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Colour Idioms

in the English



A group of the pupils of the sixth grade Borunova O.,Piglova A.,Markova A.

Supervisor Phomicheva L.A.,

English Teacher

School №3

Murom 2015


  1. Introduction.

  2. Theoretics.

  3. Glossary “Colour Idioms”.

  4. Analysis of colour idioms.

  5. Exercises / Answers.

  6. Conclusion.

  7. Bibliography.

Цели и задачи:


The theme of my work is “Colour idioms in the English language”.

The aims of my work were:

  • to improve my language;

  • to enrich my vocabulary;

  • to produce a pack of materials for English language classes.

The methods of my work were description and analysis.

What I did:

  • I studied a number of English sources devoted to the problem of colour idioms such as books and Internet information.

  • I systematized and analyzed the facts and materials.

  • I compiled the glossary of colour idioms.

  • I created some exercises which can check up the pupils’ knowledge of this topic.


Idioms are words and phrases that communicate a specific idea or meaning which might not be easy be guessed by looking at individual words in the phrase.

English can’t be considered full of value without idiomatic usage, as the use of idioms is the first sign of a certain language’s developing.

Idiomatic sentences enrich a language and the knowledge of idioms signal that the speaker knows the language on the level of a native speaker.

English is a language particularly rich in idioms. Without idioms English would lose much of its variety and humour both in speech and writing.

Some idioms of the English language have first been seen in the works of writers like Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, Lewis Carroll. But the background and etymological origins of most idioms is at best obscure.

Idioms can’t and mustn’t be translated directly as such a brunch of language as idioms is inseparably connected with nation’s mentality and mode of life. The contest usually helps to understand idioms. One way to learn idioms is to put them into different groups.

According to the words that are used in the idioms there are, for example, animal idioms ( to pig out – объедаться), body idioms ( sweet tooth – сладкоежка), clothing idioms ( to keep one’s short on – пытаться сохранять спокойствие), food idioms ( not worth a bean – гроша ломаного не стоит), weather idioms ( a fair-weather friend – ненадёжный друг), geography idioms ( to make a mountain out of a molehill – делать из мухи слона), sports idioms ( to skate on thin ice – действовать рискованно),house idioms ( like a house on fire – быстро и легко; успешно, прекрасно), time idioms ( to do time – сидеть в тюрьме), talking idioms ( to talk the hind leg off a donkey – заговорить, утомить многословием), love idioms ( to tie the knot – пожениться), money idioms (the other side of the coin – другая сторона медали), colour idioms ( out of the blue – совершенно неожиданно). The last group – colour idioms – is very numerous and interesting. That’s why it is worth investigating.

Glossary “Colour idioms”.


to see red – обезуметь, прийти в ярость, в бешенство.

When I hear of cruelty to animals it makes me see red.

to have a red face – покраснеть от стыда или от смущения.

Talking about his love he had a red face.

to be in the redбыть должником

I am overdrawn again. I hate being in the red.

to catch someone red-handedзаставить кого-либо на месте преступления, поймать с поличным.

The manager caught the new employee red-handed taking money out of the box.

to be like a red rag to a bull – действовать на кого-либо, как красная тряпка на быка.

The mention of that man’s name to him is like a red rag to a bull.

to paint the town redустроить попойку, загулять.

On boat-race night the College students paint the town red.

to go into the redстать убыточным.

I can’t lend you money. My firm has gone into the red.

a red herringотвлекающий маневр.

You are not answering my question. You are trying to draw a red herring across the track.

to see the red light – предчувствовать приближение опасности.

As soon as he led the conversation round to borrowing money I saw the red light.

red tapeбюрократизм, волокита.

I want to start a new business but the red tape involved is very frustrating.

a redneck несведущий человек.

Our new co-worker is a real redneck. He doesn’t seem to know anything about life.

to roll out the red carpet - приветствовать кого-либо торжественно, с большим почтением.

When Nelson Mandela visited Washington, they rolled out the red carpet and gave him a great welcome.

to be shown the red card - быть уволенным с работы.

The accountant was shown the red card for hiding company money.

a red-letter day - памятный день, день в календаре.

It’ll be a red- letter day tomorrow.

not a red centни единого цента.

I did all that work for them and they didn’t pay me a red cent.

a red eye – полет на самолете, который взлетает поздно ночью, а приземляется рано утром.

