AE 258 – Expression: To Be Left Holding The Bag

Learn Australian English in this expression episode of Aussie English where I teach you how to use “To be left holding the bag”.

AE 258 – Expression: To Be Left Holding The Bag

G’day guys.

Welcome to this episode of Aussie English.

Today we’re going to be going over the expression, “To be left holding the bag”, “To be left holding the bag”, and this one comes from Aussie English Supporter Pack member Khoi.

So, recently I decided to allow the Aussie English Supporter Pack members to choose the topic for one of these episodes a week, and Khoi was first in best dressed, first in first served.

He came up with this expression “To be left holding the bag”.

And so that’s the first expression that we’re doing.

And for all the members this episode’s going to be a little different where it’s the same layout but I’m going to be going in a lot more in depth with the exercises.

So I’m doing a revamp of the Aussie English Supporter Park at the moment where members are deciding on the lesson once a week for one of these expression episodes.

And then I’m going through more thorough exercises including the standard exercises that had been included until now the vocab glossary, the vocab table, the listening comprehension exercises and the substitution exercises, which often included phrasal verbs.

But on top of this a lot of the guys, a lot of the members, in the Aussie English Supporter Pack want to practice slang terms, their pronunciation and connected speech, as well as a point of grammar every single episode.

So, I’m going to try and add in all of those things as well where members can pick and choose the exercises that they are working on, because I know a lot of you guys aren’t working on the same things.

Some of you are trying to get better at vocab.

Some of you were trying to get better at listening.

Some are trying to learn phrasal verbs, slang, connected speech and then grammar.

Anyway, that’s long enough for the introduction guys.

Let’s get into the crux of the episode today, “To be left holding the bag”, “To be left holding the bag”.

So thank you Khoi for suggesting this expression.

And this is one that’s a little less common in Australia though I would know what you meant, but I think it’s a little more popular in the US at least too when I was doing some research online it was saying that it was a lot more common in the United States of America.

So let’s define the words in the expression “To be left holding the bag”, “To be left”, “To be left” is to be allowed or cause to remain somewhere.

So, to stay somewhere.

If someone leaves you doing something it means your allowed or your caused to stay somewhere and do that thing.

So “Holding”.

“Holding” is the Gerund form of the verb “To hold”.

So if, in this example, you’re left doing something, you’re left holding something, it means that you’re carrying out an action.

You’re left carrying out an action.

And in this case it is “Holding”.

And “To hold”, “To hold something” is to grasp something to carry something to support something with your arms or with your hands.

So if you’re holding something usually it’s that you’re grasping it with your hands and lifting it above the ground or holding it above the ground.

So, supporting it above the ground.

“A bag”. “A bag” is a flexible container.

So something that you can put other things in and contain them within that thing, a container.

And it’s usually made from a fabric or plastic, for example.

So you can put things in a bag and you can carry them around.

You can transport them.

And you use, for example, plastic bags or even hessian bags, fabric kind of bags when you go to the shops to get food.

So when you go to the grocery store you’ll use plastic bags quite often in Australia to carry the food home or to carry the groceries and other things you’ve bought all the way home.

And women often carry their phones and their purses in handbags.

So, we all know what “A bag” is.

To get into the phrase though “To be left holding the bag”.

Let’s define that.

If you’re left holding the bag it means that you are left with an unwelcome responsibility.

So, typically without warning, you didn’t expect it, and you’ve been left having to do this responsibility or with this responsibility.

So, when someone leaves you in a bad position where you get the blame for something that is when you could say that you have been left holding the bag.

So, as usual guys will go through three examples of where you could use this expression to be left holding the bag.



So, example number one, imagine that you are a business owner, you own a company, you have some kind of business and you have a partner.

So someone that you own the business with, that you work with, that helps you run the company, your business partner.

And it could be doing anything.

So you might have a laundromat where you do laundry.

You might have a cafe, a bookstore, a grocery shop.

It could be any kind of business, any kind of company.

And your partner has been “cooking the books”.

And the idiom “to cook the books” or “to be cooking the books”, it’s an idiom that means he’s been carrying out fraudulent activity in order to falsify the company’s financial statements.

So, in order to sort of save money and take money back from taxes.

So you’re stealing from the government, effectively.

If you cook the books, you’re writing down numbers that aren’t real, and it’s allowing you to save money illegally, effectively.

So you’ve got a partner who has been cooking the books at your business, but you didn’t know.

And all of a sudden he leaves the business and you’re the one left with the business.

You’re the one left running the business and all of a sudden you get audited by the Taxation Department.

So the Taxation Department comes and has a look at your books and they find out that they have been “cooked”, meaning that they have been falsified, that the partner who left had made up all of these numbers in order to save money.

If that happened and then you were in trouble as a result.

So you could be taken to court and sued by the Taxation Department.

You could say that your partner has left you holding the bag.

