List of all idioms

Close

a close shave
a near accident or disaster
- I had a close shave driving home last night. A deer ran across the road in front of me and I almost drove into a tree.
- I was walking in the mountains when a rock crashed down onto the path behind me. I don't need another close shave like that!

a dark horse
a person about whom little is known
- Mary's a bit of a dark horse. Do you think she's got any chance of being elected?
- He's a real dark horse. He sits in the corner at parties, saying very little to anyone, but he always seems to go home with the best-looking girl!

a dead loss
completely useless
- The new student is a dead loss. He can't even remember his phone number.
- I wouldn't put any money on that horse. It's a dead loss.

a fish out of water
in an awkward or uncomfortable situation
- I stopped going to German evening classes. I was the only man there and I felt like a fish out of water.
- It was his first time in a big city and he felt like a fish out of water.

a flash in the pan
a short, bright success, that is unrepeated
- They got to number one in the hit parade with their first song but it was just a flash in the pan.
- You need real talent if you want to be anything more than a flash in the pan.

a head start
an advantage; the chance to be first
- If you do some work in the summer that will give you a head start when the new school year begins.
- Let's get up early tomorrow. Then we'll have a head start on all the traffic driving to the coast.

If you start at the head (or front) of the race, you'll have a better chance of winning.

a hot potato
a controversial topic
- The government decided not to try and ban public smoking - it was too much of a hot potato.
- I wouldn't dream of discussing religion or politics with someone I met at a party - they are very hot potatoes.

a leading light
an important person or organization
- She's a leading light in the animal rights movement.
- I'm no leading light, but I do have an opinion and I think you should listen to it.

a long shot
a small chance; little chance
- I know it's a long shot, but maybe your father will lend you the money.
- He knew it was a long shot that he would find a shop open at that time of night, but he drove around looking for one anyway.

If you shoot at a target from a long distance you have little chance of hitting it.

a night owl
someone who works or goes to bed late at night
- I'm a night owl. I never get to bed before 2 o'clock in the morning.
- We have a bit of a problem. I'm an early bird but my wife's a real night owl.

The opposite of a night owl is an early bird. (An owl is a bird with large eyes that hunts at night.)

a piece of cake
easy
- Do you think you can do it? - Yeah, it will be a piece of cake.
- I thought I'd have problems but it turned out to be a piece of cake.

a red herring
irrelevant or useless information (often said in order to distract someone from what really is important)
- That's just a red herring. Can we please concentrate on our main business?
- I hate sitting in meetings with him. He's always throwing in red herrings that bring us no further.

A herring is a smoked fish.

a short fuse
a quick, bad temper
- Don't mess with her. She's got a short fuse!
- How can you live with someone who has such a short fuse.

A fuse is the string that leads to a bomb. If the fuse is short you only have a short time before the bomb explodes.

a shot in the arm
a boost, encouragement, help
- It was a real shot in the arm to know that my friend could lend me some money if I got into difficulties.
- Does anyone know how to do this? I could use a shot in the arm!

A shot is an injection that is given to protect you from disease or to cure you of it.

a shot in the dark
a guess; an attempt to achieve something with little chance of success
- We could try looking in the phone book, but it will be no more than a shot in the dark.
- (Guessing a computer password) I know it's a shot in the dark, but try his mother's middle name..

If you try to shoot an animal in the dark, you are not likely to hit it.

a skeleton in the closet
a dark and hidden secret from the past
- If you want to become a politician these days, it's best not to have any skeletons in your closet.
- Most people have a skeleton or two in the closet.

A closet is a cupboard. Some people say a skeleton in the cupboard.

a sledgehammer to crack a nut
a method of solving a problem that is much stronger or more brutal than necessary
- Let's not use a sledgehammer to crack a nut. We need to be careful not to make the situation worse.
- Don't you think that expelling him from school for being late a few times is rather like taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

A sledgehammer is a large hammer used for breaking rocks. If you use it to crack a nut, you will not only break the shell of the nut but also destroy the nut inside.

a soft touch
someone who always agrees with other people and does whatever they ask
- If you need some money, ask Jane. She's such a soft touch.
- You've little chance that he'll do what you ask. He's anything but a soft touch.

a square meal
a large, filling meal
- When I was in the army I sometimes didn't have a square meal for days at a time.
- University students often return home at the weekend to get a square meal.

a storm in a teacup
a lot of worry or excitement about a situation that is not important
- All this panic in the newspapers about bird flu - it's just a storm in a teacup.
- If the headmaster thinks that the teachers' protests are nothing but a storm in a teacup, he's in for a big shock!

a taste of your own medicine
bad treatment deservedly received for treating other people badly
- It's time he had a taste of his own medicine. He can't just go around insulting people all the time.
- She's always hitting her children for no reason. Someone needs to give her a taste of her own medicine.

