“ENGLISH AND RUSSIAN IDIOMS: ARE THEY LIKE ‘CHALK AND CHEESE’ OR ‘TWO PEAS IN A POD?”/ Английские и русские идиомы: «Как небо и земля или как две капли воды?»

XII Международный конкурс научно-исследовательских и творческих работ учащихся
Старт в науке

“ENGLISH AND RUSSIAN IDIOMS: ARE THEY LIKE ‘CHALK AND CHEESE’ OR ‘TWO PEAS IN A POD?”/ Английские и русские идиомы: «Как небо и земля или как две капли воды?»

Ромейко А.Н. 1Терновой Н.А. 1
1ГУО "Средняя школа № 2 г.Слонима" Республика Беларусь
Бахитова Светлана Ивановна, Сидорчик Ирина Владимировна 1
1ГУО "Средняя школа № 2 г.Слонима" Республика Беларусь
Автор работы награжден дипломом победителя II степени
Текст работы размещён без изображений и формул.
Полная версия работы доступна во вкладке "Файлы работы" в формате PDF


1.1. Purposes of the project

The key purpose of this research is working out the main similarities between English and Russian idiomatic expressions by comparing these figures of speech and studying their structures. Although it is the main aim of the project, there are some minor points which should not be regarded as insignificant. As it is generally known, the success of the international interaction is based on understanding similarities between nations and on the tolerant attitude towards differences. Furthermore, there is also the last, but not the least as we can say relating to the subject of my project. This aim is connected with the adoption. There are plenty of loan-words and fixed expressions are not an exception. Almost the whole world knows the phrase ‘Time is money’, so it is really useful to learn worldwide expressions and find justifications for borrowings.

In brief, the aims of the project are the following:

Finding and explaining important similarities between idioms of the English and Russian languages.

Suggesting ideas about the closeness between British and Russian cultures.

Studying the adoption of some English idiomatic phrases.

1.2. Actuality

In the modern world much attention is devoted to the interaction of languages, to their integration and to the mutual penetration of words and whole phrases. The comparison of figures of speech, in this case idioms, lets us give a definite answer to the one of sharp questions - do different languages, belonging even to various families of languages, have similarities and include the same constructions? Comparing idioms, we will work out basic criteria of comparison; we will try to explain the main reasons of their differences; besides, after completing the work it would be possible to draw conclusions about some adoption of English idiomatic expressions by other languages, particularly by Russian. The matter of the adoption is the one of actual questions in modern linguistics thanks to studying mutual penetration of lexical items, it is possible to judge about the spread and the development of the language. Moreover, after studying the similarities and the differences of image-bearing expressions, we will be able to draw conclusions about the similarities and differences between British and Russian mentalities and their perception of the world. Working it out is the main task of culture experts because it is the basis for the developing cross-cultural and international cooperation in general. Besides, it should not be forgotten that English is the lingua franca, so knowing the idioms and their analogies, it would be easier to understand people from other countries.

Thus, the results of the research in idiomatic expressions are not only the value for modern linguistics, but it is also important for other fields of science such as culturology, the Social Science, psychology and even the international political science.

1.3. Explanation for my choice of the subject

Why have we chosen to do a project in English idioms? Perhaps, it would be sensible if I set this question at the beginning of my project, but I prefer to give objective reasons at first, I mean the actuality and the importance of this issue. It cannot be denied that it is unreasonable to do a project which does not contain useful research, even though the subject is extremely interesting to study. Therefore, I explain my motivation afterwards.

We have been learning English for eleven years and unusual figures of speech have always drawn my attention. Before studying English seriously, we used to be very interested in learning Russian idioms because I enjoyed speaking figuratively. Thus, once studying British culture, we understood that it was impossible to carry on getting new facts of the life in English speaking countries without knowledge of idiomatic phrases, so I decided to do some research. To my surprise, most idioms were similar to Russian ones, moreover, some of them were exactly the same. This fact inspired me to continue finding similarities and to divide all the idioms learnt into different groups according to their structures and definitions. This means that a simple interest led to a serious research which formed the basis for my project. In any case, doing at least some research in idiomatic expressions might be a great help for people who are determined to know a lot about the British and the English language.

