Getting into the “Swing of Things” | ESL Expressions

swing of things esl expression

Happy Monday!

Because we have started or will soon be starting our regular routines (end of summer), I wanted to share an expression about habits and routine.

Swing can be a noun, the type of playground equipment used in the picture above. Swing is also a verb, or the action or moving back and forth on the swing.

When we get into the swing of things, this means we are adjusting or adapting to a routine. You could also say that you are getting used to a routine (check out the post on used to). The action or the routine is becoming a habit.

If this is an old routine (back to school), you can say you are “getting back into the swing of things.”

This week’s post will be about reviewing, or getting back into the swing of things when studying English. Have a great week!


Recipe for Disaster | ESL Expressions

Just add a little more heat to that volcano and we will have the perfect disaster!

Good afternoon, everyone. There are hundreds of expressions about cooking or baking, but I decided to choose an expression with recipe in it. So, what is a recipe for disaster? A recipe for disaster is an action, characteristic, or a combination of them, that will make something bad happen. For example, if I let my friend who is too trusting meet with a person I know if a liar, something bad will happen. It’s a recipe for disaster!

Can you think of any other recipes for disaster?


Used To | For ESL Learners

used to

Good morning, again, everyone.! You may have noticed that in yesterday’s post I wrote the expression used to a few times. You probably already know the meaning of the word use. Use means to do something with (an object, machine, person, method, etc.) in order to accomplish a task, do an activity, etc. I can then write a sentence with the word use in the past to explain what I accomplished with a specific object.

  • I used a sharp knife to cut the tomato. 

You may also see someone write this sentence in the passive voice .

  • A sharp knife was used to cut the tomato.

If you are a beginner, do not worry too much about the passive voice for now! I only want you to notice that the sentence has used to in its original meaning. However, the expression used to has two other meanings, or two separate uses, that are very common in English.

used to esl diagram

Used to: To Talk About How the Past is Different from the Present

Used to can be used to express difference between the past and the present. If shows that there has been a change.  For example, in the past, I hated spinach. Now, I like spinach.

  • I used to hate spinach.

Usually, when used to is used in this way, you can rephrase the sentence with anymore.

  • used to hate spinach.= I do not hate spinach anymore.

Note: If the sentence uses did or didn’t to express the past, you will only use use to. Notice the expression is followed by an infinitive verb.

We can also use this expression in questions. For example,

  • Where did you used to buy your food?

Used to: To Express Familiarity or Comfort

To be used to something means to be familiar, comfortable, or habituated with something. I eat spinach every week. It is normal for me. I am familiar with it.

  • I am used to spinach.

In this case our construction is [subject + be (conjugated) + used to + noun].

To ask a question, we change the order to:

  • Are you used to spinach?

Notice that gerunds (verb+ing) can also be a noun. I wash dishes every day. It is normal for me.

  • I am used to washing dishes.

With this meaning of the expression, used to is often with the word get.

  • I am getting used to spinach: I did not have a habit of eating spinach, but now I eat it, and it is becoming normal for me.
  • I got used to the taste of spinach: I was not familiar with the taste, but I became familiar with it, and it is normal.
  • Are you getting used to the taste of spinach?: Are you becoming familiar with its taste?
  • I can’t get used to the taste of spinach: I will never think it is normal.

How Can You Know?

To know what the expression means each time, you will have to look at or listen to the context of the expression. If used to is followed by a noun or a gerund (an “ing” word), it is expressing familiarity. If it is followed by an infinitive verb, then it is expressing a change from the past or explaining what an item is used for.

Examples from yesterday’s cooking post

In the cooking post, there are three examples of uses. Which do each of these mean? Am I using the proper sense, talking about the past, or talking about being familiar with something?

  1. When I was young and lived with my parents, I used to help them a little bit with baking and cooking.
  2. I wasn’t used to such strong criticism at the time!
  3. Jordan is used to me trying new things.

Here are my explanations. Are they what you expected them to be?

  1. Past: I am talking about the past. I do not live with my parents anymore, so I do not help them in the kitchen anymore.
  2. Familiarity: Even though I am talking about the past, used to is not referring specifically to the past. In this sentence, I am talking about being familiar with accepting criticism.
  3. Familiarity: Jordan knows that I try new foods in the kitchen, so he is familiar with my cooking.


  • Write two sentences telling how your life has changed since four years ago using used to.
  • Write two sentences about foods you are used to or foods you are not used to.

Feel free to write your answers in the comments and I will correct any responses if necessary.

You didn’t use to use used to, but now you are getting used to it, right?

Think Outside of the Box | ESL Expressions

think outside of the box

I thought the expression think outside the box would be a nice way to close a week about packing and moving. However, this expression is not related to moving or even boxes.

  • To think outside the box means to think in a new way or to think of something new.


  • If you are having trouble with a specific problem and have tried all the obvious solutions, someone might simply use the statement as a command and tell you: Think outside the box!
  • If you’re working on a problem with someone else, you might say: We need to think outside the box.
  • If you think someone found a creative solution, you might say: He thought outside the box and came up with a great solution!

Have you already heard this expression? If you have used it, how have you used it?

Happy weekend everyone!

That’s Music To My Ears

And to finish this week’s music festival theme, I chose the expression:

That’s music to my ears!

This expression means the same thing as that sounds nice. The speaker is pleased to hear the sound or the information.

For example, if after a long recession, construction starts again, many people might be happy. Even if the sound is actually loud and not pretty, people are happy the construction has started.

  • Person 1: Wow, that construction is so noisy!
  • Person 2: I’m just happy they are working again. That noise is music to my ears!

As mentioned above, you can also use the expression for pieces of information.

  • Person 1: Did you hear that an organic grocery store opened in our neighborhood?
  • Person 2: No, I didn’t know. I’m happy! That’s music to my ears!

Can you think of any other situations where you could use this expression? Have you heard it before?

Do You Have a Green Thumb? | ESL Expressions

green thumb

Hello, there! Today, we’re finishing off our week’s gardening theme, with the expression “to have a green thumb.” Do you think you have a green thumb?

To know if you have a green thumb, you just need to answer one question: Are you good at growing plants?

If yes, then you have a green thumb! To have a green thumb means that you are good at gardening or at growing plants. It is  a compliment. Here are a few examples of how to use the expression:

  • My mom grows a beautiful garden every year. She’s got a green thumb!
  • My plants always end up dying! I definitely don’t have a green thumb.
  • I don’t know if I have a green thumb or not. Maybe I am just lucky!

So what about you? Do you have a green thumb? Do you wish you had one?

Have a great weekend, everyone. We’ll see you back on the ESL page next Monday, where are theme will be music!

DIY | ESL Expressions

diy do-it-yourself

To finish of this week’s craft-themed ESL section, I thought the expression DIY would be perfect. Of course, DIY is really an acronym–where each letter stands for a word, but you will hear it or read it very often if you’re looking through English craft blogs, etc.


DIY means Do-It-Yourself. This means that you have a project that you can work on and complete without paying a professional to do it or buying it in a store. Usually, it is used as an adjective to describe a project. However, it can also be a person if er is added (DIYer). Below are some example uses I found around the internet.


So now, start your crafting and DIYing! Have a good weekend!