You can also say a dose of your own medicine.

a tough nut
a difficult problem or person
- She's a tough nut. If she doesn't want to do something, nothing you can say will make her change her mind.
- It's a tough nut to crack but if we all work together I think we can be successful.

The expression is often used with the concluding words to crack.

a white lie
a small lie, or a lie said to avoid hurting someone's feelings
- I told her I liked her new hat. It was a white lie, but I saw no reason to upset her.
- If you are married it's sometimes necessary to tell white lies, otherwise you'd be fighting the whole time.

after your own heart
like you; with a similar personality and interests; someone you admire
- John's a boy after my own heart. I do hope she'll marry him.
- The new boss is a woman after my own heart. I'm sure she's going to be very successful.

all mouth and trousers
this expression is said of someone who talks a lot but never actually does anything useful or what they promise
- Don't believe a word he says - he's all mouth and trousers.
- The government promised to spend more money on schools, but it was all mouth and trousers.

This expression is used mainly in British English. A variation is: All mouth and no trousers.

another nail in the coffin
the latest in a series of things that are damaging or killing someone or something
- His forgetting her birthday was another nail in the coffin of their relationship.
- Losing his job was the final nail in his coffin. He died 6 months later.

A coffin is the box in which dead people are buried.

at a pinch
if absolutely necessary; with some difficulty
- I could take you took the airport, at a pinch. But I really must be back by 10 o'clock.
- At a pinch we could take John as well, but he'll have to sit on your knee.

at odds
in disagreement or dispute (with someone about something)
- The government was at odds over how to deal with the situation.
- For a long time we were at odds over whether we should get a dog, but now we both agree that it would be a bad idea.

at sea
confused
- I'm still completely at sea in my new job. Nobody has time to explain what I should do.
- I had to help him set up his new mobile phone. He's at sea with anything technical.

You can also say all at sea.

at your fingertips
information or facts that you know and can tell others quickly and easily
- No, I don't have the details at my fingertips, but you can look it up on the internet.
- If you need to know anything about computers, ask Judy. She's got all the information at her fingertips.
- I have everything at my fingertips and to obtain class notes I simply hit 'print'.
- Having all this information at my fingertips means I donít have to go back to the email or website to review it when Iím deciding whether or not to attend school.

behind the scenes
privately; away from the public eye
- The government finally announced their decision after months of discussions behind the scenes.
- One day we may know what went on behind the scenes in the decision to go to war in Iraq.

behind the times
out-of-date; old-fashioned
- Doesn't he know it's behind the times to kiss a woman's hand these days.
- She still uses a typewriter to do her letters - I've never known anyone so behind the times.

by the skin of your teeth
to succeed but to very nearly fail
- He stayed in school by the skin of his teeth. One more dispute with a teacher and he would have been expelled.
- I caught the train by the skin of my teeth. I jumped into it just as it was pulling out of the station.

can of worms
a complicated and difficult situation or problem
- I don't want to talk about it any more. It's nothing but a can of worms.
- If you do that, you'll be opening a big can of worms.

dressed to the nines
dressed very smartly; (often too smart for the occasion)
- She always comes to work dressed to the nines - do you think she likes to be noticed?
- I felt really embarrassed at the party last night. Everyone else was dressed to the nines and I turned up in an old T-shirt!

eyes glued to something or someone
watching something or someone intensely and for a long time
- I don't think he likes the job. He seems to spend the whole day with his eyes glued to the clock.
- She felt every man's eyes glued to her as she walked into the room.
- The people in the audience now sit quietly without moving a muscle, their eyes glued on the judge.
- I had my eyes glued on the approaching ball the entire time and was so caught up in the moment that I did not even see Moises Alou, much less that he may have had a play.

for a song
cheaply
- I got this old table for a song at the antique market last weekend.
- Was your new MP3 player very expensive? - Not at all. I bought it for a song on the internet.

