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Common Idioms in English


in seventh heaven

Meaning: extremly happy or joyful


  • She was in seventh heaven after finding out she was pregant.

on cloud nine

Meaning: a state of complete happiness or euphoria


  • Tabitha was on cloud nine when she found out her mum was coming for a visit.

over the moon

Meaning: extremely delighted or thrilled


  • When he received his dream job offer, he was over the moon with excitement.

on top of the world

Meaning: feeling extremely successful, confident and happy


  • I just landed the lead part in the play; I'm on the top of the world!

to paint the town red

Meaning: to go out and enjoy oneself by engaging in lively activities.


  • After their exams, Oliver and his mates decided to paint the town red by hitting as many pubs as they could.

to have a whale of a time

Meaning: to have an extremely enjoyable and exciting time


  • During their vacation, they had a whale of a time exploring the beautiful beaches.
  • We had a whale of a time at the cinema, it was a great film.
  • I had a whale of a time in Fargo.

to have the time of one's life

Meaning: to have an exceptional enjoyable or memorable experience


  • With the wind in their hair and the ocean beneath their boards, they surfed, having the time of their lives.

to make one's day

Meaning: to greatly please or delight someone


  • Receiving a handwritten letter from her favourite author made her day.

to have a blast

Meaning: to enjoy oneself a lot


  • Tim had a blast and said he hadn't laughed so much in ages.
  • We had a blast at the party.

full of the joys of spring

Meaning: to be extremely happy, cheerful or full of enthusiasm


  • Even though the rain showed no signs of letting up, she sat in her cosy chair with her book, full of the joys of spring.

to be tickled pink

Meaning: to be very pleased or amused


  • Tony was tickled pink by the surprise party his friends threw for him at the office.

in rapture (about/over)

Meaning: a state of extreme delight or excitement


  • The audience was in rapture over the hilarious performance by the improv comdey act.

to kick the bucket

Meaning: to die or pass away


  • No, Bob isn't coming to the reunion; he kicked the bucket last spring.

to pass away

Meaning: to die


  • He passed away last week.

a clean bill of health

Meaning: a statement or certificate of being in good health


  • After a thorough medical examination, the docter gave me a clean bill of health.

like death warmed up

Meaning: looking extremely ill or unhealthy


  • Sarah caught a terrible cold but went to work anyway despite looking like death warmed up.

as fit as a fiddle

Meaning: in excellent physical health and condition


  • John excercises regularly to remain as fit as a fiddle at the ripe old age of 86.

to go under the knife

Meaning: to undergo surgery or a medical operation


  • Emily was nervous but knew she had to go under the knife to have her appendix removed.

to have one foot in the grave

Meaning: to be near death or in very poor health


  • After his heart attack, Tam felt like he had on foot in the grave and wan't about to waste a single moment.

to recharge one's batteries

Meaning: to take a break and rest to regain energy and strength


  • Julia decided it was finally time to have a weekend getaway to recharge her batteries.


to weather the stormsuccessfully deal with a very difficult problem.Perry says he's been able to weather the storm for a variety of reasons.
to take a rain checkto decline an offer or invitation at the present time but suggest doing it at a later dateSorry, I can't make it tonight, Can I take a rain check and reschedule?
Thanks for inviting me to dinner but I can't this week. Can I take a rain check on that?

as right as rain

Meaning: in perfect order or condition; perfectly fine


  • Although she had been feeling unwell, after a good night's sleep, she woke up feeling as right as rain.
  • Don't worry about me, I'm as right as

come rain or shine

Meaning: you can depend on someone to be there no matter what or whatever the weather.


  • I'll be there to help you move house come rain or shine.

it never rains but it pours

Meaning: When things don't just go wrong but very wrong and other bad things happen too.


  • First he lost his keys to the house, then his wallet and then his car broke down. It never rains but it pours.

save for a rainy day

Meaning: to save for the future when it might suddenly be needed (unexpectedly)


  • Don't spend your entire wage in one night. You should save for a rainy day.

to chase rainbows

Meaning: to pursue unrealistic or unattainable goals or dreams


  • Instead of focusing on practical career options, he spent his life chasing rainbows and never achieved stability.
  • I think she's chasing rainbows if she thinks she can get into Oxford with her bad grades.

be snowed under

Meaning: overwhelmed with a large amount of work, tasks or responsibilities


  • With the approaching exams, she was completely snowed under and had to study late into the night.
  • I'm snowed under at work right now because two of my colleages are on holiday.

to kick up a storm

Meaning: to cause a significant commotion or controversy


  • The scandalous revelation kicked up a strom of media frenzy, sparking intense public interest.

the calm before the storm

Meaning: a period of relative peace or tranquility before a more turbulent or difficult situation arise.


