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  • Luke

For Students: Animal Idioms

Updated: Mar 11, 2021

Are you a cat or dog person? Personally I prefer cats, they are independent, so it doesn't take too much effort to look after them, and while they meow, it is nothing compared to the annoyance of a dog bark. In fact, I grew up with both a cat and a dog in my life. Me and my family had a cat and my granddad had a dog. I spent many hours walking my granddad's dog, sat in the back of his car listening to the dog panting after a run, and trying to avoid his saliva and slobber from getting on my clothes....

Nowadays, I won't lie, I am a bit of afraid of dogs, especially when I see a stray dog or a dog not on a lead, but I do feel a little more at ease when I see a dog with a muzzle, that way I know I'm safe from a dog nipping me or biting me which has happened to me twice, in the same place.... by two different dogs, both the same breed.

We have some useful idioms and expressions connected with animals that are pretty useful. I have chosen 10 which I think are most appropriate for everyday life.

1 – The elephant in the room – a topic or situation everyone is thinking, but nobody is saying: Example: OK, I'll get the elephant in the room out of the way first, Mike has left the company.

2 – To not give a monkey's (toss) – to not show interest or care for something Example: Honestly, I don't give a monkey's who gets the job as long as nothing changes in the department

3 – Let the cat out of the bag – to accidentally reveal some information Example: So on Tuesday, when we go to Milan... Milan? Err, oh know, I've let the cat out of the bag. It was supposed to be a surprise.

4 – To go to the dogs – when the quality of something gets worse, usually used to talk about pubs or restaurants. Often used with the present perfect to show it's present state. Example: I stopped going to The Ship – name of a pub - . It has gone to the dogs since they changed owners.

5 – To go cold turkey – to give up something without any help Example: He gave up smoking. He went cold turkey. It was very hard living with him.

6 – To be a snake – someone who is nice to your face and criticises you when your back is turned. You can't trust them. Example: Really? He said that! What a snake. He told me it was no problem.

7 – To open a can of worms – to create more problems by doing or saying something else. Example: Don't say anything about his car, I don't want to open that can of worms

8 – Dog eat dog – very competitive. You have to be at your best to survive. Example: It's a dog eat dog business, you have to be tough, if you make one mistake it could all be over.

9. A bull in a china shop – someone who is very clumsy. Example: Don't let Tim come in the kitchen, he is like a bull in a china shop. I don't want anything going wrong.

10. The world's your oyster – when you are not limited or have lots of opportunities Example: When you finish university, and you have your degree, the world's your oyster, but until then, study hard.


Do you know any places in your city that has gone to the dogs?

Have you ever given up anything going cold turkey?

Which industry do you think is dog-eat-dog?

Who is the snake of your office........ ;) ?

If the world was your oyster, which city would you visit?

Cheers - English native speaker Lviv

Skype English lessons and Zoom English classes

Word list

To look after (someone/something) - to make sure he/she/it is OK

Meow – the sound a cat makes

Bark – the sound a doh makes

To walk your dog/To take your dog for a walk - no explanation needed

To pant – to breathe heavily usually with your tongue showing

Silvia(formal) / slobber (informal) – the liquid in your mouth.

Nowadays - present time

Stray dogs - dogs without a home

A lead – the thing that connects you and the dog

To feel at ease – to feel comfortable

Mussel - a thing that goes over the dog's mouth to stop it biting people

Nip someone – to pinch the skin, but not break it like a bite.

Breed – a type of dog or cat

To get something out of the way - to do something unpleasant first

Clumsy - someone who usually drops things and knocks things over.

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