for good
for ever
- I left home for good when I was 17 years old.
-

New-born babies are usually wet behind the ears.

from scratch
from the beginning; starting again
- When I started a new job I had to learn everything from scratch.
- After the divorce she moved to a new city and started her life from scratch.

from the horse's mouth
information direct from the person who should know
- How do you know that? - I got it from the horse's mouth.
- I heard it from the horse's mouth that she's leaving her job and moving to Australia.

get a life
the expression said to someone who is behaving in a small, stupid or unrealistic way
- When he said that he spends every evening in internet chat rooms, I told him to get a life.
- Why don't you just get a life instead of criticizing every little thing I do?

head in the clouds
unrealistic; unaware of the difficult situation you are in or the problems you are going to have
- I don't have my head in the clouds, I kniow what's going on between you and your boss.
- I've never known someone with his head so much in the clouds. He's in for a nasty surprise one day.
- She'd always said he'd had his head in the clouds, but he hadn't understood what she meant until today.
- It's time you took your head out of the clouds and realized what a mess you're in.

in a nutshell
in brief; to say it in a short way
- To put it in a nutshell: I don't want to go and I won't go.
- We've got to save money or the business will go bankrupt. That's it in a nutshell.

The shell of a nut is a small object into which not very much will fit.

in the cold light of day
when you have time to think about something calmly and practically
- Sorry, I can't tell you now. I need to think about it in the cold light of day.
- When he had time to think about it in the cold light of day, he realized that he'd made a terrible mistake.

in the fast lane
(a life) full of excitement and activity
- I've got too old for the fast lane. I just want to work in my garden and visit my children every now and again.
- I'm tired of living here. I'm moving to New York and a life in the fast lane.

in the firing line
under attack or threat or criticism
- I'd hate to be the boss. You're always in the firing line.
- No, I won't tell her. I'm not going to put myself in the firing line.

in the nick of time
at the last possible moment
- I got there in the nick of time. The chemist was just locking up.
- She turned in her work in the nick of time. One day later and she would have failed the course.

in your right mind
sane; thinking sensibly; not being foolish
- Are you in your right mind? You can't just walk in and tell the boss what you think of her.
- Nobody in their right mind would think of climbing Everest without the proper equipment and support.

in your shoes
in your position
- I wouldn't like to be in your shoes when the boss finds out it was you who sent the dirty emails.
- Put yourself in my shoes. What do you think I should do?

An alternative expression is in someone's boots.

it's your funeral
it's not a good idea and it will make trouble for you (but it will not affect me)
- If you want to quit the job, it's your funeral. But don't come asking me for money.
- He'll be very sorry if he does that, but it's his funeral.

A funeral is the ceremony at which dead people are buried or cremated.

like a cat on a hot tin roof
nervous, agitated
- Do you know what's wrong with her? She's been like a cat on a hot tin roof for the last two days.
- I was like a cat on a hot tin roof waiting for the letter to arrive.

like water off a duck's back
this expression is used for someone who is impervious to criticism; i.e. criticism does not worry or upset them
- You can shout at him until you're blue in the face - it's like water off a duck's back.
- I've told him a thousand times he has to work harder, but it's like water off a duck's back.

A duck's feathers contain an oil which makes water flow right off them.

money talks
people with money have power and influence
- She's rich enough to get whatever she want. Money talks!
- Yes, I know that money talks. The problem is: I don't have any!

music to someone's ears
this expression is said when someone hears what they like or are hoping to hear
- It was music to my ears when they said they were getting rid of their dog. The wretched animal had been keeping me awake all night with its barking.
- It was music to his ears when his boss told him that she would be moving to a new job.

not your cup of tea
you are not interested in it or don't enjoy it
- Sorry, sport is just not my cup of tea.
- I've never understood the fascination of computer games. Sitting in front of the screen for hours on end is certainly not my cup of tea.

nothing to write home about
not very interesting or exciting
- We visited the old church on the edge of town, but it was nothing to write home about.
- Her new book is quite entertaining, but nothing to write home about and certainly not as good as her last one.

off the top of your head
without thinking very much
- How many people were at the party yesterday? - Off the top of my head, I'd say there were about 50.
- It's no use talking off the top of your head. I need to know exactly.

old hat
old-fashioned; out of date
- I don't agree with holding doors open for women, or offering them your seat in the bus. That's all old hat as far as I am concerned.
- My son thinks that CDs are old hat; everyone now downloads MP3 files to their iPods.

on a shoestring
with very little money
- My parents had to raise their children on a shoestring, but it never did us any harm.
- It's difficult to enjoy life to the full if you are living on a shoestring year after year.

on paper
in theory (but not necessarily in practice)
- It seems like a good idea on paper. But I don't think it's going to make us any money.
- He looks good on paper, but does he have any experience in this kind of work?

on song
to be doing well
- When he's on song, no-one has a chance of beating him.
- I haven't been on song for a long time now.