  • The office seemed quiet, but everyone knew it was just the calm before the storm of the new product launch.
  • The in-laws were about to arrive with their kids so she sat on the sofa with a cup of coffee enjoying the calm before the storm.

a storm in a teacup

Meaning: a situation that is exaggerated or blown out of proportion, making it seem more significant or serious than it actually is


  • The argument between the colleagues turned out to be a storm in a teacup and was quickly resolved.
  • Those two are always arguing about something, it's just a storm in a teacup.

storm is brewing

Meaning: indication that something is about to become bad or explode


  • You could tell by the looks on their faces that a storm was brewing.

to steal someone's thunder

Meaning: to take attention or credit away from someone by doing or saying something that outshines or eclipses their achievement or idea


  • Phyllis had prepared an elaborate surprise, but Jan's unexpected announcement stole her thunder.
  • Don't wear that dress to the wedding; the bride won't like it because you'll be stealing her thunder.

to have one's head in the clouds

Meaning: to be daydreaming, not paying attention to or aware of what is happening around oneself.


  • During the meeting, Pia seemed to have her head in the clouds and didn't contribute much.
  • He had his head in the clouds if he seriously thinks he's going to get a promotion soon.

on cloud nine

Meaning: a state of complete happiness or euphoria


  • Tabitha was on cloud nine when she found out her mum was coming for a visit.

silver lining

Meaning: something positive that comes out of a sad or unpleasant situation.


  • The pandemic was difficult for many people for many reasons. For some, it was devastating.But one of the silver linings of the pandemic experience was we were able to talk about loneliness for a different reason.
    How to combat loneliness

every cloud has a silver lining

Meaning: There is always something positive to come out an unpleasant or difficult situation


  • I got laid off from work yesterday, but every cloud has a silver lining and now I can spend more time writing my book.

get wind of

Meaning: to learn or hear of something that should be a secret


  • He got wind of the closure of the company so started looking for a new job immediately.

to throw caution to the wind

Meaning: to act without considering the possible risks or consequences


  • Despite the warning, he threw caution to the wind, quite literally, and went skydiving for the first time.
  • They threw caution to the wind and quit their jobs in the heat of the moment.

to be a breeze

Meaning: a thing that is easy to do


  • Speaking English is a breeze for me.
  • Our Enlish exam was a breeze. I'm sure I'll get top marks.

put on ice

Meaning: to postpone for another day


  • The project has been put on ice until our boss decides what to do next.

break the ice

Meaning: to say or do something to make someone feel relaxed or at ease in social setting.


  • He offered to get her a drink to help break the ice.

cut no ice (with sb)

Meaning: to not cause someone to change their opinion or decision.


  • I've heard her excuses and they cut no ice with me.
  • His opinion cust no ice with me.
  • This argument cut no ice with my parents.
  • Fury and force cuts no ice where gentleness does the job.

to catch some rays

Meaning: to spend time in the sun, often to relax or sunbathe


  • They headed to the beach to catch some rays and enjoy the warm summar weather.

ray of hope

Meaning: There is a chance that something positive will happen.


  • There is a ray of hope after all, it looks like we won't be losing our jobs.

fair-weather friend

Meaning: a person who is only a friend when circumstances are pleasant or profitable


  • When I was rish, I had many friends, but I found out most of them were just fair-weather friends.
  • She was a fair-weather friend because she wasn't interested in me once I had lost my job.

under the weather

Meaning: you are not feeling well


  • Paul isn't coming with us because he feels a litter under the weather.

Body Parts

to point a/the finger atto accuse or blame (someone)There are a lot of factors to point a finger at here. Thereis the war in Ukraine, which drove up the cost of vegetable oil and also the fuel to heat the oil.
eye-poppingIn some shops, the price on the menu board has risen to eye-popping levels, though not at Chips Ahoy just yet.

to not put a foot wrong

Meaning: to not make any mistakes


  • My brother was really careful at school, he never put a foot wrong. He studied well, he aced all his exams, and he never got into trouble.

to get off on the wrong foot

Meaing: to start a relationship or an interaction on a negative note.


  • I think I got off on the wrong foot with my new neighbour when I accidently parked in his spot.

to have itchy feet

Meaning: to have a strong desire or restlessness to travel or explore new places.


  • After staying in the same city for years, we had itchy feet and wanted to experience new cultures.

to get/have one's foot in the door

Meaning: to enter a company or organisation at a low level with a chance of being promoted or being more successful in the future


  • Leno got her foot in the door as an intern, but she worked her way up to department head in just a few years.
  • I always wanted to work in TV but it took me two years to get a foot in the door.
  • I managed to get my foot in the door at an amazing company early in my career, and I've worked my way up to management level.

to go belly up

Meaning: often referring a businesses that fail completely and have to close.


