ring a bell 5

ring a bell: meaning and explanation

If someone says that something rings a bell, then they are saying that it sounds familiar – it triggers a memory, but not a clear or complete one.

This is most commonly used with names. It’s impossible to remember everyone that you meet, and I’m sure you’ve experienced situations where you hear a name, and can’t quite remember whether you have met the person or not. You kind of recognise the name, but you can’t recall the person. The name ‘rings a bell’.

This can be a useful expression to use to ‘buy time’, when you’re trying to remember something: “hmmm, the name rings a bell, let me think…”.

This expression is often used negatively (to mean that something doesn’t sound familiar, e.g. “the name doesn’t ring any bells”) and as a question, to ask if someone remembers something (e.g. “does the name Peter Smith ring any bells?”).

Have a go at this dictation exercise to hear this expression being used in context – how much can you understand?

Dictation #1

Accent: England (RP)

... ?
isn’t ringing ...do photo ?
The isn’t ringing any ...do have a photo him?

…do you have a photo of him?…

Notice the weak pronunciation of ‘do’ and ‘you’ as /də jə/ (or almost /djə/). This is very common in questions, and can make them difficult to understand.

Discussion question

Write your answer to this question in the comments section, and I’ll get back to you with some feedback:

  • Tell me a story (real or made up) about a time when you bumped into someone who knew you, but who you didn’t recognise. Try and use the expression ‘to ring a bell’.

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come naturally 2

This micro-listening exercise contains the expression to come naturally to someone. Have a go at the listening exercise, then learn about the meaning and usage of this expression.

Micro-listening

Accent: North America

Source: Hidden Brain, Creatures of Habit. This episode is all about developing positive habits and dealing with negative habits. In this section, the speaker is talking about her experience of getting into the habit of running every day.

, , .
I , I was a committed years, I 6 in the was very with me that didn't I really .
I started , I was a committed runner many years, I running at 6 in the and that was very to start off with for me that didn't naturally and I really dreaded .

…and that was very hard to start off with…

to start off with = in the beginning, to begin with. e.g. To start off with I didn’t get on with my new boss at all, but the more I got to know her the more I appreciated her management style.

…I really dreaded that…

to dread something = to be extremely frightened or worried about something. e.g. We’re moving house next month and I’m absolutely dreading it – I have a feeling it’s going to be a nightmare.

come naturally: meaning and explanation

If you find something easy and you can do it without much effort or concentration then you can say that it comes naturally to you.

For example, if you are a good writer and find it easy and enjoyable to do, then you can say that writing comes naturally to you.

This expression can be used to say that a new skill or ability was easy to learn, or that you became good at it quickly.

e.g. Sarah has only been playing tennis for a few months but she’s already better than most other players at the club. Tennis obviously comes naturally to her.

We often use this expression in the negative to say that something is not easy for us to do, that we have to make a lot of effort to do it, or that we had to work hard to be able to do it.

For example, some people find public speaking very stressful and challenging. They can do it, but it is a difficult experience which probably requires a lot of effort and preparation. For them, speaking in public doesn’t come naturally.

Other people seem completely relaxed and in their element when public speaking, and doing it is easy. Public speaking comes naturally to them.

Have a go at this dictation exercise to hear this expression being used in context – how much can you understand?

Discussion questions

Write your answers to these questions in the comments section, and I’ll get back to you with some feedback:

  • Is there anything that comes naturally to you?
  • What doesn’t come naturally to you?
  • Have you ever developed a new skill or learned something new very easily? What was it?

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above board 0

above board: meaning and explanation

If something is above board then it is honest, fair, and not attempting to hide anything or cheat anyone. e.g. Most banks operate above board, but it is still important to be careful when taking out a loan.

If you say that everything is above board then you are saying that everything is done in an honest, open way, and nothing is hidden.

Imagine you are checking whether a service, business or website is honest before making a large purchase – if you are satisfied, you could use this idiom. e.g. We’ve had a close look and as far as we can see everything seems to be above board.

A useful way to get a clearer understanding of idioms, and also to make it easier to memorise them, is to research their origins. These are often quite interesting and memorable, and can help to make the meaning of the idiom more concrete and logical. The origin of above board is poker and other card games. If you are playing above board, then you are holding your cards above the table – you are not hiding them under the table. This means that no one will suspect you of cheating or playing dishonestly.

Have a go at this dictation exercise to hear this expression being used in context – how much can you understand?

Dictation #1

Accent: England (RP)

If you at our you’ll is .
If you a look at our accounts you’ll see that is above .

…If you take a look at our accounts…

to take a look at something is an alternative (and slightly more informal) synonym for to look at something or to have a look at something. It is often used when inviting someone to look at or inspect something. e.g. Can you take a look at my phone and see if you can fix it?

Discussion questions

Write your answers to these questions in the comments section, and I’ll get back to you with some feedback:

  • In your country, is business generally done ‘above board’ or do people try to conceal things?
  • Can you remember a time when you thought everything seemed to be above board, and it turned out that you were wrong?

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singing your praises 10

singing your praises: meaning and explanation

If you sing someone’s praises, then you praise or compliment them very enthusiastically.

This phrase is often used to tell somebody that someone has been talking about them in a very positive way. e.g. Sarah was very touched that you offered to help her move house. She’s been singing your praises all week.

Have a go at this dictation exercise to hear this expression being used in context – how much can you understand?

Dictation #1

Accent: North America

.
You’ve good impression – she’s .
You’ve made a good impression the boss – she’s singing your .

…You’ve obviously made a good impression on the boss…

The phrase to make a good impression on someone = to cause someone to form a good opinion of you when they first meet you. e.g. If you dress like that then you aren’t going to make a very good impression at your interview. This has a similar meaning to the phrasal verb to come across well.

Discussion questions

Write your answers to these questions in the comments section, and I’ll get back to you with some feedback:

  • Have you been singing anyone’s praises recently?
  • Can you remember a time when someone was singing the praises of someone who didn’t deserve it?

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