This expression is often used to refer to sports players or teams.

on the right lines
doing something correctly or well
- The new girl is on the right lines already. I think she's going to be a big success.
- Are you sure we're on the right lines? I don't understand why we're having so many problems.

on the rocks
in trouble
- Their marriage is on the rocks. I don't think it's going to last much longer.
- The business was on the rocks after years of losing customers to internet stores.

on the ropes
near to failing or defeat
- At the end of the first half the team were on the ropes, but they made a remarkable recovery and eventually won the game.
- After many years of losing customers the corner store was well and truly on the ropes.

on your last legs
weak; about to fail or die
- The company was on its last legs. The workers had been advised to look for new jobs.
- The team had already played 65 games that season and was on its last legs.

once in a blue moon
only very rarely
- Make the most of his visit. He only comes once in a blue moon.
- My friend's much better than me at chess, but once in a blue moon I beat him.

out of the frying pan and into the fire
from one problem to another, bigger problem
- Be sure you have made the right decision. You don't want to go out of the frying pan and into the fire.
- She thought she could solve her problems by leaving her husband, but in fact she went out of the frying pan and into the fire.

over the hill
too old
- Don't you think you're a little over the hill to be going to the disco every week.
- He's not over the hill yet. I reckon he can play for two or three more years at the highest level.

over the moon
very happy
- I'm over the moon about our new house. It's just perfect!
- How do you feel about your performance? - Over the moon.

over the top
extreme, exaggerated, too much
- I know it's cold, but don't you think it's rather over the top to be wearing three pairs of socks?
- I was over the top in calling you a coward. Please accept my apologies.

part of the furniture
familiar; having been there for a long time; not noticed
- Cameras are now part of the furniture on the streets on most big cities.
- She treated me as if I were part of the furniture.

pie in the sky
unlikely to happen
- He's sure he's going to get the job, but I know it's pie in the sky.
- We wanted to buy a house in London, but we soon realized that it was just pie in the sky.

plain as day
obvious, clear
- It's plain as day she likes him. Have you seen the way she looks at him when he walks through the cafeteria?
- It's plain as day that he's not good enough. I don't know why he was employed in the first place.

pull the other one
an expression used to show that you don't believe what the other person has just told you
- I just saw Michael Jackson at the bus stop. - Pull the other one!
- When she said that she'd won the lottery, I told her to pull the other one. She's always trying to take me for a ride.

This is based on the idiom to pull someone's leg = to try and trick them or play a joke on them. (The idiom in the second example sentence above, to take someone for a ride, has the same meaning.)

pulling teeth
to be very difficult
- Getting him to come to class on time is like pulling teeth.
- I finally got them to sit quietly and listen, but it was like pulling teeth.

red tape
bureaucracy; unnecessary or petty rules
- If you want to start a business in Germany, there's an enormous amount of red tape you have to go through.
- Forget about it. I can't stand all the red tape just to get permission to build a garden shed.

red-handed
in the act of doing something wrong
- She was caught red-handed as she tried to leave the store with the stolen watch.
- The robbers were caught red-handed on video as they walked into the bank with their guns.

six of one and half a dozen of the other
this expression is used to refer to two things that are equal (equally bad or equally good)
- It was a case of six of one and half a dozen of the other. Both courses of action had their problems.
- What are you going to order, the fish or the meat? - I don't know. It's six of one and half a dozen of the other.

