Episode 4: Idiom - Breaking the Ice

Transcript of the Episode: 


Main Intro: Welcome to the English for Everyone ESL Podcast! I’m your host, Caren Hayden, and I’m here to help you improve your English.




Ep intro: Hi everyone! In this week’s episode, I am going to talk about the idiom “breaking the ice.” What does it mean? Why, when, and how do we use it in English in the U.S.? Stay tuned to find out!




Breaking the ice is a common idiom. An idiom is an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words, but rather it has a special meaning of its own. It is usually a figurative meaning or a metaphor. It’s important for English language learners to understand and use idioms because they make language more colorful and conversation more interesting.


To break the ice means to do or say something that makes people feel more comfortable. We usually break the ice at the beginning of a conversation, meeting, date, or presentation. When you break the ice, you are easing the tension of a situation – the nervousness of a first date, the anxiety of giving a presentation, or the pressure of a business meeting.


To use it in the present tense, you would say: I am breaking the ice. OR He usually breaks the ice.


To use it in the past tense, you would say: She broke the ice.


Here’s a sentence using this idiom in context: That joke really broke the ice at the conference; we all relaxed afterward.


This idiom comes from the practice of special boats called “ice-breakers” that break the frozen surface of the water in order to make a passage for ships. The figurative use of this phrase, “to break the ice” in a social situation was first used in the 17th century and has continued to be a popular idiom in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries ever since.


Some common ice-breakers you can use in different situations are:

  • jokes

    • For example: Everyone is gifted, but some people never open their package.

  • Another ice-breaker is small talk

    • For example: I can’t believe how hot it is today.

    • You can find out more information about small talk by listening to last week’s episode, #3, titled Small Talk.

  • A question is another way you can break the ice.

    • For example: Is there a good restaurant in this area?

  • Or, you could give a compliment

    • For example: I really love your shirt! Where’d you get it?

Other ice-breakers include

  • short personal anecdotes (or stories)

  • a statistic

  • a fact that many people may not know or may find surprising

  • or a famous quote


Personally, I tend to break the ice in casual conversations with humor, or a question about something we have in common, or a compliment. If, on the other hand, I’m giving a formal presentation for my peers, I might break the ice by sharing an amazing fact, or a funny cartoon, or an open-ended question. It really all depends on the audience, but be sure that successfully breaking the ice is a true art.


Have you had to break the ice recently? Were you successful? Let me know! I’d love to hear your successful and not-so-successful ice-breaking stories!


Main Outro: Well, that’s it for today everyone. Thank you for listening to the English for Everyone ESL Podcast! Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. You can find the transcript for today’s show and more information about today’s episode on the show website: www.englishforeveryonepod.com. [Stay tuned for the slower version of today’s podcast.]


(same script)

Bye Bye!


Music is Where’s My Jetpack by Computer Music All-Stars found on www.freemusicarchive.org