Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
to milk something in English vocabulary tutorial

Are you a milk drinker?

Do you hear the word “milk” used in conversation often in English?

This is a word that happens to be a part of many different idioms, and it has nothing to actually do with the phrases in the end.

In this ESL vocabulary tutorial lesson, we’re going to look at the various phrases that have the word “milk” in them, how to use them, and how they can add to your English conversations with natives to have better conversations.

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We have a question about milk that is an interesting one that may help you.

Hello ladies,

I really like your show, and I listen to all of the episodes. They’re very helpful for me, and I really enjoy listening. I want to ask about something that I just heard on a program.

The person who hosts the program said “ I’m gonna milk this.” What does that mean? Where can we use a phrase like this? This is confusing to me, and I’m not sure how to use this sort of phrase.

Any help that you can provide would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you for your help,

Amal Alsaeedi

Looking At A Common Phrase

A phrase like this can be quite confusing, and so it’s important to look at these types of idioms.

When you say something like “milk it,” this actually has nothing to do with the actual beverage milk at all.

The definition for this phrase really means to take everything you can from an experience, from a person, or whatever the subject matter may be.

It can be used in a joking way if you add some sarcasm to it.

It can be used in a way to say that somebody left you depleted and lacking, such as an argument or disagreement–you may feel like you were taken advantage of.

So this is the type of phrase that can be positive or negative depending on how you use it.

This is a unique phrase in that it can be used positively or negatively, and so you want to pay close attention to the way that you use it.

The tone of voice or context that you use it in has everything to do with how it will be received.

Positive and Negative Uses For This Phrase

Seeing as this is a phrase that can be used positively or negatively, you want to pay close attention to how you say it.

There can be some sarcasm given, or you can change the meaning just in the way that you say it.

Take a look at some of the more positive ways that you can use the phrase “milk it” in these phrases.

  • This isn’t said in an evil way, but rather you recognize that you’ve done something good and you are enjoying the rewards and benefits of it. “My mom is so happy with me for getting good grades right now that she has been letting me watch a ton of TV every night. I’m definitely gonna milk this.”
  • You have worked hard and now you get to enjoy the upside of that. This is a great time to live in the moment. “I am so happy that my boss is noticing all my hard work. I’m gonna milk this.”
  • You don’t want something to end because it’s so great. This can be an experience like a vacation. “Oh man, we only have 3 more days of vacation. We really have to milk it.”

You can also use this same phrase in a more conniving or negative way.

You may not mean harm by it but you may also be taking advantage of things a bit.

Some definitions mention that milking something is trying to get everything you can from a person or situation in a rather dishonest way.

You may even add onto the phrase and say something like “milk something/someone for all that they’re worth….”

Take a look at some examples of this phrase being used in a more conniving or negative way.

  • It may be that you feel like the one who is being taken advantage of. You may be sick of the same old situation happening and feel frustrated. “The boss didn’t care that his workers had worked 12 hours overtime. He always milks them for all they’re worth.”
  • You may feel like somebody is up to no good. It may be that somebody doesn’t have your best interests at heart, and therefore it makes for a negative feeling or situation. “I feel like my mechanic always finds something wrong with my car and it is so expensive. He’s really milking me for all I’m worth.”

You say milk as a verb when it pertains to a cow.

So when you use “milk” in these phrases it’s kind of like saying everything that someone or something can give to you, you take.

Other Milk Idioms To Use

You might be surprised at how many idioms actually feature the word “milk” in them.

These have nothing to actually do with milk as a beverage, but they work well in the context that they are intended.

Take a look at these phrases, and try them out in conversation for a fun addition.

  • There’s/it’s  no use crying over spilled milk: You can take this in a literal way such as if you spill some milk, there’s no reason to cry about it. The bigger and more common use for this phrase is not to get upset about the little things. Though something may seem like a big deal at the time, more than likely it’s really not in the long run. So the message is not to get upset about little things as they won’t be that important later on.
  • Milk something dry: This is similar to what we have discussed here, and it works well in conversation. This is essentially saying that you are overdoing it or that you are pushing things too far. You are taking everything you can out of it and therefore drying it up in the process.
  • Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? You will often hear this when it comes to somebody waiting for a next step in a commitment. If you are already living together or if the person is getting what they want, then why bother taking it to the next level? This essentially means that somebody is getting exactly what they want out of things currently, so why push forward and move to the next step? It’s not a flattering phrase, but it gets the point across.

All of these idioms have the word “milk” in them, but they all have very different meanings.

Try one of them out in a conversation, and see how it makes for a fun twist that will be recognized by natives.


Milk is used frequently in English idioms, which can be a bit unusual.

Though these idioms have nothing to do with milk specifically, they can be fun to say.

It’s important to know these more advanced vocabulary terms so that you can engage on a deeper level in your English conversations.

Try them out in conversation as idioms like this will help you to build up your vocabulary and your confidence.

This is a great way to take your English up another level, and this all helps with making important connections.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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