500 Really Useful English Phrases - Jenny Smith - ebook

This book is Volume 1-3 of the very popular series 150 Really Useful English Phrases. Do You Feel Stuck in the Intermediate English Level? Do you want to break out and start improving quickly? Then this is the perfect book to help you move up to the advanced level and start using everyday English fluently. What made me want to write this book? After years of teaching intermediate students who never seemed to improve I decided to find out what the problem was. Essentially, intermediate students get stuck because learning at this stage is a different type of learning than at the beginner stage. You have mastered the grammar and the basic vocabulary but most textbooks just carry on like nothing has changed. However, what you need at the intermediate stage is not just more dry grammar and lists of vocabulary, but to be exposed to as much ‘real’ English in as many ‘real-life’ situations as possible. This will help you start to understand what people are actually saying and not just ‘textbook’ English. It will also help you to naturally ‘get a feel’ for the language. Because I couldn’t find a book that introduced everyday English phrases in a fun and engaging way I decided to write one myself. How will this book help you? Every new phrase is introduced in the real context of a short story or an article. So by having fun and reading something interesting you will be learning naturally rather than having to force yourself to study. It’s a simple fact that if you are having fun you will learn quicker and more easily. This series of books is an excellent way to be exposed to ‘real everyday English phrases’ but with the guidance of clear explanations and examples in simple English. Basically it uses simple language to introduce more complex phrases so you are eased into a more advanced level. All of the phrases in this book are in common use and are the key to unlocking fluency. I have only included phrases which I have heard recently in conversation or on the radio or television. If it is in this book it is in everyday use. So, if you are sick of being stuck and want to improve in a fun and engaging way, please press the buy button on the top right of this page to get started today.  

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500 Really Useful English Phrases

Jenny Smith.

Visit Me at jennysmithenglish.com

©Jenny Smith 2013

All rights reserved. No part of this book can be reproduced or distributed in any form whatsoever without the permission of the publisher. The only exceptions are short quotations and some non-commercial uses allowed by copyright laws.

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Table of Contents
Free Audiobook
Do you feel ‘stuck’ in the intermediate level?
How does this book help you move from...
The New Business
The Summer Holiday
The Bully
The Divorce and The Marriage
The Fashion Show
The End and then the Beginning
The Birthday Party
School Days
Boy Hears Girl
The Dead End Job?
A Tale of Three Careers
The Art of Negotiation
Does Ambition Equal Happiness?
The Time Travel Record Shop
Teenage Runaways
Never a Lender or Borrower Be
Reality TV! Reality?
Spread Betting
The Secret? The Lie?
The Personality Makeover
Unrequited Love
Do Children Still Play Outside?
Jargon Buster
Death of the Job. Birth of Opportunity
The Wind up Merchant*
Internet Dating
The Family Holiday
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Further Reading

Do you feel ‘stuck’ in the intermediate level?

I started writing this book because I could see that once students had studied all of the basic grammar and vocabulary and could communicate to a fairly good level they just sort of got stuck there and never really improved very much.

The problem was that they really needed to start using and being exposed to real English that is in everyday use. However, the usual textbooks just sort of continue teaching the same boring stuff and don’t take into account that the students need to be challenged by using ‘real’ English and not just lists of grammar.

Of course the student could just pick up an English language newspaper or watch TV but that could be a bit off-putting or intimidating if they had no guidance as to how to use the new language being introduced. This is where this book fits in; it bridges the gap between being comfortable with beginner and lower intermediate grammar/vocabulary and being able to comfortably use normal English language books, magazines, television etc.

This series uses interesting stories to help the student learn everyday English naturally and in a fun and engaging way. It also features easy to understand explanations and example sentences to ensure the student is guided from the intermediate to the advanced level without ever feeling confused or lost.

How does this book help you move from intermediate to advanced English?

Reason 1. It will help you understand everyday English by introducing 500 commonly used phrases. It also features both descriptions and examples so students can fully understand the meaning of the phrases.

