AE 307 – Expression: To Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Learn Australian English in this Expression Episode of Aussie English where I teach you how to use TO BITE OFF MORE THAN YOU CAN CHEW like a native.

Subscribe to the podcast: iTunes | Android | RSS

Download the PDF + MP3

AE 307 – Expression:

To Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

G’day, guys. How’s it going?

Welcome to The Aussie English Podcast.

If it’s your first time, thank you so much for joining me. Sit back, relax.

I know you guys are going to love the podcast.

Everything Australian here, everything Australian slang, expressions, and you just get to listen to me talking like a real Australian using the English that’s spoken Down Under.

So, this is Aussie English, The Aussie English Podcast, the number one podcast teaching you Australian English, whether you want to understand it and that’s your only objective, or whether you want to learn how to sound like an Aussie.

That is what the podcast is all about.

And that’s what my Facebook page and YouTube channel and website is all about helping you guys to do, to achieve, to allow you to learn to understand Australian English, and to allow you to learn to speak like an Aussie, whether it’s using slang, expressions or our accent.

Anyway, let’s dive into it guys. How has your week been? What you’ve been up to?

I hope you guys have been really productive, working hard, you know, getting things done, kicking goals as we say down under in Australia.

“Kicking goals” like in the sport of football.

Obviously, if you kick a goal you’re succeeding, you’re doing well.

So, if you’re kicking goals in life you’re doing well in life, you’re doing well at life.

You can use both prepositions there. Doing well in life. Doing well at life.

So, what have I been up to this week? I’ve been trying to do a bit of writing up at the Museum.

So, I’ve finished the PhD. One of my markers has gotten back to my supervisor.

So, he has returned the submission of my PhD to my supervisor and to the university, and allowed him to look at the marks.

But I can’t see them yet. I have to wait, I think, until I get the second reviewer’s marks back.

So, I have to reviewers for my thesis. Two people who review my thesis.

They go over my thesis, they go through my thesis, and they mark it.

So, they give it a score. Well, not specifically a score, but they’ll go through it and criticise it.

So, they’ll find points that should be improved, things that could be said better.

Maybe they’ll critique or criticise the methods that I used to achieve the results that I got, and then how I interpreted those.

So, they go through it or they go over it, and they return a list of things that I have to adhere to, of things that I have to address.

So, I have to go through and address the comments that they give me.

I have to say, “OK. I agree with you here. I’ve made the changes as you’ve asked.”, or I have to go through and justify why I may disagree with the reviewer and say, “Eh, actually, mate. I don’t agree with you here. I think you’ve misinterpreted this, and I think I’m correct because X, Y, Z.”

So, I’ve been having to wait about two months now to get that all back.

I think, hopefully, I’ll get the next reviewer back within the next month.

And yeah, apart from that, I’ve been writing up a paper this is my first chapter in my thesis.

I’ve been writing that up and trying to get that submitted to a journal, which is an organisation that publishes scientific literature so that other people can then use what I’ve done.

The science that I’ve done.

After it’s been peer reviewed it’s been reviewed by other scientists in the field, my peers.

After it’s been peer reviewed and correctly vetted, I guess you would say.

So that it’s been criticised by independent and unbiased scientists who know the field and agree that the science is good enough to be published.

Anyway, that’s been my week. Apart from that, obviously, I’ve been working on Aussie English.

So, I’ve been creating more content for you guys.

I’ve put up a few videos on YouTube that you may or may not have seen.

One of these was Why Do Australians Eat Kangaroo?.

And another one was What Beer Do Aussies Drink Down Under?.

So, I’ve been taking some of these questions that you guys give me in the Live Classes.

I chop up the live class videos after I have uploaded those onto YouTube.

So, I take out smaller portions.

Interesting questions or interesting expressions and slang terms that I go over, define, and then use in these episodes.

And I’m turning those into smaller videos that I can then put on YouTube for you guys to better consume, for you guys to better watch, to more easily watch, and better learn from.

So, I hope you guys are enjoying those. I think it’s a really good use of my time.

So, I’m finding that the Live Classes, I’m really enjoying them for one.

And I think the turnout is getting better and better each week.

So, “the turnout” being the number of people who turn out, who come to, the Live Classes on Facebook.

