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My English Mentor – Horsing Around

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Horsing Around

Racing terms have become part of the English language. So why not get racing with these common phrases?

The favorite of a race or contest is the ‘front runner’. They are expected to win.
She is the current front runner in this year’s elections.

But picking the front runner doesn’t always guarantee it’s a ‘sure thing’.
A ‘sure thing’ is an outcome that seems certain.
An increase in income tax now looks like a sure thing.
A similar term is a ‘sure bet’, which is a bet you can’t possibly lose.
A race in which the winner is obvious – before the race has even begun – is called a ‘one horse race.’
Today we will find out who will get the class prize, but we all know Lily will win. It is a one horse race.

A ‘one horse race’ is not to be confused with a ‘one horse town.’ That’s a very small town – usually an insignificant place where nothing very exciting happens.
We will never find a decent coffee in this one horse town.

The horse’s mouth.
If you really want to know who will win a race you probably wouldn’t ask the horses. Nevertheless, a common phrase is ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’.

If you hear something ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’, you aren’t really talking with horses. Instead, it means that you have heard it directly from the source, or from an authority.

I don’t believe she is leaving her job. Who told you that?I heard it straight from the horse’s mouth.

We use the phrase ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’ to emphasize that this must be reliable information, since we heard it from the subject themselves.

As the race comes to a close we say the runners are on the ‘home straight’ or the ‘home stretch’.

You might hear on the ‘home straight’ used to talk about the last part of a task or journey that has been long and difficult.
I know we’ve all been working long hours to finish this project, but now we’re on the home straight.



All of Jen’s students say she is the best Thai teacher they have had because she is patient with them and teaches at their pace with no pressure to learn quickly.

Jen teaches at her home in Chiang Rai and can be reached on +814 726 644


But the race isn’t over yet so ‘hold your horses’.

To ‘hold your horses’ means to slow down or wait before going ahead. You might say it to someone who is rushing ahead without thinking things through.

The phrase comes from the days when horse drawn carriages were common and someone travelling too fast might need to hold their horses – in order to, literally, slow down and be more careful.

Horse racing.

Of course, the winner in any competition is not always obvious – sometimes an unexpected candidate wins.

In a political race, a ‘dark horse’ can be someone we don’t know much about, but who has received unexpected support. In sport, a ‘dark horse’ is a team or individual who has had surprising success.

The dark horse this season will be the young player from Sydney who surprised everyone in the first round.

When it comes to winning, there are a few common phrases that have made their way from racing into everyday use.

If it’s a very close race you might say ‘it’s down to the wire’. If an election is down to the wire it is unclear until the very last minute who has won.

Our submission for the project came down to the wire. I handed it in right on five o’clock.

After a close race, you can also say someone has ‘won by a nose’. This means they have crossed the finish line with only their nose ahead of their closest opponent.

But if a race was won by a great distance we can say that th

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