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until hell freezes over


Click below to listen to the phrase.

Choose the correct definition a, b or c.

a) for a short while

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b) immediately

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c) forever

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If someone waits until hell freezes over, it means they will be waiting forever. Also, if you say that something will happen when hell freezes over, you mean that it will never happen.

French translation

improbable, qui ne risque pas d’arriver

How NOT to translate : *jusqu’à ce que la glace recouvre l’enfer

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Examples in context

‘In the Chevron court case, ordinary Ecuadorians’ voices don’t seem to count Chevron is reluctant to give ground to the people affected by the dumping of toxic waste. But they’re not going to stop fighting for compensation

"Their lives smell of oil." These are the words that Ecuadorian lawyer Juan Pablo Saenz used to describe the living conditions of his clients : 30,000 residents of the Oriente in the Ecuadorian Amazon who say that oil giant Texaco – since bought out by Chevron – dumped 18bn gallons of toxic waste in their region.

New Yorker magazine last year noted Chevron’s initial response to the lawsuit : "We will fight until hell freezes over, and then fight it out on the ice."’

The Guardian, 18 March 2014

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(Apart from the American Town of Hell, Michigan !)

’There’s a cold wind blowing from the US Midwest.

In the town of Hell, Michigan (population 266, according to Wikipedia) temperatures plunged to -13C, or -37C if you take wind chill into account. For the Sun, it’s a no-brainer that this is worthy of a front-page splash. "HELL FREEZES OVER," declares the headline on the front page. In the print edition, the story by US editor Pete Samson, begins with the unimprovable : "They said it could never happen..." The Daily Telegraph has its own despatch from the town of Embarrass, Minnesota, where the thermometer plunged to -35C.’

BBC News, 8 Jan. 2014

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Everyday usage

You can keep talking until hell freezes over. However you won’t change my mind.

England will win the Eurovision Song Contest when hell freezes over (meaning they will never !).


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