KA WORDCAST: Idioms and Phrasal Verbs Lesson 30 ALIVE and KICKING

Listen to KA Wordcast


Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

PDF DOWNLOAD: KA WORDCAST Idioms and Phrasal Verbs Lesson 30 ALIVE and KICKING



KA WORDCAST: Idioms and Phrasal Verbs


Alive and Kicking-Simple Minds 

In each lesson of KA Wordcast: Idioms and Phrasal Verbs, we introduce a number of important idioms, phrasal verbs, and other common English expressions and make sure you know how to put them to effective use.  In previous episodes, we’ve looked at various expressions you can use for different situations.  For example, in Lesson 5, “Back to School,” we checked out some phrases we use to talk about studying and education, phrases such as “to cover a lot of ground” and “to catch up.” In Lesson 18, “Surprise, Surprise,” we had fun with “surprise-themed” expressions like to “catch someone unawares” and to “take aback.”  Today, we’ll look at 22 common phrasal verbs and idiomatic expressions that will be “just what the doctor ordered” when you want to talk about your health or doctor visits.

This lesson is available to download in PDF format.  To test your knowledge of today’s phrases before the lesson begins, take the quick “pre-test” that is downloadable from our website.  Then, after the podcast, use the answer sheet to see how well you did.  Always keep in mind that the best way to boost your English speaking and writing skills is to review and practice what you’ve learned, over and over again … which is what these Wordcasts are all about.

Phrasal verbs and idioms are a little different.  To put it in a nutshell, a phrasal verb is an idiomatic expression made up of a verb and another element such as a particle, preposition, or combination of both.   An idiom, on the other hand, is a combination of words whose figurative meaning is separate from its literal or real meaning, and often impossible to figure out just by looking at it.



If you are ALIVE AND KICKING, you are healthy and full of energy. You can use this expression, which is slightly humorous or even a bit facetious, when responding to a casual “How are you?” or to describe your condition after a bout of illness or injury.

Jo:       I haven’t seen you in ages!  How have you been?

Miki:   ALIVE AND KICKING, but very busy with school.

Jessie:              How’s Eileen been since her knee surgery?

Maddie:          She’s still a bit sore, but she’s ALIVE AND KICKING.

Years after grunge music went out of style, the music scene in Seattle is still ALIVE AND KICKING.

2.   FEELING 100%/ NOT FEELING 100%

If you are FEELING 100%, you are feeling great!  You are happy, healthy, and glad to be alive.

Hannah:       I’ve heard that you’ve had the flu, Todd.   How are you feeling?

Todd:             I was sick all last weekend, but I’m FEELING 100% now and ready to resume a full work  schedule.

Now that I’m FEELING 100%, I’m ready to go back to school and face all the classes and homework I’ve missed.

In contrast, if you are NOT FEELING 100%, you may be a little unwell or feeling poorly.  Under the weather, sick, and run down are some useful equivalents.

I didn’t get much sleep last night, Coach, and I’m NOT FEELING 100%.  Do you mind if I sit out today’s training session?

Bennie ate some dodgy shrimp last night, and he’s NOT FEELING 100% this morning.  Should I take him to see a doctor?

FYI:  People often say that they are “feeling 80% (or 70%, or an even lower number) to mean that they have not completely recovered from an injury or illness, but are making progress.

Nana:              It’s good to see you back at school after the flu, Oliver.  I take it you are feeling better?

Oliver:            I’m only FEELING about 80%, but I didn’t want to miss any more classes and get any further behind. 




Like NOT FEELING 100% above, if you feel OUT OF SORTS, you’re not as healthy or energetic as you would like to be.  You may be suffering from a cold or hay fever, or perhaps you haven’t had enough sleep.   You can use this expression to talk about both your physical health and your emotional well-being.

My daughter Charlene’s been OUT OF SORTS for over a week, and I’m worried that there might be something seriously wrong.  Could I make an appointment to have her looked at by the doctor?

Little Trudy has been OUT OF SORTS for a few days, but I think she just has a new tooth coming in.

Just because you’re feeling OUT OF SORTS, Michael, it doesn’t give you the right to be rude.




To COME DOWN WITH something means to become or be sick with a minor, easily treatable illness such as a cold or the flu.

Morgan must be COMING DOWN WITH something.  She’s been shivering and feeling lethargic all day.

Naomi:           Are you all right, Sara?  You haven’t been your cheerful self today.

Sara:               I’m a bit tired and feeling a bit run down. I must be COMING DOWN WITH a cold or something. 

