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Animal Idioms

Type of activity: this activity introduces a list of animal idioms.


Level: Intermediate and above


Teacher's notes:

  1. Begin this activity by asking the students to tell you which their favorite animals are. They can discuss this in pairs also.
  2. Dictate the following animals to the students:

      • CAT
      • DOG
      • DONKEY
      • BUTTERFLY
      • FISH
      • HORSE
      • LEOPARD
      • BIRD
      • CHICKEN
      • GOAT
      • MICE
      • MOLE

  3. Ask the students to work in pairs and to discuss two things:

      • Are there any idioms in their own language which use any of the above animals and if so which animals?
      • Do they know any idioms in English which contain these animals; if so what are the idioms?

  4. Allow the students a few minutes to discuss this and then go over the answers as a group. It might be interesting to compare the idioms in English and the students’ first language later in the lesson.
  5. Hand out the worksheet below, one per pair in class. Ask the pairs to try to guess the meaning of the idioms from the sentences in which they are contained.
  6. This is a long worksheet therefore you may want to do only half in class and set the rest for homework.




ANSWERS:

  1. Like a dog with two tails - to be extremely happy
  2. A little bird told you - someone told you a secret
  3. A leopard can’t change his/her spots - people can’t change themselves.
  4. To be no spring chicken - to be relatively old
  5. Copycat - to do the same thing as someone else
  6. The cat has got his/her tongue - to be too nervous to speak
  7. To be fishy - to be strange/wrong; possibly criminally wrong
  8. To have butterflies - to feel nervous
  9. Donkey’s years - a very long time
  10. To eat a horse - to be able to eat a lot
  11. To get someone’s goat - to really irritate him/her
  12. To look a gift horse in the mouth - to not be grateful for something
  13. To talk the hind leg off a donkey - to talk a lot for a long time
  14. To drink like a fish - to drink a lot
  15. To be in the doghouse - to be in trouble with someone/ for someone to be angry with you
  16. To horse around - to play around/joke
  17. To be as quiet as mice - to be silent
  18. To make a mountain out of a molehill - to exaggerate a problem
  19. Not enough room to swing a cat - a place is very small
  20. To grin like a Cheshire cat - to have a very big smile.








































WORKSHEET

  1. My brother was like a dog with two tails when his girlfriend agreed to marry him; he was really happy.

    _____________________________________________________________________


  2. He had kept the fact that he wanted to marry a secret although my sister said that she had known for a while. When I asked her how she knew, she said a little bird had told her.

    _____________________________________________________________________


  3. When I asked my brother’s girlfriend how much she loved my brother she said completely although there were some things about him that irritated her. She said that she would change those things but my mother wisely said ‘a leopard can’t change its spots.

    _____________________________________________________________________


  4. When it came to the wedding day everyone looked beautiful although my sister nastily said that the bride was no spring chicken. The bride was 37 when she got married.

    _____________________________________________________________________


  5. Two of the guests wore the same style of dress; when they saw each other they started to argue and blamed each other for being copycats.

    _____________________________________________________________________


  6. The ceremony went really smoothly apart from when my brother was supposed to say ‘I do’ he didn’t say anything. We all joked that the cat had got his tongue; he said that he was very nervous.

    _____________________________________________________________________


  7. They were given lovely presents. My uncle bought them a car! We all wondered where he had got the money for the car from because he is not working at the moment. It was a bit fishy.

    _____________________________________________________________________


  8. When I asked the bride how she felt during the ceremony she said that she had butterflies constantly because she thought that she was going to do or say something wrong.

    _____________________________________________________________________


  9. I met a lot of people at the party after the ceremony that I hadn’t seen for donkey’s years. I hadn’t seen one of the guests since I was a child.

    _____________________________________________________________________


  10. The food at the party was excellent. I hadn’t had breakfast so by the time it got to the party I could have eaten a horse.

    _____________________________________________________________________


  11. My mother and her sister typically argued at the party about something. Mother told me that her sister had really got her goat because she had said the cake could have been bigger. My mother was furious.

    _____________________________________________________________________


  12. My grandmother bought the couple a new cooker for their house. My brother said that he had wanted a microwave but my mother said that he should not look a gift horse in the mouth.

    _____________________________________________________________________


  13. My father got drunk at the party which made him very talkative. When it came to the speech he talked for a long time; I think he could have talked the hind leg off a donkey.

    _____________________________________________________________________


  14. My father is well-known for being able to drink like a fish. He can drink more than I can and still stand up and ask for more!

    _____________________________________________________________________


  15. My mother told my father not to drink too much but he said that his son only got married once. The next day he was in the doghouse.

    _____________________________________________________________________


  16. My brother’s friends horsed around at the party. They played lots of jokes on people and even tied cans to my brother’s car!

    _____________________________________________________________________


  17. My little cousins were very good during the whole ceremony; they were as quiet as mice even though they are only ten and nine years old.

    _____________________________________________________________________


  18. My sister was upset at the end of the party because someone had spilt a little wine on her dress. You couldn’t really see the stain. She always makes mountains out of molehills.

    _____________________________________________________________________


  19. When the couple left the party they went to stay in their new apartment for one night and then planned to go on honeymoon. When my mother saw their apartment she said that it was really small, in fact there wasn’t enough room to swing a cat.

    _____________________________________________________________________


  20. The couple were happy which was all that mattered. They left the party both grinning like Cheshire cats.

    _____________________________________________________________________




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