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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: ? How To Say Long English Expressions Like A Native

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In this video Im going to teach you a trick for using longer expressions, sayings and

proverbs in your conversations like a native!

Native English speakers will often use famous quotes, proverbs, sayings and other long expressions

in their conversations.

But because these are used so often, and most adult natives have heard them again and again,

natives will shorten these expressions.

So the simple trick to sounding more like a native when you speakand to making

these popular groups of words more memorableis to shorten longer expressions the same

way natives do!

There are a few simple rules for shortening phrases that work most of the time, so well

cover those before reviewing the phrases.

But as you listen for longer expressions in movies, TV shows and your conversations, youll

develop a good sense for when to shorten them, automatically.

Now, lets get to some phrases and rules for when to shorten them!

First, longer expressions are shortened when theyre often used and very well-known.

The full expressions are taught to children, but adults will regularly shorten them.

Second, you can usually remove what comes after a comma in longer expressions.

Finally, you can shorten a longer expression if whats left isnt confusing.

Lets cover some examples to make these rules clear.


Dont make a mountain out of an anthill.

Youll also hear this as dont make a mountain out of a mole hill, and this means

to not make some small issue or problem bigger or more important than it really is.

But can we shorten it?

No, because theres no point we can cut off the saying and still have it be clear.

Dont make a mountaindoesnt really make sense, so say the whole phrase.


Always put your best foot forward.

This means to present your best self, especially when starting something.

Or to try really hard.

People will often hear this from friends before going to a job interview.

But according to our rules, can it be shortened?


Always put your best.”

Your best what?

It isnt very clear.

You need the whole thing for the saying to be understood.


Dont bite off more than you can chew.

This means to not take on more of a challenge than you can really handle.

Dont say you can do a job that takes two weeks in a single day.

Can we shorten it?

No, we cant.

Dont bite off more.”

More what?

This will leave people wondering what you might be talking about, so use the whole expression.

Now, lets look at some common examples that CAN be shortened.


The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

This means that you envy or want what you dont have.

Its also a way of saying that you dont appreciate what you do have.

Now, this is used so often that youll regularly hear it shortened to justthe grass is

always greener.”

Someone with a new car is envied until someone else gets a newer car.

The first person is now a bit jealous, so you can remind them to appreciate what they

have by saying thatthe grass is always greener.”


Dont count your chickens before they hatch.

This means that unless youve received something for certain, dont assume youll get it.

Some chicken eggs dont have baby chicks inside, so dont assume you have 10 chicks

just because you see 10 eggs.

This is also shortened because its used so often, but how much of the phrase should

you say?

The shortest amount you can say and still be clear isDont count your chickens.”


Where theres a will, theres a way.

This means that if you have a strong enough desire, you will find a way to accomplish

your goal.

Your will is your desire to succeed.

People with a strong will usually do what they like and wont accept failure.

As this is so common, and theres a comma, it should be easy to guess how you shorten

it: “Where theres a will.”

If a friend of yours is complaining because theyre too tired to do something, you can

remind them to keep going by sayingWhere theres a will.”


When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

This means you should behave as is customary where you are.

If you travel to a different country, though some things might seem odd, try them anyway.

Here again, you can shorten this toyou guessed it – “When in Rome…”


When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

This expression means that when things become difficult, strong people keep fighting.

Thegoingrefers to the action or situation thats happening.

So when the situationgets tough,” or difficult, thetough,” or strong people,

keep working.

Again, this is a commonly used expression, and weve got a comma, so: “When the going

gets tough…”


Birds of a feather flock together.

This means that people usually spend time with people like themselves.

This is understood as birds that have the same kind of feathers, so the same kind of

birds, spend time together.

A flock is a group of birds.

Skateboarders hang out with skateboarders, horse racers spend time with horse racers,


Since this phrase is so common, when you see a group of people who look similar in the

same place, you can describe this with justBirds of a feather.”


"Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst."

This means to remain positive, but to also prepare in case things dont go well.

So, whether natives say this to themselves or others, all they unusually say of this

very common phrase isHope for the best.”


"If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

This means to not disturb things that are working well.

If a sports team is winning, dont change the coach.

Note thataintis used here, rather than the correctisntbecause aint

sounds more casual and conversational.

Remind people not to create problems when everything is fine by sayingIf it aint



"If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

This is another useful expression to say that if you cant win, you should join the winning


This can be for actual sports teams, or for things like professionals who leave one company

for a more successful competitor.

Note that the more casual “‘emis a shortened form ofthem.”

Again, if people already know what you mean, theres no need to say the whole thing.

Where can we shorten this?


At the comma!

If you cant beatem…”

13 If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.

This phrase is often used in frustration when a boss or higher level person isnt pleased

with the work of someone lower in an organization or group.

The person is saying that no one can do the job as well as I can.

As this is common, and theres a comma, its shortened toIf you want something

done right…”


Where theres smoke, theres fire.

This means that when you have an indication of something, like a rumor or clue, theres

a good reason for it.

If you see smoke somewhere, for example, its likely coming from a fire.

Similarly, if a child is skipping school, getting bad grades and getting into fights,

this is thesmokethat lets you know theres likely some deeper problem causing

the bad behavior.

You see the comma, so this becomes, “Where theres smoke…”


Finally, you can lead a horse to water, but you cant make him drink it.

This means you can only help people so much.

A teacher, for example, can show the path to knowledge.

But its then on the students to do the work of learning.

If youre ever frustrated because you did everything you could to help someone and they

just didnt take action, youd say, “You can lead a horse to water…”

One last tip Ill leave you with is to take longer expressions and then try typing them

into Google.

The autocomplete function will usually show you whether an expression can be shortened

or not.

And if so, where.

Im Drew Badger, the founder of, and thank you so much for joining me today.

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