And so, for those of you who don’t know, every Thursday at 7:00 p.m. Melbourne time, I believe that it is UTC +10 hours time.

So, every Thursday at 7:00 p.m. Melbourne time, Eastern Australian Time, I get on Facebook and I get on and do a live class on slang, on expressions, on Australia, on questions that you guys might ask.

It normally lasts between 30 minutes and an hour.

But the basic thing is to be there and chat with you guys close to one-on-one, I guess, you know, like, it’s me “on” all of you guys.

But it’s me they’re trying to share the language.

And the good thing is after each class I can download the video.

I can download the movie, the Live Class from Facebook. I can then edit it.

I can add in pictures. I can put subtitles in for different expressions and words that I use.

And then, I can upload it onto YouTube as well as the podcast and allow you guys to listen to it.

And then, obviously, as I was just saying, I can chop up these episodes and I can then put mini pieces of these episodes into their own videos and upload those onto YouTube as well as the podcast.

And so, this gets me on to one more thing that I want to mention before we get into the expression today guys.

I had a private lesson today with Juan one of my students and he put me on to a book, he introduced me to a book, called The 10x Rule or The x10 Rule.

I’m not sure which way around it is.

The basic idea being you should do 10x as much as you think you need to do to achieve or to succeed as best you can.

And so, I’m going to try and apply this to the podcast.

And by doing that or in doing that, I’m going to try and do an episode per day.

So, I’m going to try and put something on YouTube, and I’m going to try and put something on the podcast every day.

I know that you guys might freak out. You might think, “Oh my gosh, Pete, we can’t handle that much content!”.

The good news is it’s not going to be an Expression Episode like this every single day.

But, I’m going to use small little pieces, little like definitions of expressions, of slang terms, or the questions that I’ve answered in the Live Classes and recycle them, reuse them, reimplement the material from them, and turn them into videos and smaller podcast episodes for you guys to better consume, for you guys to better utilise, for you guys to stay more engaged and have new content to work with every single day.

We’ll see how I go, guys. I’m going to do my best to adhere to this.

I’m going to try and do one every single day.

If you guys have questions that you want me to answer too in the Live Class episodes make sure that you get them to me before Thursday each week.

I will try and post something on Facebook one or two days in advance, or one or two days before the Live Class asking for questions.

Make sure that you get on there.

You can message me them at any time, but get me a question so that I can answer them in the class, and then I can turn those into videos and publicly thank you, especially, if I obviously have your name, and then put them up on the podcast and on YouTube.

Anyway, guys, that has been a massive intro. I’m sorry it’s lasted so long.

There were a few things to talk about.

But let’s get into today’s expression, which is going to be “to bite off more than you can chew”. “To bite off more than you can chew”.

This is a common expression in all places that speak English throughout the world.

I hear this all the time.

As usual guys, let’s dive in and just talk about the different words used in the expression, “to bite off more than you can chew”.

We’ll define those words, and then we’ll get into the expression itself.

Let’s go.

So, “to bite”. “To bite”.

“To bite” is to grab something with your mouth or with your teeth.

It’s to place your mouth over something or on something and to close upon it.

So, if I put my hand in my mouth and I close my mouth, I close my teeth on my hand.

I’m biting my hand.

If you pull a dog’s tail and the dog turns around and latches onto you, it places its mouth over you somewhere, and closes its mouth.

It’s biting you. “To bite”.

If you bite something “off”, we turn it into a phrase or verb here.

We add the word “off” to show that something has been removed.

So, if I take my book “off” my table it means I remove the book from the table.

So, when you bite something “off”, you’re biting and removing something.

You’re removing a piece.

So, for example, if I had a chocolate bar and I put it in my mouth and I bite, and then I pull the rest of the chocolate bar that isn’t in my mouth away from my mouth.

I’ve just bitten off a piece of the chocolate bar.

I’ve bitten off a chunk of the chocolate bar. I’ve bitten off a mouthful.

If a dog were to bite my hand and it took my finger off my hand.

So, when it bit down it removed one of my fingers.

I could say that the dog has bitten off one of my fingers.

The dog has bitten off my finger.