  • The business went belly up after just a year of trading.
  • Last year the business went belly up after one of the partner resigned.

to pull your finger out

Meaning: to encourage someone to start working harder or more quickly.


  • I'm behind on this project; I'd better pull your finger out.

cost an arm and a leg

Meaning: something is very expensive.


  • I can't afford a new car, they cost an arm and a leg.

a bag of bones

Meaning: a person who is very thin, typically with prominent bones visible.


  • She felt like a bag of bones after losing weight unintentionally.

to have a bone to pick with someone

Meaning: have a reason to disagree with, or be angry with, someone


  • I have a bone to pick with Tim because he chose the last film we went to see and it was utter rubbish.

to split hairs

Meaning: to argue or worry about very small details or differences that are unimportant.


  • Sometimes, I feel like my husband splits hairs over insignificant matters, and it leads to unnecessary arugments.
  • Don't split hairs. You know what I'm getting at.

at face value

Meaning: accepting something as it appears to be, without questioning its true nature or authenticity.


  • You shouldn't take everything you read about nutrition at face value; always verify the information is from reliable sources.

to play it by ear

Meaning: to decide how to deal with a situation as it develops rather than by having a plan to follow.


  • I'm not sure what we'll do this weekend; we'll play it by ear.
  • I don't know what they'll want when they arrive - we'll have to play it by ear.

to stick one's neck out

Meaning: to take a risk or expose yourself to possible criticism or danger by doing or saying something


  • Despite the controversy surrounding the issue, Jane decided to stick her neck out and support the new policy.
  • I'm really sticking my neck out by investing my money in this idea.
  • Sometimes it's best to keep your opinions to yourself and not stick your neck out.

a knee-jerk reaction

Meaning: an immediate, automatic response to a situation, often without careful consideration or thought


  • When we heard about the increase in crime rates, our knee-jerk reaction was to insist on more police patrols in the area.
  • Government must avoid knee-jerk reactions.
  • But he is not a man prone to knee-jerk reactions.

to be caught red-handed

Meaning: to catch someone in the act of doing something wrong


  • My daughter was caught stealing biscuits red-handed, or should I say, biscuit-faced!

to hit the nail on the head

Meaning: to be completely right about something


  • Should the government ban mobile phones in schools?
    Yes, I reckon the government has hit the nail on the head. Banning mobile phones would help education no end.

to fall head over heels

Meaning: to fall deeply in love or become infatuated with someone or something (like an animal)


  • When she saw the adorable puppy, she fell head over heels and knew she had to adopt it.

to fall on deaf ears

Meaing: when something you say is ignored or not acknowledged.


  • Sarah asked her kids to stop playing and focus on their homework. However, her request seemed to fall on deaf ears as they kept playing o their phones.

to twist your arm

Meaning: to persuage someone to do something they're hesitant about.


  • I wasn't keen on attending the party, but John twisted my arm and I agreed to go.

to have the upper hand

Meaning: to have an advantage over someone


  • Last time Tim chose the film we went to watch and it was rubbish, so this time I had the upper hand and I was going to choose.

to bare (one's) teeth

Meaning: to display an angry, violent, or threatening reaction to or against something or someone, as does a dog or wolf when threated.


  • The dog bares its teeth and growled.
  • I will bare my teeth to anyone who tried to take away my land.
  • We seemed to be getting along just fine, but she suddenly bared her teetch when I brought up religion.

to steal one's heart

Meaning: to captivate or charm someone in a way that they fall in love or become deeply attracted.


  • Her infectious laughter and warm personality instantly stole his heart.


to get your goat

Meaning: to annoy or irritate someone.


  • The traffic this morning really got my goat.

like sheep

Meaning: do what the others are doing, without thinking for themselves.


  • The crowd followed the leader like sheep.

to wolf something down

Meaning: to eat something quikly


  • In the morning I am often in a rush, so I wolf down my breakfast and then head off for work.

to smell a rat

Meaning: to suspect or sense that something is wrong or suspicious.


  • Carolina's instinct told her to be cautious as she began to smell a rat in their business dealings.

to have ants in one's pants

Meaning: to be unable to sit still or be restless due to impatience, excitement or anxiety


  • I've got ants in my pants about this presentation tomorrow - help me calm down!

to have other / bigger fish to fry

Meaning: to have more important or pressing matters to attend to; to be preoccupied with other tasks or concerns.


  • Sorry, I can't join you for dinner tonight; I have other fish to fry with this project deadline.

donkey's years

Meaning: a very long time


  • He's been telling that some joke for donkey's years, but it still manages to get a few laughs.

eager beaver

Meaning: a person who is enthusiastic, energetic and eager to work or participate.


