Idioms describing feelings and mood

An idiom is a special kind of phrase. It is a group of words which have a different meaning when used together from the one it would have if the meaning of each word were taken individually. If you do not know that the words have a special meaning together, you may well misinterpret what someone is saying, or be puzzled by why they are saying something that is untrue or irrelevant.
Idiomatic expressions or idioms are, in a very broad sense, metaphorical, rather than literal. They are also in a way that makes them different from literal expressions. Because they are metaphorical, one cannot usually discover their meanings by looking up the individual words in an ordinary dictionary. Because they are more or less invariable, both in wording and in certain grammatical ways, they cannot be changed or varied in the way literal expressions are normally varied, either in speech or writing. Idioms tend to have other characteristics in common, although these do not apply generally to every case. Most, but not all, of these expressions are phrases of two or more words. Moreover, these expressions belong to informal spoken English rather than to formal written English.
As the metaphorical meanings are quite different from the literal meanings of the words in phrases, one cannot often substitute words that are close in meaning in the phrases. Moreover, some grammatical operations, like the formation of the passive, are impossible too. One cannot make other changes without losing the idiomatic meaning.
Almost all idiomatic phrases permit the usual grammatical operations, which literal phrases permit.
In other words, idiomacity (i.e., the quality of being idiomatic) is a matter of degree or scale. Thus, some of the phrases may be used in a literal context or they may be used idiomatically. Other phrases have no literal meaning at all and may be used as idioms. Some idioms are fixed. Still other idioms allow a limited number of variants:
E.g. ‘up to one’s ears / eyes / neck / eyeballs’ (= wholly concerned with something) [p. 44, 11], [68, 11]
‘in someone’s bad books’ or (= in disfavour with someone), which has one variant expressing the opposite meaning: ‘in someone’s good books’ [p. 129, 11]
However, other idioms are very open and allow a large number of certain types of words (e.g. nouns) to be used in certain positions.
Moreover, some cases, it is fairly easy to see how the idiomatic meaning relates to the literal meaning: for example, ‘to be in a black mood’ (i.e. a bad mood, temper), (11), and the image in the metaphor supports this meaning. In other cases, the literal meanings may make no sense at all. For example, ‘Move heaven and earth’ (11) literally describes an action, which is physically impossible. In a few further cases, the metaphors in the idioms are peculiar, and their true origins are unknown, so it is very difficult to see how or why the idioms have come to have their current meanings.
Idioms have important pragmatic functions in language. As they have fairly general meanings, they are less often used merely to convey factual information but rather to convey the attitude. They typically convey factual information and in addition they convey the attitude. Whatsoever, habitually convey evaluations: they are used as ways of expressing approval and admiration, disapproval and criticism.
In fact, people often use idioms in order to create a sense of ‘camaraderie’ with the people they are speaking to or writing for: idioms make language seem more lively and interesting, more friendly and more informal. Because of this, idioms are generally considered informal and labelled as ‘informal’ and ‘colloquial’ in general dictionaries of English. In fact, idioms are often used in context, which are formal. As a general rule, learners should be careful in using idioms in formal contexts and in formal writing.
The idioms, represented in this work form part of a ‘common care’, that means that they are understood and commonly used not only in Britain, but also in other parts English-speaking world. It is difficult to explain their origin and during many years they, of course, have changed in the headphrase. The headphrase is a full idiomatic expression.
After all, the problem of understanding the idioms is very important to the learner and the main purpose of this work is to help them to do it. First of all, attention is drawn to the meanings of idioms, comparing literally examples with the dictionary or other source examples. Moreover, the contexts the idioms appear in are suggested for analysis of the style, grammar and substitution (where possible) in the headphrase.
Furthermore, in some places the origins of some idioms are given. In order not to get confused, the idioms are divided into two main groups:
1. Idioms describing negative feelings and mood:
1.1. annoyance
1.2. anger
1.3. nervousness
1.4. irritation
2. Idioms describing positive feelings and mood:
2.1. happiness
2.2. joy
2.3. gladness
Besides, the contexts in which the idioms are frequently met are included for more profound comprehension of the lexical and functional meanings.