So, remember guys, with phrasal verbs like this that make literal sense you can substitute in the verb depending on the action you’re trying to describe.

So, how that thing is happening: biting, chewing, chomping. You can change the verb.

And we add on the preposition “off”, in this case, to make it obvious that something has been bitten and then removed.

The word “can”. “Can” is to be able to do something. To be physically able to do it.

So, if you bite off more than you “can” chew that is that you have bitten off more than you are able to chew, than is possible, than you are able to do.

The word “chew” is to move your jaw up and down, to render pieces of food in your mouth smaller.

So, to create the food that you have bitten, that you have bitten off, that you are placing in your mouth, if you’re chewing it you’re moving your jaw up and down, your teeth are crushing the food and making it easier to swallow.

Making it more palatable. Making it easier to ingest, to swallow, “to chew”.

So, as usual guys, let’s get into the definition of the expression itself.

The expression “to bite off more than you can chew”, “to bite off more than you can chew”.

It can have that literal meaning of you’ve taken such a big bite of something, it’s so big, that you can’t chew it.

So, imagine that you put a whole apple in your mouth and you bit it in half, but that mouthful that you’ve taken is so big you can’t actually chew.

You can’t physically close your mouth. Your mouth isn’t strong enough to chew.

You can’t chew it up and then swallow it. You’ve literally bitten off more than you can chew.

You’ve bitten off more than you are able to chew.

But we can also talk about this in the figurative sense when you try to do something that is too big or is too difficult to do.

It’s impossible to accomplish because it’s just too much.

So, as usual guys, let’s go through some examples to explain how we would use this both literally and figuratively.



So, imagine that you are a lion in Africa.

You’re a lion on the Serengeti Plains and you and your pride of lions–we call the group of lions that live together “a pride”–you and the pride of lions are hunting down a wildebeest.

So, you’ve chased down a wildebeest. You’ve hunted it down.

You’ve caught that wildebeest. You’ve taken it to the ground.

One of the lions has applied that bite to the neck to kill the wildebeest.

And then, when you guys start eating the well the beast one of you bites off a massive chunk of leg and it’s too big to chew.

You can’t fit it all in your mouth. It’s way way way too big.

You could literally say that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.

So, you’ve bitten off so much that you can’t chew and you can’t swallow it.

It’s something that is too big. It’s too difficult to do, in the figurative sense.

But in the literal sense, you actually can’t chew it because it’s so big.


Example number two.

Imagine that you are working and your boss has asked you if you think you can handle several projects at the same time.

So, he’s asked you to deliver some goods. He’s asked you to finish writing a document.

He’s asked you to also go over and work with another teammate.

And if at first you say, “Yeah, that’s fine. Too easy! I can do that.”.

But then later on it turns out that it’s actually way too much work.

You can’t manage it, you can’t handle it, and you can’t complete all of that work.

Then we can say, figuratively, that by agreeing to doing all of that work you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.

So, you’ve bitten off more than you can chew because you have taken all of this work, you’ve agreed to it, you’ve said, “It’s okay. I can do it.”, but then, figuratively, it’s more than you can chew because you can’t do it, you can’t complete the tasks.

It’s too big, it’s too difficult to do. You’ve bitten off more than you can chew.


Example number three. Imagine, okay, that you’re a fighter.

You’re some kind of boxer, you’re some kind of martial artist.

Maybe you do MMA, which is Mixed Martial Arts.

So, you fight professionally, and a fight has been organised between you and an opponent.

So, you think that this opponent’s going to be relatively easy to beat, that you’ve “got this in the bag”, as we often say, as in it’s going to be easy.

It’s going to be simple to carry out, to finish. It turns out though that your opponent is a lot more skilled than you originally thought.

So, maybe you prejudged the situation and you thought, “This guy’s smaller than me. I’ve got this in the bag. It’s going to be easy to beat him.”.

But then it turns out that he’s incredibly skilled, and despite his small size, despite his small stature, he’s incredibly quick.

And it becomes obvious to you when you’re fighting him in the ring, in the Octagon if it’s MMA, that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.

So, bitten off more than you can chew because the task is incredibly difficult.

It’s too big and you can’t complete it.