1.4. Clarification of the main points

Before starting a project it is necessary to decide which points will be considered. In this part of the introduction the content of the research is presented. In other words, it is something like an extending plan. Hence, what comparison has been done?

First of all, in this project we included the reasons why we divided idiomatic expressions into such groups. In the first part of the project itself there is a full explanation of the criteria for this division. Secondly, the project consists of five groups of idiomatic phrases; all the groups differ in ways they are similar to Russian expressions. They are the following:

Idioms, completely similar to Russian ones;

Idioms, slightly different from Russian expressions (the difference is only in one word);

Idioms, having Russian equivalents and more significant differences (more than two words are different);

Idioms, having no analogies in the Russian language and very specific ones (‘Exceptional idioms’);

Purely English idioms widely spread in the whole world (expressions from British literature, legends, history, etc);

Besides, to make the understanding easier and the form of studying more acceptable, all the idiomatic phrases are divided into groups according to the relation to various topics. Thus, the biggest group, we mean the first one, consists of different smaller parts: idioms connected with animals; idioms connected with parts of body; expressions connected with common nouns such as ‘life’, ‘death’ or ‘love’; phrases connected with food. Also some parts of the research include the division based on different sides of life - relationships, emotions, work or studying.

It goes without saying that simply comparing and contrasting idioms it is impossible to do an informative and useful project. Because of this, there are many comments and explanations for some similarities and differences between English and Russian idiomatic expressions which are caused by special British mentality and Russian understanding of life processes.

The part consisting of purely British idioms contains interesting stories about their origin, examples when these phrases are used and some specialities of literature sources where the expressions appeared at first.

1.5. The process of working and main phases

How did we do this project? Some people find different facts at first and then consolidate them systemizing all the information, but we prefer to work out a strategy so as not to be snowed under a lot offacts. First of all, we imagined which idioms might be completely the same. This fact depends on the key words in each phrase. For instance, expressions containing names of the body may be similar because there are no differences in people’s perception of themselves. The second phase was to do some research in Russian idioms and decide into which groups it would be suitable to divide them: expressions related to people’s relationships, ways of describing personality, etc. Having studied some analogies we continued finding other phrases, connected with these topics. Thus, the main and the biggest part of the research started. Then, having plenty of information, we had only to check all the groups and drew conclusions. So, the phases of doing this project are the following (let alone the process of choosing the subject of this project):

Working out the strategy how to find material for comparison;

Studying Russian idioms in order to divide them into different groups;

Collecting information;

Distribution of the idioms into groups formed;

Drawing conclusions;


2.1. Idioms, completely similar to Russian ones

First of all, it is necessary to indicate why English idioms might be similar to Russian ones. There are a lot of people having various views on the same things, so differences in expressing feelings between different nationalities might be big. However, expressions may be absolutely the same due to the similarities in attitude towards some common things. In this part there are 4 groups: Parts of the body, Common words, Animals and Food. In most languages, in all countries the word ‘head’ means something or somebody important, so it is hard to imagine this word meaning something opposite. ‘Heart’ in most cases is also associated with the definite thing - people’s soul. The word ‘horse’ is used not only as a name of an animal, but also for describing a person with great stamina. The expression ‘crocodile tears’ originates from the people’s observation, so it is difficult to misinterpret this idiom, which has become worldwide. Hence, it is possible to explain these surprising similarities.

(The structure of the comparison is the following: English idiom – ‘Russian equivalent’- meaning of the expression or examples of the use; Example)

Idioms, including names of parts of the body


To have a heart of gold – ‘иметьзолотоесердце’ – is used for describing a kind, warm-hearted person; Example:You always put me up if I stay in your city. You have a heart of gold!’

With all somebody’s heart – ‘всемсердцем’ – to do something with all energy or emotion; Example: ‘If the subject of the project suits my interests, I will do it with all my heart.’

