Custom Search

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

ESL Phrase Lesson #2: "On The Back Burner"

The phrase, "on the back burner" is used when the speaker is trying to indicate the priority or importance of the subject in relation to another.

Background: The object "burner" is talking about a stove top where there are 4 burners used for cooking food. There are 2 front burners and 2 rear (back) burners, usually the person cooking will have the back burners on low heat to be used for keeping the food warm.

The front burner(s) are used to cook the food that requires a higher temperature.

Usage: When someone is talking and use the phrase, "I'll put it on the back burner" what they're saying is, they will assign the object to a lesser priority, consider the conversation below:

Bill: Say Tom, I was giving some thought to the unusual weather patterns that we've been having lately. You know, when I was growing up, summer was summer and winter was winter. You knew what to expect concerning the weather. But now, the seasons are really weird!

Tom: I know what you mean Bill, I don't know the answer to all of this, but I do know that when some companies pollute the environment, it doesn't help. Furthermore, when they put their proper environmental responsibilities"on the back burner" for the sake of profits, it's enough to make you sick!

Bill: Hopefully, someone in upper management in those type of companies will see the light and put their environmental responsibilities on the front burner, where they belong!

As can be seen from the conversation Tom was telling Bill that some companies assign their environmental responsibilities a lower priority than their profits, since it would cost them more money to properly dispose of their hazardous waste.

This phrase would be used informally in everyday American English . I hope this will help some ESL (English as a Second Language) students.

No comments: