Nouns and Expressions about the Body- The Shoulder

Photo by Katerina Holmes on

There are two different meanings of shoulder that one sometimes doesn’t pay attention to. The first one is very obvious when looking at the picture above. The shoulder is part of the human body. In German, we would use the word Schulter. Little do people realize is that shoulder has a second meaning, which can be seen in the picture below:

Photo by Sebastian Palomino on

Imagine you are travelling down this road and you must pull off to the side because of car issues or you needed to make an emergency run. The shoulder here is a lane on the outer side of the road where you can park your car. And while that may be difficult to see in the picture above……

Photo by Josh Sorenson on

…’s more clearly seen in this picture, where the shoulder here is marked off by a straight line. Shoulder can be known as parking or stopping lane. The German meaning is Standstreifen.

Yet shoulder has over four dozen noun and idiomatic expressions in English, although a fracton of them are used on a regular basis. Which ones are those?



Exercise 1. Look at the six pictures below and choose the best answer for each one. The expressions below are to be used only once. The first picture in the slide show is considered picture one.

Shoulder to cry on

To rub one’s shoulders

To give someone the cold shoulder

Shoulder-length hair

To stand shoulder to shoulder

To have the world on one’s shoulders



Exercise 2: For each of the following expressions, choose the correct meaning


  1. To have a chip on your shoulder means…..

a. You are a rookie with little or no experience

b. You are a person who easily gets angry

c. You have a negative attitude in life

d. None of the statements



2. To be on one’s shoulder is the same as……

a. To keep an eye on the person

b. To monitor the person closely

c. To observe the person for actions and other behaviors

d. All of the statements fit.



3. To be a weight off one’s shoulders means the same as………

a. To be a burden to one’s problems

b. To complete a task that is highly problematic and time consuming

c. Talking about a serious problem with a friend

d. Both b & c



4. To have broad shoulders means you……

a. Can multi-task

b. Take on several tasks and responsibilities

c. To do the job of three people

d. To be a strong, tough man



5. A hard shoulder is the same as……….

a. A tough and really agressive person

b. A hard lesson that is painful

c. A side of the road made of concrete or pavement where a person can pull over

d. A decisive defeat in combat sports like wrestling or kickboxing



6. If you look over your shoulder, what must you do?

a. Look back in the past

b. Look at what others are doing because they may sabotage you

c. To watch the actions of others carefully because you don’t trust them.

d. Both b & c.



Exercise 3- Music Video

You will have an opportunity to watch a Music Video entitled “Over My Shoulder,” a song produced by the American music group, Mike and the Mechanics in 2002. To understand the meaning of the song, you should do the following in order:

  1. Silent-viewing: Watch the video without the sound and make notes of the scenes played out there.
  2. Blind viewing: Listen to the song without watching the video and make notes involving the lyrics sung by the group. Here you may have to listen to the song more than once.
  3. Watch the whole video with the sound. Compare the notes and find the main idea behind this song.
  4. Answer the question: Why the title “Over My Shoulder?”



You will find the answers to the first two exercises plus other expressions and a video per link by clicking here.