Popular Expressions Used in the U.S.
a labor of love: something you do because you enjoy it; work that’s done without consideration for payment.
Keeping up with the repairs to this old church has been difficult for the congregation over all these years, but for the people who come here every Sunday, it’s been a labor of love.
larger than life: very famous
Now that he’s President of the United States, Barack Obama seems larger than life; however, when I knew him, he seemed like a regular person.
laugh all the way to the bank: make a lot of money at something; to face ridicule for an idea that eventually is successful.
Although their friends said they wouldn’t make any money selling lemonade on the street, Bob and Mike worked hard at it every day and laughed all the way to the bank with a $3000 profit.
lay down the law: to enforce rules; be strict.
Our teacher laid down the law this morning and said that she wouldn’t allow any more tardiness.
tardy: late to class
lay (one’s) hands on: get something; to be excited about getting something.
Although my smart phone is just a year old, I can’t wait to lay my hands on a new one.
lay (one’s) cards on the table: to let someone know about resources, plans, information; to tell someone what you want to do.
The XYZ Corporation laid its cards on the table buy buying some vacant land near the airport.
lay it on the line: 1. to take a risk; make a sacrifice. 2. to speak the plain truth.
Bill is going to have to lay it on the line and tell his employees that they’ll need to take a pay cut this summer because business is so bad.
lead a double life: to have two completely different lifestyles or contrasting situations.
Tony leads a double life. During the day he’s an office manager, and at night he’s a professional dancer.
leave a bad taste in one’s mouth: to have an unpleasant experience.
That movie left a bad taste in my mouth.
leave someone hanging: to abandon someone; to leave a person without help.
Everyone at work went home early and left Martin hanging all by himself.
leave no stone unturned: look everywhere; try very hard to find something.
They left no stone unturned while looking for their missing son.
leave the door open: to consider an idea; to allow some new situation to happen.
Cora and Rick haven’t decided on whether or not to get married in the spring or the summer; they’re also leaving the door open to a wedding in the fall.
(a) leopard can’t change his spots: it’s impossible for some people to ever change their behavior.
Roy said that he wouldn’t cheat on his girlfriend any more, but a leopard can’t change his spots.
(the) lesser of two evils: two possibilities are both bad, but one is not as bad as the other.
We first considered driving through the desert, but taking a small plane across it was the lesser of two evils.
let bygones be bygones: forget what happened; no one can change what happened in the past.
Sometimes its better to just let bygones be bygones than to get angry.
let it rip: turn it on; okay; let it go; allow something to operate (this is used with machines).
When I got the signal, I turned on the machine and let it rip.
let sleeping dogs lie: don’t get too worried about something that has already happened, usually something bad.
At first Dan’s parents wanted to know what happened last night, but then they decided to just let sleeping dogs lie.
let the chips fall where they may: to do something without worrying about what happens; to state the truth for better or worse.
James decided he would tell Crystal he’s in love with her and then just let the chips fall where they may.
lick one’s chops: to feel the urge to eat; to salivate at the prospect for food.
I feel myself licking my chops whenever I pass by the Chinese restaurant in my neighborhood and smell their food.
(the) life of the party: a person who makes a party fun; a person who is entertaining among other people.
Ted was the life of the party last weekend, but now he regrets a few of the things that he did and said.
light at the end of the tunnel: the end is near; the time at which someone realizes that something is going to be finished.
After working on his book for three years, Thomas is starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.
lightning never strikes twice: the possibility of something happening again is very, very rare; the odds are small.
After getting lucky on a lottery ticket, Quang thought about buying another but decided against it because lighting never strikes twice.
like a chicken with its head cut off: to behave in an erratic manner; to run around without direction. (After a chicken’s head is cut off, the body still has the ability to run)
Rhonda has been running around like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to get the house ready for tonight’s party.
like two peas in a pod: two people with similar interests; two people who are very close.
Taylor and Jennifer are like two peas in a pod. They do everything together and they dress alike.
live and let live: allow something to live; respect life.
I was going to kill this ugly-looking bug but then I thought, "Live and let live," so I didn’t kill it.
live for the moment: to enjoy the present; not to play for the future.
Jimmy really has to get a better job and stop living for the moment.
live like a king: to live a good life with material wealth and money.
Walter knows that if he makes enough money right now, he’ll be able to live like a king in ten to fifteen years when he retires.
lock the barn after the horse is out: to take preventive action after it’s too late to prevent something bad from happening.
Buying a house alarm after the burglary was like locking the barn after the horse is out, but it still made us feel safer.
long time no see: this expression is commonly used if you haven’t seen a person in a long time–two months, a year, two years, etc.
Hey, how’s it going? Long time no see!
look a gift horse in the mouth: to question, criticize, reject, or scrutinize a gift (People look at a horse’s teeth to determine its age and health).
My son wasn’t satisfied when I gave him my old Toyota Corolla. I told him he shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
look before you leap: be careful
Veejay is eager to marry Anushka, but I told him, "Look before you leap." He shouldn’t rush into marriage.
look like something the cat dragged in: to be in bad physical condition; to look sick.
Doug stayed out drinking all night, and by the time he came back the next morning he looked like something the cat dragged in.
look me in the eyes: look at my eyes (this expression is usually used when someone is very serious or in a romantic mood.)
I want you to look me in the eyes and tell me that you love me.
look one’s age: to look younger or older than what is true.
She doesn’t look her age. She’s actually much older than she looks.
lose one’s cool: to be very angry.
Todd’s girlfriend really lost her cool when he told her he was seeing another woman.
lose one’s mind: to go crazy; to have too many things to do or too many responsibilities.
Harry’s going to lose his mind if he doesn’t find a new job.