We took the red eye from Seattle to New York.

to give a red faceсмутить кого-либо.

We really gave him a red face when we caught him eavesdropping.

to go beet redпокраснеть как рак.

I only had to smile at him and he went beet red.

red inkдолги.

Too much red ink and the company will collapse.

red-blooded – имеющий горячую кровь, темпераментный, любвеобильный.

He is a normal, red-blooded male – of course he wants to sleep with you!

red-hot – свежий, новый, горячий.

Their divorce is the red-hot story in this morning’s press.

red hairрыжие волосы.

He likes girls with red hair.


once in a blue moonочень редко.

A thing like that only happens once in a blue moon.

a blue-eyed boyлюбимчик

John is a real blue- eyed boy. The team manager always gives him special treatment. It isn’t fair to the rest of us.

out of the blue – совершенно неожиданно, как гром среди ясного неба.

I haven’t seen them for years and then they call me out of the blue.

blue collarрабочий.

They bought a house in a nice, settled, blue-collar neighborhood.

to burn with a low blue flameсильно напиться.

He’s not just drunk, he’s burning with a low blue flame.

to cuss a blue streakгрубо ругаться.

When he dropped the brick on his toe, he cussed a blue streak.

to talk a blue streakговорить без умолку.

Billy didn’t talk until he was two and then started talking a blue streak.

the boys in blueполицейские.

The boys in blue were round again last night, asking questions.

true-blue – очень верный, преданный.

Tom’s true-blue – he won’t let us down.

to cry blue murder – кричать или жаловаться очень громко.

Readers screamed blue murder when the price of their daily paper went up.

to go into the wide blue yonderпойти куда глаза глядят.

I have a sudden desire to escape, to go into the wide blue yonder and never return.

Damn it to blue blazes!Черт возьми!

Damn it to blue blazes, I told you I can’t lend you any more money!

to make the air blueсквернословить.

Don’t make the air blue in my presence!

blue study – мрачные раздумья, тяжелые мысли.

Blue study again? Don’t be so boring.

to blue-pencil something – редактировать, сокращать, вычеркивать.

Reports on the mistreatment of the political prisoners were blue-penciled by the authorities.

a bolt from the blueполная неожиданность.

It came like a bolt from the blue that they are getting divorced.

blue in the face – возбужденный, раздухарившийся.

I told him he was making a mistake until I was blue in the face but he wouldn’t listen.

to be in the blues (to feel blue)быть в плохом настроении, хандрить.

The bad weather is making me feel blue.

Things look blueДела плохи.

Things are looking blue for Tom these days. His wife has left him.

till all is blue – до бесконечности, сколько угодно.

You can talk till all is blue but I shan’t believe you.

blue book – сборник официальных документов.

He spends all his time reading blue books.

to drink till alls blue – допиться до белой горячки.

Let him drink till all’s blue. Maybe he’ll understand something.

to blue one’s moneyтранжирить деньги.

Don’t marry this girl. She’ll blue all your money.

to cry the bluesприбедняться.

I hate people crying the blues.

to give somebody the blues – наводить тоску на кого-либо.

He always gives me the blue, I won’t invite him on my party.

to look through blue glasses смотреть мрачно, пессимистически.

Life’s wonderful. Don’t look at it through blue glasses.

blue waterоткрытое море.

I see a small boat in blue water Maybe there are people there.

to cry oneself blue in the faceкричать до посинения.

You may cry yourself blue in the face but I won’t buy you this toy.

to look blueиметь унылый вид.

Let’s go out and have some fun, you look so blue.

blue fearпаника, замешательство.

I feel blue fear when I heard her scream.

blue devilsуныние.

Don’t give way to blue devils, it’s a sin.


grey cells – серые клеточки, мозг.

Use your grey cells to understand it.

grey Cardinalсерый кардинал.

This terrible man is a Grey Cardinal in our country.

grey areaспорный вопрос.

Writing personal e-mail in the office is a grey area that needs to be discussed at the next meeting.

grey pound – экономическая власть пенсионеров.

The only thing keeping this economy alive is the grey pound.


to brown somebody offнадоедать, наскучить.

You really brown me off!

to brown out – уменьшать освещение.

The lights started to brown out, and I thought maybe there was a power shortage.

to be as brown as a berry сильно загореть.

