English Idioms That Are Too Big For Their Boots Ep 349

A photograph of some walking boots used to help explain the English idiom too big for your boots

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English Idioms

I was talking to a British colleague of mine about Adept English recently and mentioned that one of our English lessons will be on English idioms. They said nobody uses idioms that much anymore, and I laughed because the music on the radio at that very moment was Stormzy, a popular English rapper, was literally rapping a song about an English idiom at that very moment. The British use idioms all the time!

So today’s English lesson will cover three English idioms. As usual, we only ever teach useful everyday English, so you can be sure you are learning something useful that you will hear or read in the UK today.

Remember, this lesson is not just about the topic of conversation, although the topic and discussion are interesting and worth learning. Listening to this English lesson you will hear a lot of common English vocabulary, you will hear frequently used English phrases and you will practise your English listening, which is critical to improving the speed of your English understanding, this will lead to improved English speaking and ultimately English fluency.

As always, we ask that you repeatedly listen to the audio. Spaced repetition is the ideal way to to maximise the value of the lesson repeatedly listening to the audio until you can follow every part without needing to look up words and you can hear and understand each word and sentence.

You can find out more about the learning system we use at Adept English here

Most Unusual Words:


Most common 4 word phrases:

Big Shoes To Fill8
Get Ahead Of Yourself5
Too Big For His4
Don’T Want Them To3
Want Them To Be3

Listen To The Audio Lesson Now

The mp3 audio and pdf transcript for this lesson is now part of the Adept English back catalogue . You can still download and listen to this lesson as part of one of our podcast bundles.

Transcript: English Idioms That Are Too Big For Their Boots

Hi there and welcome to this podcast from Adept English.

’Too big for your boots’?

If you hear someone say in English ‘He’s too big for his boots’, what do they mean? Well, as a boot, B-O-O-T is a type of shoe, something you might wear on your feet, you might think ‘He’s too big for his boots’ means that his feet are too big for his shoes, his boots are too small.

That’s possible of course, but it’s much more likely that this is being used as an idiom. And if you remember, idioms in English, that’s spelt I-D-I-O-M, idioms are phrases or sentences, things we say, where there is a literal meaning but they usually have another meaning, which may not be obvious. So they’re quite difficult for language learners. I think most languages have idioms, but English is perhaps unique in just how many we have.

So ‘too big for your boots’. This is something that we sometimes might say to someone ‘Don’t get too big for your boots’. And what we mean by this is ‘Don’t think that you are more important than you actually are!’ or ‘Don’t think that you have more power or influence than you actually have’. It means ‘Don’t be too confident. Don’t be too proud’.

Other English Idiom Lessons - Video

Somebody in authority – it might be your boss at work or it might be a police officer or it might be someone who is making sure that you ‘observe social distance’ outside and inside the supermarket – they all may get ‘too big for their boots’ And if they start to assume authority and power that they don’t really have, you might say that.

If you let your neighbour’s cat into your house and pretty soon, you find the cat sleeping in your bed, then maybe the cat is getting ‘too big for his boots’. If one of your colleagues at work, one of your co-workers gets a promotion – that means they’ve progressed, moved upwards in their job, but then they start bossing everyone around or trying to control things, then you could say ‘They’re ‘getting too big for their boots. Someone needs to tell them to stop!’

’Don’t get ahead of yourself!’

A similar phrase we might use is ‘Don’t get ahead of yourself’. That’s a funny one – how do you get ‘ahead of yourself’? If someone is ‘ahead’, A-H-E-A-D, that means that they’re in front of you, going in the same direction.

Well, ‘Don’t get ahead of yourself’ means don’t go too far forward with your ideas or your expectations. The sense is that you’re getting too excited, too keen, there are other things that must happen first, before your ideas can become reality.

Download The Podcast Audio & Transcript

If someone puts forward the idea of ‘possibly having a party’, and then you already start ringing round and planning the venue, V-E-N-U-E – means the place you’re going to have the party, then you’ve got ‘ahead of yourself’.

It might not happen. Or if you’ve been on three dates with a man and you’re already planning your wedding, then you’re probably ‘getting ahead of yourself’. It’s quite likely to frighten him away!

’Big shoes to fill’

Another saying, which is kind of similar to ‘too big for your boots’ or ‘Don’t get too big for your boots’ is the one where we say ‘Ooh – those are big shoes to fill!’. The similarity in meaning is the idea that your status, your power, is connected to the size of your boots or your shoes.

So if someone says ‘Ooh, those are big shoes to fill’, they could literally mean ‘Oh, those shoes are too big for you’, but it’s much more likely again that this is an idiom. ‘To fill’ in this context means ‘to use all of the space’ – here in the shoes.

So the meaning of ‘big shoes to fill’- often when you’re taking over a job, or the part that someone else has been playing, when they’ve done it really well. You’ve got ‘big shoes to fill’. You’re going to have to be really good to be the same as the person that was in those shoes before, in that position before you.

In politics for example, if you take over the job of someone who’s really well-known, famous, really popular, a ‘household name’ if you like, but few people know you, you’re not well-known, then you might say ‘You’ve got big shoes to fill’.


A photograph of a pair of shoes used to help explain the English idiom big shoes to fill.

©️ Adept English 2020

In football, if a certain player has been the goal keeper for the national team for years and years and they retire, and then a really young player takes over – perhaps unlikely for a goalkeeper, but stay with me – then this is another example of when you might say ‘Those are big shoes to fill’. The person you’re replacing has a big reputation and you’re going to have to work really hard and do really well to come up to their standard.

So there you have it ‘Don’t get too big for your boots’, ‘Don’t get ahead of yourself’ and ‘You’ve got really big shoes to fill’. All phrases which might be used to bring someone down to size, to make sure the person you’re talking to doesn’t have ideas that are too big.

It’s also the kind of thing that we might say to our children. We want them to be confident, we want them to be self-assured, but we also don’t want them to be too confident. We don’t want them to get ‘too big for their boots’. We don’t want them ‘to get ahead of themselves’. So that’s the kind of thing that we say to them!

British Youth Using Idioms - Video

Where to find more English language listening material

If you like our podcasts and you find that you learn a lot from our podcasts, then did you know that you can pay to download previous podcasts in groups of 50? There are now 5 groups of 50 podcasts to buy – or you can buy them all at the same time. It’s like going on holiday, going on a vacation to the UK, you’ll hear so much English if you buy 50 podcasts. You’ll be improving your English in no time at all!

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Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.




The voice of Adeptenglish, loves English and wants to help people who want to speak English fluently.
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