Many of my English learning students confuse the use of 2 words – Health (noun) and Healthy (adjective). This also got me thinking about the ways of describing how you feel in English when you are unhealthy or not well. Here are some English idioms for Sickness and also expressions and phrases connected with illness.
Bad health usually suggests to me a more long term condition that may last several months or years. (He suffered from bad health for a few years before he died). We are going to focus on the more short term English words and phrases.
Some of these words and expressions will be more formal and others informal. Some are very specific to the feeling and others are more general in their meaning.
English Idioms for Sickness + Sickness Vocabulary
I feel a little off colour today.
This usually means you are not quite sure what you have (what your illness is) but you do not feel yourself (feel generally unwell).
I think I must be coming down with something (the beginning of a cold or flu) or I am a little under the weather today. When I hear the expression “sorry I must be coming down with something” I often think it is an excuse to cancel an arrangement, to avoid going to school or to get out of something you just simply do not want to do.
There are many phrases and expressions in English that are much more specific about the symptoms and the way you are feeling.
I have a cold or I am getting the flu are very specific.
Note that in English we use “A cold” but “ THE flu”. So different use of the articles.
Describing how you feel in English can be difficult because only you know really what you feel like at that time:
I feel unwell, I am ill, I feel bad, I don’t feel well – are all well used phrases.
English Idioms for Sickness
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Sickness Vocabulary - How to Describe Symptoms
When you have a cold, the flu or a virus you more often give the following symptoms:
- I have aches and pains
- My throat is sore
- I have a stuffy nose
- My nose is blocked
- I have a headache
- I have a high temperature
- I feel hot
- I have a fever
Often the cause of the illness is due to something you ate or drank. In these situations we often feel like we want “to get or to be sick”.
- I want to vomit.
- I feel like throwing up or puking (more slang and informal)
This can be covered generally by using the phrases:
- I picked up a bug
- I caught a bug
- It’s just one of those 24 hour bugs
If we are ill and cannot go to work, school or university we usually have to take a sick day (for work) or inform the school or university that you cannot attend that day.
Some people are not really sick but feel like they need an extra days rest so they “pretend” (tell a little white lie) they are sick and we refer to this in English as pulling a sickie.
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Other English Idioms about Sickness
As sick as a dog – I am very sick
I am at deaths door – really very unwell
Other English idioms for sickness that we use can also have a theoretical meaning such as:
As sick as a parrot – usually means to be very annoyed or angry
I am sick to death of – I am really tired of something
Some examples of using English Idioms for Sickness:
Michael had wanted to buy a Harley Davidson bike but really could not afford it. He was as sick as a parrot when his friend told him that he had just purchased one!
The mother was constantly telling the children to stop shouting and fighting. She had had enough. She screamed out “I am sick to death of your shouting and fighting you have to stop now!!”
So enjoy your week, stay healthy but learn English idioms for Sickness and other words to describe your symptoms (just in case!).
As I said, English students often confuse HEALTH vs HEALTHY. To help you better understand the difference, here is a short video lesson for you that I created to explain the difference between English adjectives that confuse everyone. One of the explanations is about the difference between HEALTH and HEALTHY. Watch carefully!
Confusing English Adjectives - Video
One of the most common English idioms about sickness is TO FEEL UNDER THE WEATHER. It doesn’t really make any sense to a non-native English speaker, does it? How can you feel under the weather? You can be under the table, under your duvet but under the weather? My second video lesson is about this common English idiom, watch it and find out FEELING UNDER THE WEATHER meaning.
Under the Weather Meaning
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