Somebody’s heart bleeds (for) – ‘сердцекровьюобливается’ – is used to express sympathy towards someone; Example: My heart bleeds for homeless children hanging out in the streets.’

To know the way to somebody’s heart – ‘знатьпутькчьему-либосердцу’ – to know the way how to mollify or please someone; ‘Example: Don’t worry! Dad’s very angry, but I know the way to his heart.’

To win somebody’s heart – ‘завоевыватьчье-либосердце’ – to make somebody love you or to win somebody’s favor; Example: ‘Mary doesn’t pay attention on me, but I’ll do my best to win her heart!’

To take something to heart – ‘братьчто-либоблизкоксердцу’ – to take something seriously, especially criticism; Example: ‘Don’t be sensitive! Don’t take this rubbish to heart!’

To put somebody’s heart and soul into something – ‘вложитьвочто-либосвоесердцеидушу’ – to put a great deal of effort into something; Example: ‘I’m so proud of this painting! I’ve put my heart and soul into it.’


To keep a cool head – ‘держатьголовувхолоде’ – to do something impartially, not affected by emotions; Example: ‘Keep your head cool when you enter the room so as not to say too much.’

To lose somebody’s head – ‘терятьголову’ – to lose control because of emotions or love; Example: ‘He is so gorgeous! I’m on the verge of losing my head.’

To bury somebody’s head into the sand – ‘зарыватьголовувпесок’ – to avoid solving problems; Example: ‘I hope you are not a coward and you won’t bury your head into the sand instead of finding the way to cope with this problem.’’


To have/keep somebody’s eyes glued to something – ‘прилипнуть, приклеитьсякчему-либо’ – to look at something without a break (usually used for watching TV); Example: ‘Let’s go for a walk! Why do you have your eyes glued to TV?’

Before somebody’s very eyes – ‘прямонаглазах’ – to do something what a person sees clearly; Example: ‘You must have seen her cheating! It was before your very eyes.’

To close/ shut somebody’s eyes to something – ‘закрыватьглазаначто-либо’ – not to notice something on purpose; Example: ‘I hope you are fair and you won’t close your eyes to her being late.’

Can do something with somebody’s eyes closed – ‘уметьделатьчто-либосзакрытымиглазами’ – can do something perfectly, without any efforts; Example: ‘I’ve been practicing playing this tune all day, so I can do it with my eyes closed.’

An eye for an eye – ‘глаззаглаз/ окозаоко’ – is used to describe an action taken to punish someone in the same way they have treated you; Example: ‘I’m not going to let him off, but I don’t want to follow the rule ‘an eye for an eye.’


To have a smile from ear to ear – ‘иметьулыбкудоушей’ – to smile broadly; Example: ‘Jim is having a smile from ear to ear. He might have got good news.’

To be up to somebody’s ears in problems / work – ‘бытьпоушивпроблемах / работе’ – to have a lot of problems/work; Example: ‘She looks so tired. She might be up to her ears in work.’


To poke somebody’s nose into something –‘соватьносвочто-либо’–to be very interested in things you are not related to; Example: ‘Don’t poke your nose into other people’s business!’

To turn somebody’s nose up – ‘носворотить’ – not to find something pleasant or tasty; Example: ‘Ann, don’t turn your nose up at this soup! It’s delicious. ’

To lead somebody by the nose – ‘водитького-либозанос’ – to deceive or mislead somebody; Example: ‘I don’t believe you! You’re leading me by the nose.’


To click somebody’s tongue – ‘цокатьязыком’ – to make a noise with the tongue to show you are annoyed or disappointed; Example: ‘Mike clicked his tongue and started finding his mistake.’

To have a sharp tongue – ‘иметьострыйязык’ – to tend to say something angrily; Example: ‘Be careful talking with her. She’s got such a sharp tongue.’

To bite somebody’s tongue–‘прикуситьязык’–to stop talking so as not to say anything unnecessary; Example: ‘I wanted to tell her my secret, but finally I bit my tongue.’