  • Rommel is always the first one to volunteer for new projects; he's such an eager beever.

to take the bull by the horns

Meaning: to confront a difficult or challenging situation directly and decisively


  • Instead of avoiding the issue, he decided to take the bull by the horns and address the problem head-on.

to let the cat out of the bag

Meaning: to reveal a secret or disclose confidential informaiton unintentionally or carelessly


  • My dad couldn't contain his excitement and let the cat out of the bag about our vacation destination.

curiosity killed the cat

Meaning: said to warn someone not to ask too many questions about something


  • 'Where are we going?' Calder asked. 'Curiosity killed the cat, dear. You'll find out soon enough.'

until the cows come home

Meaning: for a very long time; indefinitely or without a definite end


  • I know you want to play video games until the cows come home, but eventually, you need to do your homework.

to drop like flies

Meaning: to rapidly decrease in number or weaken significantly, often due to illness or other negative factors.


  • During the flu season, people were dropping like flies, and the hospital was overwhelmed.

to hold one's horses

Meaning: to be patient, wait, or stop rushing


  • I know you're excited, but hold your horses and let's make a plan first.
  • Hold your horses - you haven't finished.

to pig out

Meaning: to eat excessively or indulge in large quantities of food, often in an uncontrolled manner.


  • After weeks of dieting, he decided to pig out and enjoy a cheat day with all his favourite snacks.


round the clock

Meaning: all day and all night without stopping


  • My mum was a nurse who often worked round the clock to take care of her patients.

to call it a day/night

Meaning: to stop what you are doing because you do not want to do any more or think you have done enough.


  • After hours of negotiations that were going round in circles, they decided to call it a night.

like clockwork

Meaning: happening exactly as planned without any trouble or delay


  • The wedding went like clockwork, with every detail perfectly timed.

to have time to kill

Meaning: to have spare time


  • The other day I had time to kill so I got in touch with my mate Tim.

to have time on your hands

Meaning: to have free time


  • Tim has lots of time on his hands as he is on holiday now.

in the nick of time

Meaning: just in time; at the last possible moment


  • He arrived at the airport in the nick of time, just as his flight was due to depart.

once upon a time

Meaning: a long time ago


  • Once upon a time there was an ugly duckling.
  • Once upon a time people knew the difference between right and wrong, but nowadays nobody seems to care.

at the 11th hour

Meaning: at the last possible moment


  • The deal was saved at the 11th hour when an unknown investor stepped in with the necessary funds.

as fresh as a daisy

Meaning: feeling or appearing refreshed and energetic


  • I felt as fresh as a daisy after my long shower, followed by a warm cup of tea.

as pale as a ghost/death

Meaning: having a very pale condition, often due to fear, illness or shock


  • THe loud crashing sound downstairs caused Jane to turn as pale as a ghost.

where there's smoke, there's fire

Meaning: if there are signs or indications of a problem or issue, it is likely that a problem or issue exist.


  • Rumours about layoffs at the company have been circulating, and where there's smoke, there's fire.

thrist for adventure

Meaning: a strong desire or craving for exciting and daring experiences.


  • My group of friends and I planned an epic road trip to satisfy our collective thirst for adventure.

off the beaten track

Meaning: in a remote or less-travelled location, away from the mainstream or popular areas.


  • They decided to go camping in a small village off the beaten track to escape the crowds.

to get away from it all

Meaning: to escape or take a break from one's usual routine or responsibilites, often in search of relaxation


  • Escaping to a remote tropical island is the perfect way to get away from it all.

to hit the road

Meaning: to begin a journey or trip, usually by driving


  • It's time to hit the road and start our next adventure.

hustle and bustle

Meaning: busy and noisy activity, often associated with a crowded or lively environment


  • The city centre was full of hustle and bustle with people rushing around.

a mile a minute

Meaning: at a very fast or rapid pace; quickly and energetically


  • She talks a mile a minute but always has something interesting to say.

in the same boat

Meaning: in the same situation as others; facing a common challenge or circumstance.


  • Way may have different backgrounds, but during tough times, we're all in the same boat.

right up one's street

Meaning: perfectly suited or aligned with one's interests or preferences


  • With her passion for cooking, this culinary class is going to be right up her street.

the moment of truth

Meaning: the time when a person or thing is tested or a decision has to be made


  • The job interview had arrived, and it was the moment of truth to showcase his skills and qualifications.

once in a blue moon

Meaning: very rarely


  • He doesn't eat out often; it only happens once in a blue moon.
  • He comes to visit once in a blue moon.

round the corner

Meaning: very near or happening soon


  • The deadline for the project is just round the corner, so we need to pick up the pace.

down to the wire

Meaning: until the last possible moment


  • With only seconds left on the clock, the game went down to the wire, keeping spectators on edge.

the apple of one's eye

Meaning: someone or something that is cherished or highly valued.