She’s as brown as a berry after a month in Greece.

to brown-noseгрубо льстить.

The rest of the class were sick of watching him brown-nose.

to do something up brown – делать что-либо с большим размахом.

Whenever they put on a party, they do it up brown.


to turn purple with rage - побагроветь от ярости.

He turns purple with rage every time when he sees bad marks in my mark book.

to be born in the purple – быть королевским отпрыском, быть знатного рода.

To be born in the purple is not my dream at all.

purple prose – витиеватая, высокопарная проза.

Despite occasional passages of purple prose, her latest novel is still very readable.


the pink of perfectionверх совершенства.

His behaviour was the pink of perfection.

to see the world though rose-coloured spectacles видеть все в розовом свете.

He looks at life through rose-coloured spectacles.

in the pink – в прекрасном состоянии(о здоровье).

He recovered completely from his surgery and has been in the pink ever since.

to be tickled pinkбыть в восторге.

She was tickled pink that you made the effort to go and visit her when you were in town.

a pink-collar job – низкооплачиваемая работа для женщин.

Most women returning to work after raising children, head for ink-collar jobs in sales and service.

a pink slip – уведомление об увольнении.

It was Christmas time when Miller got his pink slip from the company.

to see pink elephantsдопиться до чертиков.

When I got to the point of seeing pink elephants, I knew that something had to be done.


to be yellowбыть трусом, струсить.

Tina was too yellow to go on the roller-coaster!


He is a yellow-bellied coward and never is willing to fight for what is right.

a yellow streakтрусость.

Get rid of that yellow streak. Show some courage.

the yellow pressжелтая пресса.

I never read the yellow press.

a yellow dog – подлый человек, трус, презренная личность.

Don’t speak to this yellow dog! He betrayed us.


to be green with envyпозеленеет от зависти.

I was green envy. When I heard that she would be going to London for a month while I had to stay and work.

the green light – «зеленый свет», разрешение.

We got the green light to go ahead with the new advertising campaign.

to be green – не иметь опыта быть наивным, доверчивым.

You can tell that he’s never worked as a waiter before. He seems green. He doesn’t know what he is doing.

as green as grassзеленый как трава.

His face turned as green as grass just before he vomited.

to have green fingers / to have a green thumb - быть хорошим садоводом.

I’m afraid I don’t have green fingers. I’ve killed every plant I’ve ever owned.

the green-eyed monsterревность, зависть.

Do you think his criticisms of Jack are valid or is it just a case of the green-eyed monster?

the rub of the greenудача.

This player hasn’t had the rub of the green in the last few tournaments.

to look green around the gillsвыглядеть больным.

He was out drinking last night was he? I thought he looked a bit green around the gills this morning.

green stuffденьги.

I’ve run out of green stuff. Can you loan me a few bucks?

the green beltзеленая зона.

The city has a policy of increasing the green belt around the city.

Grass is always greener on the other sideТам хорошо, где нас нет.

He realized that the grass is always greener on the other side when he saw that his new job wasn’t perfect and had its own problems too.

A green hand / a greenhornновичок, неопытный человек.

He is a greenhorn and doesn’t have enough experience to drive the large piece of machinery yet.

to greenобманывать, мистифицировать.

You won’t green me. I know all your tricks.

green wound - свежая, незажившая рана.

I don’t want to talk about it. It’s a green wound for me.

sure as God made little green applesверно, как дважды два четыре.

I’m as sure as God made little green apples that he’s single.

A hedge between keeps friendship green – Дружба будет процветать, если друзья уважают личное пространство друг друга.

Lynne and I are the best friends, but we often like to spend time apart. A hedge between keeps friendship green.

in the greenв расцвете сил.

He is a man in the green.

to go to the greenwood - стать разбойником, быть объявленным вне закона.

If you do it, you’ll have to go to the greenwood.

green winterбесснежная, мягкая зима.

It was green winter last year.


whiter than whiteбелее белого.

I never was convinced by the whiter than white image of her portrayed in the press.

a white lieбезвредная ложь.

Told my boss a white lie and said that I was sick yesterday when actually I wasn’t.

a white elephant – дорогой, но бесполезный подарок.

The new stereo that he bought is a white elephant and he doesn’t need it at all.

to be as white as a sheet / as a ghost, as snowбыть белым как снег.

