Listen Up! Understanding the Meaning of EAR IDIOMS

Ear idioms are a fascinating aspect of the English language, with many expressions using the ear as a metaphor for a variety of meanings. From “falling on deaf ears” to being “up to one’s ears,” these idioms can be both amusing and confusing to non-native speakers. In this blog post, we’ll explore some common ear idioms and their meanings.

be all ears
be out on one’s ear
bend someone’s ear
can’t believe one’s ears
fall on deaf ears
give someone an earful
grin from ear to ear
in one ear and out the other
keep an ear to the ground
lend an ear/sympathetic ear
music to your ears
ears are burning
pin someone’s ears back
play it by ear
prick up your ears
put a bug in someone’s ear
the walls have ears
up to one’s ears
wet behind the ears

Learning about idioms can be a fun and useful way to improve your English language skills. Keep reading to discover how we use our ears to convey meaning beyond just hearing sounds. 

Ear Idioms Examples

Learn the meaning of these idioms and understand them by seeing each one used in an example sentence. You may be surprised, some of these idioms are not about hearing at all! Enjoy.

be all ears: to be fully listening or paying attention to someone.

  • “I’m all ears. Please tell me your story.”

be out on one’s ear: to be fired or dismissed from a job or position. 

  • “If he doesn’t improve his performance, he’ll be out on his ear.”

bend someone’s ear: to talk to someone for a long time, often in a way that is boring or annoying. 

  • “I was trying to enjoy my lunch, but my coworker bent my ear about his new car for an hour.”
COMMON EAR IDIOMS Bend Someone's Ear

can’t believe one’s ears: to be surprised or shocked by what one hears. 

  • “I couldn’t believe my ears when my boss told me that I got a promotion.”

fall on deaf ears: to be ignored or not listened to. 

  • “I tried to warn him about the dangers of smoking, but my advice fell on deaf ears.”

give someone an earful: To give someone a long and often angry lecture or criticism.

  • “When the customer service representative gave her the wrong order, she gave him an earful.”

grin from ear to ear: Have a very big and happy smile.

  • “When she got the job offer, she was grinning from ear to ear.”

in one ear and out the other: to hear something but quickly forget it or not pay attention. 

  • “I told him to study for the test, but it went in one ear and out the other.”
COMMON EAR IDIOMS In One Ear And Out The Other

keep an ear to the ground: to stay informed about a particular situation or development. 

  • “As a journalist, I have to keep an ear to the ground to know what’s happening in the world.”

lend an ear/a sympathetic ear: to listen to someone who needs to talk or share their problems.

  • “I’m here to lend an ear if you ever need to talk about anything.”
  • “If you ever need a sympathetic ear just give me a call.” 

music to your ears: Hearing something that is very pleasing to you or that you have been waiting for.

  • “The news that he got the promotion was music to his ears.”

one’s ears are burning: When you have a feeling that someone is talking about you, usually in a negative way.

  • “We’ve been talking about Thomas all morning, I bet his ears are burning now.” 

pin someone’s ears back: to criticize or reprimand someone severely. 

  • “The coach pinned the team’s ears back after their poor performance in the game.”

play it by ear: to make a decision or plan based on how a situation develops rather than deciding in advance. 

  • “Let’s not make any concrete plans yet. We’ll just play it by ear and see what happens.”

prick up your ears: To suddenly start paying close attention or become interested in something that you hear.

  • The students seemed distracted and not paying attention but their ears pricked up when they heard the teacher say ‘pop quiz’.”

put a bug in someone’s ear: to suggest an idea or plan to someone in a subtle or indirect way.

  • “I put a bug in my boss’s ear about getting a new coffee machine for the staff break room.”
Do you want to learn more idioms related to parts of the body? Be sure to read my blog post  25 Idioms with Body Parts (PDF download and Video)

the walls have ears: Be careful what you say, as you never know who might be listening.

  • In the modern world of digital surveillance, it’s important to watch what you say at all times. The walls have ears.”

up to one’s ears: to be very busy or deeply involved in something. 

  • “I’m up to my ears in work this month. I’m sure I’ll be doing lots of overtime.”

wet behind the ears: Lacking experience or knowledge, particularly in a particular field or area.

  • “The new intern is still wet behind the ears so we shouldn’t be too hard on him.”

Find the dictionary definition of EAR and more Idioms at ear noun – 

Idiom FAQs

  1. Can ear idioms be used in formal settings, such as business or academic writing?

It depends on the specific idiom and the context in which it is being used. Some ear idioms can be appropriate for use in formal settings, while others may be too informal or inappropriate.

For example, idioms such as “in one ear and out the other” may be too informal for use in academic or business writing. However, idioms such as “keep an ear to the ground” (meaning to stay informed about something) could be appropriate in certain contexts.

It’s important to consider the audience and the purpose of the writing when deciding whether to use ear idioms in a formal setting. In general, it’s best to be overly cautious and avoid using idioms that could be considered too informal or unfamiliar to the audience.

  1. How can I incorporate idioms into my everyday conversation?

Incorporating ear idioms into your everyday conversation can add color and personality to your language. Here are a few tips to help you use idioms effectively:

Use the correct idiom: Make sure you understand the meaning of the idiom and use it appropriately. Using the wrong idiom or misusing an idiom can be confusing or even embarrassing.

Practice makes perfect: The more you practice using idioms, the more comfortable you will become with incorporating them into your conversation. This includes not being afraid to make a mistake now and then. (Don’t be scared to try!) 

Context is key: Consider the context and your audience before using an ear idiom. If you’re unsure if it’s appropriate to use a particular idiom, it’s best to not use it.

Be natural: Use ear idioms in a natural and conversational way. Don’t force them into a conversation if they don’t fit. Remembering how native speakers use idioms in certain situations is very helpful. You want to mirror that experience in your own conversation.

Check out these other great Idiom Blog Posts.

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