The Most Common Idioms to Boost Your IELTS Score – Topic: Loving and liking

 Loving and liking

carry a torch for someone

If you carry a torch for someone, you are in love with them but they do not love you.

NOTE: The torch referred to in these expressions is a long stick with burning material at one end which provides a light. This kind of torch is sometimes used in processions or parades.

What makes a woman so special that a man will carry a torch for her all his life?

NOTE: You can use the verb hold instead of carry.

He never saw the woman again. And he went through the rest of his life holding a torch for her.

common-or-garden or garden-variety

You use common-or-garden [BRITISH] or garden-variety [AMERICAN] to describe something of a very ordinary kind, with no special features.

NOTE: These expressions were originally used to describe the most ordinary variety of a species of plant.

These are designer rain boots ֊ not your common-or-garden Wellington boots.

The experiment itself is garden-variety science that normally would attract little public attention.

fall head over heels or fall head over heels in love

If you fall head over heels or fall head over heels in love you fall suddenly and deeply in love with someone.

It was obvious that Alan had fallen head over heels in love with Veronica.

When I was 181 fell head over heels for my next-door neighbor, Alex.

NOTE: You can also say that someone is head over heels or is head over heels in love.

It’s plain from the tone in Colin’s voice that he’s head over heels.

You have to remember that I was head over heels in love with Bill.

NOTE: Until the late 18th century this expression was ‘heels over head’, which refers to someone doing a somersault (= turning over in the air).

have a soft spot for someone/something

If you have a soft spot for someone or something, you like them.

The actress has admitted having a soft spot for our future King.

I’ve always had a soft spot for roses – my Dad used to grow them when I was a child.

head and shoulders above someone/something

If one person or thing is head and shoulders above others of their kind, they are much better than them.

In the world of newspaper publishing there is one success story that stands head and shoulders above the rest. Richards, according to Imran Khan, was head and shoulders above any other player.

no great shakes

If someone or something is no great shakes they are not skilful or of good quality. [INFORMAL]

She can write screenplays well enough but she’s no great shakes as a director.

NOTE: This expression probably refers to shaking dice and getting a poor result, although there are other possible explanations.

nothing to write home about or not much to write home about

If something is nothing to write home about or not much to write home about it is not very interesting, exciting or special. [INFORMAL]

The house was nothing to write home about – a rather scruffy Victorian semi-detached like many they’d seen.

The nightlife is not much to write home about.

of your dreams

If someone or something is the person or thing of your dreams, they are the best you can imagine.

Maybe, just maybe, the man of your dreams will walk through that door and into your life tonight.

an old flame

An old flame is someone who you had a romantic relationship with in the past.

NOTE: An old meaning of ‘flame’ was the person that someone was in love with.

Last week Alec was seen dining with his old flame Janine Turner in New York.

not a patch on someone/something

If one person or thing is not a patch on another, the first is not nearly as good as the second. [INFORMAL]

NOTE: This is probably a shortened version of ‘not fit to be a patch on’, suggesting a small piece of cloth that is not of good enough quality to be used to mend a hole in a good piece of clothing.

He was handsome, she thought, but not a patch on Alex.

a saving grace

A saving grace is a good quality or feature in someone or something that prevents them from being completely bad or worthless.

It’s an excellent performance and one of the film’s few saving graces.

there are plenty more fish in the sea or there are other fish in the sea

If you tell someone that there are plenty more fish in the sea or there are other fish in the sea you mean that there are many other people they could have a relationship with.

Tell him there are plenty more fish in the sea and he’s sure to find the perfect woman.

NOTE: This expression can vary.

Remember that there are many more fish in the sea.

think the world of someone

If you think the world of someone you like and admire them very much or are very fond of them.

He thinks the world of his little grandson.

you have to be cruel to be kind

When people say you have to be cruel to be kind they mean that sometimes if you are unkind to someone it will be the best thing for them.

‘ I have to be cruel to be kind’ said Lindsay. ‘If I don’t control his food he will gain too much weight.’

EXERCISE

Exercise 1

Complete the sentences with the words in the box.

 
spot | flame | home | grace | head | torch | patch | dreams

1          We’ve known each other for years and I’ve always had a soft __________ for Gerri.

2          We didn’t think her new boyfriend was a __________ on the one she had before.

3          I found a photo of my dad with an old __________ from his college days.

4          She carried a __________ for the boy next door all through their teenage years.

5          Yes, I suppose he’s good-looking, but not really much to write __________ about.

6          You can see they’re __________ over heels in love with each other.

7          It was in Tunisia that they saw the house of their __________

8          I don’t like her but the fact that she loves him so much is her saving            __________

Exercise 2

Answer the questions.