Marilyn turned as white as a sheet when the policeman told her that her son had been in a car wreck.

a white collarслужащий.

Cities may become one day a kind of reservation for less educated work force while white collars will be enjoying life in smart homes in the countryside.

a white nightночь без сна.

You look pale. Did you spend a white night?

to bleed someone white – обобрать кого-либо до нитки.

The creeps tried to bleed me white.

to white knuckle something – пережить что-то трудное, угрожающее жизни.

The flight from New York was terrible. We had to white knuckle the entire flight.

a white knight – тот, кто дает деньги компании, чтобы избежать покупки другой компании.

Hope is fading that a white knight will appear to stop the takeover bid.

a white man – порядочный человек.

Tom seems to be a white man.

white fury – неистовство, бешенство, ярость.

I have never seen you in such white fury. I’m even afraid of you.

to stand in a white sheetпублично каяться.

You must tell all the truth when you stand in a white sheet.


We can trust these white-handed people.

to show the white featherструсить.

He boasted a lot about his courage but when danger came, he showed the white feather.

to whitewash – 1) обелить, скрыть недостатки; 2) выиграть «всухую».

Many attempts have been made to whitewash the man’s reputation. Our team has never whitewashed.

a white crow – белая ворона, редкость.

This new girl is like a white crow in our class.

the men in white coats – доктора психиатрической больницы.

The men in white coats will be coming to take me away if I stay in this job much longer.

lily-white – 1) белоснежный; 2) предельно честный;

3) предпочитающий окружение людей белой расы.

He marveled at her lily-white hands. He’s not exactly lily-white himself, so he has some nerve calling her a cheat! The black family found it difficult to feel comfortable in this lily-white, prosperous suburb.

white-bread – простой, ординарный, скучный.

It’s a movie about middle America – white-bread characters living white-bread lives.

white coffee - кофе с молоком.

What do you prefer – white or black coffee?


to give a black lookгневно взглянуть.

When she saw the broken cup, she didn’t say a word, only gave me a black look.

to pretend / say that black is whiteзаведомо говорить неправду.

She’ll say that black is white if she thinks it’s to her advantage.

the black sheepпаршивая овца.

The man is the black sheep in his family and is the only member who has not had a successful career and life.

to put down in black and whiteнаписать черным по белому.

I think I understand what you are talking about, but we need to put down the details in black and white.

black and whiteчеткий ясный.

The rules we gave the kids were black and white. No answering the phone or the door.

in the black – без убытков, с прибылью.

The company has been in the black since they began to adopt many new ideas to cut costs.

to see everything in black and white – судить обо всем однобоко, без нюансов и полутонов.

He tries to see everything in black and white although he knows this is impossible.

to black out – 1) маскировать, затемнять, выключать свет; 2) замазывать текст черной краской, не пропускать, запрещать; 3) засекречивать; 4) на мгновение терять сознание; 5) заглушать ( теле- или радио- передачу).

During the war people in the cities were forced to black out their windows so that the enemy aircraft could not see them. The local papers blacked out news of the disaster. This agent is blacked out. Nobody knows his real name. I blacked out right after the accident. They blacked out the basketball game in this area.

not to be as black as one is paintedне быть таким плохим, говорят.

The landlord is not as black as he is painted. He seems quite generous to me.

black and blueв синяках.

We found the poor guy black and blue near the train tracks.

As black as pitch (as a skillet, as a stack of black cats, as a sweep, as coal as night, as the ace of spades) – черный как соль, как сажа, как ночь.

After playing in the mud all morning the children were as black as night.

The pot calls the kettle black. – Не смейся горох, не лучше бобов; уж кто бы говорил.

My sister says I dress funny, but if you’ve seen some of the clothes she wears you know it’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

a black mark – темное пятно (на репутации человека).

This administrative error will be a black mark on his record.

a black day – несчастливый день.

A bomb went off early this morning. This is a black day for the peace process.

a black eye – синяк под глазом.

I have a black eye where John hit me.

the new black – последний писк моды.

Designers say that brown is the new black.

to swear black and blueпоклясться всем святым.

He swore black and blue he had nothing to do with the missing money.

black diamondsуголь.

England’s wealth was built up on diamonds-black diamonds.

to get in black booksпопасть в черный список.

