Extracts from the book by Thomas W. Adams and Susan R.Kuder

Two men in a canoe rowing against each other.




  1. If Mary joins forces with Paul, it means she works with him so that they both achieve what they want.
  2. If Dick is a loner, it means that he avoids company of others and prefers to work by himself.
  3. If Jan brainstorms with Al, it means she confers with him to solve a problem.
  4. If Randy wants to go it alone, it means he wants to do something by himself.
  5. If Dave lends Tom a hand, it means he helps him.
  6. If Karen pools her resources with others, it means she combines her strengths with them.
  7. If Kathy pitches in, it means she helps someone with something.
  8. If Ken and Gene put their heads together, it means they work as a team to solve a problem.
  9. If Larry strikes off on his own, it means he leaves others in order to do something by himself.
  10. If Barb works with Jean because two heads are better than one, it means that by working together they can achieve more than if they work separately.

Exercises for ESL teaching :

Using lists A and B, write appropriate endings of the following sentences:

  1. Is a loner/ lent a hand/ two heads are better than one /put their heads together/ to go it alone
  2. Sandy and Alice decided to study together because…………………………………….
  3. Sue saw that Ann was having trouble carrying her heavy suitcase, so she…………………..
  4. Mark does not have any friends and he spends most of his time by himself because he ………
  5. Joe often works with others, but this time he decided ……………………………………………..
  6. Neither Bob nor John could do their algebra homework alone, but they had better luck when they ………………………………………….
  7. Pitched in/ pooled their resources/ strike off on her own/ joins forces with someone/ brainstorm with each other
  8. Sally sometimes would work by herself, so no one was surprised when she said she wanted to…
  9. Ken has been working for an hour on a physics problem and he does not think he will ever find the answer unless he…………………..
  10. Steve has the money and Mary has the business experience. Together they could open a restaurant if they ……………………………
  11. Karen figured it would take three hours for her to clean up the house, but it would take only thirty minutes if her roommates…………………………
  12. Ben and Phil are sure they will have a better chance of passing the exam if they…………………..


  1. In addition to meaning “help someone,” pitch in also means “throw in.” On many trash cans across the United States, PITCH IN is written. Explain why both definitions are appropriate.
  2. United we stand; divided we fall” was said by Americans fighting for their independence from England. The Americans knew that if they didn’t cooperate with each other, they would not win the war. The expression has survived to the present day and is used in many contexts. Give your example of when this expression could be used.
  3. Are there times when you like to GO IT ALONE, that is, to do something by yourself? When are they?





be a long shot = be a risk that has little chance of success

be like looking for a needle in a haystack = be like looking for something that will be very difficult to find

be out of one’s hands = not be under one’s control

beat the odds = win although one is at a disadvantage

cannot change a leopard’s spots = recognize that a person will not or cannot change

cards stacked against one = an unfair disadvantage

hand is dealt = out of one’s control or responsibility

have a snowballs chance in hell =have no chance at all

see the writing on the wall = realize that something will happen

tie one’s hands = make someone unable to do something



  1. Sam has missed a lot of classes and he failed all of his exams. In other words, he has a snowball’s chance in hell of passing his course.
  2. Mark would like a promotion, but he knows his name is not on the list of people being considered. In other words, he sees the writing on the wall.
  3. Sue wanted to lend Mike some money, but she didn’t have any to give him. In other words, her hands were tied.
  4. Mr. O’Toole, 65, dies not want to retire, but the company he works for wants to replace him with a younger person. In other words, the situation is out of Mr. O’Toole’s hands.
  5. Lucy is going to ask her boss for a raise even though she knows that business hasn’t been good lately. In other words, she knows it is a long shot.
  6. Joan is running for president of the student council, but she is competing with two others who are better qualified for the position than she is. Joan has never been on the student council. In other words, the cards are stacked against her.
  7. Ted went to the racetrack and bet all his money on a horse  that has never won a race. Ted had a feeling that today the horse would come in first. In other words, he tried to beat the odds. 
  8. Gary made a serious mistake at work and his manager fired him. Gary did everything he could to get rehired, but his manager wouldn’t listen to him. In other words, the hand was dealt.
  9. Alice forgets everything. She promised her friend, Ann, that she would remember to bring the theatre tickets, but when they met to go to the play, Alice realized that she had forgotten them. In other words, you cannot change a leopard’s spots.
  10. Jenny was in her backyard raking leaves and had gathered a huge pile of them when she noticed she had lost an earring. She was sure the earring was in the pile of leaves, so she started looking for it. However, it was like looking for a needle in a haystack.


  1. Under what circumstances might someone say, “The hand is dealt?”
  2. Make several analogies that end with “…is like looking for a needle in the haystack.”
  3. The following is the beginning of a list of situations in which people try to beat the odds. Add to this list: 1) Poker, 2) Horse racing…
  4. Many countries have lotteries that help pay for programs that otherwise would not have any money. People buy lottery tickets because they hope to win a lot of money, even though the chance of winning is small. Does your country have a lottery? If so, what programs does it support? If your country does not have a lottery, would you like to have one? Why or why not?



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