Reason 2. It makes learning fun and interesting. All of the phrases are used in context in interesting short stories and articles. You can see how the phrases are actually used in everyday life.

Reason 3. It uses easy to understand English to introduce more difficult phrases. So you can improve smoothly.

Reason 4.One of the things about being an advanced speaker is that you can speak fluently on any subject. The stories are all about particular subjects and feature the phrases you will need to speak fluently on that subject.

This book is written for people who have reached the intermediate level but are finding it difficult to move forward. By studying phrases in context in a fun and interesting way you will be improving naturally and be learning English that people actually use rather than just ‘classroom English’. You will actually start to sound like a native English speaker.

If you find this book useful I would very much appreciate it if you took a few moments to write a review, you can find the page Here.

Also if you are looking for other great books to help you learn English, why not take a look at my other titles on my author page Here.

So let’s get started and move from the intermediate to the advanced level.

The New Business

Part One

Years ago when I was still in my twenties and still working for a large company I decided to throw caution to the wind and start my own business. At the beginning it was by no meansplain sailing and I had to get through a lot of bad times. At one point I had a close shave with bankruptcy but I was able to get a big sale just in the nick of time and my company was saved.


Throw caution to the wind: to take a risk.

Example: Even though he doesn’t have much experience, let’s throw caution to the wind and hire him.

By no means: this means ‘definitely not’.

Example: Of course you can run a marathon, but by no means is it going to be easy.

Plain Sailing: this is used when you want to say that something is easy and that the process was smooth.

Example: I studied very hard so the exams were basically plain sailing.

A close shave: a lucky escape from danger.

Example: That was a close shave. He almost caught me reading his private diary.

In the nick of time: just in time.

Example: I got paid just in the nick of time. I’d just run out of money.

Part Two

At one point I totally ran out of money and had to let go of a few staff members. This rough patch lasted for the best part of a year but I was able to ride it out and keep my company running long enough until business improved. In retrospect, while this was a difficult period for me, the upshot was that I was able to pick up a lot of new skills and became much more self-reliant.


To run out of (something): to use up all of your supplies of something.

Example:  We are about to run out of petrol/gas, so let’s stop at the next station.

To let go of staff: this is a nice way of saying ‘the staff member was fired or made redundant’. It is often used when it is not the employee’s fault, when the company can’t afford to employ them any longer etc.

Example: Because of the recession we have had to let half of our staff go.

Rough Patch: this means ‘a difficult period of time’.

Example: After I lost my job I went through a rough patch financially.

For the best part of a (time period): this is used to express the fact that something lasted for most of a certain time period.

Example 1: I was ill for the best part of last month.

Example 2: I’ll be in Indonesia for the best part of next year.

To ride it out: to endure a bad situation.

Example: I have no choice but to ride it out and wait for the economy to recover.

In retrospect: this is used when looking back at a situation/incident. It has the feeling that you would do things differently than you did in the past.

Example 1: In retrospect, I could have handled that better.

Example 2: In retrospect, I should have saved some money when I was younger.

The upshot is..: this is used when you want to say that there is a positive point to a (sometimes) negative situation.

Example: My job went from full-time to part-time so I have less money, but the upshot is that I now get to spend more time with my family.

To pick (something) up: here we mean to gain or learn a new skill.

Example: He picks up languages very quickly.

Part Three

Although I did go out on a limb when I started my company and I had to endure some hard times (at one time it just felt like one thing after another), business eventually took a turn for the better. It’s difficult to put my finger on when things started to look up but I think it was when I hired a new manager. She is absolutely amazing and in my eyes she can do no wrong.


To go out on a limb: to take a risk.

Example: Even though you don’t have that much experience, I’m going to go out on a limb and hire you.

One thing after another: this phrase is used when lots of negative incidents happen in a short space of time.

Example: First I lost my wallet and then my car was stolen.  It’s been one thing after another recently.

Note: If it’s not one thing it’s another: this is another phrase similar to the one above expressing the feeling that there have been lots of problems. This is often used about people.

