Common Expressions: from scratch
Summary: Common English Expressions
This weeks short English language podcast lesson is about a common English expression “From scratch”. As always, we choose expressions which we hear in everyday conversation and this appeared in an Everyday English conversation as recently as this morning.
I think most English language speakers use idioms or common expressions to save time. Some people will call it lazy and others efficiency but an idiom or common expression can in a few words impart a great deal of meaning given the context.
This is a sophisticated way of talking and is not fair to people new to the English language.
Unfortunately, as a language student, the better you get at speaking English, the more likely it is an English speaker will use this English language vocabulary to speed things up. So you will need to learn the more common expressions just to keep up.
Audio Transcript: Common Expressions: From Scratch
Hi there and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. This is our Thursday podcast, so it’s slightly shorter and easier than our Monday podcast, but for both podcasts, there is a transcript, a written version which you can find on our website at adeptenglish.com.
The transcript is really helpful, if you find it difficult to understand everything first time through. It’s slightly harder work, if you use the transcript, but it will mean that your English improves much more quickly!
Introduction to a common English phrase, with examples
Let’s talk today about a Common English Phrase, so a phrase which we use all the time in English. So if you want to learn common expressions, this is one you will come across. And the phrase today is ‘from scratch’.
So you might hear this in a sentence like one of these:-
‘Oh, I don’t like to buy ready-meals. I cook everything from scratch’.
‘He doesn’t want to start again from scratch’.
‘The project got scrapped, so we’re starting again from scratch’.
Vocabulary explained for ‘From Scratch’
So there are some examples of this common expression in sentences, but let’s look at vocabulary first of all. In English scratch is usually a verb ‘to scratch’, though the noun ‘a scratch’ or ‘the scratch’ is related in meaning. So the usual meaning of ‘to scratch’? Well, it’s what your dog or your cat might do, if it has visitors! So if your dog or your cat has fleas – little tiny insects in its fur, tiny animals that you really don’t want in your house, the first sign of fleas could be that your dog or your cat is scratching a lot. So we humans do this too. If there’s a problem with your skin, it may mean that you want to scratch. And you usually scratch with your finger nails. Your finger nails are the hard bits on the ends of your fingers - so that’s the sound of my finger nails scratching. So if you want to scratch something – it could be your back – then you would usually scratch with your fingernails. And if scratch is used as a noun, then it just means the action of a scratch – so you might say ‘Give it a scratch’. Or it could mean if you scratch something and you leave a mark on the skin, we would refer to that mark as a scratch. So if your cat scratches your arm and leaves a red mark on your arm, you would call that ‘a scratch’. Or if you’ve got a nice new car and someone makes a mark on your car door – you might say ‘Uh! I’ve got a scratch on my new car!’.
My son has just come by to see what I’m writing about – and reminded me that Scratch is also the name of a computer program. So Scratch is used in schools for children to learn how to program computers. So thanks to my son for that extra meaning of the word scratch!
‘From scratch’ as an idiom
So those are the normal meanings of the word ‘scratch’. But if this common expression ‘from scratch’ is being used, it’s a bit more like an idiom. If you’ve not worked it out from the phrases I gave you at the start of this podcast, then ‘from scratch’ really means the same as ‘from the beginning’.
Download The Lesson PDF Transcript & MP3 Audio
Why share this article? We need you to help us tell people about this FREE English language lesson. If you share this article you help us and in return we charge you nothing to download the audio and a FULL lesson transcript.
Example sentences again
So the first sentence using ‘from scratch’ was:
‘Oh, I don’t like to buy ready-meals. I cook everything from scratch’. So this person is saying that they don’t like to buy food which is already cooked, already made. Instead they cook everything ‘from scratch’. This means that they start with the ingredients and make it all themselves. So that’s a really common expression – ‘to cook from scratch’.
And the second sentence using ‘from scratch’ was:
‘He doesn’t want to start again from scratch’. So here, he doesn’t want to start again from the beginning. The sense is that lots of time and energy have been put in, but it’s no good, he has to start all over again from the beginning.
And the third sentence was:
‘The project got scrapped, so we’re starting again from scratch’. So if you work in certain industries, this is perhaps something you meet quite frequently, especially perhaps in the tech industry? Anyway, ‘the project got scrapped’ - means that there was a project, a piece of work and it ‘got scrapped’ - we were told to stop working on it, we were told to stop it. And ‘we’re starting again from scratch’ just means that we’re starting the whole thing over again, from the beginning. We’re not going to keep anything from the old project. We’re starting again from scratch.
Where does ‘from scratch’ come from?
Where does this common expression come from? Well, if you think of various sports, where there’s a mark on the ground that play starts from. Well, in the past, those would have been scratched lines, scratched marks on the ground. So in this context, ‘to start from scratch’ means to go back to your original positions in the game and start play again. It kind of makes sense!
Anyway, I hope that’s good help with the common expression ‘from scratch’. Like all the idioms and common expressions that I cover in Adept English podcasts, it’s something that I’ve heard other people using in the past week, so you can be sure that it’s very much alive as an expression and out there being used in spoken English.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
PS: Everyday English is full of idioms and common expressions
We often cover English language idioms and common expressions on a Thursday because we see them as a “nice to have” rather than a “You must know this!“ part of your English language learning.
As you get more sophisticated with your English language, you will use this vocabulary to just fit into a normal English conversation. Even if you're not the one using the expression, you will find it helps to know approximately what the person who is using it is trying to say.
If you liked this expression, then we have more for you to learn about here.
We have lots of other tips on learning to speak English here.
If you like this English podcast and want to know when the next podcast is published you can subscribe for an English podcast e-mail reminder.