Welcome to American English Idioms: Lesson 11. In this lesson you have 3 American English idioms to read, listen to, translate, and pronounce in English. Please focus and do your best so that you can learn and improve your knowledge of American English idioms. Don’t forget to use the comments section below to share your thoughts and what you’ve learned today.

Directions 1: Watch the video 2 or more times, and pay close attention to the audio and text.

Directions 2: Read the following text in English, then translate it using the translator on this page into your language if needed. When you finish, feel free to write a comment in the comments section below and let us know how you feel about what you’ve learned, as well as what you’ve learned.

BEAT (SOMEONE) TO THE PUNCH

To beat someone “to the punch” is one who gets to the bottom of the problem or resolution sooner than others. For example: “The kids were playing in the driveway, and their ball hit my car. When I went to look for it, the kids had gone to the store. By the time I got to the store, the store had closed. My wife had beat me to the punch.”

In addition to being one of my favorite words, the phrase “to beat somebody to the punch” means to be better or more successful than they are at doing something. The example I use most often is being the first one in a room to say hello to someone you meet, so when someone else says hello first, you beat them to the punch. This is one of those English words that we don’t really have a good definition for, and yet, it is one of our most widely used phrases.

There are several definitions of “beat someone to the punch.” One is when one does not allow another person or group to take preemption in an issue. A second definition of this phrase is when someone takes advantage of another’s inattentiveness in order to get something before them.
A third definition of “beat someone to the punch” is when something happens before what was anticipated.

The expression “beat someone to the punch” refers to the act of anticipating someone else’s idea, action, or remark and getting there first. A person who anticipates an opponent’s move is said to have “gotten in his or her licks,” or “beat him or her to the draw.” When one person beats another person to the punch, he/she gains a psychological advantage because he/she gets to decide how things are done.

BEAT THE BUSHES

To beat the bushes is to search for something in an area of low visibility. For example, if someone was lost in the woods and they were trying to find their way out, they would have to “beat the bushes” or look for any kind of landmark that might indicate where they are.

The phrase “beat the bushes” is used to describe a search or inquiry. It can also be used when someone is trying to find information about someone else by asking many different people.

The term “beat the bushes” refers to the act of searching for something that one may not be able to find. This can also mean an attempt to campaign or canvass for political office.

This is a phrase from the 1887 American English idiom which means to search for something, as in “He would beat the bushes until he found his lost watch.” It is not currently used as a common phrase, but it has been translated into several different languages and so may be used by some speakers of those languages.

Examples:

  1. don’t leave any rock unturned.

2. This is the closest you’ll ever get to beating the bushes.

3. I beat the bushes all over town looking for that piece of equipment.

4. We’ll have to beat the bushes if we want to find another editor as good as Arthur was.

BEHIND THE EIGHT BALL

When you are “behind the eight ball” it means you are in a tough spot. You may need to call in favors, work extra hard, or be very creative to get out of this tough situation. You might say that someone is not on top of their game, and they’re behind the eight ball.

The phrase “behind the eight ball” is a metaphor for being in a difficult situation; it comes from the idea that one could not see all of the balls on a pool table when they were behind an eight ball.

Besides the expression, the eight ball also has a slang meaning. A “fool” is someone who tries to take advantage of an easy situation. Behind the eight ball can also mean to be in a bad situation. We’re all behind the eight ball.

Behind the ball can also mean that you’re out of luck, out of money, and/or behind schedule. Behind the eight ball means that you’re in a difficult or impossible situation or that you’re in a jam or fix.

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