May 24, 2015 15:10 UTC

Words and Their Stories

Down to Earth

My friend Jane is so
My friend Jane is so "down to earth"

Related Articles

Audio Bigwig and Top Banana

Terms for people who are powerful, at least in their own minds, are abundant in the English language. From "bigwig to "big wheel", we explore where the expressions for these "top banana" come from. | Words and Their Stories
Down to Earth
Down to Earthi

Now, the VOA Special English program Words and Their Stories.

Every week at this time, we tell about popular American words and expressions. Some of these are very old. Some are new. Together, they form the living speech of the American people.

Today we tell about the expression "down to earth." Down to earth means being open and honest. It is easy to deal with someone who is down to earth.

A person who is down to earth is a pleasure to find. He or she accepts other people as equals. A down to earth person is the opposite of someone who acts important or proud.

Down to earth people could be important members of society. But they do not consider themselves to be better than others who are less important. They do not let their importance go to their heads. Someone who lets something go to his head feels he is better than others. He has a big head.

A person who is filled with his own importance and pride is said to have his nose in the air. Often the person who has a big head and his nose in the air has no reason to feel better than others. He surely is the opposite of someone who is down to earth.

Americans use another expression that is similar in some ways to down to earth. The expression is both feet on the ground. Someone with both feet on the ground is a person with a good understanding of reality. She has what is called common sense. She may have dreams. But she does not allow them to block her understanding of what is real.

The opposite kind of person is one who has his head in the clouds. Someone with his head in the clouds is a person whose mind is not on what is happening in real life. Such a person may be called a daydreamer.

Sometimes a person with his head in the clouds can be brought back to reality.  Sharp words from a teacher, for example, can usually get a daydreaming student to put both feet on the ground.

The person who is down to earth usually has both feet on the ground. But the opposite is not always true. Someone with both feet on the ground may not be as open and easy to deal with as someone who is down to earth.

When we have both our feet firmly on the ground, and when we are down to earth we do not have our noses in the air. We act honestly and openly to others. Our lives are like the ground below us -- solid and strong.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Moacir da Silva Meireles from: Curitiba
03/17/2015 11:10 PM
Nice teaching VOA, congratulations.

by: Anh Mong from: Hanoi, Vietnam
03/17/2015 4:29 PM
"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. " : ) - Imagine - John Lennon

by: Kim Phuong from: Viet Nam
03/14/2015 5:16 AM
Nice !!! Thank you, VOA

by: sadegh hajalizadeh from: iran
03/06/2015 11:40 AM
hi, i had and have many dream in my mind. but i try to have a good relationship with other people in the our ground, so i think i should put my feet on the earth and notice to my ground. thank you of voa for this story.

In Response

by: yeudys silfa from: dominican republic
03/09/2015 12:54 PM
l have a good relationship with other people in the our ground, so i think i should put my feet on the earth and notice to my ground. thank you of voa for this story.

In Response

by: sadegh from: iran
03/10/2015 2:53 AM
thanks for comment, i like to talk you

by: Toan Nguyen from: California, US
03/05/2015 5:52 PM
Great section! It is nice to learn more than one idiom at the same time with similar and opposite words. I though it is easy for me to remember new idioms as the way how voa explains them. Thanks

by: Hussein from: Baghdad
03/03/2015 6:54 PM
I like down to earth people much, and really like to deal with them

by: Anonymous from: Catalonia
03/02/2015 6:01 PM
This expression 'both feet on the ground' is very similar as a Catalan one 'tocar de peus a terra'.

In Response

by: kika from: spain
03/13/2015 7:19 AM
what a coincidence! Through the rest of Spain the expression means the same!

In Response

by: Javi from: Barcelona
03/03/2015 5:25 PM
Exactly, and there are other expressions commonly used among us, like, "down to earth" or "to have the head on the clouds". Regards, Bona tarda.

by: Tham from: Vietnam
03/02/2015 2:22 PM
So interesting! Love all, from content to your voice. Thanks so much!

by: Angela from: Taipei, Taiwan
03/02/2015 8:44 AM
Several years ago, I realized that I had my noses in the air, and I don't have my feet on the ground. I tried to change myself. I hope that I could be down to earth right now.

by: Beatriz from: Burgos , Spain
03/01/2015 10:51 PM
very very interesting !!! Thanks

Comments page of 2

Learn with The News

  • Pin Phunam a contortionist in Phare, The Cambodian Circus

    Video Cambodia Circus Offers a Better Life to Young Performers

    Many young people in Cambodia dream of joining the circus. For some needy and underprivileged youths some are given an opportunity at the Phare Ponleu Selpak school or PPS to learn circus skills that may help change their lives for the better. More

  • Team Grin plans to race to Alaska in this Etchells 22, currently moored in Port Townsend, Washington. (Tom Banse/VOA)

    Audio Sail, Row, Paddle, All The Way To Alaska

    In less than three weeks the first-ever Race to Alaska will be an exciting and challenging journey for anyone brave enough to enter with their non-motorized boat. One can only race by sailing, rowing, paddling, pedaling or a combination of those activities. More

  • Video Learning at the Laundromat

    College students teach mathematics and English to poor, immigrant children at a coin laundry near Washington, DC. At the same time, the students are helping the owner of the business become more profitable. The tutoring is part of the business plan they have created. | As It Is More

  • Audio Islamic State Militants Capture Two Major Cities

    The Islamic State seized control of the Syrian city of Palmyra on Thursday. The fall of Palmyra reportedly left the militants in control of half of Syria. Last Sunday, the militants took control of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar Province.| In The News More

  • Fiery Cross Reef, Spratly Islands

    Audio China Warns US Spy Plane in South China Sea

    China's navy is reported to have issued eight warning messages to a U.S. military spy plane over several man-made islands. Boats with Rohingya migrants accepted in Indonesian waters. U.S. and Cuba continue talks toward diplomatic ties. More

Featured Stories

  • Audio Hold Your Horses!

    Horses are part of the history and romance of the Old American West. These days, they are popular for sport and entertainment. So, it is easy to understand why we Americans use so many horse expressions. Learn some of the most common and try to answer our horse riddle! More

  • Audio Everyday Grammar - Introducing Conditionals

    In everyday conversation, English speakers often talk about things that are not true. Or, they talk about things that only happen if something else happens. Learn how to correctly use these conditional forms in English. If you write to us, we will let you know if it is correct. More

  • Discover Debate

    Audio Successful Debate for New Learners and Large Classes

    Many students of English engage in debate as part of their training. In Part Two of our Successful Debate series, we learn the kinds of debate topics that work well for English learners. An expert shares tips for organizing a debate in a large class and for answering arguments. More

  • Nina Marranca looks at her phone, June 25, 2013.

    Audio Deaf-Blind Woman First to Use Braille Phone

    New technology allows deaf and blind people to use the telephone. The tests are underway in Australia and the U.S. It could help end isolation that people who cannot see or hear say they feel. Learn about this exciting new technology as well as words like "Braille" and "parallel testing." More

  • Video Resounding Earth: Creating Music from Metal

    "The title “Resounding Earth” on the one hand, we are talking about resounding earth. The earth is full of metals that all of mankind has turned into instruments. We are going to play them from all around the world together on one stage." More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner blog
Confessions of an English Learner blog




Tell us About Our Programs