Tuesday, March 13

Some Strange Expressions in English

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Today I'm going to talk about 2 expressions in English that non-native speakers find strange and confusing. They are: 

1.     If worst comes to worst 

-- and --

2.     Luck out 

As some of you might guess, these expressions are actually what we call "idioms." Indeed, there are many idioms in English that give non-native speakers a lot of trouble. 

But don't hate these special expressions. You have to understand that each and every language in the world has its own set of idioms. Your own native language has idioms - probably a lot. And if an American tries to learn your native language, he will also find the idioms of your culture strange and difficult to learn. 

In short, the only way to learn an idiom and other such idiomatic expressions is to memorize it as a whole set, and then practice it. 

IDIOMS are good to study coz their original, literal meaning is usually so wild and funny. Plus, their origin - how they started and their history until they became popular expressions in English is also very colorful and interesting. 

It takes a bit of researching though. 

Lastly and more importantly, the person who can use the native idioms of a language will also sound natural and fluent (as long as they are able to use the idioms properly). 

Today, like I said, I'm going to talk about the two idioms above because they are very unique and how we use them confuses the average student. 

Let's start...

If worst comes to worst = 

Some Americans have wondered whether this expression is right or wrong. It means "If the most terrible situation happens" or "if the situation changes from worse to worst." 


1. I've prepared flashlights and stored some water. But if worst comes to worst, we'll check in at a hotel. 

2. I know they really hate each other. If worst comes to worst, we'll tie each of them up. 

3. My boss is getting very critical of me these days. If worst comes to worst, I'll quit.  

Some people have argued that it's better to say "if worse comes to worst" because it makes more sense. Like a situation or condition is developing from terrible to more terrible. In other words, there are different levels. 

But in the end, it's ok to wonder about things like these but when it comes to idioms, it isn't good to think about them too much. 'Coz you can think about it long and hard till you finally go crazy, but there is very little logical explanation that you can find - in terms of grammar or sense. This is why they are idioms. 

Better than over-analyzing it, like I said, just memorize it and try to use it in a situation. So you don't miss the opportunity to practice your English. Don't think about it more than you need to. 

In any case, both styles: "If worst comes to worst" and "If worse comes to worst" are widely-accepted. So, choose the one you prefer and move on. 


Luck out

This idiom is especially confusing for many non-native speakers. The reason is that, in their own native languages and in the structure of this expression itself, it's very natural to connect this idiom with another idiom: "out of luck." 

But these two expressions are perfectly different. 

The average learner of English will think "luck out" has a negative meaning because of the word "out." But as a matter of fact, "luck out" has a positive meaning. 

"Luck out" means "to get lucky in a tough situation." Or, in a situation where the chances of succeeding are low. 


1. I went to the book store without much hope, but I lucked out and found the last copy of the book I was looking for! 

2. Competition in the industry was intense. But the businessman lucked out when he discovered a very unique strategy. 

As you can see, because "luck out" looks very much like "run out of luck," we easily assume that it means bad. 

But as a matter of fact, "to luck out" means good. 

Keep on learning !

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