So my partner left me holding the bag, because he left me with an unwelcome responsibility.

He left me without warning, and I didn’t expect it.

I didn’t see it coming beforehand.

He ran off and left the books cooked at work, and now I’m responsible for that because I’m in the business.

So that’s example number one.


Example number two could be that you have gone on a date with someone so you could be a guy or a girl and you’ve taken someone else out on a date.

You’ve gone to a fancy restaurant with expensive food, fine wine, expensive drinks.

The person you go with, whether it’s a man or a woman, orders all of this expensive food.

All of this expensive fine wine.

And then after you finish eating and drinking you get the bill and it’s an exorbitant amount of money.

It’s a really really expensive bill.

You know, it could be three or four hundred dollars.

And the person that you’re with says they accidentally left their purse or wallet at home, and that they can’t help pay for dinner or that they can’t pay anything for dinner at all.

So it’s like “Oh, woops! I left my wallet at home. It seems I’m not going to be able to pay for dinner.”

And you could say in this case that you’ve been left holding the bag, they’ve left you holding the bag, because you’re the one left with the bill, with having to pay the bill for this really expensive dinner.

You’ve been left holding the bag.

You’re left holding the bag.

It’s an unwelcome responsibility that came without warning.

You didn’t expect it.

You thought this person was going to help you pay for the bill, you know, fifty-fifty.

So you didn’t expect it coming and you’ve been left holding the bag or (holding) the bill quite literally in this case.

So that’s Example number two.


Example number three.

So the best way to think about this idiom is probably literally thinking about the example that I am about to go through.

Imagine that you have a partner in crime.

So you guys are two criminals.

Imagine that you are thieves.

So you like to steal things.

You take part in burglaries or robberies.

So you could be a diamond thief hoping to steal the world’s biggest diamond from a museum in Switzerland or maybe your bank robbers or bank thieves, and you found a way to break into a bank and steal millions of dollars.

You know those movies where people dig massive tunnels from one building across the road of a bank underground all the way up under the vault of a bank, and they dig in and then steal millions of dollars and escape.

So you break in and successfully get the diamond or the millions of dollars from this place.

You literally put it into a bag in order to take it away and try and escape.

And then the alarm goes off whether it’s in the bank or some museum in Switzerland with this diamond.

And your partner in crime bails.

So he bails meaning he runs away, he leaves you there, he escapes.

He bails and you get locked up inside the building somehow, and the cops come.

The cops as in the police.

They come, they find you there and they catch you.

You you’re literally and figuratively left holding the bag.

So literally you’ve got a bag with stolen goods in it whether it’s millions of dollars or a diamond.

You’re holding this bag with this thing in it.

And figuratively you’re left holding the bag because your partner in crime has bailed, he’s run off, and he’s left you with this unwelcome responsibility, without warning, that you didn’t see coming, that was unexpected, and now you’re going to get caught by the cops, the police, and probably go to jail.

So by now hopefully you guys understand this expression “To be left holding the bag”, guys.

Let’s go through a little listen and repeat exercise here.

So listen and repeat perfectly after me and practice the pronunciation guys.

Listen and repeat:

I was left holding the bag.

You were left holding the bag.

He was left holding the bag.

She was left holding the bag.

We were left holding the bag.

They were left holding the bag.

So it was a little bit of a breakdown here too, guys, I want to emphasise the fact that the past tense of “to be”, “was” and “were”, in this example, it’s actually jumped over really quickly.

So we don’t really pronounce it as a really well pronounced “was” and a really well pronounced “were”.

And we kind of contract it down and say “was” and “were”.

So, “You were left…”. “You were left…”, “…were left”.

It bounces really quickly.

“You were left holding the bag”.

And there “was”, “I was left holding the bag” gets contracted down to it “-ehs” kind of sound.

“I was left…”, “I was left…”, “…was left”.

So I mean you get into more detail with regards to that in the exercises in the Aussie English Supporter Pack.

If you guys aren’t already a member this is just a little reminder that you can now try the Aussie English Supporter Pack for just one dollar for 30 days, your first 30 days.

I know you guys are really going to love it if you get in there.

If you guys are hardworking ESL students who want to take your English to the next level, and you want exercises related to the episode that you just listened to in order to take your vocab, listening comprehension, and everything else to the next level so that you can learn phrasal verbs and slang and pronunciation, connected speech, as well as grammar, then I definitely recommend signing up for the Aussie English Supporter Pack.

You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Give it a go.

And you also get access to the Aussie English Virtual Classroom where you get to hang out with other hardworking Aussie English learners and chat to me and just work on activities to improve your English as a whole.

If it’s not for you after that first 30 days or before the first 30 days ends you can unsubscribe at any time.

Anyway guys that’s long enough for today.

I hope you haven’t been left holding the bag after listening to this episode and I will chat to you all soon.

Thanks again guys.

See ya!

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