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Make Hay While the Sun's Shining & Bite Your Tongue

This lesson is a part of an audio course English Phrases and Idioms by Robert Davey

Hello and welcome to lesson 3 of the 'English Phrases and Idioms' course. In this lesson, we will be looking at the origin and meaning of 'Make Hay While the Sun's Shining & Bite Your Tongue.'

– The first phrase is, 'Make Hay While the Sun's Shining.' Hello Cami, have you heard this phrase before?

– Yes, I think that's quite a common phrase in England.

– That's right. It is an old phrase used in England since the Tudor times, and John Heywood used the phrase back in 1546. We can also see it being used as a 'cliché' by Richard Head in 1673. In those days, it was difficult for farmers to predict the weather for the next few weeks, so they would cut, dry, and gather their hay when the weather was favourable.

We still use this phrase in modern times, but it is now used to mean, make the most of an opportunity while you have the chance. For example, 'Jim works so much, but he is just making hay while the sun shines, he will slow down when he is older.' Or 'We have a few days off work, so let's make hay while the sun shines and do some decorating in the house.'

– So, when I am making the most of my time or opportunities, I can say I am making hay while the sun shines?

– Exactly.

The second phrase we have for today is 'Bite Your Tongue.'

– I hope this is not a literal phrase!

– Thankfully, not. This phrase actually comes from the great William Shakespeare; he used it back in 1593 in his play Henry VI. We use this phrase when we want someone to stop saying something; we think they will regret it, or when we make a desperate effort to avoid saying something.

So if a friend tells you to bite your tongue, they are trying to help you and stop you from saying something you shouldn't. Or I can say, 'I wanted to tell him exactly what I thought of him, but I had to bite my tongue.' And 'She wanted to tell him he looked ridiculous, but she decided to bite her tongue.'

So listener, let's try to remember to make hay while the sun shines, and can you think of any time when you needed to bite your tongue?

This is the end of lesson 3 of the 'English Phrases and Idioms' course.

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Robert Davey