Example: If it’s not one thing it’s another with that guy. He’s just never happy with anything.

To take a turn for the worse/better: this means when a situation changes for the better/worse.

Example: His health has really taken a turnfor the worse.

To put one’s finger on something: to identify what the issue is, or to pinpoint the core of an issue.

Example: I can’t put my finger on it but I just don’t trust him for some reason.

Things are looking up: this is used when you think that a situation is getting better or improving.

Example:  Now that the economy is beginning to recover, things are really looking up for my company.

She/he can do no wrong: this means that ‘in my opinion this person is perfect’.

Example: I love that author; she can do no wrong in my opinion.

Part Four

I think that when you are responsible for everything and you are losing money it’s very easy to blow things out of proportion and get angry and frustrated about everything. The problem with that is, that it’s a vicious circle because the angrier you get the worse you concentrate and the worse you concentrate the worse your business gets. Once I realised what the problem was I was able to turn things aroundin no time. My advice to people experiencing problems with their business is that no matter what happens don’t put off dealing with problems, as they will grow and grow. You may get away with ignoring things for a while but in the end it will dawn on you that there’s no time like the present to deal with problems.


To blow (something) out of proportion: to act or believe that something is more serious than it really is (this phrase is used in a negative way).

Example: I was only 5 minutes late but my boss is acting like I’ve just bankrupted the company. He’s always blowing things out of proportion.

Vicious Circle: this describes a bad situation that you can’t get out of. For example: you have no money because you can’t get a job> you can’t get job because you can’t afford the training> you can’t afford training because you have no money etc etc.

Example: If I work all the time I’m never at home and never see my family but if I take time off we won’t have enough money to survive. It’s a vicious circle.

To turn things around: this means to work hard and change a bad situation into a good one.

Example: When he joined the company it was almost bankrupt, but he worked day and night and turned the company around so it is now very successful.

In no time: This means very quickly.

Example: Don’t worry about moving to a new school, you are very popular and you’ll make new friends in no time.

No matter what…..: regardless of...

Example: No matter what you say, I’m not going to let you go.

To put something off: to delay doing something.

Example: I hate going there, so I keep putting it off.

To get away with (something): to not get caught/punished for doing something wrong.

Example: My teacher didn’t notice that I didn’t come to class, so I think that I got away with it.

Note: the phrase ‘he/she got away with murder’ means that they did not get punished or reprimanded for doing something very wrong.

It dawned on me that….: to realise something.

Example: It dawned on me that we are too busy, so we need to employ some new staff.

There’s no time like the present: if you are going to do something you should do it now, not wait for some future time.

Example: I always wanted to go to Jamaica, then this morning I decided that there’s no time like the present so I booked my ticket and I leave next week.

The Summer Holiday

Part One

When I was 19 years old I won a free holiday to France. I was over the moon and wanted to bring my best friend with me. Unfortunately my parents insisted that I bring my younger brother so in the end I had no choice but to go with him. I love my brother but he is very forgetful and never thinks things through so we were bound to get into trouble. Anyway, it was the morning that we were meant to leave and as per usual my brother was running late so I completely flew off the handle. We had a big argument but eventually my brother backed down and we made up and then set off on our trip.


To be over the moon: to be very happy.

Example: I was over the moon when I got my exam results.

No choice but to…this is used to indicate that there is only one option (usually this is used when you don’t like that option).

Example: When I broke my leg, I had no choice but to cut my trip short and return home.

To think (something) through: to think about something in detail and from all angles.

Example: I don’t think that he’s thought this through. He seems to think that marriage is the same as just dating someone.

Bound to: this means that something is inevitable/that of course it happened/will happen.

Example: if you drink and drive, you are bound to have an accident.

As per usual: this means that what you are describing is unsurprising because it often happens.

Example: My bus was late this morning as per usual, so my boss got angry with me.

To fly off the handle: to suddenly get overly angry

Example: I always feel like I have to be careful with her as she has a tendency to fly off the handle over the smallest thing.

To back down: This is when you concede, or when you stop defending your position.