  1. If you carry a torch for someone, are you in love with them or are they in love with you?
  2. If something is a common-or-garden, is it ordinary or special?
  3. If something is no great shakes, does it impress you?
  4. If you are head and shoulders above someone else, are they better, or not as good as you at something?
  5. If someone has a soft spot for you, do they like or dislike you?
  6. If someone is not a patch on you, are they better or worse than you?

Exercise 3

Choose the best idiom to match the sentences.

1          We don’t allow her to go out with her friends on school nights during exam time.

a she’s nothing to write home about

b you have to be cruel to be kind

c there are plenty more fish in the sea

2          The first time they met he knew she was the one for him.

a she’s nothing to write home about

b he fell head over heels in love

c she was an old flame

3          His mother won’t let anyone criticize him.

a she carries a torch for him

b she’s head over heels

c she thinks the world of him

4          I expect he’ll find another girlfriend pretty soon.

a there are plenty more fish in the sea

b he’s nothing to write home about

c you have to be cruel to be kind

5          He’s the best player this team has ever had.

a there are other fish in the sea

b he’s not a patch on the others

c he’s head and shoulders above the others

6          He’s very creative in the kitchen but   on the management side of the business.

a head over heels

b no great shakes

c an old flame

Exercise 4

Re-order the phrases to make sentences. Add punctuation where necessary.

  1. and I / my piano teacher / thought the world of her / was a lovely woman
  2. he’s a genius / a common-or-garden teaching job / he has / but I think
  3. with a girl / a friend of mine / he met on holiday / fell head over heels in love
  4. it’s nothing to write home about / but frankly, / we have a new car that / cost a lot of money
  5. a memory of / do you have / an old flame / that is precious to you
  6. it’s a good film but / the film / that inspired it / it’s not a patch on

Exercise 5

Replace the underlined words and phrases with the idioms in the box.

 
old flame | saving grace of their dreams | had a soft spot for | not a patch on nothing to write home about | thinks the world of | head and shoulders above

1          They spent their evenings planning the holiday they would most like to take.

2          The clothes are awful but they have one good feature: they will not wear out.

3          My results are okay but not exceptional.

4          I’ve always cared a lot about her.

5          Apparently James is an ex boyfriend of Amanda’s.

6          He adores his grandmother.

7          His new girlfriend is not nearly as wonderful as his last girlfriend.

8          There was one applicant who was far better than all the rest.

Exercise 6

Complete the table. Put the idioms in the correct groups.

 
fall head over heels (in love) | common-or-garden | have a soft spot for someone | an old flame

no great shakes | head and shoulders above someone/something | carry a torch for someone

think the world of someone | nothing to write home about

 
romantic love 1 __________________________________

2 __________________________________

3 __________________________________

liking or admiring someone or something 1 __________________________________

2 __________________________________

3 __________________________________

liking or admiring someone or something 1 __________________________________

2 __________________________________

3 __________________________________

Your turn!

Think about the people and things in your life that you love and like. Use the idioms in this unit to talk about them. For example:

I think the world of my English teacher.

This house is not a patch on the one we used to live in.

ANSWER KEY

Exercise 1

1 spot              5 home

2 patch           6 head

3 flame            7 dreams

4 torch             8 grace

Exercise 2                  

1          you are in love with them

2          ordinary

3          no

4          not as good as you

5          they like you

6          they are not as good as you are

Exercise 3

1 b       4 a

2 b       5 c

3 c       6 b

Exercise 4      

1          My piano teacher was a lovely woman and I thought the world of her.

2          He has a common-or-garden teaching job but I think he’s a genius.

3          A friend of mine fell head over heels in love with a girl he met on holiday.

4          We have a new car that cost a lot of money but frankly, it’s nothing to write home about.

5          Do you have a memory of an old flame that is precious to you?

6          It’s a good film but it’s not a patch on the films that inspired it.

Exercise 5

1          of their dreams

2          saving grace

3          nothing to write home about

4          had a soft spot for

5          old flame

6          thinks the world of

7          not a patch on

8          head and shoulders above

Exercise 6

 
romantic love fall head over heels (in love)

an old flame

carry a torch for someone

liking or admiring someone or something have a soft spot for someone

head and shoulders above someone/something

think the world of someone

not being very special common-or-garden

no great shakes

nothing to write home about

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