Idioms, represented in the work are collected from 7 books, the newspaper ‘The Sunday Times’ and the dictionary of idioms. Idioms are dealt with the following way:
1. The analysis procedure of an idiom is given in capital letters.
2. Abbreviated grammatical structure in brackets. The meaning of abbreviations are as follows:
Clause patterns:
(V + Comp) verb + complement
(V + O) verb + direct object
(V + O + Comp) verb + direct object + complement
(V + IO + O) verb + indirect object + direct object
(V + O + A) verb + direct object + adjunct
Possessive clause pattern:
Phrase patterns:
(NP) noun phrase
(Adj. P) adjectival phrase
(Prep. P) prepositional phrase
(Adv. P) adverbial phrase
(N + N) noun + noun pattern
(Adj. + Adj.) adjective + adjective pattern

3. Style of an idiom:
formal, informal
4. Definition of an idiom.
5. Possible substitutions in the headphrase:
In fact, some English idioms are entirely fixed while others allow the speaker a measure of choice. Here the errors can easily be made, and guidance is essential. 4 types of variations can be distinguished:
1) Obligatory vs. optional choice.
On the whole, in some idioms, one of a number of alternative words or phrases must be used to give a complete and acceptable expression.
The point is, that here one of the modal verbs CAN, COULD, or BE ABLE TO must be used for the idiom to make sense. In other cases, alternatives need not to be taken up.
To sum up, this idiom is acceptable no matter whether a verb is chosen or not.
2) Limited vs. open choice.
In certain idioms, only a very few words can be substituted for a noun, verb, adjective, etc. which appears in the headphrase:
E.g. DAMN etc. IT (ALL)
We can replace the verb DAMN by two other verbs: DASH and HANG. Still some idioms allow a great many appropriate words or phrases for substitution:
We can replace the adjective by many others. Instead of HAPPY, we can use CHEERFUL, CONTENTED, MERRY or we can use the verbs: BE, SEEM, STAY. So, here there are many possible replacements for HAPPY.
3) Lexical vs. grammatical choice.
Choice of both the above types can be between lexical words – nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs – or grammatical words – articles, pronouns, modal verbs.
In fact, lexical choice must be made from the determiners MUCH, LITTLE AS, THOUGH, while the grammatical choice can be made between pronouns: THEMSELVES, YOURSELF, MYSELF…:
4) Choice of words vs. choice of inflections.
All the above categories show alternation of words, which is also characteristic of idioms. However, they can also at times display restrictions in the choice of the grammatical endings (inflections) which indicates differences of tense in verbs, number in nouns, etc.
In this idiom we can change the singular form SONG / TUNE into the plural SONGS, TUNES.
The rule is that here the word FUN cannot take the endings – s. It goes without saying that grammatical rules cannot be violated.
However, according to the idiom itself, certain indications of the substitution in the headphrases are given in this work.
5) The source in brackets indicates where certain things are taken from. Besides, the explanation of the context is given.
6) Dictionary definition, supplementary contexts and their analysis.
7) Comparison of the contexts.


It was not yet mentioned that idioms can have one meaning in English culture and another in the learner’s own culture or language. For this reason, they can be misunderstood by the learner, especially to one, who is at the initial stage of English study. Consider the idiom:
This idiom is often followed by ‘in shame’ or ‘in guilt’ and in such cases the meaning is clear: the action of hanging (i.e. lowering) one’s head is associated with shame or guilt. The phrase, however, is often used alone, without a stated reference to shame or guilt, as in the sentence:
E.g. She hung her head whenever anyone mentioned the broken clock.
One must learn that this action is a sign of shame or guilt.
Another example is:
Consider the sentence:
E.g. I threw up my hands when I heard how much money he earned.
It would be quite wrong to think that this sentence means either ‘I was glad to hear that he earned a lot of money’ or ‘I was glad to hear that he earned only a little money.’
The action in this idiom is not a sign of gladness but of annoyance, impatience, etc. In this and other idioms the action referred to may never really happen.
Here the speaker does not necessarily perform this action.
E.g. He nearly fell off his chair when they told him the news.
It’s just a metaphorical way of saying ‘he was very surprised’. It is quite likely that he did not even move in his chair and it is possible that he was not sitting in a chair at all. In these idioms the meaning is often specific to English – speaking countries. For example, in English ‘STICK ONE’S CHIN OUT’ means to show opposition to something. The same action in other countries may be a sign of agreement, a way of saying ‘no’ etc. Therefore, it’s important to be careful not to translate the idioms word for word.


