Archive for February 11, 2010

idioms: to be in someone’s hair / to get out of someone’s hair


Today, I’d like to talk about idioms. Idioms are very important in English and we use them all the time. First of all, I should talk about the difference between an idiom and a phrasal verb. Sometimes my students get confused about this. So, a phrasal verb is a combination of a verb and an adverb or a preposition. The second smaller word (the adverb or preposition) will change the meaning of the verb (usually). So for example, the verb “call” is different from the phrasal verb “call off”, which is different again from “call on”. I’ll talk more about phrasal verbs in future blogs.

However, an idiom is a sentence in which each word doesn’t contain the meaning of the sentence; you can only understand it as a unit. For example, in yesterday’s blog, I talked about the idiom, “to not see eye to eye”. This means to not agree. English speakers use these kinds of expressions all the time which is one of the main reasons English is not an easy language.

So, for today I want to write about two related idioms: “to be in someone’s hair” and “to get out of someone’s hair”.

“To be in someone’s hair” means to bother someone when they’re busy or to be in someone’s way when they are busy. For example, a father might say:

Kids, you’re in your mother’s hair. She’s trying to cook dinner so please go outside and play.

Or, someone might say to their co-worker:

I know this is a really small office we have to share. I hope I’m not in your hair.

A related idiom is “to get out of someone’s hair”. This means to stop bothering someone when they’re busy or to leave the room because they’re in someone’s way. We can change the examples I’ve already given in the following way:

Kids, your mother is cooking dinner now, so please get out of her hair. Why don’t you go outside and play?

I know this is a really small office we have to share. If you’re busy now, I’ll get out of your hair.

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