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Last updated at 19:47 BST, Friday, 17 April 2009

Episode 191: Language Point

Helen, Alice and Khalid in the sitting room


Helen used a well-known expression 'With friends like that ...' but she didn't say the full expression. In English, if an expression is very well-known, we often don't say it in full. The full expression is 'With friends like that who needs enemies?'. This expression means your friends treat you almost as badly as your enemies would (here Helen means that Alice wasn't much of friend to Khalid for messing up his hair).

Here are some more expressions and vocabulary items using the words friends and enemies:


bosom buddy / friend / pal
friend that you are very close to and who you like a lot
Example: They've been bosom buddies for years. They've known each other since they were five!

pen friend / pal
someone you exchange letters with (often as a hobby) but whom you don't usually meet
Example: Our teacher encouraged us to have pen pals from a school she knew in France. She said it was a good opportunity to practise reading and writing in French.

friendly game / friendly argument
a game or argument where you play for pleasure or to practise your skills, rather than playing or arguing seriously with the aim of winning
Examples: The teams are playing a friendly football game every Saturday.
I had my usual friendly argument with my mother about socialism again this weekend.

keep your friends close and your enemies closer
it's better to keep a closer eye on your enemies rather than your friends
Example: He always wants to know what his competitors are up to. He really believes you should keep your friends close but your enemies closer.

any friend of someone's is a friend of mine / yours etc.
If you recommend someone to me who I don't know, I will trust the person you recommend because I like and trust you
Example:Come in, come in! Welcome to my home. I'm glad Mark gave you my number. I'm sure we'll get along because any friend of Mark's is a friend of mine.

you can pick your friends but you can't pick your family
you can select who will and who won't be your friends but you are given your parents, brothers and sisters etc. You can't choose who your family is.
Example: I hate talking on the phone but mum rings me almost every evening. I just have to keep telling myself – you can't pick your family!


an especially bad enemy
Example: He's been her arch-enemy ever since he got promoted to manager because of his fantastic marketing campaign. She says the campaign was all her idea and that he stole it from her and didn't give her any credit at all.

public enemy number one
someone or something that a lot of people don't like or disapprove of. Example: Pretty much everyone who lives near the site says that the new airport is a really bad idea; it's become the new public enemy number one round here.

he/she etc is his/her worst enemy
cause problems for yourself because of your character or the way you do things
Example: No matter how hard I try to get up early, I always end up turning off the alarm and snoozing for 'just five more minutes'. Then suddenly half an hour's gone by and I'm late for work again. I'm my own worst enemy, I really am.

wouldn't wish that / it on my worst enemy
used to emphasize how unpleasant something is
Example: The waiters were rude and the food was disgusting. I wouldn't wish that meal on my worst enemy.


ask for your money back
ask for the money you paid for something to be refunded to you (because, for example, you don't like what you bought, it doesn't fit or there is something wrong with it)
admit that you did something wrong or bad
save face
have respect and honour from other people

Episode 191 links

  1. Home
  2. The Flatmates
  3. Episode 191: Language Point