Idioms, which are dealt with here, mostly describe such negative feelings as annoyance, nervousness, irritation and anger. The order of dealing with them is given in Procedure of processing data and according to that structure the idioms are described. Besides, literature sources are given in brackets.
‘LIKE A CAT ON HOT BRICKS’ (Prep P) informal.
Definition: restless(ly); nervous(ly); unable to sit /lie still, settle one’s attention [p. 217, 11]
V: be; fidget, bob up and down [p. 217, 11]
E.g. ‘Martha was looking at her watch all the time like a cat on hot bricks. She couldn’t sit the concert out.’ [p. 42, 1]
In this situation, Martha wished the concert to end as soon as possible. She couldn’t sit still as she was looking at her watch over and over again. That means, that she was nervous and couldn’t set her attention.
E.g. ‘I don’t know when he’ll get the results of his exam, but he’ll be like a cat on hot bricks until he does’ [p. 217, 11]
Here, the idiom is used for the same purpose as in previous example. The student won’t be able to calm down, because he wants to know the results of the exam as soon as possible and that makes him nervous.
‘A BAG / BANDLE OF NERVES’ (NP) informal
Definition: overwrought, nervous, easily frightened, etc. (often temporarily because of some pressure, threat etc.) [p. 219, 11]
V: be, become; reduce sb to [219, 11]
E.g. ‘She had become a bundle of nerves, starting at the slightest sound.’ [p. 56, 1]
The idiom ‘bundle of nerves’ is used in a situation: there was a break – in that woman’s house and ever since she became very frightened, nervous if she heard the slightest sound in the house. The synonym of the idiom ‘A BAG OF NERVES’ which means exactly the same is found in the dictionary:
E.g. ‘She’s not fit to be a mother; She’ll reduce that child to a bag of nerves with all the scoldings and slapping he gets.’ [p. 219, 11]
According to the context, the idiom means that a child can become very frightened, nervous as he is afraid of his mother.
That means that both ‘A BAG OF NERVES’ and ‘A BUNDLE OF NERVES’ are used to describe the same feelings.
‘A DAMN AND BLAST (sb/sth)
Definition: it can be used to curse sb/sth violently, or, esp. if the speaker often uses strong language with unnecessary or inappropriate freedom, merely to comment adversely on a situation or occurrence that annoys or inconveniences him. [p. 353, 11]
E.g. ‘The engine spluttered and stopped. ‘Damn and blast!’ my father exclaimed. ‘The bloody petrol’s run out’. [p. 42, 2]
This situation shows that father, who was driving a car was really annoyed emphasises that the feeling is very strong and negative.
E.g. ‘Oh, damn and blast him. What’s it got to do with him?’ [p. 353, 11]
By this example, the author most probably wanted to say that he doesn’t understand what some persons got to do with some matter. He doesn’t understand why they are related and it inconveniences him. Here the idiom is not used as an exclamation as in the previous example. In spite of this, it expresses a very strong feeling.
Definition: very bad- tempered [p. 354, 11]
V: be, sound, find sb [354, 11]
E.g. ‘Uncle Collin was to take the three children out in the punt so long as they got back in time for Jessica to have a rest before lunch, or she’d be as cross as two sticks by tea time!’ [p. 19, 3]
Here, Uncle Colin and the children are expected by the other character of the book – Jessica to come back home on time. If they won’t do this, she’ll be very bad–tempered, as she would like to have a rest. Thus, the idiom describes the negative feeling.
E.g. ‘Wait till later in the day to ask your father about this; he’s always as cross as two sticks till he’s had his breakfast and read his newspaper!’ [p. 354, 11]
If to compare these two examples, an interesting thing can be noticed. Clearly both characters seem to be bad–tempered in one particular situation, that is, before having their meals. However, the idiom can be used in other situations, as well.
The idiom, given below is well known to many English learners as it is very widely used:
Definition: express / not express one’s anger, irritation, impatience etc. in an uncontrolled way. [p. 366, 11]
E.g. ‘Shut up and get out of here! ‘Martha was losing her temper.’ [p. 72, 1]
The situation is this: two boys had teased a girl till she lost her temper. She threw them out and slammed the door. By performing this action, she used the words given in the example. In such a way she expressed her irritation.
The idiom ‘lose one’s temper’ can be replaced in certain ways as shown above. The antonym such as ‘keep one’s cool’ is given below; but it expresses not negative, but positive feelings:
E.g. ‘He was extremely insulting – and very silly too. I don’t know how I managed to keep my cool.’ [p. 366, 11]
What can be noticed here is the fact that a learner can make changes in the headphrase of this idiom and substitute the words in it. Of course, the meaning is different if we substitute the word LOSE by the word KEEP. This idiom is one of those, which allow an optional rather than limited choice. In other words, it is not so fixed.
