Careful looking outward – How to use expressions with ‘Watch’ (watch out, watch it, & more)

Looking at a kangaroo juggle fire can be interesting. But watching a kangaroo juggle fire is a lot better. The difference between “look” and “watch” is often a struggle for English learners to understand, but consider this; “watching” is like “looking” more attentively.

Look = just using your eyes to observe something.

Watch = looking at something and paying attention to / processing what is happening.

Watch

That’s part of the idea behind some informal meanings of “watch.” In some situations, people may use watch as a way to tell someone to be careful. This relates to someone paying attention, usually because they’re being a little careless.

  • Watch your step. The sidewalk is very uneven here.

Watch it

This is similar to the term watch it which has the same meaning, telling someone to be careful. When said in a disciplinary tone, it can be used to warn someone about their (bad) behavior too.

  • Watch it. The drivers at this intersection don’t check for pedestrians.
  • You better watch it! I told you to stop being rude.

Watch yourself / your back / your mouth + more

Oftentimes, “watch it” can be short for expressions like watch your mouth or watch yourself. All of these have the same general meaning of being careful with what you say. We usually say this to people who are acting wildly, saying offensive things or simply behaving badly. You may also hear people use several variations of this, like “watch what you say,” “watch your words,” “watch your tone,” “watch your back,” and so on. That last one, by the way, is more of a threat than the others.

  • Nina from third period called you ugly? I hope you told her to watch her mouth.
  • Excuse me, Sir! You are being extremely rude. You need to watch yourself.
  • You better watch your back when you come around here next time.

Watch out!

Another precautionary expression that is pretty popular is watch out. Telling someone to “watch out” is the same as saying be careful. This is usually because something is putting them in danger, although the danger could be physical or otherwise. When telling someone to be careful about something specific, we would tell them to “watch out for” that thing.

  • Whenever they tell George of the Jungle to “watch out for that tree,” he always ends up hitting it anyway.

Those are some of the key points you’ll want to know about the expressions using “watch.” How would you use these in a sentence? Have you heard these expressions before? Let us hear your thoughts!

Below is a short story, part of the Adventures of Charles series where we explore the above terms in their everyday usage. If you like stories and want to get some reading practice in, I encourage you to read along!


Careful looking outward – Short Story

Nothing could be heard but the rush of the wind blowing into the open windows. The sight, on the other hand, was much more beautiful. There was a mountain on one side covered in emerald grass and a few heads of cactus; the dark gray asphalt extended and curved out ahead of them, lined down the middle with yellow stripes the whole way; the crashing waves of the ocean burst onto the rocky shores. The most scenic part of it all that Charles could place his eyes on was Sheila, who was sitting next to him in the driver’s seat.

–All right! You ready to drive? she asked him.

–Who, me? Oh, I don’t know. I haven’t driven since I came to this country. I don’t really feel safe.

–Come on, it’s like riding a bike! Sheila insisted.

The two hopped out of the blue BMW M and traded seats. Charles suddenly noticed how new and, especially, how fast the car looked.

–You’ll do fine. Just don’t crash us into the ocean.

Sheila said this as a joke, but it didn’t make him feel any better. Charles started the car, shifted gear, and drove off. For a minute he felt pretty comfortable. Hey, I could get the hang of this. He was so relaxed that he started looking off at the waves, the green hillside, and got stuck on Sheila’s charming face. From the cheeks to the eyes, down to the nose, and then the chin …

–Make sure you watch the road, yeah?

Charles suddenly jerked the steering wheel, making the whole car jump until he could settle it. At that moment, a big rig truck started coming at them from the other direction.

Watch it

When he saw the truck hurling his way, Charles panicked and turned sharply onto a narrow stony road. He kept going from there.

–I’ll hand it to you. I never have come down this road, Sheila said in a sarcastic tone.

–Where did I take us? Oh, son of a–

–Hey! Watch your mouth. There’s a lady present.

Sheila snickered at her own comment. Charles pulled the car over to contemplate. After about a minute, they noticed a rumbling coming over the countryside. They both looked at each other, like, What is that? A few dark spots peeked over the green pastures until the hills were suddenly covered with them. One of the creatures ran towards the BMW, apparently interested in the vibrant paint job.

–What are those things? asked Charles.

–You’ve never seen these? They’re called bison, I think.

And bison, they were. A curious cow nearest them was licking Sheila’s rearview mirror, comically trying to check her teeth. She gave a hard sneeze and fogged the mirror, then she ran away to graze on some grass.

Sheila then said, –Hey, I’ve got an idea. Put the car into reverse, and try to make it back to the highway.

–Why reverse? Charles replied. –Can’t I just go straight?

–There’s a lot more bison ahead of us, and if you scare them they might stampede. You just have to steer, you’ll be fine.

–That’s what you said the last time.

Sucking up all the confidence he could find, he put the car into reverse and started backing up. The bison initially weren’t interested in the two of them at all. That was until Charles accidentally revved up the motor really loud, and all the bison started to scatter.

–Go faster, faster! We have to get out of here!

Charles steered one way and Sheila grabbed the wheel trying to steer another. The bumps and stones on the ground made the car jump and shake uncontrollably. They crisscrossed through bison, being extra careful (or extra lucky) not to hit any of them. After being nearly frightened to death, somehow Charles was able to get them past the maze of bison and onto the highway again. To Sheila’s surprise though, one stray bison had made its way onto the pavement, and a car was coming right at it.

Watch out, little bison! she yelled.

