It's that time of year again when everyone seems to be catching a cold – or worse, the flu. We hope you stay healthy, but if you do get sick, here are 15 phrases you'll want to know!
Learners often wonder if it’s “flu” or “the flu.” Across most core English-speaking countries, “the flu” is standard.
Sometimes, you'll see the word "influenza." This is the scientific way to say "flu" and it's only used in formal, scientific writing. You can find a lot of examples by searching "influenza" on Engoo Daily News.
If you "catch" a cold, you become infected with a cold virus. If you "have" a cold, you are already infected. That's why people usually say "I caught a cold" (using "catch" in the past tense) but "I have a cold" (using "have" in the present tense).
Here are some examples where "catch" works but "have" doesn't.
"Come down with" is a popular English idiom which means "to catch (an illness)" or "to start showing symptoms (of an illness)."
If you come down with something, but your symptoms are not too bad, they're "mild."
The opposite of "mild" is "serious." For example, in movies, you'll often see patients ask doctors something like, "How serious is it? Am I going to die?"
The word "nasty" can be used to describe things that cause a lot of damage in a complicated way. For example, a "nasty" storm could bring floods and power outages. And anyone with a "nasty" injury knows how hard it is to recover from it.
You can also use "nasty" to describe a particularly bad cold.
English speakers don't usually use "nasty" to describe the flu, probably because everyone already knows it's nasty.
English speakers say that a liquid "runs." For example, "there's a river running through this city." So if you have a "runny" nose, there's liquid flowing out of it.
If your nose is "stuffy," it feels like there's stuff blocking it.
English speakers also often describe a stuffy nose as "congested." This word comes from the medical term, "(nasal) congestion."
The difference between "stuffy" and "congested" is that you can't say "I have a congested nose." You would just say "I'm congested."
You'll also hear speakers of British English use the slang expression "bunged up" as in "My nose is all bunged up!"
"Sniffle" describes the sound someone makes when they keep breathing air in through their nose because it's runny and they don't want it to drip.
English speakers will also use "sniffle" as a plural noun: e.g. "I've got the sniffles." This is another way to say you have a mild cold.
If your throat is "sore," it feels uncomfortable and maybe even painful.
You'll also hear people say they have a "scratchy" throat.
When you "cough," you force air out of your mouth in a sudden and noisy way.
"Cough" can also be used as a noun: e.g. "I had a really nasty cough last week." And if you have a cough, you might want to take some "cough drops" or "cough syrup."
When you have a "fever," you have a high body temperature.
The adjective form of "fever" is "feverish": e.g. "I'm feeling kind of feverish." This means your body temperature is high and you're probably also experiencing aches and chills.
When you have the "chills," your body feels very cold and might shake.
If you feel "run-down," you're tired or exhausted usually from poor health.
People who are run-down will also describe themselves as "sluggish," because they can only move around slowly like a slug.
How many of these new phrases did you remember? You can test your knowledge with our Health & Lifestyle category. The lessons in this category will train you to talk about all sorts of health-related topics in English.
For example, you can learn how to buy medicine, ask for a day off because you're sick, and even call an ambulance if you need to. Make sure to join Engoo so you can take these lessons with a tutor. In the meantime, take care not to catch a cold!