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Idiom: 'I've got a lot on my plate'

Updated: Feb 24, 2021

Having plenty of food on your plate might sound like a good thing. What if you aren't hungry? Then it might seem terrible! Actually having too much food on your plate would make you look a glutton. This is a common food-related idiom that people use when they feel overwhelmed with too much work to do. Have you ever had too many exams to study for at one time? Sometimes, when we are busiest with our work or studies, people invite us to do something fun and exciting, yet we must decline because of our workload. That is precisely the time when you should use this idiom! Idiomatically, it means that one has too much to deal with, much like it would be if they actually had too much food on their plate that they were expected to actually eat (for example, by their grandmother or a dinner party host). Of course, some of the words in this idiom can be interchanged with other words from the same category. For instance, the pronouns can vary. Also, the qualifier 'a lot' can be 'too much' or 'not much.' See how this works from the examples below, then try to make your own scenarios.

Example scenarios:

Student complaining:

Oh, I've got so much on my plate today. I don't see how I'm going to get any studying done for my CELPIP test! Arrrrggggh!

Friends talking: "Oh, I'm so sorry I didn't call you back last night. I've just had so much on my plate these days, and I just kept forgetting. The next thing I knew, it was past midnight! So, how was your night? Was it a fun date?"

Neighbours talking:

Sure, Mrs. Clancey, I'll ask Jimmy how busy he is. If he doesn't have much on his plate today, he may be able to help you. If he's got time, I'll send him over to fix the hinge on your gate later this afternoon.

Company owner to employee: "I know you've got a lot on your plate these days, so I'll ask Bart to make the delivery to the client in Redwater this time. It's about two hours each way, so it would be much better for you to just stay here and focus on filling orders around here. You can go next time when you aren't so busy. Plus, it will give Bart a chance to learn your role and get to know the client. Plus, there may well be a manager position opening for you next month and I need you to really learn the ropes around here!"


Definition of idiom:

An idiom is a phrase or expression that typically presents a figurative, non-literal meaning attached to the phrase. An idiom's figurative meaning is different from the literal meaning of the component words. Idioms are considered formulaic language with figurative meaning. __________________________

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