V: be, sound, find sb. [p. 473, 11]
Adj.: cross, (!), surely, grumpy, irritable
Definition: very bad – tempered. [p. 473, 11]
E.g. ‘We’d better hurry – George will be as cross as a bear with a sore head if we keep him waiting.’ [p. 98, 2]
The author here means that George can get very annoyed, nervous, irritated if the others don’t come back on time.
E.g. ‘This time, the children really annoyed their father. He was as cross as a bear with a sore head and punished them severely.’ [p. 473, 11]
In this case both situations imply that the idiom is used to describe the bad temper.
‘YOU WHAT!’ informal
Definition: an exclamation of disbelief, shock, anger etc. about sth. reported to one. [p. 514, 11]
E.g. ‘Jo: My baby may be black.
Helen: You what, love?
Jo: My baby will be black.’ [p. 28, 3]
It is clearly seen from this context that Helen is in shock, she doesn’t believe the message, which Jo is giving to her. As compared with the definition in this example a question mark is used not as an exclamatory mark tends to be used.
E.g. ‘Joe was bulldozing down the orchard wall, as I was passing’. ‘He was what! – Oh my God!’ [p. 514, 11]
The man to whom the news was reported exclaimed in disbelief about it. Here, not the second person, but the third person singular is used. This shows that we can charge the pronoun in the idiom. It is also possible to make changes in the tense.
E.g. He was (doing) what! You did what!
‘HUM and HA(W)’ (V + V)
Definition: make inarticulate noises, indicating nervousness, indecision etc., before or while speaking; take a long time to make a decision or to say what one really means or wants to; waver in one’s intentions. [p. 604, 11]
E.g. ‘When Richard Buckle organised the gala’ performance for the ‘Save the Titian’ fund, Richard and Piper were quick to act, while others hummed and hawed.’ [p. 22, 4]
Here, the idiom means that it took a long time for others to start their acting and they were nervous, indecisive, they hummed and hawed as they were not sure or ready to act.
E.g. ‘(film review) John Fraser and James Fox flounder miserably aid Derek Nimmo hums and has with quiet desperation.’ [p. 604, 11]
If to compare these two examples, it can be noticed that there is a change in the headphrase: in first example the word ‘haw’ appears while in the second – ‘ha’s’. There is no difference in meaning here. But the meaning of the whole idiom in context is different. In the second example it is used to express the certain sound. It means, that Derek Nimmo makes inarticulate noises and he is desperate and nervous.
‘A SORE POINT’ (with sb) (Comp / NP)
S: income tax, rates, price increases, refusal, obstinacy, neglect [p. 605, 11]
V: be, become, make sth [p. 605, 11]
O: hill-farmers, housewives [p. 605, 11]
Definition: a matter which causes feelings of anger or resentment among a group of people or in an individual whose identity is either specified or implied by the context. [p. 605, 11]
E.g. ‘Then there is the sore point of the income tax – not the national personal income tax, which everybody pays, but the additional income tax that has nothing to do with the rates that many states now impose.’ [p. 43, 4]
This idiom was found in the newspaper’s economics column, to specify – taxes. Such things as income taxes, price increases and rates may really make people angry, so they are ‘the sore points’. Furthermore, in the headphrase the article ‘the’, not ‘a’ is used. It shows that the article is not fixed in it as well.
E.g. ‘The secrecy with which they got married is still a sore point with Tina’s parents.’ [p. 605, 11]
Obviously the context of the second example is not the same as of previous one. Here the idiom is used to show the anger of the parents and there is no money mentioned. The situation is neither political nor economical.
‘GET SB’S GOAT’ (V + O) informal
S: neighbour, colleague, noise, interruption, impertinence [p. 611, 11]
Definition: make one feel irritated, impatient or resentful. [p. 611, 11]
E.g. ‘I rather like a good argument. What gets people’s goat about Andrew is that he doesn’t bother to listen to what they have to say.’ [p. 78, 5]
The comment could be like this: there are such people among us who give only their opinions and don’t listen to what the others have to say. Of course, people don’t like it and such self-opinionated persons irritate them. The idiom, thus, is used to express irritation.
E.g. ‘Charles: ‘It’s funny how he gets my goat. I suppose it’s because I’ve been under authority so long. I envy him his independence.’ [p. 611, 11]
In this case Charles is resentful of the enviousness.
Definition: one feels extremely angry, resentful (about sth that has happened, that sb has done). [p. 424, 11]
E.g. ‘It never cools me down when I drive through Glencoe’, the Macdonald Chieftain declared. ‘You know my blood always boils when I drive through Glencoe.’ [p. 424, 11]
This example shows that the driver feels angry and resentful about what he is doing. He is angry with himself, because he could have behaved in another way and most probably the place through which he is driving scares him.
