Spaniards and Brits are different in many ways, but we also share some similarities. I’ve always thought that a self-deprecating sense of humour is something we have in common and I believe another is that we both like to talk about the weather – it’s almost a national pastime. Watching the 3 o’clock news on Sunday, there must have been a good fifteen minutes dedicated to the weather. It included a feature on the Indian summer that Spain is currently experiencing with short sound bites from holidaymakers on the beach (“Hay que aprovechar el buen tiempo y tomarse unas cervecitas” (there’s another similarity)) and smiling hoteliers, pleased at the unseasonably hot weather resulting in full hotels.
Both languages are rich in weather expressions and in the post, we are going to look at 10 of the most commonly used in English, followed by some ideas on how to use them.
1) To be under the weather – to feel unwell.
Jack’s not coming out tonight – he’s a bit under the weather.
2) To be right as rain – the opposite of 1): to feel healthy.
Jack just needs some rest: a good night’s sleep and he’ll be right as rain.
3) To be snowed under – to have more work than you can deal with.
Miriam’s not coming either: she’s snowed under at work and has to do some overtime.
4) Come rain or shine – whatever happens.
Danny’s busy too, but he’ll be there come rain or shine – he never misses a night out!
5) To get wind of – to hear about something which is possibly being kept secret.
I’d been planning a surprise for Sally for her birthday, but I think she got wind of the idea!
6) To have a sunny disposition – to be cheerful and friendly.
Charlie’s a pleasure to be around – she’s got such a sunny disposition.
7) To throw caution to the wind – to go ahead with something without worrying about what could go wrong.
Barry heard a TED talk about following your dreams, so he quit his job and went bungee jumping in New Zealand for six months – he really threw caution to the wind.
8) Every cloud has a silver lining – all difficult situations have a positive side.
Ok Tom, you may have got the sack, but at least you’ll have more time for your hobbies and you can look for a job that you’ll be more comfortable in: every cloud has a silver lining!
9) It never rains but it pours – Unfortunate events rarely come on their own.
Tom got the sack yesterday, then his pet cat Mr Fluffy got run over by a car. It never rains but it pours! NB. The American English variant is ‘When it rains it pours’.
10) To breeze through something – to do it effortlessly (such as an exam or job interview).
Tom breezed through his job interview saying all the right things, so he’s back in work. Let’s buy him a new cat to help him celebrate!
And a special mention goes to…
11) It’s raining cats and dogs – it’s raining very heavily
There’s no example for this one however. I’ve included it because I often hear it quoted when someone gives an example of what an idiom is, as in “Do you know any idioms, you know, like ‘It’s raining cats and dogs’?” Well, I don’t want to rain on your parade (there’s another one) if you’re a fan of this expression, but I really can’t think of a single time I’ve heard this used! As an alternative I’d suggest “It’s tipping it down.”
Using these idioms in class
Split up idioms and definitions and get your students to match them up, then give them the examples inserting gaps where the idioms are: your students fill them in.
Get your students to find five more weather-related expressions online, write examples for them and then teach each other in class.
Play pictionary or charades: students draw or act out an idiom – other students try to guess which one is being represented.
Create an idiom board in class to keep a record of any new idioms that pop up in class.
As well as an idiomatic translation, translate them into Spanish literally – this can have amusing results which can help students remember them. Here’s an example of Spanish idioms translated into English.
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