If Hob doesn’t work harder he will get in Mr. Green’s black books.

to blackmailшантажировать.

They tried to force the men to give money by blackmail.

a blackleg – 1) штрейкбрехер; 2) шулер.

The men tried to persuade the blacklegs not to work while they were on strike. Don’t play cards with him, he is a famous blackleg.

black artчерная магия.

This film is about magicians and black art.

black as hellтьма кромешная.

It’s black as hell here. Do you have a lantern?

to look black (black as sin)выглядеть мрачным (мрачнее тучи).

Mary looks black as sin. Do you know what is wrong with her?

to known black from white – понимать, что к чему; быть себе на уме.

This man deserves respect, he knows black from white.

black holeкарцер.

For such things you can get in the black hole.

black dog – тоска зеленая, дурное настроение, уныние.

I don’t want to go to the country as usual black dog and nobody to play with.

things look black – положение кажется безнадежным.

I don’t know how to solve this problem. Things look black.

black handшайка бандитов.

Oh my God! This black had has stolen all my money!

black in the face – багровый (от раздражения или напряжения).

Our father got to know that you missed lessons. Now he is black in the face and waits for you in the kitchen.

a black dayбудний день.

Why are you in such a beautiful dress on black day? Do you have a birthday today?

a blackguardругаться, сквернословить.

Keep yourself in hand and don’t blackguard! Its disgusting.

a black spot – опасное место на дороге.

Be careful driving a car, there are many black spots there.

a blackshirtфашист, чернорубашечник.

This blackshirt has beaten my from black and blue.

Black Maria – тюремная карета, «черный ворон».

In 1930-s one could often see a Black Maria near the houses in the USSR.

Analysis of Colour Idioms.

I found about 150 colour idioms and made a glossary.

The black and the blue colours are especially rich in idioms. Some idioms contain one word (to green – обманывать), but most idioms are word-combinations (to be tickled pink – быть в восторге) and even sentences (The pot calls the kettle black. – Не смейся горох, не лучше бобов.).

According to the parts of speech there are four groups of colour idioms:

  • nominal phrases ( a blue-eyed boy – любимчик);

  • adjective phraseological units ( yellow-bellied – трусливый);

  • verbal idioms ( to bleed somebody white – обобрать кого-либо до нитки);

  • adverbial idioms ( out of the blue – совершенно неожиданно).

The most numerous groups are nominal and verbal idioms (~44% and ~42%).

There are also what we may call partial idioms, where one of the words has its usual meaning, the other has a meaning that is peculiar to the particular sequence. Thus red hair refers to hair, but not hair that is red in strict colour terms.

An interesting set involves the word “white”, for white coffee is brown in colour, white wine is usually yellow, and white people are pink. Yet, white is, perhaps, idiomatic only to some degree – it could be interpreted “the lightest in colour of that usually to be found”. Not surprisingly “black” is used as its antonym for coffee and people (Though again neither of them are black in colour terms), yet it is not used for wine.


To broaden the pupils’ language awareness of idioms one can suggest the following exercises.

I. Insert the missing element; use each idiom in the sentence.

to cry … murder

to see pink …

a … dog

to brown …

to paint … red

II. Supply the necessary words.

to swear … (поклясться всем святым)

to do something … (делать что-либо с большим размахом)

to catch … (застать с поличным)

to give … (смутить)

to turn … (побагроветь от ярости)

III. Give Russian equivalents for:

a white night

to brown-nose

a redneck

to blackmail

green winter

IV. Recall some adjective phraseological units with colours.

V. Find the right variant.

1) She's the ___ sheep in her family.

a) green, b) white, c) red, d) black

2) They were ___ with envy when they heard about my great new job.

a) pink, b) blue, c) green, d) yellow

3) Susie’s dress looked awful but I told her a ____lie and said it looked great.

a) blue, b) white, c) green, d) grey

4) He sees ___ every time his team loses.

a) black, b) white, c) red, d) yellow

5) She was feeling ___ after she failed her exam.

a) pink, b) green, c) red, d)blue

6) I had no idea you were coming. You came right out of the ___.

a), green b), black c) blue, d) red

7) Do not call me ___! I was not scared at all!

a) green, b) yellow, c) brown, d)blue

8) He’s a really ___-eyed boy in this office. The boss loves him.

a) black, b) brown, c) green, d)blue

9) How can you argue about your salary now? It’s there on your contract in _____.

a) black and white, b) blue and white, c) red and white, d) black

10) I’ve been in the ___since I started going to the gym.

a) yellow, b) pink, c) black, d) red

VI. Give an idiom for each number.

1. successful, profitable,

2. to go out and have a great time,

3. to react with uncontrollable rage against smb. or smth.,

4. extremely timid, cowardly,

5. an area of fields and trees around a town.

