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All About Feet

Let's talk today about the noun "foot" (and its plural "feet") as the word is used in different idioms and expressions. It's interesting that many English expressions may have the same or similar expressions in your native language. But the ones that don't may take a bit of getting used to, since direct translations often don't make any sense at all!


The mud at the foot of the cone makes a perfect cement.

Caption 7, America's National Parks: Yellowstone

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Closer to the foot of the bed ...

Caption 13, The Cure: Lullaby

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The English expression "the foot of" means "the base" or "the bottom" of something. It's most commonly used for the foot of a mountain or (as above) the foot of a bed. The latter is easy to remember since the foot of the bed is where your feet go when you lie down!


Let's hope the snow's gone come kick-off time, otherwise all the teams will get cold feet.

Caption 29, World Cup 2018: A Tour of Cities and Venues

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The caption above is ironically meant, in that of course, playing in the snow would make a soccer player's feet cold. But the meaning of "to get cold feet" is "to be afraid," so it also means that soccer players are afraid of playing in the snow!


But I think it's in my best interest and in the interest of the bear community to put the best foot forward.

Captions 72-74, Habitat: The Bear

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In US English (as above), the phrase "to put one's best foot forward" means "to behave very well so as to make a good first impression." However, in British English, it means "to do something with as much effort and determination as possible." The two meanings are not necessarily compatible.


What was that like having one foot in the door?

Caption 53, Movie Trailers: Funny People

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To "have one foot in the door" is a figurative way of saying "to gain entry" or "to get an opportunity." People often use the expression when they are close to achieving a goal, such as getting a new job.


So Columbus never actually set foot in North America.

Caption 18, Slow News with Sigrid: October commemorations in the U.S.

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To "set foot" somewhere means "to have been" somewhere. Many US Americans grew up learning that Christopher Columbus "discovered America," which in most people's minds means the part of North America that constitutes the United States. The phrase has fallen into disrepute, however, since the land Columbus "discovered" was already occupied by  native peoples. Columbus was not even the first European to land in the Americas, as the Norse were already there centuries earlier. And as the comment above shows, none of the parts of the Americas where Columbus "set foot" were in North America.


And I can't sweep you off of your feet.

Caption 2, Ed Sheeran: Thinking Out Loud

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The usual phrase is "to sweep someone off their feet," but perhaps Mr. Sheeran needed an extra syllable in his song! It means "to cause somebody to fall in love with you."


Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and watch the above videos in their entirety to see the contexts in which the expressions were used. Just for fun, you can take a look at this extensive list of other foot expressions!

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