E.g. ‘At the very thought of Robert Warbeck and all that he stood for, the Chancellor’s blood boiled in his veins, so that it was an unreasonably flushed and angry man that alighted from his car at the end of the journey.’ [48, 4]
As one might expect the idiom is used in political context. To specify, it is used here to show the anger of the member of one political party to the members who belong to other political party.
‘LOSE ONE’S RAG’ informal
Definition: express one’s anger, irritation, impatience etc. in an uncontrolled way. [p. 509, 11]
E.g. ‘His wife says: ‘Bary’s really very good-tempered. It’s very rarely that he loses his rag. And I pick at him a lot, especially a hard day with the hotel and the kids.’ [p. 111, 1]
‘Bary rarely loses his rag’ means that he’s a good sort of husband, because he rarely expresses his anger, irritation, impatience in an uncontrolled way. In fact, the idiom ‘lose one’s rag’ describes negative feelings, but if to use a word ‘rarely’ in front of the idiom, the situation becomes positive. The synonyms ‘lose one’s cool’ and ‘lose one’s temper’ mean exactly the same. They were already presented in this work.
V: be, grow, turn, go; flush [p. 565, 11]
Definition: flushed with anger or embarrassment. [565, 11]
E.g. ‘Sergeant – Major, his face as red as a turkey cock was abusing the squad at the top of his voice.’ [p. 49, 4]
According to the example, Sergeant Major’s face becomes red, because he is flushed with anger. It is not a secret that this happens due to the blood circulation. This idiom came into the English language from a turkey cock’s comb and wattles, which become more conspicuously red when angered.
E.g. ‘I felt myself turning as red as a turkey cock when the teacher praised my essay and read it to the class.’ [p. 565, 11]
In this situation the same idiom is used not to express anger. On the contrary, it expresses embarrassment.
Definition: a young man, esp. an intellectual, who objects to the moral, social, political etc. attitudes of his time (and tries to change them by means of public protest or action, through his writings, etc.). [p. 332, 11]
E.g. ‘Between these assignments he was on the personal Foreign Office staff of Edward Heath during our first frustrated negotiations to join the EEC. Heath called him his angry young man.’ [p. 50, 4]
The idiom is found in the newspaper and is used in political context. Here, Edward Heath is described as the man, having his own political attitudes and expressing them in his work.
E.g. ‘The Prime Minister said that in his youth, if term had been invented then, he would have been classed as an angry young man.’ [p. 332, 11]
In this case the idiom is also used in the political context. As a result, it is clear that the idiom really is widely used in the situation of this kind. What is more, the origin of it is known. ‘An angry young man’ was first used in late 1950’s of a group of young British writers (esp. of John Osborne and his play ‘Look Back in Anger’, though the expression did not appear in it.
Definition: show impatience, anxiety, irritation in one’s speech and / or behaviour. [p. 338, 11]
E.g. ‘I found the door open and Sadie fretting and fuming about the hall. ‘My dear creature,’ she said, ‘thank heavens you’ve come.’ [p. 103, 6]
Obviously Sadie was impatient while waiting for her friend to come, so she was ‘fretting and fuming.’
E.g. ‘He spent ten minutes at the phone while the others fretted and fumed. At length he put the receiver down.’ [p. 338, 11]
This means, that the people were irritated by the man’s who talked on the phone behaviour as he was talking for a very long time (10 minutes), and the others had to wait. The idiom here expresses irritation and impatience too.
Definition: cause sb to feel and show anger, resentment, antagonism etc. [p. 502, 11]
E.g. ‘But his justification of this added support might have been calculated to raise the hackles of those members of the theatrical profession who are not already jealous of the money spent on the National.’ [p. 43, 7]
Here, the members of the theatrical profession feel resentment, anger. The idiom is derived from the hackles, neck feathers of a bird, raised in aggressive display.
E.g. ‘I think, I agree with Mr. Pettifer’s views of the (Vietnam) war, and he has reported it with great distinction, but my hackles rise when I am presented with only one veteran in nine who dissents, and he legless.’ [p. 43, 7]
Here the idiom is also used to express anger and resentment, but this example shows that the order of words can be changed in the headphrase, that it is not so fixed and allows more optional, not limited choice. In the English language we can also use a compound: ‘a raiser of hackles’. Despite this, we can make other variants: ‘feel / have one’s / sb’s hackles rise’. [p. 122, 11]
The given information shows that there are a lot of idioms in English to express the negative feelings of anger, nervousness, irritation and annoyance. As a matter of fact, they make the language more interesting, colourful and expressive.


