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Last updated at 18:08 BST, Tuesday, 12 June 2012

To bend over backwards

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Why is Neil trying to bend over backwards? Is he going to hurt himself? Helen and Neil talk about the different meanings of this phrase.

An athlete doing the high jump

It's quite hard to bend over backwards!

The script for this programme

Neil: Hello. I'm Neil.

Helen: I'm Helen. And Neil is speaking in that rather strange voice because he's in a strange position.

Neil: That's right. I'm bending over backwards – or trying to.

Helen: Bending over backwards. The problem is that you're not very flexible are you?

Neil: No. Even if I bend forwards I can hardly touch my knees, and certainly not my toes.

Helen: Well, look at me!

Neil: Wow! Helen! I had no idea you could do that! You can bend over backwards all the way to the floor!

Helen: Yes. Anyway, maybe we should explain why we're bending over backwards.

Neil: Oh, yes, of course. That's because today's phrase is:

Helen & Neil: To bend over backwards!

Helen: Listen to these examples and see if you can guess what it means.

  • I would bend over backwards for you – just let me know how I can help.
  • Julia bent over backwards to make sure everything was right for their visit.

Neil: Did you guess the meaning of 'to bend over backwards'?

Helen: It means to go to great lengths or to put in a lot of effort for someone or something.

Neil: Like, "I would bend over backwards to make you happy", Helen.

Helen: Ahhhh. Thank you Neil. Let's hear some more examples:

  • I bent over backwards to get Jim what he wanted, but he never thanked me.
  • I'll help you a bit, but don't expect me to bend over backwards.


Neil: Oh, ooof!

Helen: Are you okay?

Neil: I need to sit down, I think I've hurt my back!

Helen: Ah, Neil, you must be careful not to bend over backwards too often!

Neil: Yes.

Helen: Or you should just bend over backwards figuratively, but not literally! That's all for now. Bye!

Neil: Bye!

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