If you suspect you are COMING DOWN WITH the flu, it’s probably best that you stay home and rest, rather than come in to school and risk infecting other students.



Headaches can range from “minor” or “slight” to “unbearable” (really bad). A SPLITTING HEADACHE is a severe headache on the very high end of the pain scale.  You are in so much pain that it feels like your head might “split” open.  (It’s probably best to consult a doctor if you get this kind of headache.)

I’ve had a SPLITTING HEADACHE all day, and I’ve done nothing but lie on the couch with the curtains closed.

A SPLITTING HEADACHE could be a sign of something more serious, so you should probably ring your doctor if it continues for more than a day or two.

Janie:              Mom! Natalie’s mimicking me again!  Could you tell her to stop? 

Mom:              All this bickering is giving me a SPLITTING HEADACHE.    Just stay out of each other’s hair, will you?




To PASS OUT means to faint or become unconscious.  To black out, swoon, lose consciousness, and to go out like a light are some near equivalents.

The heat in this auditorium is unbearable.  I feel like I might PASS OUT.

When Mrs. Duncan got the news that she had won the Hospice Lottery of £1000, she literally PASSED OUT and had to be given smelling salts to bring her round.

Logan was taken to the emergency room last night when he was hit on the head by a falling branch and PASSED OUT.



7.   RUN some TESTS

Say you’ve “come down with a cold” or you are feeling “out of sorts.”  You will probably want to go see a doctor who will RUN some TESTS on you to see what is wrong. RUN in this case simply means conduct or carry out.  For example, when a heart doctor, or cardiologist, RUNS (CONDUCTS) some TESTS, he or she might hook you up to a heart monitor or do a stress test.  Look at the following examples.

Yvonne:          I think I might be anemic, Doctor Jones. I feel quite dizzy and faint whenever I sit up too quickly.

Dr. Jones:      Let’s not jump to conclusions.  We won’t know for sure until we RUN some blood TESTS. 

The cardiologist hooked me up to a machine and RAN several TESTS, but as far as she could tell, there is nothing wrong with my heart.

You can also RUN TESTS on machines and devices to find the source of a glitch or fault, as in:

When my laptop got a virus, those Genius guys at the Apple shop RAN some TESTS and were able to fix the problem in a matter of minutes. 

Before you sell your house, have an electrician come by to RUN TESTS on the circuit board to ensure that the wiring is up to safety standards. 




Literally, to DRAW BLOOD means to have blood taken out of your body as part of a medical procedure.  A doctor might DRAW BLOOD from your arm to check your cholesterol level or to run some other tests.

After three failed attempts to DRAW BLOOD from my arm, the nurse gave up and called a doctor in to do the job.

These days, you’ll need to sign a waiver and produce a medical history before a blood bank will DRAW BLOOD from you.

To DRAW BLOOD also means to hit or bite someone and make a wound that bleeds, as in this example.

Mom:  Who’s screaming?  What’s going on?

Billy:  Charlie bit me, mom.  And he DREW BLOOD!

Advisor:        As long as your dog has had all of his shots, there’s no need to seek medical attention if he nips at you.

Patient:          But what if he DRAWS BLOOD?  Will I need to see a doctor then?

More figuratively, to DRAW BLOOD means to make someone very angry or upset.

Judging by the look on Jasmine’s face, Eddie really DREW BLOOD when he poked fun at her new chin and cheeks and nose.




Certain medical conditions can RUN IN THE FAMILY, which means that other people in the same family—a parent, grandparent, aunts, uncles and so on—share the same disease or condition.

Doctor:          Does low blood pressure RUN IN your FAMILY, Annie?

Annie:             Not that I’m aware of.  Why?  Is there a problem?

“My husband is dyslexic,” Norma said with concern. “I was told that dyslexia tends to RUN IN THE FAMILY, which has got me a bit worried about my son.” 

RUN IN THE FAMILY is also used to describe physical or character traits and abilities that appear in many or all members of a family.

Wendy:          Where did your son Danny get those big blue eyes, Melissa?

Melissa:         Not from me, as you can see.  They RUN IN his father’s FAMILY. 

Intelligence seems to RUN IN the Hamilton FAMILY.  All their kids have ended up in an Ivy League school. 

Unfortunately, musical aptitude does not RUN IN our FAMILY.  None of us can carry a tune or play an instrument of any kind.



10.                OUT OF SHAPE

If you are OUT OF SHAPE, you are in poor or bad physical condition, often due to lack of exercise or an unhealthy diet or lifestyle.