VII. Reproduce an episode from the book you are reading, employ colour idioms.

VIII. Using the list of idiomatic expressions given below make up a story (a dialogue).

green stuff

to bleed someone white

a black spot

the boys in blue

black and blue

a blackguard

IX. Think of ten idioms that initiate with verbs.

X. Look at the pictures and say which idioms are meant.

1. 2.


3. 4.




I. to cry blue murder

to see pink elephants

a yellow dog

to brown smb. off

to paint the town red

They painted the town red and drank until they saw pink elephants. This yellow dog always cries blue murder that we don’t treat him in a proper way. I don’t want to read this book any more, it browns me off.

II. to swear black and blue

to do smth up brown

to catch smb red-handed

to give a red face

to turn purple with rage

III. ночь без сна

грубо льстить

несведущий человек


бесснежная зима

IV. red-hot, true-blue, yellow-bellied, white-handed, as green as grass.

V. 1)d, 2)c, 3)b, 4)a, 5)d, 6)c, 7)b, 8)d, 9)a, 10)d.

VI. 1. in the black

2. to paint the town red

3. to see red

4. yellow-bellied

5. a green belt

VIII. Going to the country Tim got into a black spot. Two terrible men appeared on the road and demanded all green stuff he had. The blackguards bled Tim white. The boys in blue found the poor guy black and blue near the forest.

IX. to go into the red

to rollout the red carpet

to burn with a low blue flame

to make the air blue

to brown out

to go to the greenwood

to show the white feather

to give a black look

to know black from white

to look green around the gills

X. 1. a white lie

2. once in a blue moon

3. to feel blue

4. to be green with envy

5. Grass is always greener on the other side.


Idioms are integral part of language which make our speech more colourful and expressive, help us to use English more creatively, encourage us to improve our knowledge.

The aims of the work are achieved. I enriched my vocabulary by means of colour idioms and can use them in my speech.

The practical value of the work consists in the fact that it can be used at the English language lessons as a means of raising pupils’ interest and developing language guessing skills. One can use the glossary I compiled and check up one’s knowledge doing different exercises.

Summing up, we must admit that English idioms are so numerous and rich that we have a large sphere of activity to study them.


  1. Новый англо-русский словарь / Издательство «Русский язык»б В.К. Мюллер, В.Л. Дашевская, В.А. Каплан и др. – 7-е изд., стереотип. – М.: Рус. яз., 2000. – 880 с.

  2. Эккерсли К.Е. Учебник английского языка. В 4 т. Т. 4. – М.:АО «Буклет», 1995. – 320 с.: илл.

  3. Internet site: http://www.idioms.thefreedictionary.com

  4. Internet site: http://www.usingenglish.com

  5. Internet site: http://www.engli.org

  6. Internet site: http://www.learn-english-today.com

  7. Internet site: http://www.monax.ru

  8. Internet site: http://www.englishclub.com

  9. Internet site: http://www.english-at-home.com


Данная работа представляет собой исследование на английском языке с чётко поставленными целями, которые в результате были достигнуты. Автором изучено большое количество материалов по теме, на основе которых был создан словарь английских фразеологизмов с названиями цветов. В работе имеются как теоретические выкладки из литературных источников, так и собственный анализ собранного словаря идиом. К каждой идиоме подобран пример, помогающий лучше понять её смысл. Кроме того, автором созданы специальные тренировочные упражнения (с ответами), которые помогут проверить и закрепить знания по теме. В целом, данная работа имеет практическую ценность и может быть использована на уроках английского языка в школе и институте. Автор показал высокий уровень владения языком и хорошие исследовательские способности, поэтому данный труд может быть оценён на «отлично».

Руководитель /Николаева Е.А./

Дата добавления 01.12.2015
Раздел Иностранные языки
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