To loosen somebody’s tongue – ‘развязыватьязык’ – to talk a lot, often after drinking alcohol; Example: ‘Try not to loosen your tongue after this party.’

Hand/ hands

To be in somebody’s hands – ‘бытьвчьих-либоруках’ – to depend on someone; Example: ‘You might do what you want; your future is only in your hands.’

To be in good hands– ‘находитьсявхорошихруках’–to be held or brought up in good conditions or atmosphere; Example:‘Don’t cry! Your kitten is in good hands.’

To get your hands dirty – ‘запачкатьруки’ – to do hard physical work; Example: ‘I’ll help you with gardening. I’m not afraid of getting my hands dirty.’

To wash somebody’s hand of something – ‘умыватьруки’ – to stop trying doing something; Example: ‘I’m not going to persuade you to give up smoking any more! I’m washing my hands!’


Knees knocking (together) –‘коленкидрожат’– is used to describe someone who is frightened or cold; Example: ‘I’m so scared! My knees are knocking together.’

To bring somebody to their knees – ‘поставитького-либонаколени’ – to subdue someone; Example: ‘The invaders tried to bring inhabitants to their knees, but they met with resistance.’


To do something on an empty stomach – ‘делатьчто-либонаголодныйжелудок’ – to do something being hungry; Example: ‘Let’s have a coffee. I can’t work on an empty stomach.’

Idioms including names of animals

Never look a gift horse in the mouth – ‘дареномуконювзубынесмотрят’- it means we should not look censoriously at presents given; Example: ‘Don’t show you’re disappointed with this book. It’s said: ‘Never look a gift horse in the mouth.’

To work like a horse – ‘работатькаклошадь’ – to work hard; Example: ‘-He looks exhausted. –It’s not surprising- he works like a horse.’

To be a dark horse – ‘бытьтемнойлошадкой’ – is used to describe somebody who is not well-known; Example: ‘Ann is a dark horse. It’s hard to say what she might do if she takes part in this meeting.’

To have a dog’s life – ‘житькаксобака’ – to have a difficult life; Example: ‘Don’t think I am happy. I have such a dog’s life.’

To play cat and mouse – ‘игратьвкошки-мышки’ – to pretend to allow someone to do or have what they want, and then to stop them from doing or having it; Example: ‘You should decide definitely what to say. It’s unfair to play cat and mouse with Ann not allowing her to act as she wants.’

To be like the cat that got cream – ‘бытькаккот, наевшийсясметаны’ – to look very satisfied or delighted; Example: ‘The boss must have approved of Tim’s project. He is like the cat that got cream’

To be quite as a mouse – ‘тихий, какмышка’ – to be very quite; Example: ‘Is there anybody? Mary, you’re here! You’re quite as a mouse!’

To be like rats leaving the sinking ship–‘бытькрысами,бегущимистонущегокорабля’–is used to describe people declining the responsibility if the situation gets worse; Example: ‘Stay here so as not to be like a rat leaving the sinking ship’.

Crocodile tears – ‘крокодиловыслезы’ – is used to describe someone’s attempt to move somebody to pity even if he does not desire it; Example: ‘Don’t believe Mike! He is really guilty. These are crocodile tears.’

Idioms including types of food

To know which side someone’s bread is buttered on – ‘знать, скакойсторонымаслонахлебмажут’ – to know which people to be nice to in order to get advantages for yourself; Example: ‘-You’re so successful! -Oh, I simply know which side my bread is buttered on.’

To feel like a fish out of water – ‘чувствоватьсебя, какрыбабезводы’ – to feel uncomfortable; Example: ‘I felt like a fish out of water in that office.’

To be sold like hot cakes – ‘продаваться / расходитьсякакгорячиепирожки’ – to be bought by many people; Example: ‘If you reduce the price of these magazines, they will be sold like hot cakes.’

Idioms including common words

Life, Death, God

A matter of the life and death– ‘вопросжизниисмерти’–a vital matter or thing; Example: ‘Don’t forget to inform me about this news. It’s a matter of life and death for me.’