  • His daughter is the apple of his eye; he adores her.

to tie the knot

Meaning: to get married or enter into a formal union


  • After years of dating, they decided it was time to finally tie the knot.

to pop the question

Meaning: to propose marriage to someone


  • With the diamond ring hidden in his coat pocket, he planned the perfect moment to pop the queston.

to play hard to get

Meaning: to act unterested in order to increase one's desirability or attractivenesss to another person.


  • It was clear she was interested, but she couldn't resist playing hard to get, adding to the excitement.

to hit it off (with someone)

Meaning: to have an instant connection or rapport with someone


  • From the moment they met, they hit it off and became close friends.

to be stood up

Meaning: to be intentionally or unexpectedly left waiting for someone who doesn't show up for a planned meeting or date


  • Glenda arrived at the restaurant eagerly, only to be stood up by her date.

a match made in heaven

Meaning: a couple or pairing that is perfectly suited for each other and seems destined to be together.


  • With their shared interests and values, they truly are a match made in heaven.

an old flame

Meaning: a past romantic partner or love interest


  • When Marsha moved back to her hometown, she reconnected with an old flame from sixth form.


to get the green light

Meaning: to receive permission to proceed with a project or action


  • We finally got the green light to start the new marking campaign.

out of the blue

Meaning: suddenly and unexpectedly


  • I hadn't heard from him in years, and the he called me out of the blue.

green with envy

Meaning: very jealous or envious


  • She was green with envy when she saw her frine

golden opportunity

Meaning: an excellent opportunity that is not likely to be repeated.


  • This job is a golden opportunity for someone with a background in journalism like yourself.

rose-coloured / rose-tinted spectacles

Meaning: an optimistic perception of something; a positive perspective


  • She always sees the world through rose-tinted spectacles, but sometimes I feel she needs a reality check.

a grey area

Meaning: a situation not clearly defined or that falls between two extremes.


  • Their relationship was undefined, existing in a grey area between friendship and romance.

yellow-bellied / yellow

Meaning: cowardly or easily scared


  • He was too yellow-bellied to confront his boss about the ongoing issues he faced.

on a silver platter

Meaning: if you are given something on a silver platter, it is given to you without you having to work or make an effort for it.


  • He expected success to come to him effortlessly, always wanting things served on a silver platter.

be black and blue / to beat someone black and blue

Meaning: badly bruised


  • The next day I was black and blue and couldn't move my neck.
  • I never though he'd beat me black and blue just for disagreeing with him.

a reality check

Meaning: an event or situation that brings a person back to the harsh or practical realities of life.


Meaning: a person who talks a lot


  • My little niece is such a chatterbox; she can talk for hours about the most random things!

loose cannon

Meaning: a person who behaves in an uncontrolled or unpredictable manner, often causing damage or danger.


  • He's a loose cannon, you never know what he might say or do next.

wet blanket

Meaning: a person who spoils other people's fun by failling to join in with or by disapproving of their activities.


  • Don't invite him to the party; he's such a wet blanket.

to blow one's own trumpet

Meaning: to boast or brag about one's own abilities or achievements.


  • He never misses an opportunity to blow his own trumpet.

the salt of the earth

Meaning: a person or people of great kindness, reliability or honesty.


  • She's the salt of the earth, always ready to help those in need.

jack of all trades

Meaning: a person who can do many different types of work but who is not necessarily very competent at any of them.


  • He's a jack of all trades; he can fix anything in the house.


Meaning: a person who tends to worry habitually and often needlessly.


  • Don't be such a worrywart; everything will be fine.

armchair critic

Meaning: a person who offers advice or an opinion on something in which they have no experiense or involvement


  • He's an armchair critic, always talking about football but never playing it.

free spirit

Meaning: a person who lives according to their own wishes and beliefs, unconstrained by society's conventions.


  • Shannon's a true free spirit, finding joy in simple pleasure and embracing life's little adventures.

to dress to the nines

Meaing: to dress in a stylish, elegant or glamorous manner


  • My mum always dresses to the nines for special occasions like parties and weddings.

to put two and two together

Meaning: to infer or deduce something by combining or connecting available information or clues


  • When she saw the muddy footprints and wet raincoat, she put two and two together and realised he had been outside in the rain.


Meaning: referring to regular office or business hours; a typical full-time job


  • He works a nine-to-five job from Monday to Friday and enjoyes his weekends off.

back to/at square one

Meaning: returning to the beginning or starting point of a task or process, often due to a lack of progress or a setback


  • After the computer crashed and deleted all the files, they had to start the project back at square one.

the third degree

Meaning: intense or thorough questioning, often to extract information or elicit a confession


  • Detective Roberts gave the suspect the third degree, relentlessly questioning and probing for answers to solve the case.

two left feet

Meaning: lacking coordination or being clumsy, especially when it comes to dancing or physical activities.