The word dozen means 12. So, obviously, half a dozen is equal to 6.

the bottom line
the most important or fundamental thing
- The bottom line is: Do we have enough money?
- Do you trust him not to do it again? That's the bottom line.

the green light
permission or approval to someone or something
- I finally got the green light after I had asked her at least 10 times!
- The headmaster has given us the green light for our demonstration about the war in Iraq.

the light at the end of the tunnel
the end of a difficult or unpleasant situation
- It's been very hard for me but I think I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel.
- I know you been having an awful time but there's always light at the end of the tunnel.

the nuts and bolts
the details; practice as opposed to theory
- It's time we got down to the nuts and bolts of how much it's going to cost and who is going to do it.
- I know that she's an architect but I have little idea about the nuts and bolts of her job.

the salt of the earth
a good person; reliable and honest
- You can trust him absolutely. His family is the salt of the earth.
- I'm not sure I would believe everything she says - she's not exactly the salt of the earth.

This expression comes from the bible.

the tip of the iceberg
the small, visible part of a large problem
- Yes, I know he has spelling difficulties, but that's just the tip of the iceberg as far as his problems in English are concerned.
- You think everything's now going to be ok, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.
- But each of these is just the tip of the iceberg. Underlying each is a much larger, deeper, and more important mathematical idea.
- The media would have been filled with speculation that the arrested man was only the tip of the iceberg of a much larger and more dangerous conspiracy.

The Titanic sank when it hit an iceberg.

the writing is on the wall
there are strong signs that the situation is soon to turn bad or unpleasant
- The writing was on the wall when he failed three tests in a row.
- Can't you see the writing on the wall? With a cough like that you're going to get lung cancer if you don't stop smoking.
- In today's damp conditions, we were never going to see Ullrich at his best, but the writing is very much on the wall as far as the German's hopes go.
- The writing was all over the wall that Kerry was finished, all that one had to do was look.

to bang your head against a brick wall
to feel frustrated because you are failing to do what you want to do; to have no chance of succeeding
- I've tried to tell her many times that she needs to start working harder, but I'm just banging my head against a brick wall. She takes no notice.
- He's just banging his head against a brick wall - there's no chance of him succeeding.
- My claim with Tesco car insurance was so frustrating that it felt like I was banging my head against a brick wall.
- With people like this it makes you want to give it all up because youíre only banging your head against a brick wall.

to bark up the wrong tree
to be making a mistake; to be doing the wrong thing
- You're barking up the wrong tree if you think you can make him work by shouting at him.
- For a long time I thought he was not very clever, but I realize now that I was barking up the wrong tree.
- I'm not an expert, but are you sure you're not barking up the wrong tree here?
- I think he's been barking up the wrong tree. I want to say, but I'm no good with words. I can't argue with him.

to be a pain in the neck
to be irritating and annoying
- I'm glad they moved him out of my class. He was a real pain in the neck.
- Why do you have to be such a pain in the neck? I've got better things to do than to keep hearing about your problems.
- However I think my boyfriendís sister is going to be a right pain in the neck in the future.
- The whole signing system certainly hasn't improved my user experience with Windows - it's been nothing but a pain in the neck.

to be a paper tiger
to seem to be powerful but this is not true
- Don't be scared of her. She's just a paper tiger.
- InterTel used to be one of the leading internet companies but now it's nothing but a paper tiger.
- As I said, our boys were shocked by the low morale and they realized that the American soldier was just a paper tiger.
- It was Chairman Mao himself who once described the United States as a paper tiger, and said China should never be afraid of the US.

to be all ears
to listen carefully; to be curious
- She was all ears when I told her I'd discovered some interesting information about our boss.
- Go on. Tell me what he said. I'm all ears.
- I'm halfway through writing it; but if somebody has an equivalent or better solution, I'm all ears.
- We told her we make special deals for the immigrants in the neighborhood and she was all ears.

to be all thumbs
to be clumsy and unskilled
- It's no good asking him to help you fix the car - he's all thumbs.
- Can you help me wire this plug? I'm all thumbs.
- Unfortunately I'm all thumbs and couldn't begin to construct one myself.
- Now I know why I'm all thumbs trying to fix those lights in my garage -- but that's another story completely!