That’s life – ‘таковажизнь’ – is used when we want to say that our life is difficult and we should accept it; Example: ‘It’s not easy to get a good job, but that’s life!’

God’s gift to somebody – ‘божийдар’ – is used for expressing that someone is very talented; Example: ‘Mary is such a talented artist! It’s a God’s gift to her.’

I swear to God – ‘богомклянусь’ – is used to express that you tell the truth; Example: ‘I do love you! I swear to God!’


Time flies – ‘времялетит’ – time passes very quickly; Example: ‘Ann, You’ve changed extremely! I can’t recognize you. – Time flies, so don’t be surprised.’

To do something from time to time – ‘делатьчто-либовремяотвремени’ – to do something not very often; Example: ‘I prefer working out at home, but I go to the gym from time to time.

2.2. Idioms, which are slightly different from Russian expressions

This group includes English idiomatic expressions which are almost the same with Russian ones. The main difference is only in one word. What are the reasons for such a specific difference? Firstly, it depends on the views of every nationality. In some countries a donkey might be considered as a silly and stubborn animal, while in the others it is not like that. In Russia when someone saves money so as to use them in case he is in trouble, it is said ‘онкопитденьгиначерныйдень’. In England the same expression is ‘to save money for a rainy day’. This difference shows that due to the weather conditions, the British use ‘rainy’ as the synonym to ‘bad’ whereas the Russians use the adjective ‘черный’ since it also means ‘bad’. Secondly, synonyms might cause this slight difference too. ‘Heart’ (сердце) is usually replaced with ‘chest’ (грудь), ‘руки’ (hands) with ‘fingers’ (пальцы). The structure of this part is the same as in the previous one, but words which differ are in bold.

Idioms used for describing people

As blind as a bat – ‘бытьслепымкаккурица’ – is used to describe a person whose eyesight is bad; Example: ‘Don’t listen to Jane. She is as blind as a bat!’

A big cheese/gun/noise/wheel – ‘важнаяптица’ – is used to describe a very important person; Example: ‘Our boss is a big cheese as I can see.’

A wolf in sheep’s clothing – ‘волквовечьейшкуре’ – is used to describe a person pretending to be kind and obedient; Example: ‘Be careful when you talk with Mark. He is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.’

Idioms, including names of parts of the body

To have somebody’s hands full – ‘иметьзаботполонрот’ – to have a lot to do; Example: ‘Oh, I can’t go out this evening. I have my hands full.’

To be under somebody’s thumb – ‘бытьвкулакеукого-либо’– to be completely under control of somebody; Example: ‘Poor Dan! He has to be under his father’s thumb.’

One’s fingers itch – ‘рукичешутся’ – is used for showing that you are really determined to do something; Example: ‘Let’s start to work! My fingers itch.’

To risk one’s neck–‘рисковатьголовой’-to accept the risk of physical harm so as to accomplish something; Example: ‘I would do that even if I had to risk my neck.’

Idioms connected with emotions or feelings

To get something off somebody’s chest – ‘изсердцавон’ – to try to forget completely about something; Example: ‘I’m not worrying about his behaviour. I’ve got it off my chest.’

Other idioms

To buy a pig in a poke – ‘покупатькотавмешке’ – is used for expressing that someone does not know what he is buying; Example: ‘You have to examine this device carefully so as not to buy a pig in a poke.’

From ‘A’ to ‘Z’ – ‘от «А» до «Я»’ – to know something well; Example: ‘To be a good journalist you should know these rules from ‘A’ to ‘Z’.’

For a rainy day – ‘начерныйдень’ – to put something aside in case you do not have enough money; Example: ‘In this small chest I keep money for a rainy day.’

Baker’s dozen – ‘чертовадюжина’ – thirteen; Example: ‘Go to the market and buy a baker’s dozen of eggs.’

Idioms having more significant differences. This part includes English idioms and their Russian equivalents. Besides, there are meanings of each expression.