Example: Her husband backs down too easily and she always gets her own way.

To make up with (someone): when you have a fight/argument with someone and make peace/ become friends again with them afterwards.

Example: We do argue sometimes but we always make up afterwards.

Part Two

When we arrived at the airport the man at the counter said that we had missed our flight. I couldn’t believe my ears and as far as I was concerned it was all my brother’s fault. I’m not one tohold a grudge so I soon forgave him and we tried to work out how we could still make it to France. We decided that the first thing we should do is go to the bar and let off a little steam. After a while we got talking to the bar man and he suggested that we explain our situation to the airline and see if they would put us on a later flight. We decided to give it a go and luckily we were able to catch a later flight.


I couldn’t believe my eyes/ears: used when what you are seeing/hearing is unbelievable.

Example: I couldn’t believe my eyes when he finally stood up to that bully.

As far as I’m concerned: in my opinion/as much as the situation affects me (often used about personal situations).

Example: As far as I’m concerned that matter is over.

(I’m) not one to…: this is used to mean that (I) don’t usually (do something).

Example: I’m not one to worry, but this situation has got me a little concerned.

To hold a grudge: to keep resenting someone/something.

Example: Usually I’m not one to hold a grudge, but I just can’t forgive him for what he did.

To work out how to (do something): to discover or think of the method for doing something.

Example: I could never work out how to iron a shirt properly.

To make it to (somewhere): to reach, or try to reach a destination. This has the feeling that for some reason it is difficult to get to the destination.

Example: even though I missed my train I still made it to work on time.

To let off steam: this is used when you use an activity (like drinking alcohol) to get rid of stress.

Example: I heard that lots of Japanese people go to karaoke to let off steam.

To give (something) a go: to try something new.

Example: I don’t usually like team sports but I’ll give it a go.

Part Three

When we arrived in France we came across an excellent café and went completely overboard eating all of the delicious French food. Then suddenly we realised that we had left our wallets in the bar in England! We were completely panicked and went through our bags to make sure we hadn’t misplaced our money. We thought for a second about making a run for it but that is illegal, not to mention immoral. In the end we came clean with the café owner and explained our situation. The owner thought it was very funny and offered to let us stay with his family while we sorted out our money situation. It turned out to be one of the best holidays of my life. I think once in a while bad situations end up bringing good luck.


To come across (something/someone): to find something/someone (usually by chance).

Example: I came across this article about my old school when I was reading the paper this morning.

To go overboard: to do too much of something. For example if you go overboard with drinking, this means that you drank too much.

Example: I always go overboard at Christmas and spend too much money on presents.

To make sure: this means to check that something is correct/ok or in the condition/place that you thought it would be.

Example: I rang my friend after he got out of hospital, to make sure that he was ok.

Make a run for it: to try to escape.

Example: The prisoner saw that the door was open so he tried to make a run for it.

Not to mention: this is used when you are listing things and then mention something which is obviously important.

Example: This hotel is the best one I think, it’s close to the beach, clean, modern and not to mention it’s quite cheap.

To come clean (about something): this is when you admit to something.

Example: My son insisted that he didn’t break the window but he felt so guilty that he eventually came clean and admitted it.

To turn out…: was eventually….

Example: Even though it was raining this morning it turned out to be quite a warm sunny day.

Once in a while: this means occasionally.


The Bully

Part One

Recently I visited the area where I was brought up and I ran into someone I used to know at school. It was very strange because he recognised me and started speaking to me but I had no idea who he was. Then it hit me, he was the bully at my school all those years ago. Now, I draw the line at rudeness but I couldn’t believe this person was speaking to me like we were friends after the way he treated me at school. I tried to make my excuses and leave, but he just kept on speaking to me. At least at school you knew where you stood with him because he was so horrible, but now it was strange as he seemed quite friendly; but I couldn’t forgive him for the past. I know it was a long time ago and I thought that I’d gotten over it, but it seemed that I still held a grudge against him after all these years.


To bring up (children):