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Start Off on the Right Foot

Sunisa Lee, of the United States, starts off on the right foot to win the all-around final at the 2020 Summer Olympics on July 29, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Start Off on the Right Foot
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And now, Words and Their Stories, from VOA Learning English.

Today we talk about something that you might take for granted. You might not them or appreciate their value and worth. Your feet! We just expect them to be there when we need them.

But our feet are important. And they have managed to walk right into many English expressions. Let’s talk about some.

First, let’s put our best foot forward.

This means you act in the best possible way to show your best possible self. Sometimes we do this to impress others. But sometimes we just want to do the best job we can or be the best person we can.

At work, people who put their best foot forward, work fast and do the job well.

Here’s another foot expression: To start off on the right foot.

If something starts off on the right foot, it means it starts off in a good way. For example, you can start your day off on the right foot. You can start a class off on the right foot. If you start or get off on the right foot, you immediately have success when you begin an activity, a project, a job, or even a relationship.

For example, when you are starting a new job, you want to start off on the right foot with your new coworkers. And if you have a new boyfriend or girlfriend, you really want to start off on the right foot with their parents. Maybe you just met a new friend. You also want to get off on the right foot with their group of friends.

All of this means that you want to leave a good impression -- especially when you first meet. In fact, we have a special saying about that: “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.”

If you make a bad first impression, you have started off on the wrong foot. And it is harder to repair relationships when they start off poorly. Also, it is harder to get a project back on track if it started on the wrong foot.

Some word experts say that ancient superstitions thought that the right foot was luckier than the left. So, it was good luck to start off with the right foot instead of the left.

Now let’s hear two friends use some of these expressions.

A: Wow! You look great! Is that a new business suit?

B: No. I’ve had this suit for years. But I think I’ve gained some weight during the pandemic.

A: Well, it DOES look a little tight. Maybe try unbuttoning the jacket.

B: Good idea.

A: Your hair cut looks great too. So, where are you going all dressed up?

B: Today I start a new job … in a new office … with new people.

A: That’s a big deal. I mean we’ve all been working from home for more than a year.

B: Tell me about it! It feels strange to wear a suit. But with my new job ... I REALLY want to start off on the right foot. You know what they say: You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

A: In that case, maybe you should wear REAL shoes. It's hard to put your best foot forward wearing your house slippers.

B: Oh no! I'm wearing slippers! I have to go all the way back home and get my shoes. Now, I'll be late!

A: Looks like you have to choose: Start off on the wrong foot by showing up late or by wearing slippers.

B: Hmm … You know, maybe no one will notice my footwear. But my boss will definitely notice if I'm late. so, I guess … slippers it is!

A: Just stay at your desk as much as you can. Good luck!

B: Thanks! See you later!

Hopefully you started your day off on the right foot with some English lessons from VOA Learning English!

And that’s all the time we have for this Words and Their Stories. Until next time … I’m Anna Matteo.

Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Susan Shand was the editor.


Words in This Story

impress – v. to affect strongly or deeply and especially favorably

chance – n. an opportunity to do something: an amount of time or a situation in which something can be done

superstition – n. a belief or way of behaving that is based on fear of the unknown and faith in magic or luck: a belief that certain events or things will bring good or bad luck

slippers – n. a light, soft shoe that is easily put on and taken off and that is worn indoors

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