So, figuratively here, you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, meaning that you have challenged this fighter, and you’ve wanted to beat him, but it turns out that he is a lot more difficult to beat than you first thought.

You’ve bitten off more than you can chew.

So, as usual guys, let’s go through a listen and repeat exercise here where you guys get to practice your pronunciation.

Practice your English pronunciation by copying me and trying to say things exactly as I say them.

Let’s go.

Listen & Repeat:

To bite off.
To bite off.
To bite off.
More than.
More than.
More than.
To bite off more than.
To bite off more than.
To bite off more than.
To bite off more than you can chew.
To bite off more than you can chew.
To bite off more than you can chew.
To bite off more than you can chew.

So, let’s put this in the Past Tense, guys. We’ll say, “I bit off more than I could chew”.

Let’s practice these phrases.

This might take a bit of practice, guys, because they’re relatively large sentences, but I thought I would give it a go.

I know you guys have got this, and I know by doing this that you guys won’t have bitten off more than you can chew.

Practice, practice, practice. Let’s go.

Listen & Repeat:

I bit off more than I could chew.
You bit off more than you could chew.
He bit off more than he could chew.
She bit off more than she could chew.
We bit off more than we could chew.
They bit off more than they could chew.
It bit off more than it could chew.

Good job guys. Good job.

So, pronunciation and connected speech wise guys, in this one, you’re going to notice the T-flap.

And that is where we turn T’s, that “Teh” sound into more of a D sound by flapping, by hitting, our tongue against the roof of our mouth.

So, we do this in the example of “bit off” or “bite off”. “Bite off”, “bit off”.

You’re going to hear instead of “bite off” and “bit off” that we say “bite off”, “bit off”, that’s T-flap where we make the tea into a D sound.

This occurs because there’s a vowel on either side of the T.

So, you’ve got an “-i-e, o-” and an “-i-, o-” are on either side of the T in “bite off” and “bit tough”.

So, when there’s a vowel the side of a T in English we turn the tee into a D sound or into the T flap.

“Bite off”, “bit off”.

So, listen and repeat after me, guys, and practice your pronunciation.

Listen & Repeat:

I bit off.
You bit off.
He bit off.
She bit off.
We bit off.
They bit off.
It bit off.

Good stuff guys. Good stuff.

There’s also an interesting aspect with regards to “could” and “chew” when you place these together.

The D and the CH join. And it just sounds like “ch”. So instead of saying, “could chew”, you say, “coul-_chew”, “coul-_chew”, “coul-_chew”.

We’ll go through that in the exercises in the bonus material for this episode today.

So, before we finish, as usual guys, make sure that you sign up and become a member on the Aussie English website at

If you sign up and be a member you can try it for a dollar.

And this is where you get access to the bonus content specifically designed to teach you English even faster.

So, I’ve specifically designed exercises for you guys.

All of the bonus content for this Expression Episode and for the previous Expression Episodes where I take you through phrasal verbs that are used.

I give you substitution exercises to practice using this stuff like natives.

We go through the pronunciation and connected speech stuff more thoroughly.

And we also go over grammar and slang that is used in each episode.

You can also support Aussie English by signing up to be a patron on the website Patreon.

You can sign up here and you can donate anything from one dollar a month upwards.

You can donate more. It’s totally up to you guys.

But this is for those people who want to support the podcast, who want to help me keep making this material to help you guys learn English, to help you guys learn Australian English.

So, if you guys want to be involved more directly, if you guys want to be able to support me directly, and allow me to support myself, to keep doing this stuff, then go to the Patreon on Page and sign up to become a patron today.

I’ll link below, guys. Thanks so much guys.

I hope you have a killer week, and I’ll chat to you soon.

See ya!

Download the PDF + MP3

itunes-logo (1)
spotify-small (1) (1)
icon-stitcher (1)

Get more out of every episode!

Here's what you get when you sign up!

  • Read while you listen using the Premium Podcast player.
  • Understand every word in every episode.
  • Download all PDF transcripts and MP3s for 600+ episodes.
  • Get access to bonus member-only episodes.

Download my eBook!

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

    Recent Podcast Episodes

    Related Articles


    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Download on Android or iPhone below!

    Ready to test your knowledge of some English expressions?

    Start Now