American English Idioms for the Holidays – Christmas eBook

Ho ho ho, it’s holiday time and we at Language Success Press are celebrating with the release of Speak English on Christmas Day. This new lesson teaches 14 American English idioms and expressions related to the upcoming holiday. It’s the Johnson family celebrating Christmas. You’ll remember them from our book Speak English Like an American. The target idioms and expressions in the dialogue are highlighted and defined below. You can also download an eBook edition of Speak English on Christmas here: Christmas English eBook. The eBook also includes a quiz. We hope you will enjoy this English language learning material. If so, print out the ebook, wrap it up, and give it as a holiday gift. It makes a great stocking stuffer! (A stocking stuffer is a small gift given at Christmas).


The Johnson family is celebrating Christmas. The kids, Ted and Nicole, are home from college for the holidays. Ted’s girlfriend Amber is also with them. Now it’s time to gather around the tree and open the presents. 

Susan: Merry Christmas, everyone!

Bob: It’s wonderful to have the family here for the holiday. Now that Mom and I are empty nesters, the house is usually so quiet.

Nicole: I’m sure you miss Ted’s loud rock music at 2 a.m.!

Susan: Who would like to start out the day with one of my fresh-baked gingerbread cookies?

Nicole: Mom, it’s 10 o’clock in the morning. Who eats cookies so early?

Ted: Get in the holiday spirit! I’ll take a cookie, Mom.

Amber: Mind if I take one too?

Susan: Be my guest.

Bob: Let’s get started with the presents.

(everyone sits by the Christmas tree)

Bob: Here’s one for Amber from Ted.

Amber: (opens box) A beautiful silver nose ring! Just what I wanted. How did you know?

Ted: You dropped a few hints!

Bob: This big box is for Mom from Ted.

(Susan unwraps present and takes out a sweater)

Nicole: Oh, it’s an ugly Christmas sweater!

Bob: Nicole, it’s the thought that counts. Besides, that sweater is quite a conversation piece.

Susan: Thanks, Ted. I love it. Look at all the smiling snowmen on the sweater. Looking at their happy faces would help anyone beat the holiday blues!

Bob: And this present is for Ted from Nicole.

Ted: (unwraps present) It’s a book. Chemistry for Dummies. Just what I wanted. Did you save the receipt?*

Nicole: Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth!

Bob: And here’s a present for Ted from Mom and me.

Ted: (unwraps present) A new iPad. Great! Thanks a lot.

Nicole: Now Ted can spend even more time playing video games.

Ted: Mind your own business!

Susan: That’s enough, guys. I hope you two won’t be at each other’s throats for the entire holiday.

Bob: Right. Don’t forget what Bing Crosby* said: “Christmas has a way of bringing out the best in everyone.”

Ted: Bing Crosby never met Nicole!

* Ted is asking for the sales receipt so he can return the book.
* Bing Crosby was an American singer and actor (1903-1977). His most popular song was his 1941 recording of “White Christmas,” written by Irving Berlin.



at each other’s throats – arguing with each other; fighting

Example: Gina and Jim are always at each other’s throats. I can’t believe they’re still married!

be my guest – help yourself; go ahead and do something

Example: “Do you mind if I slice the apple pie?” — “Be my guest.”

(to) beat the holiday blues – to do something so that one does not feel stressed and depressed during the holidays

Example: Susan always says that helping others is a great way to beat the holiday blues.

(to) bring out the best in someone – to cause someone to behave in the best way; to bring out their best qualities

Example: With her great sense of humor and positive attitude, Amber always brings out the best in people.

conversation piece – something unusual that attracts attention or makes people talk

Example: My boss gave me a sparkling angel pin for Christmas. It’s a real conversation piece!

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth – don’t be ungrateful when you receive a gift

Example: “These earrings Jane gave me are so ugly!” — “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

(to) drop a hint – to give a small hint or clue about something

Example: I don’t know what you want for Christmas. I wish you’d drop some hints!

empty nester – a parent whose child has grown up and left the house

Example:  Now that Tina and Carl are empty nesters, they’re planning to travel around the world.

(to) get in the holiday spirit – to start having good feelings about the holidays

Example:  Anna put on a Bing Crosy Christmas CD to try to get in the holiday spirit.

How did you know? – asked when someone gives you just the gift that you wanted

Example: Great, a new Hermès tie! How did you know?

it’s the thought that counts – it doesn’t matter what the gift is, at least the giver was kind enough to give something

Example:  “Look at these bunny rabbit slippers my friend gave me. They’re ridiculous!” — “It’s the thought that counts.”

mind your own business – don’t interfere in matters that you are not a part of

Example:  “Nicole, who was that guy you were talking to on the phone?” — “Mind your own business, Ted.”

