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English Animal Expressions Part I

English, like many languages, uses a lot of idioms referring to animals. You may have heard the English expression "as hungry as a horse" (very hungry) or "monkey see, monkey do" (when somebody copies somebody else). What these expressions have in common in all languages is that they refer to some quality that is associated with a specific animal in that culture: Horses eat a lot of food and monkeys can be mimics—always compared to humans, of course. Let's take a look today at some English animal expressions.

 

All of the sudden, one of the orcas made a beeline in this direction.

Caption 2, National Geographic: WILD Killer Whale vs. Great White Shark

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Similar to the English expression "as the crow flies"—meaning the fastest way between two points is a straight line—the phrase "to make a beeline" means "to go quickly" or "to go directly." Speaking of bees:

 

Leave me the birds and the bees.

Caption 21, Counting Crows with Vanessa Carlton: Big Yellow Taxi

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The phrase "to know about the birds and the bees" means "to have received education about sex," but it is often used as a general metaphor for sex. And now we're on to birds:

 

I killed two birds with one stone!

Caption 36, English: Common Phrases

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This expression fortunately has nothing to do with actually killing any poor birds, but means "to get two (or more) things done at once." There's also another somewhat similar idiom, "better a bird in the hand than two in the bush." This means it is better to actually have something real than risk losing it by trying to get something better. Speaking of birds again:

 

Well if he wants to play chicken, this rooster ain't backing down.

Caption 15, How I Met Your Mother: The Perfect Cocktail

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The phrase "to play chicken" means to play a dangerous game to see who is bravest. A famous movie used this as part of its plot: In the film Rebel without a Cause, the actors James Dean and Corey Allen "play chicken" by racing cars towards the edge of a cliff to see who will dare to stay in the car the longest before jumping out. Spoiler alert: it doesn't end well!

 

At that moment, the witch realized that there was something fishy, and started yelling at her.

Captions 45-46, Fairy Tales: Rapunzel

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The usual expression is "something fishy is going on," and it means that something about a person or a situation is suspicious or not as it appears. It probably comes from the fact that even though a fish at the market may look fine, it smells bad if it is no longer fresh.

 

Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and study the captions in the videos above to get a better idea of the contexts in which they have been used. You can also go to this site and see some other English phrases that use animals.

El tiempo continuo

El tiempo continuo (o progresivo) comprende dos partes: el verbo "to be" en presente, pasado o futuro, combinado con el participio presente del verbo principal. Es una forma verbal común en el idioma inglés, en realidad más común que el tiempo simple en el idioma hablado.

 

Encontremos un ejemplo en Yabla English del tiempo presente continuo:

 

Halloween is coming up! -Yes, it is. -Right?

¡Halloween se acerca! -Sí, así es. -¿Correcto?

Subtítulo 25,  The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon - Camila Cabello at Taylor Swift's Halloween Party

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Para formar el tiempo presente continuo descrito, el tiempo presente del verbo "to be" ("es") se combina con el participio presente del verbo "to come up" (añadiendo "ing") al final del verbo. El tiempo presente continuo expresa algo que está actualmente incompleto o inacabado.

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Y seguimos con el tiempo pasado continuo:

 

Rapunzel was tying these pieces together to make a rope.

Rapunzel estaba atando estas piezas para hacer una cuerda.

Subtítulo  39, Fairy Tales - Rapunzel

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Para formar el tiempo pasado continuo del ejemplo, el tiempo pasado del verbo "to be" ("was") se combina con el participio presente del verbo "to tie". El tiempo pasado continuo expresa algo que está incompleto o inacabado en el pasado.

Y por último, el tiempo continuo del futuro:

 

So, Julia, this is where you will be working from.

Entonces, Julia, aquí es desde donde va a trabajar.

Subtítulo 14, Business English - Starting on a New Job

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Para formar el tiempo futuro continuo anterior, el tiempo futuro del verbo "to be" ("será") se combina con el participio presente del verbo "to work". El tiempo continuo futuro expresa que algo está incompleto o inacabado que sucederá en el futuro. En este caso, el trabajo se realizará en algún momento en el futuro.

 

Aprendizaje adicional 

 

Echa un vistazo a este artículo sobre formas verbales básicas y busca en Yabla English  algunos verbos de participio presente (que terminan en -ing) y observa cómo se usan estos tiempos en el contexto cotidiano.

 

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