Session 3

Listen to find out how to use an everyday English expression.
Jechoota guyyuu of ibsuuf nu fayyadu akkaataa itti dhimma baanu hubachuuf caqasi.

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    Activity 1

Activity 1

Treading on eggshells

Look at the Session Vocabulary – make sure you know what these words mean:

  • groceries
  • shopkeeper
  • sensitive
  • offend
  • awkward

Listen to two friends Rob and Li talking about a visit to the shops. As you listen, think about these questions:

  • What had happened to the shopkeeper?
  • Why didn’t Li want to ask him about it?

Listen to find out the answers. Then check them on the transcript below.

Show transcript Hide transcript

Akkam jirta! Qophii jechoota Afaan Ingilizii keessatti of ibsuuf si fayyadan haaraa English Expressions akka bartu si gargaarrutti baga nagaan dhufte.
Ani Ammayyuudha. Har’a jecha afaan Ingilizii keessatti of ibsuuf fayyadamnu keessaa qola hanqaaquu irra-deemu ‘treading on eggshells’ ilaalla. Maal jechuu sitti fakkaata? Wallaaltee? Tole. Itti fufii Caqasi.
Liin dhugaatii fiduuf gara dhugaatiin itti gurguramu deemteetti. Bakki dhugaatiin itti gurguramu ‘tricky’ nama rakkisa jetti. Maaliif akka ‘tricky’ rakkisaa ture waliin haa hubannu.

Hi Li. Hey, it looks like you've been really busy.

I've just picked up some groceries from the local shop, you know - milk, eggs, bread, flour – I'm going to make a cake.

Make a cake? Oh good. So how was Mr Brown, the shopkeeper? Hasn't he just split up with his wife?

He has. It was tricky in the shop. I didn't want to say anything to him just in case I mentioned his wife. I only said: ‘Good morning’ and he said: ‘Is it?’

Hojjataan suuqii Liin bira bituu deemte Obbo Biraawan haadha warraa isaanii waliin walhiikaniiru. Kanaafuu Liin maqaa haadha warraa Isaanii dhahuu hinbarbaanne. Wayita Liin ‘good morning’ akkam bultan’ jettu, obbo Biraawan ‘is it’ ‘akkasii?’ jedhani deebisanif.
Obbo Biraawan waan nagaan bulan sitti fakkaataa? ‘Haala ofeeggannoo fedhu’ sensitive situation’ kana keessatti Liin daran of eeggachuun waan irra jiraatu fakkaata. Itti fufnee haa caqasnu.

Hmm, it sounds like you've been treading on eggshells.

Oh no, the shop was very clean, nothing on the floor – I don't really think he's the sort of person to throw food around!

No Li – I mean you were trying very hard not to upset him – that's what treading on eggshells means.

Oh! So it's about being nice - it's about being sensitive to the situation?


Well, I was very sensitive. But what have eggshells got to do with it?

Well, if there were eggshells on the floor literally you would have to be very careful where you put your feet!  

Liin qola hanqaaquurra yeroo irra-deemtu treading on eggshells Roob akka hin aarsineef of eggannoo goote. Kanaafuu, qola killeerra deemuu jechuun namoota biroo akka hingaddisiisneef of eeggachuu jechuudha. Hiriyyaankee nama inni jaalatu tokkorraa gargar baheera yoo ta’e, waa’ee wanta isa/ishee gargar baase sanaa takkallee yaadachiisuu hinqabdu. Ati ni yaadachiistaa?

Fakkeenyawwan muraasa waliin haacaqasnu.

I had to be so careful with what I said to my ex-girlfriend. The smallest thing made her angry: it was like treading on eggshells.

Ever since my argument with my neighbour about parking, I feel like I've been treading on eggshells.

Since my friend's father died, I don't know what to say to him: it's like treading on eggshells.

So, treading on eggshells can be awkward because you don't know what to say and you don't want to offend someone. So Rob, what should I have said to Mr Brown?

Ok, well, you could have said 'plenty more fish in the sea!'


Or, erm... I didn't like her much anyway.

Rob, I think that's the opposite of treading on eggshells.

Really? Anyway let me help you with your shopping… here you go… oops (Rob drops the eggs!).

Rob! You have dropped all the eggs on my kitchen floor.

Oh no! Now you really will be walking on eggshells!

That's not funny.

Well, I didn't like your cakes much anyway.

Oh Lakkii! Roob lafa Liin nyaata itti qopheessitutti hanqaaquu darbatee cabse. Amma qolawwan killeerra deemuuf jiru. Garuu yaadadhu; qolawwan killeerra deemuu jechuun jechawwan yookiin gochawwan namoota biroo akka hindheekkamsiisneef of eeggachuu jechuudha.
Keessumaa haala akka salphaatti namoota gaddisiisuu dandeessu keessatti. Yeroo qolawwan killeerra tarkaanfatte yaadachuu dandeessaa?  
Jechoota Afaan Ingilizii of ibsuuf si fayyadan English Expressions dabalataaf yeroo ittaanuu walitti deebina. See you next time!


• The shopkeeper’s wife has left him.
• She didn’t want to upset the shopkeeper.

How do I use it?

‘Treading on eggshells’, uses the verb ‘tread’. In this episode the verb is being used in two ways.


Verbs can be used like nouns by adding -ing. This is called a gerund.

That’s what treading on eggshells means.

Treading on eggshells can be awkward.

Continuous aspect

Verbs can take the continuous aspect by adding -ing. This is used in tenses such as the present continuous, or the present perfect continuous.

I'm treading on eggshells around my boss at the moment, as I made a big mistake recently.

I feel like I have been treading on eggshells.

The continuous aspect is used for an activity in progress, rather than a completed action.

Treading on eggshells

3 Questions

Choose the correct answer.
Deebii sirrii filadhu.

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Over to you!

Can you remember a time when you had to ‘tread on eggshells’? What did you have to do? What happened? Come and tell us on our Facebook group.

Join us for our next episode of English Expressions, when we will learn more useful language and practise your listening skills.
Barnoota Essential English ittaanu kan dandeettii caqasuukee ittiin shaakaltuufi qooqa barbaachisoo barannutti walitti deebina.

Session Vocabulary

  • groceries
    suuqii omishni nyaataafi dhugaati gurguramu


    qolawwan killee


    hojjataa suuqii


    kan miira tuqu