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Let’s Talk! Winter Vocabulary and Idioms

winter vocabulary and winter idioms in english
Wow, it has been super cold in New York the last few days. We’ve had record low temperatures and it snowed two days ago.

While I’ve been hibernating in my lovely warm house, I thought of the many words and expressions we have in the English Language that you could use during such a cold period. Let’s have a look at some of them. Also, teachers, I included some lesson ideas at the bottom of this email.



black ice (n) – a very thin coating of ice found on roads and sidewalks that is difficult to see, and therefore quite dangerous

ex: Irina said that the black ice on her street caused 3 car accidents.


a cold snap (n) – a sudden short period of very cold weather

Ex. New York City is experiencing a very cold snap at the moment.


to hibernate (v) – to sleep through the winter months (also used metaphorically)

Ex. We don’t see our neighbors during the cold winter months, since we love to hibernate in the warmth of our homes.


wind chill (n) – when the wind makes the air temperature feel colder

Ex. It might be zero degrees on the thermometer, but the wind chill makes it feel like -15 degrees.


slush (n) – snow that has started to melt and has become dirty

Ex. I don’t like it when the snow turns to slush. It’s so ugly and gross.


to be snowbound (v) – to be stranded or unable to leave a place because of heavy snowfall.

Ex. We were snowbound at the airport for the whole weekend due to the blizzard.


sleet (n) – a mixture of snow and rain

Ex. Oh no! It’s not snow but sleet. I don’t like sleet.


snowfall (n) – the amount of snow that falls during a period of time

Ex. We’ve had 8 centimeters of snowfall overnight.


to have a snowball’s chance in hell (informal) – to have no chance of doing or having something

Ex. You have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the lottery.


snowed under – with too much work to deal with

Ex. We’re snowed under with applications for the job. 


on thin ice – at risk of annoying someone

Ex. I’m warning you. You’re on thin ice.


put something on ice (informal) – to delay something

Ex. The negotiations were put on ice when the market fell sharply.


to break the ice – to make people feel less nervous in a social situation

Ex. He told a few jokes to break the ice.


to get cold feet – to suddenly get too scared to do something planned

Ex. She cancelled the wedding because she got cold feet.


pure as the driven snow – to be completely innocent (often used to suggest the opposite)

Ex. I don’t think she is as pure as the driven snow.


whiteout (n.) – to be unable to tell the difference between things because of an overabundance of snow

ex: After the whiteout, looking outside was like looking at a sheet of paper.


in the cold light of day –  to think about something clearly, without emotions, and often feel shame afterwards

Ex. The next morning, in the cold light of day, Emma realised what an idiot she had been.


to break into a cold sweat – to become scared about something

Ex. Kevin broke into a cold sweat when he realized the losses he had made.


to run hot and cold – to be unable to make up one’s mind

ex: Alexi’s feelings about her run hot and cold, one minute he loves her, and the next, he’s bored of her.


the snowball effect – when something small keeps growing in importance or significance

ex: Gangnam Style’s popularity was such a snowball effect.


put something on ice – to stop doing something

ex: Herbert is going to put the project on ice until he gets a response from his supervisor.


snowed under – to be overwhelmed, usually with responsibilities

ex: I’m sorry I can’t go to the party tonight, I’m snowed under with homework.


Did you see any challenging words in the above blog post? Learn their meanings!


to be stranded – to be unable to leave a certain place
significance – importance, distinction
abundance –  a large amount of something


Do you know any of these expressions? Have you used them? Do you know any others? Please do share them with us. Try them out with English speakers and let us know how you get on.

And if you think your friends might benefit from this blog post, please share it with them.



Are you a teacher who is thinking of using this list of idioms? Here are a few suggested actions on how to teach winter vocabulary and idioms:

Warm up – The students can discuss winter idioms from their own countries. You may need to explain what is an idiom to your students if they are unfamiliar with the term.

Reading Practice – Students read and listen to the poem “No” by Thomas Hood. Copies of the poem and its audio recording can be found at http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/poems/no.

Conversation – Students discuss the following questions:

1. What was Thomas Hood’s opinion about winter? Cite textual evidence.

2. Do you agree with Thomas Hood? Is winter so bad? Why or why not?

Writing Practice – In small groups, students write a vivid and descriptive poem about winter using at least 5 idioms.  It’s even more fun, when students are divided into 2 groups: the Winter Lovers and the Winter Haters.

How/When to Complain

Have you had a bad experience at a restaurant or bought a faulty item from a hop and wanted to complain?

Check out this British website. Read its short article about advantages and disadvantages of different ways of complaining and tell me about a time when you had to complain about something.

Punctuation Personalities

Punctuation Personalities

This image is a great resource. It helps students remember the purpose of each punctuation mark. It can be hung in the classroom or given to students, and it instantly becomes a great resource for students.

So, which punctuation personality are you?

Source: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=536442559708072&set=a.158139670871698.33824.139729956046003&type=1&theater

Video: Quoted Speech and Reported Speech: Introduction

In this video, students learn:
– what is quoted speech and reported speech
– the differences between indirect speech and direct speech
– the correct use of punctuation marks in quoted speech and reported speech

1. Go to this website: http://wp.me/p30xwu-E
2. Complete the activity.
3. Comment below or on my blog with your progress. I want to know how you did.
4. Write your questions below. I would love to help.

Don’t forget to “LIKE” this video and SUBSCRIBE to my YouTube channel.

Quoted Speech vs. Reported Speech Practice Activities Part 1

You were just introduced to quoted speech and reported speech, and now you’d like to practice your skills with these new grammar concepts. No fret, my pet! I have listed several practice activities below that will help you master the basics of quoted and reported speech. I recommend completing at least two of these activities. Also, don’t forget to go comment below with your progress and any questions you have.

Happy learning!


Quoted Speech vs. Reported Speech Exercise 1Click on the DOWNLOAD NOW button for this proofreading exercise by ESL in Style.

Video Practice with Hilary Swank in Freedom Writers.

More Video Practices

Creative Word Walls

Word Walls are a common feature of ESL classrooms because they effectively promote vocabulary development. Many teachers use index words or Post Its to neatly write the words. But what if you and your students are bored of this primitive method? Do you want to incorporate Word Walls in your class website? This is where Wordle comes in.

Wordle is a website that displays the most popular words in a text. You can use it to create a Word Wall of the most frequently used words in a literary work or student work. You can also use it with speeches and current events, which is a great resource for ESL, English, and TOEFL prep classes. It’s a creative way of displaying important vocabulary words and “trending” words/events in your classroom or in your class website.

Wordle is a great resource for the teacher who is 2.0. WordSalad is a Wordle for iPad. It allows you to create these creative Word Walls from your iPad.