  • I can't dance; I've got two left feet and always end up stepping on my partner's toes.

two peas in a pod

Meaning: two people or things that are very similar or nearly identical; often used to describe close friends or siblings.


  • They have the same taste in music, fasion and hobbies; they're like two peas in a pod.
  • Harry and I are best friends, we are like two peas in a pod.

forty winks

Meaning: a short nap or a brief period of sleep, usually during the day


  • I'll just lie down and take forty winks before dinner; I'm feeling a bit tired.

to bring home the bacon

Meaning: to earn a living or provide financial support for oneself or one's family.


  • He took on multiple jobs to bring home the bacon and save up for his dream holiday.

one's bread and butter

Meaning: a person's primary source of income or livelihood


  • Writing is her bread and butter; you should read some of her early works - masterpieces!

a bad egg

Meaning: a person who is dishonest or untrustworthy


  • Watch out for him; he's known to be a bad egg who can't be trusted.

the cream of the crop

Meaning: the best or finest indiviudals or things in a particular group or category


  • The Olympic Games bring together atheletes who are considered the cream of the crop in their respective sports.

to spill the beans/tea

Meaning: to reaveal a secret or disclose information that was meant to be kept confidentical.


  • Do you know who spilt the beans about their affair?

not one's cup of tea

Meaning: something that one does not enjoy, have an interest in or find appealing.


  • Horror films are not her cup of tea; she prefers a cheesy rom-com.

in a nutshell

Meaning: in a concise or summarised form; briefly and clearly


  • She explained the entire situation in a nutshell, highlighting only the relevant points.

to eat humble pie

Meaning: to admit one's mistake or defeat and show humility or remorse.


  • After realising his error, he had to eat humble pie and apologise for his rude behaviour.

egg on one's face

Meaning: to be embarrassed or humiliated by making a mistake or being proven wrong


  • His incorrect prediction left him with egg on his face when the opposite outcome occured.

in a pickle

Meaning: in a difficult, complicated or problematic situation


  • We're in a pickle; the car broke down, and we're late for an important meeting.

to catch the travel bug

Meaning: to have a strong desire to travel across the world

not a moment to lose

Meaning: no time to waste


Meaning: a chat

to scratch the surface

Meaning: to deal with only a very small part of a subject or problem

to put your cards on the table

Meaning: to be transparent about your feelings or intentions


  • During the meeting, the manager encouraged everyone to put their cards on the table and share their genuine opinions about the project.

to be part and parcel

Meaning: Something essential or integral to another thing.


  • Studying is part and parcel of being a student. You can't escape it if you aim for high grades.

to be on the same page

Meaning: to agreen or think similarly about something


  • Before initiating the project, the team met to ensure everyone was on the same page regarding the objectives.

to put off

Meaning: to change sth to a later time or date


  • Let's put off the meeting.

to be on the cards

Meaning: something is very likely


  • Will I travel abroad more in the future?
    Yes, I think it's on the cards, mainly because I love discovering new cultures and meeting new people.
  • I think Jack will be the next president, well, at least I think it's on the cards.

to be up in the air

Meaning: something is uncertain


  • I have no idea who will win the next election, it's up in the air.

to be in the bag

Meaning: to be certain you will get or achive something


  • My interview went really well. I think my promotion is in the bag.

to be a big ask

Meaning: to be difficult to do, and will need some sacrifice.


  • The government in my country wants to be carbon neutral by 2030; I think that's a big ask.
  • Giving a presentaion in Chinese would be a big ask.

a piece of cake

Meaning: a thing that is very easy to do


  • It's a piece of cake
  • Passing your IELTS speaking test is a piece of cake if you prepared properly.

to be a breeze

Meaning: a thing that is easy to do


  • Speaking English is a breeze for me.
  • Our Enlish exam was a breeze. I'm sure I'll get top marks.

to be a walk in the park

Meaning: to be easy


  • Giving a 5-minute presentation is a walk in the park

to be barking up the wrong tree

Meaning: to have the wrong idea / approach


  • Should the government ban mobile phones in schools? Do you agree with this idea?
    No, I reckon the government is barking up the wrong tree, this approach is totally wrong.

no end

Meaning: a lot


  • If you practice English everyday, that will help your English no end.

not the be-all and end-all

Meaning: something is important, but not the only important thing


  • Is money important to you?
    Well, it's not the be-all and end-all, there are more important things in life, like family and friends.
  • Do you think computers are important in schools?
    Well, yes but, they are not the be-all and end-all, I mean the quality of teaching is probably just as important as the equipment in the schools.

to be clued up on

Meaning: to know a lot about something


  • Do you know a lot about football?
    Yeah, I am really clued up on football, I know lots about it.
  • Do you know a lot about cooking?
    Not much, but my brother is really clued up on cooking. He is, like, the next MasterChef!

to be clueless about

Meaning: to know nothing about something


  • To be honest, I am clueless about football. I don't even know who is winning the league at the moment.

doesn't have a clue

Meaning: doesn't know. Example:

  • Tim doesn't have a clue when it comes to choosing a good film.

to give your all

Meaning: to do your best


  • I admire my mother because she always gives her all.

to be a hard act to follow

Meaning: difficult for anyone else to do as well as that person


  • The queen was a wonderful person, she is going to be a hard act to follow!

