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(escucha el audio más de una vez para familiarizarte con los términos que
se introducen y explican)
something at bay means being unable to move closer while attacking or
moving toward someone or something. If you keep something at bay, you
appear to be in control of the situation. English speakers say either "keep
at bay" or "hold at bay."
For example, when protecting their village, the villagers kept the armed
attackers at bay through the night. The villagers did not let them come
However, bad people can also hold something at bay. The armed robber
held police at bay for about 9 hours before they caught him. So, the
robber did not let police get anywhere near him. They didn't catch him
until 9 hours later.
In these examples, the things being kept at bay -- the attackers and the
police -- are real. You can physically touch them. But you can also use
this expression about more intangible things -- ones you can't see or
For example, if you move to a new city you can keep loneliness at bay by
joining a club, playing a group sport or taking a class. You can also
invite your old friends to come and explore your new city with you. All
these things will keep loneliness away from you, or at bay.
You can keep illness at bay by eating healthy food and getting enough
sleep and exercise. And I can hold my desire for chocolate at bay by not
buying it and keeping it in my house!
English learners and native speakers alike may think the term “at bay”
has to do with water, perhaps involving a ship unable to reach the shore.
After all, one of the many definitions of "bay" is a large area of water
that is partly surrounded by land.
But language experts will stop them right there. To find out the origin
of this expression, let's talk about another definition of "bay." It
also means to bark with long, drawn-out sounds, as when a dog cries out
at the moon.
Those hounds are baying.
In the 14th century, barking hounds were said to be "at bay." When dogs
are kept at bay, they are kept from attacking. The Phrase Finder website
says the first recorded usage of "at bay" is in an English story from
the year 1330.
Back to modern times, “at bay” is a common expression. You can use it
with friends and strangers.
Now, let's hear this expression used at work. Let's say you are the head
of a small company that makes toys. Part of your job is to keep open
lines of communication between the owner and company employees. Well,
when the owner suddenly makes changes to work rules, the employees get
angry. And you hear about it. The owner's solution is to throw a party
for the employees. You tell her that a party will not keep their anger
at bay. They only thing that will improve the situation is fair
Now, there are other ways to keep something from getting worse. You can
also ward off something or stave off something.
To ward off a danger or illness means to prevent it from affecting you
or harming you. We often use "ward off" when talking about mental health,
disease or, strangely enough, evil spirits.
For example, she knew that, for her, the best way to ward off a bad mood
was to see a happy movie. You eat chicken soup to ward off the common
cold. And some people say that you can use garlic to ward off vampires
and keep them from sucking your blood.
Staving off something sounds much more official. We use "stave off" in
fairly serious situations, such as ship-wrecked survivors who staved off
starvation by eating coconuts for eight months. Here's another example,
“The single mother staved off poverty by working three jobs.”
Now, what if you simply want to keep your distance from a person. You
don't want to be near them. In this case, you wouldn’t use “ward off” or
“stave off” or even “at bay.” What can you use? Well, we have a great
expression for keeping distance.
To keep someone at arm's length means you don’t want to be close to that
person. Imagine that you are holding your arm straight out in front of
you. A person can’t get close. And that’s the point.
Let's say, you meet someone. You don't know her very well, but she seems
nice -- seems is the important word here. Slowly over time, you learn
more about the woman. And you don't like what you see. She is strange
and not in a good way. You catch her in some lies. And she appears to be
a trouble-maker. So, you decide to keep her at arm's length. When you
don't answer her calls and ignore her emails, she will know you are
keeping her at arm’s length.
In this case, you could say you kept her friendship at bay. But you were
never friends in the first place. So it sounds more natural to say that
you kept her at arm's length.
intangible – adj. not made of physical
substance : not able to be touched : not tangible origin – n. the point or place where something begins or is
created : the source or cause of something boredom – n. the state of being bored mood – n. an emotional state of mind or feeling vampire – n. a dead person who leaves the grave at night to bite
and suck the blood of living people coconut – n. a large fruit that has a thick shell with white
flesh and liquid inside it and that grows on a palm tree
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