Session 5

Learners' Questions

Welcome to Learners' Questions - the series where we answer your queries about the English language. What will this week's learner question be?

ክፍለ-ስራሓት ናይዚ ምዕራፍ

ድምር ነጥቢ ናይዚ ክፍለ-ስራሓት 5

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    Activity 1

Activity 1

Learners' Questions

Every cloud has a silver lining

Helen in Ukraine says: I find it difficult to understand idioms or proverbs. For example, every cloud has a silver lining. Could you please explain to me what this means?

ነቲ ቪድዮ ብምዕዛብ ነቲ ስራሕ ዕመምዎ

ነቲ ቅዳሕ ጽሑፍ ኣርእይዎ ነቲ ቅዳሕ ጽሑፍ ሕብእዎ

Dan
Hi guys! Dan for BBC Learning English here with this week's Learner Question. Find out what it is after this.

OK! This week's learner question comes from Helen from Ukraine, who says: sometimes I find it difficult to understand idioms or proverbs. For example, every cloud has a silver lining. Could you please explain to me what this means. Helen, I’d be delighted.

Now, idioms are difficult to understand because the meaning of the expression is not necessarily the meaning of the individual words combined. Some of them are not so difficult. For example, once in a blue moon. A blue moon is a real thing and it happens in the sky only rarely. So once in a blue moon means rarely.

Sometimes you can understand an idiom through its context. For example, Charlotte got her dream job, so she was on cloud nine all day. Charlotte getting her dream job has made her very happy, so being on cloud nine means? Very happy. You got it!

Every cloud has a silver lining. Ok. Imagine a sky that’s full of dark clouds. But the sun is still shining. Now, dark clouds usually mean rain, or storms, or thunder, or snow and most people would say that that’s a bad situation. But the sun shining from behind them is a good thing. And it gives the clouds a silvery edge. So every cloud has a silver lining means that something good exists even in a bad situation. Do you see?

Here are some other idioms with clouds. Can you guess what they mean? The answers will be on our website. John is such a dreamer. He’s always got his head in the clouds. Business is going well at the moment, but the effect of Brexit is a cloud on the horizon. And finally, James has been under a cloud for the last few weeks because everybody found out that he’s been cheating on his wife.

I hope that answers your question Helen. Thank you very much for writing to us. If anybody else out there has a question for Learners’ Questions, you can email us on: learning.english@bbc.co.uk. Please remember to put Learners’ Questions in the subject box and your name and the place that you’re writing from. We can’t possibly answer all your questions, guys, we just get too many, but we do read every single one. And for more information, go to our website: bbclearningenglish.com. That’s it for this week’s Learners’ Questions. I’ll see you next time. Bye!

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Summary

Idioms can be difficult to understand because the combination of their words does not always give the meaning of the idiom itself. Some are easier - e.g. once in a blue moon. A blue moon is a rare occurance, so once in a blue moon means rarely.

Context helps
Use context wherever you can to help. Charlotte got her dream job, so she was on cloud nine all day. Getting a dream job usually makes people very happy, so on cloud nice means very happy.

Every cloud
A sky full of dark clouds is a metaphor for coming trouble. The Sun, being light and warm, represents something good. Imagine a sky full of dark clouds with the sun shining behind them. This gives the clouds a silvery edge. In a bad situation (the dark sky) there is still some good to be found (the sun). Every cloud ha a silver lining means something good exists even in a bad situation

Examples of other cloud idioms
"John is such a dreamer. He’s always got his head in the clouds."
If your head is in the clouds, you are not looking at the ground. Here, the ground represents what is real, whereas the clouds are a kind of dream land. Someone with their head in the clouds is too focussed on their own ideas or dreams to realise what is happening in reality.

"Business is going well at the moment, but the effect of Brexit is a cloud on the horizon." 
A cloud on the horizon could be a sign of a coming storm - a negative metaphor. So a cloud on the horizon means a problem that has been seen but is yet to come.

"James has been under a cloud for the last few weeks because everybody found out that he’s been cheating on his wife."

Again, dark clouds representing something negative here, James has been caught doing something wrong and everyone knows it. Therefore to be under a cloud means suspected of or disgraced for doing something bad.

To do

Try our quiz to see what you've learned about this topic.


Learners’ Questions Quiz

4 Questions

Decide if these sentences are correct or incorrect

ኣገናዕ፡ ፈተናኹም ዛዚምኩም
Excellent! Great job! ሕማቕ ዕድል! ዘመዝገብኩምዎ ነጥቢ ...:
x / y

End of Session 5

Well, that's it for this unit! Join us again in Unit 21 for more Exam Skills, News Review, Pronunciation in the News, The Teachers' Room and Learners' Questions!

Session Vocabulary

  • Once in a blue moon
    Rarely

    On cloud nine
    Very happy

    Every cloud has a silver lining
    Every bad situation has something good in it