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breathing down my neck: meaning and explanation

to breathe down somebody’s neck = to monitor someone very closely, watching everything they do.

When someone (e.g. your boss) is watching you very closely or checking up on you very frequently, it is almost like they are standing right behind you, so close that you can feel their breath on your neck. If you wanted to complain about this, you might tell a colleague or friend that your boss is always breathing down your neck.

We can use this expression whenever someone won’t give us space and is watching us too closely. e.g. I’ve been staying with my sister, but I really want to find a new place to live. She’s breathing down my neck all the time.

Have a go at these micro-dictation exercises to hear this expression being used in context – how much can you understand?

Listening exercises

Dictation #1

Accent: Northern England

wouldn't all the time – it's doesn't trust .

About the sentence

…I wish he wouldn’t…

Remember, we use the structure: I wish + subject + would/wouldn’t + verb when we want to make a wish about someone else, usually about something they do which annoys us. e.g. I wish he wouldn’t chew with his mouth open – it’s gross.

Dictation #2

Accent: England (RP)

Dictation #3

Accent: North America


Extra practice

Here are some questions/links to help you learn the new vocabulary:

  • Have you ever had a boss who was breathing down your neck all the time? How did you feel about it?
  • When you were growing up, did your parents give you space (e.g. to play or do your homework) or were they always breathing down your neck? What about you and your children?

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