with an identical meaning is ‘drop me a line’. This means get in touch, either via a phone call, an email or any other method of communication.
The British have a wicked sense of humour, frequently employing mockery and sarcasm as a form of comedy. Don’t fret though, because this is mostly done in jest and isn’t intended to cause offence. You can usually tell if someone is joking with you if they tell you they are ‘pulling your leg’. This doesn’t mean they are literally pulling your leg but rather making a joke – usually at your expense!
The origins of this phrase aren’t clear; some say it first appeared in W.B Churchward’s ‘Blackbirding’, while others believe it comes from an old thieving method used by street thieves in London, in which they would trip up a pedestrian by ‘pulling their leg’ and then steal from them!
There are many other unique and strange phrases used by the British, but learning them – whether you’re studying an IELTS course or an intensive English course – is often as simple as walking down the street and talking to people. Most will be more than happy to explain what they mean! For more information on the range of English language courses on offer at New College Manchester, call 0161 233 4290.