To be honest, I’m too OUT OF SHAPE to even consider running a 10 km race in just six weeks from now, but I promised my sister I would run with her.

Jeanie:            Yesterday’s gym practice was a killer!

Rachel:           Tell me about it.  I’m so OUT OF SHAPE, I was dying in the first five minutes.

To be BENT OUT OF SHAPE, by the way, is a slang or informal term that means to be very angry or upset about something.

There’s no reason to get so BENT OUT OF SHAPE, Graham.  It was only a joke.  I didn’t mean any harm.

Once again, my boss dismissed my suggestion for an in-company day-care center, but I didn’t think it was worth getting all BENT OUT OF SHAPE over.   He’ll come around one day.


11.                GET BACK INTO SHAPE

Your doctor may advise you to GET BACK INTO SHAPE, which means to begin to live a healthier lifestyle so that your physical condition improves.  Regular exercise and a healthy eating plan should help you GET BACK INTO SHAPE.

With Christmas and New Year’s done and gone, it’s time to put my New Year’s resolution to GET BACK INTO SHAPE into practice.  Now I’m off to the gym.

Katy:   You look amazing!  It sure didn’t take you long to GET BACK INTO SHAPE after having your baby.

Yuri:   Thank you, but I still need to lose two kilograms.

It took months for Henry to GET BACK INTO tip-top SHAPE after he broke his leg.   


12.                FEEL FIT

After a few weeks of regular exercise and healthy eating habits, perhaps you will begin to FEEL FIT, which means to feel physically healthy.

Thanks to my yoga instructor and nutritionist, I’m really beginning to FEEL healthy and FIT. 

FEELING FIT is just as important to your emotional well being as it is to your physical health.

Paul asked Mandy if she would like to join us for a bike ride along the canal, but she said she isn’t FEELING FIT enough to cycle that distance.  



13.                FILL A PRESCRIPTION

A visit to the doctor indicates that you have the flu.  Your doctor will probably write you a PRESCRIPTION for a medication, which you will have to FILL.  To FILL A PRESCRIPTION means to go to a pharmacist (or chemist) to receive the medicine your doctor has prescribed for you.

Where can I FILL A PRESCRIPTION at this time of night?  Is there an open pharmacy nearby?

“I’m just going to make a quick stop at the chemist after work,” Junko said.  “I need to FILL A PRESCRIPTION for my mom.”

FYI:  People often confuse PRESCRIPTION with SUBSCRIPTION. (I’ve heard this mistake made dozens of times.)   A PRESCRIPTION is for medicine as prescribed by your doctor.  A SUBSCRIPTION is an amount of money you pay, either annually or monthly, to have regular copies of a newspaper or magazine delivered to your house, or to have access to an online service such as Netflix or Amazon Prime.  Look at the following examples for clarification.

Go through your medicine cabinet every six months and throw away any PRESCRIPTION medicines that are out of date.

For his birthday, I got my dad a one-year SUBSCRIPTION for the New Yorker magazine.

£54 for a one-year SUBSCRIPTION to Amazon Prime may seem exorbitant, but trust me, free deliveries and unlimited movie streaming makes it worth every pound. 

PRESCRIPTION, by the way, is used in another way.  It means a sure way to do or accomplish something.

Knowing your target customers’ shopping habits, product preferences, and personal interests is a sure-fire PRESCRIPTION for online sales success.

If you ask me, the new student public ranking system is a PRESCRIPTION for disaster.


 14.                NURSE SOMEONE BACK TO HEALTH

If you are sick or are suffering from the flu or cold, you might need to have someone NURSE you BACK TO HEALTH, which means to have someone care for you until you are well again.

Tanya stayed home from work and spent all of last week NURSING her sick children BACK TO HEALTH.

After all that she had done for me, the least I could do was NURSE my grandmother BACK TO HEALTH when she fell ill. 

Consider yourself lucky, Jim.  You’ve got a wife who’ll look after you, while I’ve got no one to NURSE me BACK TO HEALTH when I get sick.   



15.                GET OVER something 

To GET OVER something means to begin to feel happy, healthy, or well after an illness or something bad that has happened to you.

Kelly was only just GETTING OVER the flu when she was hit with a stomach virus.

It took Shelia ages to GET OVER that nasty cold she picked up from her kindergarten pupils.  She was coughing and blowing her nose for months.

No one expects you to GET OVER the death of a loved one so soon, Mari.  It’s okay to grieve.  In fact, it’s good for you.

To help her GET OVER the shock and sadness of being betrayed by her best friend, Quinn decided to take her mind off it by taking up squash and getting back into shape.