To be a stone’s throw from something – ‘рукойподать’ – is used to express that something is very close; Example: ‘This shop is a stone’s throw from our house. It will take us about 5 minutes to get there.’

Let sleeping dogs lie – ‘Небудилихо, покаоноспит’ – is used when we want to say not to annoy somebody; Example: ‘Don’t be rude to Jane. Let sleeping dog lie.’

Bread and butter questions–‘насущныевопросы’ – very important questions; Example:‘Stop talking!We’re discussing bread and butter questions.It’s not a joke.

One’s man meat is another man’s poison – ‘чторусскомухорошо, тонемцусмерть’ – is used to express that there is nothing universal; Example: ‘This cure really helped me, however, be careful: one’s man meat is another man’s poison.’

To have a finger in every pie – ‘бытьвкаждойбочкезатычкой’ – to be involved in many activities, but in a very annoying way; Example: ‘Ann’s friendship is her own business. Don’t poke your nose in it. Don’t have a finger in every pie!’

2.4. Exceptional idioms

This part includes different idioms which do not have equivalents in the Russian language. It is difficult to explain what reasons were to choose these expressions. They simply appeared to be very unusual and interesting. (For people having good imagination it might be extremely exciting and astonishing.)

This part consists only of English idioms and their definitions.

To be as cool as a cucumber – to be very calm or indifferent;

To go bananas – to become mad;

2.5. Purely English idioms widely spread

There is also a specific group of English idioms – expressions which are widely spread in the whole world. Why have they become so popular? Where do they originate? To begin with, the main source of these figures of speech is British literature. For instance, due to Lewis’s Carroll tale ‘Alice's Adventures in Wonderland’, nowadays we have a very interesting expression ‘to grin like a Cheshire cat’, which means ‘to have a smile from ear to ear’. Besides, Shakespeare’s tragedies are great sources of idiomatic expressions. It is almost impossible to meet a person who does not know the Hamlet’s phrase ‘to be or not to be’. To describe people being at loggerheads with each other we use the expression ‘to be like Montague and Capulet’, so these families are still ‘famous’ and ‘popular’, although the number of people enjoying reading is gradually decreasing. To show that a man is very jealous people from the whole world say: ‘He is like an Othello’ and it makes us remember the well-known Moor from the Shakespeare’s tragedy. Furthermore, some widespread expressions do not have an exact explanation of their origin. For instance, the idiom ‘time is money’, which is usually used to express that somebody’s time is valuable.

Thus, telling about British idiomatic expressions it is impossible not to mention some of them which are well-known and widespread. The fact of their popularity is such a kind of the adoption of useful English phrases.


1. The first main conclusion we can draw is that these both languages (English and Russian) have a lot of points of contact. Some idiomatic expressions are completely the same. The group of such idioms mainly consists of figures of speech which include the names of parts of body. Such words as ‘head’, ‘heart’ and ‘hands’ form expressions which have absolute equivalents in Russian.

2. Although there are a lot of worldwide stereotypes of animals’ characters, the expressions including the names of them are slightly different. Some Russian idioms seem to be more emphatic while the English ones are more neutral.

3. Studying idioms and comparing them, it is wiser to find their equivalents in the other language since it gives a better idea of their definitions. Simply translating them (I mean translating word by word) we are in danger of getting very confusing definitions which are not connected with the correct meanings.

4. Studying figures of speech gives the opportunity to become closer to the culture of the country, the mentality of inhabitants, to its history and literature. Besides, it is a chance to learn some facts about the geography of the country. (For instance, the expression ‘to bring coals to Newcastle’ gives us information about the one of the main coal mines of England.)


English Idioms in Use, Michael McCarthy and Felicity O’Dell. Cambridge University Press, 2003

1500 русских и 1500 английских идиом, фразеологизмов и устойчивых словосочетаний, А.И.Григорьева.- М.: АСТ; СПб: Сова; Владимир; ВКТ, 2010

Longman Exams Dictionary. Pearson Longman. Della Summers, 2010

Materials from the website www. idioms.thefreedictionary.com

Просмотров работы: 64