English Idiom - "A slap on the wrist." (Latest Update Feb. 2018)

English idiom - A Slap on the Wrist




Please read this example sentence:

"In America people are concerned with gun violence. Many people feel the punishments for crimes using guns are not strong enough. They're only a slap on the wrist."



punishment - noun - a penalty for a crime or doing a bad thing.



Maybe you have heard the verb form of this word, punish

punish - verb - to make somebody suffer because they have broken the law or done something wrong

“My parents used to punish me by not letting me watch TV.”


Can you guess the meaning of a slap on the wrist? Is it a strong punishment?

The sentence from our example says only a slap on the wrist, so this gives us a clue to the meaning. When we use "only" to describe something the feeling is a little of something, or not much of something.



"I want to buy a new car, but I only have $200.00 in the bank." I don't have much money, it is not enough to buy a new car.


We can get the feeling that it is a small amount, or not enough.
If a child does a bad thing he/she might get a small slap as punishment on their wrist. This is very mild, not strong at all.



From our example sentence again we can see the meaning clearly now. The punishment is not strong enough.

a slap on the wrist = punishment that is weak, not strong enough



"My brother stole my parent's car when he was 16 but all he got was a slap on the wrist."



Here’s our example again, let's add more to the sentence and use some advanced vocabulary- 
"In America people are concerned with gun violence. Many people feel the punishments for crimes using guns are only a slap on the wrist. These weak punishments won’t deter criminals from using guns in the future."



Do you know the meaning of deter?
Deter is a verb that means - to make somebody decide not to do something or continue doing something
“The high price of airline travel could deter people from flying on their next vacation.”



"Stronger punishments may deter criminals from using guns."






Here is a recap of the vocabulary we practiced in this video.


Have you ever done a bad thing but only got a slap on the wrist?

Joe broke into several houses and stole their TVs and computers.
He was caught and only served 3 months in jail.
It's just a slap on the wrist!



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