The English language is rich in idioms describing such positive feelings and mood as happiness, joy and goodness. Namely these idioms are presented in this part of the work. They are dealt with according to the same structure as the idioms, which were already described. In fact, the order or structure of dealing appears in the procedure of processing the data.
‘(AS) HAPPY AS A KING’ etc. (Comp. Adj. P)
V: be, become, seem [p. 55, 11]
O: a king, a sandboy, Larry [p.55, 11]
Definition: completely, or extremely, happy [p. 55, 11]
E.g. ‘He wasn’t a man who enjoyed social occasions, and did not even get on very well with his own family; but in his laboratory he was as happy as a king.’ [p. 203, 1]
The here describes the man’s joy. The only thing that makes him completely happy is his job.
We can replace ‘king’ by ‘Larry’, ‘sandboy’, ‘sandgirl’ to mean the same, depending on the context, actually. It means that the idiom allows optional choice in the headphrase:
E.g. ‘Where is grandpa, do you know?’ ‘Up in the meadow with the children. He’s as happy as a sandboy helping them to fly their kites.’ [p. 55, 11]
‘Grandpa is as happy as a sandboy’ means that he is extremely happy to be with children in the meadow and to help them to fly the kites. If to compare 2 examples, it becomes clear that the object can be chosen according to the context. ‘As happy as a sandboy’ means that grandpa is happy like a child and ‘happy as king’ shows that the man’s joy makes him feel like a king.
‘ONLY TOO GLAD’etc (Comp. Adj. P)
V: be, become, seem [p. 131, 11]
Adj.: glad, happy, pleased, willing, ready
Inf.: to come, to get away, to help, to do what I can, to forget
Cl: the whole thing, if he succeeds, that you’ve come.
Definition: very glad etc; esp. glad etc; more than glad (etc) (to do sth [p.131, 11]
E.g. ‘Lord Reith was big enough to discern the flows which all of us have in our characters, and which most of us are only too happy to hide from ourselves.’ [p. 71, 7]
‘Only too glad’ here could be considered as very glad.
It is a bit ironic situation because people are ‘only too glad’ to hide sth from themselves, namely the flows which they have in their characters. Consider this example:
E.g. ‘Most English writers have been only too glad to get out of the working class, if they have had the misfortune to be born into it.’ [p. 131, 11]
That means, that most English writers, after they had prospered in their career were very happy to get out of the poor conditions of life of the working class, or they were only too happy’ to do this. In both examples, after the idioms comes a verb (to get out of, to hide). It means that after an idiom the grammatical structure (to do sth can be used). However, the idiom allows quite an optional choice in the headphrase.
Definition: cheer and please sb. [p. 182, 11]
E.g. ‘I took out a tight word of dividend warrants ringed with a rubber band, and the records in the wad would have gladdened the heart of a broker.’ [p. 33, 8]
Here, a broker’s eyes are meant to be cheerful or he himself in meant to be pleased in that case if he sees the records in the wad.
E.g. ‘There was one incident which must have gladdened the heart of every schoolboy who has ever tried to penetrate his father’s sanctimoniousness.’ [p. 182, 11]
It means that due to the incident every schoolboy must have been cheerful or pleased to do what they have wanted to do. Besides, here the Present Perfect tense is used and it means that we can change the tense of the verb. It goes without saying that the pronoun can also be substituted.
V: be, look, feel [p. 198, 11]
Definition: lively; light-hearted; merry [p. 198, 11]
E.g. ‘You can see this in the behaviour of flies if they are subjected to DDT. Their first effort is to fly about, as though they were full of the joys of spring, and then they gradually die off.’ [p. 67, 7]
In this case the author describes the behaviour of the flies. They are quite lively, merry, content, happy to fly about till they die off. The idiom can be used to describe the behaviour of the people, as well:
E.g. ‘She’s tiresome, really-down in the dumps one day and full of the joys of spring the next.’ [p. 198, 11]
In other words if a person is in bad mood one day and the next day he’s in good mood, one can use the richer language by using the idiom and say that the next day he’s full of the joys of spring.’
‘FEEL GOOD’ (V+Comp) [p. 232, 11]
Definition: feel happy, confident, pleased with oneself, virtuous [p. 232, 11]
E.g. ‘David: ‘I want to be a crooner. I want to switch on the radio – any time and any day – and hear my voice on records.’
Sam: ‘Why, Davey? Why have you got these crazy ideas? David: ‘I feel good when I’m in singing.’ [p. 69, 9]
Actually, David feels happy when he’s singing here, or he ‘feels good’. It is not very difficult to guess the meaning of this idiom. It means that it has literal than metaphorical sense.
E.g. ‘People donate money to charities not so much because they are concerned to do good, but because it makes them feel good.’ [p. 232, 11]
This people are happy to donate money to charities. This idiom also has a negative variant ‘not feel (so) good = ‘not feel well’
‘JOLLY GOOD (!)’ dated informal
Definition: exclamation, comment of approval or admiration [p. 325, 11]
E.g. ‘I think he’s gone and extended his sick leave. Since he saw the doctor. Going to stay another week or two.’ [p. 16, 10]
‘Perlick (= perfect)’, Pop said ‘Jolly good’
In this example not the modern but ancient English language is used. This idiom can be found in ancient literary works and is not used today.
E.g. ‘We’ve planned a picnic, if you want to come.’
‘O, jolly good! When do we start?’ [p. 325, 11]
In this context the idiom is used as an exclamation to express that the speaker is content or cheerful to go to a picnic. In previous example the idiom expresses rather an emphatic comment of approval.
‘BE SITTING PRETTY’ (V + Comp) informal
Definition: be in a pleasant, comfortable, enviable situation. [p. 440, 11]
E.g. ‘I whiled away the minutes watching three strong men plying their charms around a young bright blonde and she was sitting pretty, proud to be gueening it in that masculine stronghold.’ [p. 52, 8]
In this situation a woman was in a pleasant, enviable situation or she ‘was sitting pretty’.
E.g. ‘Olivia Newton – John was sitting pretty last month with her version of the Bob Dylon song, ‘If Not For You’ in the Top 20.’ [p. 440, 11]
It means that Olivia was in an enviable situation as her song entered Top 20. In both examples the idiom is used to express more or less the same.
Definition: used of letting one’s wander pleasantly, esp. about things one would like to do or have happen’ to one. [p. 474, 11]
E.g. ‘Muriel would say that if he was capable of mixing her up with her twin sister he could hardly be as much in love with her as he pretended to be. Then he fell back upon a daydream. Dick had arrived and made an immediate impression on Elsie.’[p. 92, 5]
The situation is this: Muriel wanted to see the twin sister and to make an impression on her. ‘He fell back upon a day dream’ means that he let his imagination wander pleasantly about what he would like to do. And then he really did what he wanted: he went to her and made an impression on her.
E.g. ‘I would have spent an hour day – dreaming an imagined place, to no particular place, to no particular end.’ [p. 474, 11]
The meaning of the idiom in the second example is the same as that of the first but grammar is different. The idiom is also used as a verb as in the last example.
Definition: be very good but not permanent. [p. 560, 11]
E.g. ‘I (Harold Macmillan) happened to make a speech at Bedford (in the late 1950’s) and in the course of it I said, ‘Most of our people have never had it so good.’ Then I went on to say, ‘What is beginning to worry some of us is, is too good to be true? Or perhaps I should say is it too good to last?’ [p. 41, 5]
Here the politician speaks about his job, in which everything is going on perfectly and he doubts if it will continue to be this way. He has a premonition that those good matters are not permanent and, perhaps, they will end soon. So, he uses the idiom in hid question namely to express a good but not permanent thing.
E.g. ‘Kate had been consistently friendly all that week state of affairs too good to last but at least a welcome change from her usual criticism and complaints.’ [p. 560, 11]
The idiom here is used to express the same as in the previous example.
‘FOR THE LAUGHS’ (A Prep. P) informal
n: a giggle, a laugh, a joke, (the) laughs. [p. 572, 11]
Definition: for amusement or enjoyment, not for any serious purpose; (just) for fun. [p. 572, 11]
E.g. ‘I’m more interested in birds (= girls) now than fighting. It’s these mad buggers of 14 who go for the fights. I want to see the football, see the lads win, have a few drinks, and a few laughs. That’s what we come for the laughs.’ [p. 54, 7]
The narrator tells that he is not interested in fighting anymore, but he wants to live enjoying himself. And all that he wants to do now is ‘for the laughs’, i.e. for amusement, enjoyment or just for fun.
E.g. ‘After leaving school he somehow failed to see eye-to-eye with a succession of exasperated bosses. Then came the night, when, at 18, he entered a Butlins talent contest for a giggle.’ [p. 284, 1]
Here ‘for a giggle’ is rather close in the meaning with ‘for the laughs’. The idiom ‘for the laughs’ allows the optional choice for the speaker to choose a noun in the headphrase.
All these idioms and examples show that there are many ways to express one’s positive feelings in more interesting words and to make one’s language richer.


