School Blog

Articles in this blog may be ESE news, academics pieces written by our team or events in Malta of general interest.

‘Tis the season to … learn idioms

‘Christmas time, mistletoe and wine’ goes the song. Have you ever heard it? It’s sung by Sir Cliff Richard and it describes Christmas rather well especially Christmas in the UK. If you prefer something more rocking, then I recommend ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ by Slade. Otherwise we have the ubiquitous Mariah Carey’s ‘All I want for Christmas is you’, but frankly I have had quite enough of that one!

Or would you rather escape all this and bah humbug your way through the festive season? At least, you should take advantage of the theme and learn some English!

Why don’t you expand your vocabulary with the following?

1. ‘Tis the season to…

This comes from the Christmas carol ‘Deck the halls’ and the verse says, ‘‘Tis the season to be jolly’. It is used to mark a special day or a special time. It can be completed in other ways though even to convey humour or talk about mundane things in a sarcastic way. Or as it is used above in the heading of this blog. The funny thing is that we don’t say it, we tend to sing it as it is in the song.

‘‘Tis the season to hang the clothes’.


2. The more the merrier

The more things or people there are the better it will be. What better time of the year to use this idiom? With all the parties, gatherings and family reunions, its certainly more fun when everyone is celebrating together.

‘Can I bring my cousin to the party tonight?’ ‘Sure! There’s plenty of food, the more the merrier.’


3. It’s written in the stars

Another way of saying it is destiny. In other words, you believe that something decides our future beyond our control.

‘It was written in the stars that they would meet again after 30 years and fall in love.’


4. Good things come in small packages

When you want to say that something doesn’t have to be big or flashy to be good.

‘I hate being so short, all my friends are taller than me.’  ‘Don’t let your height become a problem, good things come in small packages.’


5. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

This idiom comes from a practice of checking how old horses are by looking at their teeth. Older horses are not worth as much money as younger ones. Therefore, if you are given a horse as a gift it is not polite to look into it’s mouth to check its age. Nowadays we use this to advise people to take what they are given with gratitude and appreciation and to make the most of it.

I know it isn’t the game you wanted but don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Just say thank you.


6. To light up like a Christmas tree

This means to be very happy or excited or both!

The little girl’s face lit up like a Christmas tree when she saw what Santa brought her for Christmas.

So there you have it, six idioms to add to your festive cheer or six idioms which might put you in the mood for the festivities.

Whichever way it is, ho ho ho, Merry Christmas!


Focus on Fluency

Mistletoe – a plant which grows off and lives off apple and oak trees. It has green leaves and white berries in winter. During Christmas time it is hung in the house and whoever is under it must give each other a kiss.

Ubiquitous – when something is found or seen everywhere

Frankly – when you say something in an open, honest way

Bah humbug – used when you are grumpy about something especially Christmas. One of the most famous characters to use this phrase was Charles Dickens’ Ebenezer Scroodge from the story ‘A Christmas Carol’

Mundane – used to describe an ordinary, unexciting, every day, action

Sarcastic – saying the opposite of what you want to say in a way to hurt someone,  be humorous or to criticise someone or something

Tend to – to usually behave in a particular way

Gathering – when a group of people meet for a particular reason or purpose

Reunion – to meet people, you have not seen for some time, again for a particular reason or purpose

Santa – aka Santa Clause or Father Christmas. A fat jolly man who brings presents for all the good children at Christmas

Ho ho ho – used to represented Santa’s famous deep, belly laugh especially at Christmas




Author: Michela Formosa

Michela Formosa with her familyAbout the Author: Michela Formosa has been the Director of Studies at ESE since 2009 and has been active in the industry for the past 18 years both as a teacher and a teacher trainer. In addition, she was a speaker at the ELT Conferences in Malta as well as the Eaquals Conference in Malaga in 2015. In October 2015, Michela received the Inspiring ELT Professional Award 2015 at the 4th Malta ELT Conference.

About this blog

Articles in this blog may be ESE news, academics pieces written by our team or events in Malta of general interest.  Please feel free to write to us with any comments, suggestions or any articles you may have written and would like to share with us and our students.