Expressing opinions

take on sth

Meaning: the particular opinion or idea that sb has about sth


  • My take on this is, it's a good idea.

to my way of thinking


  • To my way of thinking, it's a good idea.

boil down to

Meaning: to have sth as a main or basic part


  • It boils down to money. Can we afford to invest in space exploration? I don't think so.
  • It boils down to one thing, our planet is in danger, so we need to explore space.

come down to


  • But it all comes down to feeling that you're systematically excluded because of some characteristic.
    How to combat loneliness
  • The problem comes down to money.

on the fence


  • I can't decide whether to go to the party or not, I'm still on the fence.

take it or leave it

in two minds

Meaning: uncertain or undecided; to have conflicting thoughts or opinions about something.


  • My uncle was in two minds about accepting the job offer because it meant moving to a different city.
  • I'm in two minds about his.

Expressing confusion

make head or tail of sth / make heads or tails of sth


  • I couldn't make head or tail of it.
  • I couldn't make heads or tails of it.

get my head around


  • I can't get my head around it.

none other than


  • The person I want to talk about is none other than my father.

Saying things are good

second to none

Meaning: unmatched or unrivalled; the best or highest quality.


  • Their customer service is second to none; they always go above and beyond to assist their clients.
  • My Maths teacher is so good, she is second to none.

hands down the best


  • Harry Kane is hands down the best football player in England.

a cut above the rest


  • Samsung phones are a cut above the rest.

think the world of


  • I think the world of my father.

the bees knees

Saying things are normal



  • It's a run-of-the-mill restaurant.
  • Does your prescription you have work as easily for people who might be more prone to loneliness than sort of, like, run-of-the-mill loneliness that just comes with mordern society.
    How to combat loneliness

nothing to write home about


  • This hotel is ok, but nothing to write home about.

Saying things are not good

to be not a patch on

Meaning: to be much less good, attractive, etc. than sb/sth else


  • The latest Marvel film is not a patch on the previous film.
  • The new restaurant is not a patch on the old one.
  • The restaurant is not a patch on the one we went to last week.

can't hold a candle to sb/sth

Meaning: is not as good as sb or sth else


  • It can't hold a candle to ___.
  • The new resaurant can't hold a candle to the old one in terms of food quality.
  • His singing can't hold a candle to Pavarotti's.
  • The singer is ok, but she don't handle the candle to Beyonce.

to have a one track mind

Meaning: to think about only one thing


  • All Tim thinks about is fast action and special effects - he's got a one track mind.

to have money to burn

Meaning: to have plenty of money to spend


  • Fortunately, Tim said he was going to pay, you know he has money to burn.

to put someone's back up

Meaing: annoy or irritate someone


  • John's criticism of his wife's cooking in front of everyone really put her back up.

to have your work cut out


  • Teaching a class of young, energetic children? You've got your work cut out!
  • You'll have your work cut out for you if you want to finish this project on time.

on the spur of the moment

Meaning: doing something suddenly without planning.


  • I was in the park with my friend, and on the spur of the moment, we decided to buy icecream.
  • I phoned him up on the spur of the moment.
  • a spur-of-the-moment decision

to put out all the stops

Meaning: to give your best effort in doing sth


  • I'm playing table tennis against my skilled brother tomorrow. I'll have to pull out all the stops to win.

  • to talk through your hat

Meaning: talking nonsense or saying things without knowledge


  • I overheard someone in the pub discussing politics, and most of the time, he was talking through his hat.

to go from strength to strength

Meaning: to continually get better or improve


  • Since its beginning, the small startup has gone from strength to strength.

in and of itself


  • Technology, in and of itself, isn't the problem. It's how we use it.

money doesn't grow on trees

Meaning: money is hard to get.


  • We can't afford that - money doesn't grow on trees.

hit the hay/sack

Meaning: going to bed


  • I'm tired - I'm going to hit the sack.

be set in stone

Meaning: Describing something that cannot be changed, usually referring to future plans.