On the basis of the data selected and analysed, the following conclusions have been made:
1. The work includes 17 idioms describing negative feelings and mood, namely: anger, nervousness, annoyance and irritation, and 10 idioms describing positive feelings and mood: happiness, joy and goodness. Despite this, there are much more of them describing not only the feelings mentioned, but also other types of emotions.
2. Idioms must be treated or thought as being just like single words; the whole phrase of an idiom must be memorised, along with information on grammar and collocation.
3. Stylistically they are usually rather informal and include an element of personal comment on the situation. As with any informal ‘commenting’ single word, they have to be used very carefully. It must be noted that most idioms are stylistically neutral in the sense that they fall somewhere between the limits represented by the labels (formal) and (informal). The learners should bear in mind also that stylistic values are constantly shifting, and that the conventions observed by individual speakers and writers differ considerably. As a result, from 27 idioms, formal ones make up 20%, informal – 30% and neutral – 50%. It means that the neutral idioms make up a half of all the idiomatic expressions represented in the work.
4. Idioms can be grouped in variety of ways: by the meaning, by verb or other key word or according to grammatical principle.
5. 5% of the idioms are already old-fashioned and not used nowadays.
6. 75% of the idioms have metaphorical, not literal meanings.
7. 90% of the idioms convey attitude or evaluations rather than factual information because they have fairly general meanings.
8. 30% of the analysed idioms are humorous and ironic.
9. Certain idioms serve to reflect the speaker’s own emotional state and / or to convey an unfavourable or frivolous attitude towards the person, events etc. which they denote.
10. The comparison of the meaning of different examples shows very little or no discrepancy.
11. Variety of situations and contexts in newspapers and magazines range from political to economic contexts.
12. Idioms make language seem more lively and interesting, more friendly and more informal. In fact, idioms are often used in contexts, which are not informal at all. Here, learners should be careful how they use idioms.
13. Errors can arise in the use of idioms whenever one expression is close to another – either in the words which make it up or in the arrangement of those words – to be confused with. Preciseness in use as no alteration is possible without the change / distortion of the meaning is obligatory.
14. Idioms allow different grammatical patterns and structures (Appendix 1).
15. According to what has been concluded, the most important thing for the learners of English is to memorise idiomatic expressions by heart, paying attention to every single word in the headphrases, substitution, style, context, grammar and lexical meaning. Actually, such information is given in almost al dictionaries of idioms.


