Many English expressions can be used in specific contexts without carrying their literal meaning, which can easily confuse people. If you’d like to avoid misunderstanding what your boss, colleagues, or clients are talking about, let’s study some examples together!


1. Smart mouth ≠ Good at talking

-> To be disrespectful when talking to others


He has a smart mouth. That’s why no one likes talking to him.


2. Busybody ≠ A person who is always busy

-> A person who is always interested in things that do not involve him/her


She is a busybody who always meddles with things that are not related to her.


3. Now you are talking ≠ To speak

-> To agree with somebody


A: I should not remain low spirit anymore.

B: Now you’re talking!


4. Put it there ≠ To move something into the stated position

-> It’s a deal


A: We would provide you exclusive support. So, do we have a deal?

B: Put it there!


5. Hold the bag ≠ To take the bag in hand

-> To be made a scapegoat for something


He was completely unrelated to the project, but was told to hold the bag if things went wrong.


6. Hold water ≠ To ask somebody to get some water

-> An explanation that is reasonable or believable


A: I was sick yesterday, so I took leave.

B: You have mentioned a similar reason five times this month. It does not hold water to me.


7. You can take it to the bank ≠ To bring something to the bank

-> Something that is true and can be guaranteed


The project is on schedule and will be finished by this Friday. You can take it to the bank.