Speak English Around Town » LESSON 24 - Down on One's Luck

Down on One's Luck

Steve runs into his old friend Carl and asks how hes doing. Carl tells him that hes lost his job and hes got no money. Steve offers him a short-term job at his company.

Steve: Hi, Carl. Long time no see. How've you been?

Carl: Down on my luck! I got laid off six months ago, and now I'm flat broke.

Steve: Sorry to hear that. Is your wife still working?

Carl: Yes, but she's only making minimum wage.

Steve: It's hard to get by on that!

Carl: Tell me about it! We're so cash-strapped, we're going to need to sell our house.

Steve: What type of job are you looking for?

Carl: I'm exploring all avenues. Marketing, sales ...

Steve: I wish you'd told me earlier. We just hired a new marketing manager!

Carl: I wish I'd known about that job.

Steve: We still need some help in our sales department. It would only be short term, but it would help you get back on your feet.

Carl: I'm definitely interested.

Steve: The job does involve a lot of grunt work.

Carl: That's fine. Beggars can't be choosers.

  • beggars can't be choosers
    you can't always get exactly what you want; when you need something badly, you're willing to take whatever you can get
    Example: I know you don't like Al's Pizza, but it's the only place that's still open this late. Beggars can't be choosers.
  • cash-strapped
    having very little money; not having enough money
    Example: Joel has agreed to lend his cash-strapped son $5,000 to cover his rent for the next few months.
  • (to be) down on one's luck
    in a period of bad luck (especially regarding finances)
    Example: After being down on his luck for months, Ken finally got a new job and has started dating a lovely woman.
  • (to) explore all avenues
    to consider many possibilities
    Example: Kyle just graduated from college and is now exploring all avenues, including jobs at banks and with the government.
  • flat broke
    without any money; poor
    Example: Dan would like to move out of his parent's house, but he can't afford to. He's flat broke.
  • (to) get back on one's feet
    to recover; to have sufficient money
    Example: You lost your job and are having trouble paying your rent? I hope you get back on your feet soon!
  • (to) get by
    to survive; to live from
    Example: Jay's wife Susan lost her job, but the family is able to get by on just his salary.
  • (to) get laid off
    to lose one's job; to get fired or let go from work
    Example: After Scott got laid off from Ford, it took him six months to find a new job.
  • grunt work
    work requiring little skill; menial work
    Example: "Did Angela enjoy her summer internship at the bank?" - "No, she was stuck doing grunt work like making copies and getting coffee for the managers."
  • long time no see
    we haven't seen each other in a long time
    Example: Hi, Tracy. Long time no see. What have you been up to for the past couple of years?
  • minimum wage
    the minimum amount an employer can pay an employee, according to U.S. law
    Example: Right now Emily is making minimum wage at the fast food restaurant, but she's hoping to get a raise soon.
  • short term
    not permanent; for a certain period of time only
    Example: Ryan's company offered him a short-term assignment in Beijing. He'll be there for six months.
  • Tell me about it!
    I agree
    Example: "The professor's lecture sure was boring." - ''Tell me about it! I fell asleep after 10 minutes."
Practice the Expressions

Fill in the blank with the missing word:

  1. Ashley isn't sure what she wants to do when she graduates from college. She plans to explore all _____ .
    • a) avenues
    • b) streets
    • c) lanes
  2. During his internship at the magazine, Justin got stuck doing lots of _____ work like making copies and buying supplies.
    • a) slave
    • b) groan
    • c) grunt
  3. Tim lost his job a few months ago at the auto plant, and now he's _____ broke.
    • a) plain
    • b) flat
    • c) cash
  4. After Hurricane Katrina, many families had trouble getting back on their _____.
    • a) legs
    • b) toes
    • c) feet
  5. During the marathon, somebody handed Jack a cup of warm water. He would've preferred cold water, but _____ can't be choosers.
    • a) runners
    • b) beggars
    • c) vagrants
  6. "This food is too spicy!" - "_____ me about it. My mouth is on fire!"
    • a) Say
    • b) Tell
    • c) Talk to
  7. When Emily told her father she was _____-strapped, he offered to lend her some money.
    • a) dollar
    • b) financial
    • c) cash
  8. It's hard to live in San Francisco and get _____ on a teacher's salary.
    • a) around
    • b) through
    • c) by
  9. Greg got laid _____ , and he's now looking for a new job.
    • a) off
    • b) on
    • c) through
  10. Angela is only working as a waitress short _____ . Next month, she's starting a new job in sales.
    • a) time
    • b) term
    • c) period
Answer Key
Practice The Expressions
  1. a
  2. c
  3. b
  4. c
  5. b
  6. b
  7. c
  8. c
  9. a
  10. b
Answer Key
Language Lens: Wish statements

Use "wish" to say that you want a situation to be different than it is. You can use "wish" for situations in the present and in the past.

=> Present: To talk about the present, use: wish + verb in the past tense

I wish I had a summer house (I don't have one).
I wish I spoke Chinese (I don't speak Chinese).
I wish I were* rich (I'm not rich).
I wish you were* a lawyer (You're not a lawyer).

* After "wish" use "were" instead of "was". This is the form of the verb "to be" that's used when situations are imagined or unreal. It's called the subjunctive.

To say that you are not happy with the current situation and that you want somebody else to do something about it, use: wish + would (or the contraction 'd) + base form of the verb

I wish you would lose a few pounds.
I wish that guy I met at the bar would call me!
I wish they'd stop talking during the movie.
I wish it would stop snowing.*

*In this case, you need Mother Nature to help you change the situation!

=> Past: To talk about situations in the past that you regret or are not happy about, use: wish + had (or 'd) I hadn't + verb in the past tense

I wish I hadn't agreed to this.
I wish I'd followed your directions.
I wish I hadn't eaten that sushi.
She wishes she'd gotten into the University of Pennsylvania.

Quick Quiz

Fill in the blank with the missing word or words:

  1. I can't sleep. I wish I _____ that scary movie before going to bed.
    • a) hadn't watched
    • b) couldn't watch
    • c) don't watch
  2. Greg is flat broke. I wish I _____ some money to lend him.
    • a) have
    • b) had
    • c) am having
  3. I love to swim. I wish I _____ a fish.
    • a) would be
    • b) will be
    • c) were
  4. I wish I _____ more than minimum wage.
    • a) earn
    • b) earned
    • c) am earning
  5. Jim wishes he _____ a date for the school dance.
    • a) has
    • b) had
    • c) would have
  6. I wish you _____ your friends not to call so late.
    • a) told
    • b) tell
    • c) would tell
  7. Your hair looks messy. I wish you _____ a haircut.
    • a) would get
    • b) got
    • c) get
  8. Spanish is so useful. I wish I _____ Spanish!
    • a) speak
    • b) spoke
    • c) would speak
  9. I wish my husband _____ riding a motorcycle. It's so dangerous!
    • a) stopped
    • b) would stop
    • c) had stopped
  10. Rick is not doing well in school. I wish he _____ more.
    • a) would study
    • b) studies
    • c) will study
Answer Key
  1. a
  2. b
  3. c
  4. b
  5. b
  6. c
  7. a
  8. b
  9. b
  10. a
Answer Key
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