English Grammar: Are you “on the level”?

“Level” you may know. It is an adjective meaning not sloping or not uneven. In Spanish it means: nivelado, plano, llano.

It also means at the same position (estar igualado), for example, in a race. A person could speak “in a level voice” (hablar sin alterar la voz), and in life it is better to “keep a level head” (no perder la cabeza). Or in other words, you need to be level-headed (sensato).

Here the main interest is with some idioms using “level”. Examine these:

  • Mr Rajoy needs to come down to the level of the people (… tiene que rebajarse al nivel de la gente).
  • In politics and markets we have to “compete on a level playing field” (competir en igualdad de condiciones). If not, we have to “level the playing field”, meaning “tenemos que igualar las condiciones”.
  • You should also do your “level best” to pass the Cambridge advanced exam. This means: tiene que hacer todo lo posible para aprobar el examen “Advanced”.

There is also a phrase that the Americans sometimes use: “I will level with you”, meaning that I am going to speak frankly (francamente) or in Spanish you might say “le voy a ser franco”.

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