(to) start out the day with – to begin the day with

Example:  Nicole always starts out the day with a jog around the block.

ugly Christmas sweater – a tacky sweater with holiday themes like Christmas trees, reindeer, or snowmen and bold colors

Example:  Mike always wears his ugly Christmas sweater to his office holiday party.

Note: Ugly Christmas sweaters became a trend about 10 years ago. They are often worn with irony (the wearer knows they look a little silly, but they enjoy it). There are even ugly Chistmas sweater parties.

Spooky English for Halloween — Thirteen Idioms to Try out for the Holiday!

Halloween is celebrated on October 31 in the United States. It’s a time when children  HappyHalloween

dress up in costumes and, when it turns dark, go door to door to collect candy from neighboring houses. When someone opens the door, the child is supposed to say, “Trick or Treat,” at which point the person at the door deposits candy in the child’s bag (or plastic pumpkin).

We at Language Success Press specialized in idioms and expressions. So we gathered up some spooky American English expressions in honor of Halloween. Use these expressions to frighten (or entertain) your family, friends, and others in your path! First I’ll give an example so you can see if you can figure out the idiom. Then you can check below the example for the explanation. There are 13 idioms list on this list because 13 is a spooky number. Superstitious people consider it unlucky.

1) I need to get to sleep. It’s already past the witching hour.

the witching hour – in modern times, this means midnight (in the old days, if referred to the time of night when supernatural creatures such as witches were thought to appear). Note that this expression can also be used to refer to any time of day when something bad is likely to occur.

2) Sam shouldn’t be driving anymore. He’s blind as a bat!

blind as a bat – completely blind (note that bats are not really blind. Their eyes are small but functional. I feel a little bad that bats are getting a “bum rap” here, but I’ll probably keep using this expression anyway!).

3) When a giant witch answered the door, the trick-or-treaters ran away from the house like a bat out of hell.

like a bat out of hell – very fast

4) You scared the bejusus out of me with your plastic rat. I thought it was real!

(to) scare the bejusus out of – to scare very badly (note: this is slang. The out of is usually pronounced as one word, “outta.”)

5) Is everything okay? You look as though you’ve seen a ghost!

You look like you’ve (just) seen a ghost! – you look frightened or upset (as one would expect you to look if you had really just seen a ghost!)

6) We were scared witless when the closet door in our old hotel room opened by itself.

scared witless – really scared (note: this is the child-friendly version of this expression!).

7) The movie “Nightmare on Elm Street” sent shivers down my spine. After I watched it, I had nightmares all night.

(to) send shivers down one’s spine – to make one feel scared or nervous (shivers are little shakes you get when you feel cold or scared — not something you want to have traveling down your spine!)

8) My friend told me a story about a farmer who died 100 years ago, but who still returns to his farm each year to harvest pumpkins. It made my hair stand on end!

(to) make one’s hair stand on end – to cause one to be frightened

9) The man in the grocery store kept looking at me as I was buying my Halloween candy. He was really giving me the creeps!

(to) give one the creeps – to make one feel frightened or nervous (note: there is also the variation: to give on the willies. Take my word for it: you don’t want either “the creeps” or “the willies” if you can avoid them!).

10) Why is Sandy wearing that witch costume to work today? The boss specifically said no Halloween costumes this year, and he’s going to be very made when he sees her. She’s digging her own grave!

(to) dig one’s own grave – to be responsible for the trouble one gets into

11) Mary has a skeleton in her closet. She was a practicing witch for ten years before she decided on a career change. Now she’s an accountant.

(to) have a skeleton in the closet – a secret that would create embarrassment if discovered; a shocking secret

12) Our decision not to book a hotel room in advance for our visit to Salem, Massachusetts has come back to haunt us. All the hotels in town are booked, and we have nowhere to stay!

(to) come back to haunt someone – when one makes a bad decision and later feels the consequences

13) Trick-or-treaters Billy and Emma knocked on the door of the old Victorian house twice and rang the doorbell four times before finally giving up the ghost.

(to) give up the ghost – to stop trying; to give up
Note: this idiom has two other definitions:
1) to die: At 101 years old, Gertrude finally gave up the ghost.
2) to stop working: I’ve had this computer for 10 years. One of these days, it’s going to give up the ghost).

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