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Last updated at 17:32 BST, Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Fly by the seat of your pants


Can Chris fly by the seat of his pants? Does he need to wear his pants over his trousers, like Superman? Li and Chris discuss the use of this phrase.

A flying man

Is he flying by the seat of his pants?

The script for this programme

Chris: Hi, I’m Chris and I’m here today with Li.

Li: Hello.

Chris: Did you see that Superman film on television last night? I love Clark Kent. By day, he’s just a regular guy, but he also has the power to fly! It’s a classic movie.

Li: No, I didn’t see it. The aerial on my roof is broken and I don’t really know how to fix it, so I can’t watch anything at the moment.

Chris: That’s a shame. If you want, I could have a look to see if I can fix it for you? I’d be flying by the seat of my pants, but it’s worth a try.

Li: You can fly? Like Superman? Do you have to wear your pants on the outside like him, too?

Chris: No, I don’t mean I can actually fly – and I’m certainly not putting my underwear on over my trousers! The phrase ‘to fly by the seat of your pants’ means to do something difficult without being trained to do it or really knowing how.

Li: So I don’t have to worry about actually seeing your pants?

Chris: No, Li, you don’t have to see my pants – it’s just a phrase.

Li: I see – so you’ll have a go at fixing my TV aerial, even though you aren’t quite sure what you’re doing.

Chris: Exactly. Let’s hear some more examples of the phrase in action.


This report has to be finished today but no one is here to show me how to do it. I’ll be flying by the seat of my pants, but I’d better try.

John is trying to put new tiles in the bathroom, as he won’t pay for a decorator to do it. He really is flying by the seat of his pants.

Li: So this is a phrase that we can use when you know very little about something, but you’re going to do your best to complete the job.

Chris: People often use this phrase when they have to do a job quickly, but don’t know how.

Li: So, do you think you can fix my aerial?

Chris: Well, I’ll certainly give it a try – have you got a ladder, then…?


Chris: Well, there you go. I really did fly by the seat of my pants, but it looks like it’s fixed.

Li: Let me turn on the TV… It works! Great picture. You know Chris, even though you don’t have your pants like Superman, you really are my hero.

Chris: Erm… thanks.


To take away:

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