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English’s ‘Mile’ Expressions Are a Mile Long

FILE - Elite runners make navigate the first mile of the 125th Boston Marathon, Oct. 11, 2021.
FILE - Elite runners make navigate the first mile of the 125th Boston Marathon, Oct. 11, 2021.
English’s ‘Mile’ Expressions Are a Mile Long
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And now, Words and Their Stories from VOA Learning English.

In the United States, many people use the English system for measuring. While some people use the metric system, our idioms and expressions often stick with measurement words from the English system.

Today, we talk about expressions using the word mile. And we have miles and miles of them! That means we have a lot.

For example, if you can run a mile a minute, you can run very fast. So, we can use the expression “a mile a minute” to describe people who do things very quickly.

For example, Sarah was very excited about her trip! When she told us about it, she talked a mile a minute. We could barely follow what she was saying!

Here is another example. Sam is a very quick problem-solver. His brain seems to work a mile a minute.

Now, when we talk about running a race, we use both kilometers and miles. However, when we use the expression “go the extra mile,” we only use mile. If you run a race that is 10 miles long and you run 11 miles, you have run farther than others and farther than needed.

So, when we go the extra mile, we do more than is asked of us. We do this to prove we are hardworking or dedicated to something. For example, many friends were only supposed to collect used books for a literary organization. But Tory went the extra mile; she delivered the books to needy families in the community.

A mile is equal to 1.6 kilometers. That is far enough away that you cannot see, smell, or notice something. Well, at least it should be. So, if we say, “I could see that from a mile away,” it means something is very noticeable.

For example, I can spot a liar from a mile away. That means I am very good at detecting people who do not tell the truth. Even if they are a mile from me, I can tell.

If a scent is very strong, you could say you smell it from a mile away. I don’t know what cologne that man was wearing, but I could smell it a mile away.

To be a million miles away is even farther. We often use that expression to mean lost in thought. If I am a million miles away, I seem very far away from those around me.

We can also use it to compare things. For example, her goals for her future and her parent’s goals for her future were a million miles apart. The two goals had nothing in common.

Our last expression describes people who are selfish and greedy. They always want more. If you give some people a little of something, they will often take a lot. I knew a woman who was like that. Every time I "gave her an inch, she took a mile." She always wanted more from the people around her.

And that’s all the time we have for this Words and Their Stories.

If you are listening to VOA Learning English to improve your English, then you are truly going the extra mile. Good job!

Until next time ... I’m Anna Matteo.

Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

dedicated – adj. devoted to a cause, ideal, or purpose

detecting – v. to discover or determine the existence, presence, or fact of

scent – n. an odor that is given off by someone or something

cologne – n. a perfumed liquid composed of alcohol and fragrant oils

greedy – adj. having or showing a selfish desire for more than is needed