Everyone fails, Gary.  GET OVER IT and move on.



16.                ON THE MEND

If you are ON THE MEND, you are beginning to feel better after an illness or after sustaining an injury.

I’ve learned the hard way that an inner ear infection is a serious matter.   Luckily, I’m ON THE MEND now and feeling loads better.

Zoe:                Where’s Denise?  I haven’t seen her in class all week.

Adam:            She’s had the flu, but when I spoke to her yesterday, she told me she is ON THE MEND and will be back to school on Monday. 

F-1 racer Michael Schumacher was involved in a skiing accident that nearly killed him.  But the French doctor who is treating him reported that Michael is ON THE MEND and may fully recover within three years. 



17.                UP AND ABOUT

If someone is UP AND ABOUT after an illness or injury, he or she is out of bed and able to walk around again.

It’s nice to see your 98-year-old dad UP AND ABOUT and still enjoying life, Myly.  He’s really fit for his age, isn’t he?

It’s just a sprain, Josh.  You’ll be UP AND ABOUT in no time.

Lindsay’s been UP AND ABOUT for a few days now since having her appendix removed, but she won’t be able to drive until the stitches are out.  



18.                BACK ON ONE’S FEET

When someone is BACK ON his or her FEET after an illness, he or she is healthy and well again and is able to move around freely.

“You’ll be BACK ON your FEET playing football again in no time,” the nurse said cheerfully. 

Phil:    How long until I’m BACK ON my FEET, doc? When can I start jogging again?

Doc:    You’ve had a minor heart attack, Phil.  Give it time.

More figuratively, BACK ON ONE’S FEET means to be independent and self-sufficient after experiencing some financial problems or difficulties.

Our daughter Kim’s had to move back home for a while after being made redundant from her job.  We’re just helping her out until she is BACK ON her FEET.

Nellie:              If you need a place to stay, Ellie, you can sleep here.

Ellie:               Could I? I’ll start looking for a new apartment just as soon as I’m BACK ON my FEET.



19.                GO UNDER THE KNIFE

A more serious illness or injury may require surgery.  To GO UNDER THE KNIFE means to have a medical operation under the care of a surgeon, who will cut into you with a “knife” or scalpel.

Have you seen an acupuncturist or a shiatsu therapist for your bum knee, Dad?  GOING UNDER THE KNIFE should be a last resort.

The last thing I wanted to do was to GO UNDER THE KNIFE, but my doctor said that if I don’t, the pinched nerve in my back will only worsen over time.


20.                OUT COLD

Before you go “under the knife,” chances are you will be given anesthetics to make sure you are OUT COLD during your operation.  OUT COLD can also be used more figuratively to mean to be unconscious, either through some kind of assistance (such as medication) or naturally (extreme tiredness or head injury).   Even more casually, it means to be sleeping like a log.

I hope my dentist knocks me OUT COLD for the root canal I’m scheduled for.   I’m not good at pain, and the smell and noise of the drill really gets to me.

“I’ve given Jackie a mild sedative injection,” Dr. Bessner said.  “She should be OUT COLD in a few moments.”

I forgot to put the rubber padding in my football helmet, and when I got hit in the head, I was knocked OUT COLD.

My six-year-old daughter Tilly was OUT COLD as soon as she crawled into bed.  The trip to London and the Victoria and Albert Museum really tired her out.



21.                PULL THROUGH

To PULL THROUGH means to recover or survive after a serious illness, surgery, or injury.

If it hadn’t been for the medics arriving just moments after the accident, Renee may have not PULLED THROUGH. 

Mrs. Evans:  How’s my husband, doctor?  Did the surgery go well?

Doctor:          He’s PULLED THROUGH, and should make a full recovery.  You can see him in Recovery in an hour or so.


22.                PASS AWAY

Unfortunately, we mortals cannot live forever.   To PASS AWAY is a euphemism—a nicer and softer, perhaps less painful, way to say that someone has died.

Our neighbor Evelyn PASSED AWAY peacefully in her sleep last night at the age of eighty-nine.

My grandfather PASSED AWAY when I was only six-years-old, but I still remember him very fondly.

We were all very sad to hear that one of the entertainment world’s legendary comedians and actors had PASSED AWAY at his home on Friday. 




Now that you have a good understanding of all the key phrases we have examined today, you can go back and check out your score on the “pre-test” exercise.  How did you do?

KA WORDCAST Idioms and Phrasal Verbs Lesson 30 PRETEST

KA WORDCAST Idioms and Phrasal Verbs Lesson 30 PRETEST ANSWERS