The sound of screeches and the smell of hot rubber filled the air around them. Charles and Sheila shut their eyes in horror. When they opened them again, they were surprised to see the other car stopped to a complete halt. The bison, probably the same cow that had come to Sheila’s car, was at the other car now, licking the rearview mirror as before.

–Oh, thank God, Sheila sighed. –That was too close.

Charles looked at her now, smiling.

–So, how did I do? Ready to drive back?

Sheila was quick to respond, “Ohh, that is okay. I’d better take over on this one.”

Everyday Expressions about Cars and Driving (part 2) – English List

dark Porsche car driving at sunset, related to the topic of words about cars and driving
Peter Miranda

Welcome to this version of English List. Cars have had such a huge impact on that language–the English one–and we’re here to prove it! This is part 2 of Everyday Expressions about Cars and Driving, including some terms that can be used for both vehicles and other life situations.

For English students, these can be a cool way for you to liven up your word choice and vocabulary. Otherwise, you may just like driving cars or be an awesome English-speaking person that loves to learn. Whatever it is, I hope you enjoy the article. Feel free to give your own examples, ask questions, give feedback, do whatever!

Alrighty, let’s get rolling.

Read Part 1: Some Everyday Expressions about Cars & Driving

Full Tank

Powered up

It’s easy to imagine the benefits of a full tank of gas. Similarly, when talking about people, we can say that person has a full tank. This is like saying that they are full of energy, ready to go, and pumped full of enthusiasm. There’s also the expression “on full,” which is the opposite of “on E” (on empty). Careful, though! “On F” isn’t quite a popular expression (yet).

No stopping … no stopping

  • Let’s make sure the truck’s got a full tank so we don’t have to stop the whole trip.
  • He has been running for hours and is still on a full tank! Can you believe it?

Roll up (the window)

Windows shut

This one may sound obvious, but it might not be so for English learners. When talking about making the window go up in a car, we can say roll the window up or roll up the window (it works the same for “down” too). Roll up by itself also has a multitude of meanings. It can be as simple as “to roll something” or to “arrive or go somewhere.”

Read also: Roll out, rolling, & other expressions

Getting there

  • Can you please roll the window up? It’s freezing in here!
  • I have to roll up my clothes so that they can fit in my suitcase.
  • Do you feel like rolling up to my cousin’s house? You know, she’s the one with the big TV.

Junk in the trunk

Big things in the back

This phrase is near and dear to many English speakers. Literally, it refers to having too much “junk”, or lots of random and useless objects, in the trunk of one’s car. Junk in the trunk can also be used to talk about people, especially women, saying that they have a big behind. This is actually the first thing that will come to mind to most English speakers when this silly phrase is said.

It is a very playful expression, used mostly with people we are really comfortable with, and it can be a really funny thing to say.

A beautiful mess

  • Do you know if Tyler has any jumper cables? There’s so much junk in his trunk, I can’t find it.
  • Mark told me I had a lot of junk in my trunk. Uh, I think he likes me.

Backseat driver

No driving from the back

Just picture it: you are riding along happily in your car, not a care in the world. Suddenly, you hear a voice from the back seat telling you to turn your blinkers on before you switch lanes. That’s decent advice, but still, nobody likes a backseat driver.

This expression is used to refer to someone who is giving instructions or directions but is “out of line” to. Maybe they are unqualified, or maybe they just weren’t a part of the conversation, to begin with.

Input from the sidelines

  • I thought to tell you to slow down, but I didn’t want to be a backseat driver.
  • The parents on the other team are such backseat drivers. They should just let the coaches do their jobs, right?

Down the road

What is to come

Driving is a lot more comfortable when you can see far down the road. This expression refers to what is ahead of you, further down the street. In a figurative sense, it means what is ahead in life, as opposed to the actual street or highway. Still, it’s a very useful idiom to know.

Looking forward

  • There’s a new Chipotle that opened up down the road. Want to try it?
  • You should always be prepared because you never know what might happen down the road.

U-turn

Turn it around

When driving, some people get the sudden urge to want to completely change directions on the road. That round 180-degree change is called making a U-turn. Likewise, people can make a “U-turn” in life as they completely change directions or go back to old habits.

Another very informal way of saying this is making a U-ey. (Some also say “pulling” a U-ey, “busting” a U-ey, “flipping” a U-ey, it’s all the same)

Bring it back

  • Sheryl was so happy in retirement. Now, all of a sudden, she did a big U-turn and went back to teaching again.
  • Do you think we can make a U-ey on this road? I think we can.

Run out of steam

Steam-less

No one wants this. When you’re driving and the car suddenly stops working. Apparently it’s got no more gas, no power, and everything says that is has run out of steam. The same idea can go for people when they don’t have the smallest bit of energy left in them.

Run until the running’s done

  • Boy, I sure hope this old truck doesn’t run out of steam before we make it home.
  • Alex started the day off full of energy, but now she looks like she ran out of steam.

Driving (me) nuts!

Nuts and (crazy) berries

Many people like to drive, while others get enraged by it. Driving someone nuts is the same as making them feel crazy. Other ways to say this are driving someone “mad,” driving someone “crazy”, driving someone “bananas,” and driving someone “coocoo”, among others.

This “driving” is usually used with negative emotions, so you would not say “driving me happy,” for example.

Ja-Making me crazy!

  • Is this Camila Cabello? Oh no, her music drives my brother insane.
  • I can’t handle being around kids while they’re crying. They drive me nuts!

Read more expressions about cars and driving: Hubpages


**Thank you for reading! Do you know any other car-related expressions or phrases? Can you use them in a sentence? Feel welcome, this is your place!

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Peace & love, y’all!