1. Brayfield C., 1990, The Prince, London, Penguin Books.

2. Amis K., 1961, I Like It Here, London, Four Square.

3. Thirkell A., 1954, What Did It Mean?, London, Hanish Hamilton.

4. Adams J., 1983, ‘Save the Titian’, The Sunday Times.

5. Mackenzie C., 1959, The Rival Monster, London, Penguin.

6. Murdoch I., 1960, Under The Net, London, Penguin.

7. Mackwin R., 1989, ‘Robin Day – raiser of hackles’, The Sunday Times.

8. Harling R., 1959, The Paper Palace, London, Penguin.

9. Kops B., 1960, The Hamlet of Stepney Green, London, Penguin.

10. Bates H.E., 1961, A Breath of French Ave, London, Penguin.

11. Cowie A.P., IR McCaig, 1998, Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

12. McCarthy M., O’ Dell F., 1996, English Vocabulary in Use, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.



1. Verb + complement pattern

Subject (aux + ) verb complement
E.g. Olivia should be sitting pretty.

2. Verb + direct object pattern

Subject (aux + ) verb direct object
E.g. The sales director could take a joke.

3. Verb + direct object + complement pattern

Subject (aux + ) verb direct object complement
E.g. The children drive their mother mad.

4. Verb + indirect object + direct object pattern

Subject (aux + ) verb indirect object direct object
E.g. I bore Bolshaw little ill-will.

5. Verb + direct object + adjunct pattern

Subject (aux +) verb direct object adjunct
E.g. Janet took everything too hard.


1. Noun phrase

Determiner adjective noun prep. Phrase / clause
E.g. good egg!

2. Adjective phrase

Adv. modifier adjective prep. phrase / infinitive / clause
E.g. as happy as a king.

3. Prepositional phrase

Preposition Object of preposition
det. adj. Noun
E.g. In cold blood.

4. Adverbial phrase

Adv. modifier adverb prep. phrase / clause
E.g. Far away.


Some phrases have a repeated element, which may be a noun, adjective, verb, determiner or adverb. The salient feature of these combinations is that, in most cases, they cannot be reversed.

1. Noun + Noun pattern
E.g. Heart to heart.

2. Adjective + Adjective pattern
E.g. (All) hot and bothered.



Horoscopes in the English language newspapers and magazines are often a good place to find idioms about moods, since the horoscope usually tries to tell you how you are going to feel during the coming day / week / month.
Look at these horoscopes and note the idioms that are underlined. Each one is given a literal paraphrase below the text:
CAPRICORN (21.12 – 19.1)
‘Don’t get carried away (1) by promises that won’t be kept. Keep a cool head (2) and take everything as it comes. On the work front, things are looking better.’ [p. 158, 12]
(1) be fooled
(2) stay calm

TAURUS (21.4 – 20.5)
‘Someone will say something that will make you swell with pride (1) and you may feel on top of the world (2) for a while, but the evening will not be easy.’ [p. 158, 12]
(1) feel very proud
(2) very happy indeed

One can collect more idioms from horoscopes.


1. Introduction …………………………………………………………………..2
2. Procedure of processing data …………………………………………………4
3. Idioms describing feelings and mood: ……………………………………….6
3.1. General characteristics …………………………………………………6
3.2. Idioms describing negative feelings and mood ……………………….7
3.3. Idioms describing positive feelings and mood ………………………13
4. Conclusions …………………………………………………………………17
5. Sources ………………………………………………………………………19
6. Appendix ……………………………………………………………………20