  • Sorry, I can't change my vacation dates. They're set in stone.
  • I'd like to make an observation about our business plan - it's not set in stone, so we can be flexible.
  • The schedule isn't set in stone, but we'd like to stick to it pretty closely.

siren voices/song/call, siren's call

Meaning: the temptation to do sth that seems very attractive but that will have bad results.


  • The government must resist the siren voice calling for tax cuts.
  • It's like tying yourself to the mast so as not to go towards the siren's call.
    And the siren's call is print more pesos.

stir up a (real) hornet's nest

Meaning: a very difficult or unpleasant situation, especially in which a lot of people get very angry and complain.


  • His remarks about the lack of good women tennis players stirred up a (real) hornet's nets.
  • His letter to the papers stirred up a real hornet's nest.
  • To Florian, this seemed like an important enough finding that he was willing to risk stirring the hornet's nest.

blow off (some) steam / let off steam

Meaning: to do or say something that helps you to get rid of strong feelings or energy.


  • Call me any time you need to blow off some steam.
  • You could just blow off some steam.
  • I was so furious that I had to go for walk around the block to let off steam.

fall/run afoul of

Meaning: to get into trouble because of not obeying or following (the law, a rule, etc.)


  • Whether this project might fall afoul of academic ethics rules or if it might even be illegal.
  • Some whistleblower lawyers are encouraging more reporting of any agreement that might fall afoul of the spirit of the law.

in plain sight / in plain view

Meaning: in a place where people can clearly see something.


  • Florian immediately sees they might have something much bigger on their hands, a kind of treasure trove of data hiding in plain sight.
  • With everything in plain view, customers need less helo from the staff.

to burn the midnight oil

Meaning: to work or study late into the night, often to complete a task or prepare for something.


  • With exams approaching, Sarah found herself burning the midnight oil to cover all the required material.

to strike a balance (between A and B)

Meaning: to find a compromise or middle ground between two competing factors.


  • It's essential to strike a balance between work and leisure for a healthy lifestyle.
  • It's a question of striking the right balance between quality and productivity.

to count one's blessings

Meaning: to make an effort to be grateful for the good things in your life.


  • When I'm feeling down, I try to remember to count my blessings and be grateful for what I have.
  • You escaped the fire? Well, count your blessings!

a/the pecking order

Meaning: a social hierachy in which individuals in a group are all aware of how important everyone is


  • There's a clear pecking order in their group of friends, with Sally being top of the pile.
  • New Zealand is at the top of the pecking order of rugby nations.
  • He knew his place in the pecking order.

to pull some strings

Meaning: to use one's influence or connections, often secretly or unofficially, to achieve a desired outcome.


  • By pulling some strings, Tom was able to get his sister a prestigious position at a London-based accounting firm.
  • I may be able to pull a few strings if you need the document urgently.

to have a field day

Meaning: to take advantage of a situation, typically for personal benefit, often at the expense of others.


  • When the news of the scandal broke, tabloid journalists had a field day writing sensational stories.
  • The tabloid press had a field day with the latest government scandal.

on the back burner

Meaning: refers to something that is low priority and is not being dealt with at the present moment.


  • Let's put this project on the back burner and focus on more pressing matters.\
  • We've all had to put our plans on the back burner for a while.

all of a sudden

Meaning: suddenly


  • It seemed to happen all of a sudden - I felt dizzy and I just collapsed.
  • All of a sudden we heard a loud noise.

lend itself to sth

Meaning: to be good or suitale for (a purpose)


  • Her voice lends itself well to (singing) opera.
  • Her voice doesn't lend itself to blues singing.
  • The topics lend themselves to classroom discussion.
  • I think if you want people to interact and to build rapport with eachother, that's a setup that doesn't lend itself to that sort of thing.

walk the streets

Meaning: to walk in the city


  • People don't feel safe walking the streets at night.
  • It was not safe to walk the streets at night.
  • I was walking the streets of my neighborhood looking for my lost dog.
walk the streetsto walk in the cityPeople don't feel safe walking the streets at night.
It was not safe to walk the streets at night.
I was walking the streets of my neighborhood looking for my lost dog.
high streeta street where the most important shops and businesses in a town areThere's a new Italian restaurant opening on the high street
The big thing you see on high streets now, which have really grown over the last couple of decades, is sort of cheap fried chicken places.

humble origins


  • Comfort foods are often dishes with humble origins.

yuck someone's yum.

To yuck someone's yum means to disparage something they enjoy.


  • I don't like to yuck anybody's yum.

'tis the season

Meaning: ‘Tis the Season is often used to indicate that it’s a particular time of year. The “season” in this phrase refers to the time of year that spans from late November, after American Thanksgiving, to January 6.

ring true/hollow/false

Meaning: to give the impression of being sincere/true or not sincere/true


  • A lot has changed in the business world in the last few years. But there are some fundamentals that still ring true, and it's good to be reminded of them.