Some people say "all fingers and thumbs.

to be an old hand
to be experienced and good at something
- If you need help, ask John. He's an old hand at fixing computers.
- How did she manage to get him to behave so well? - Well, she's an old hand at dealing with difficult kids.
- Having worked at the university for almost two years now, she's an old hand at her job.
- I'm an old hand at this now, and answer most of the questions before they've asked them.

to be at a loose end
to be bored because you have time but nothing to do
- If you're at a loose end you can help me in the garden!
- We weren't due at the airport until 12.30 so we spent most of the morning at a loose end.
- I enjoyed being in a model club again and as I was at a loose end during the day I became the 'Pro' for the club.
- Like many young men of well-to-do families he was at a loose end after finishing school.

to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth
to be born of rich parents
- John will never have to worry about money. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
- How do you expect me to afford a house in London? I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth.
- I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. My partner was an ordinary working man. But there was a great security in my life.
- She has never earned anything in her life; she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and requires the help of servants to remove it.

to be caught on the wrong foot
to be unpleasantly surprised by something
- We were caught completely on the wrong foot. We expected them to put out a weak team, but in fact they played their best men.
- In business you need to think ahead. You don't want to be caught on the wrong foot.
- Paul and my wife had kept this a secret, and to be perfectly honest I was caught on the wrong foot.
- Bosses don't like to be caught on the wrong foot in a room full of spectators.

to be eating someone
to be upsetting or angering someone
- What's eating you? You've hardly said a word. - Nothing. Just leave me alone.
- What's eating her today? She jumps down my throat at every little thing I say.

to be flavour of the month
to be popular (now, but maybe not next month)
- Ok, she's flavour of the month now, but I can't see her lasting very long.
- Everyone I know has got an iPod. - Yes, they're certainly flavour of the month right now.
- Is this really a shift in the whole way that media are produced, or is it just flavour of the month?
- Germany is not flavour of the month in the White House. But how concerned should Germans be about the disapproval of their great and powerful friend?

to be hand in glove (with someone)
to work closely with someone; to not have any secrets from someone
- Be careful what you say to John. He's hand in glove with the boss.
- Well, you know why he gave him the job. They're hand in glove!
- Max is always keen to talk up the idea that he and Bernie disagree and argue about lots of things, but fundamentally theyíre hand in glove.
- The NFU (which over the years has been hand-in-glove with MAFF) also says it knows nothing about this.

to be in two minds
to be unsure or undecided
- I'm in two minds about her. She seems to be friendly but she's made one or two very unpleasant comments.
- I'm in two minds about the trip. I certainly need a holiday but it's going to be very expensive.
- I apologise for the spelling mistake, I was caught in two minds whether to write synchronicities or just syncs and went for a mixture of both.
- She was in two minds as to whether she should tell the Mother Superior about it.

to be no picnic
to be difficult or unpleasant
- It's no picnic looking after three small children all day long.
- We had to spend three days in the hut without electricity or running water. It was no picnic, I can tell you!
- Writing it was no picnic. Iíd never done anything like this before.
- You realize this is not going to be a picnic and that you're not going to have the time of your life.

to be on the tip of your tongue
to know what you want to say but to not be able to remember it at the moment you want to say it
- What was his name again? - Aaghh, it's on the tip of my tongue - Robinson or Robertson, .. oh God, what's happened to my memory?
- It was on the tip of my tongue, but by the time I remembered it, the conversation had moved on.
- It was on the tip of my tongue to say he looked young, but I realized how extremely naÔve and human such a comment would seem.
- The name of her affliction was on the tip of her tongue. Yes, that was it, Alzheimer's. Like me, she looked all right on the outside, but she, too, was unable to work anymore.

to be one card short of a deck
to be mentally slow; stupid
- He's one card short of a deck. There's no chance he'll be able to do it.
- Don't bothering asking her! She's several cards short of a deck.
- After they both looked at me like I was one card short of a deck, I explained about TV Ontario's online tutoring service.
- Nigel's description of the taxi driver being one bottle short of a crate was pretty accurate!

A deck is a full set of playing cards. This expression is variable and used in a humorous way. E.g. He is several days short of a full month. She's one flower short of a bunch. They're two bottles short of a crate. And so on.

to bear fruit
to produce good results; to be successful
- You have to be patient. You can't expect the project to bear fruit after just a few weeks.
- It took a long time before the government's reforms bore fruit, but everyone now agrees that they made the right decision.
- My attempts at soliciting a neighbor's help bore no fruit.
- The recent wave of unprecedented anti-war protests could not stop bloodshed in Iraq and will never bear any fruit as long as we do not stop denying what the United States administration has so explicitly declared - a war on Islam.

to beat a dead horse
to keep on doing something after there is no point in doing so
- You're just beating a dead horse. He's never going to change his mind.
- I finally realized that I was beating a dead horse. Nothing I could say was going to make any difference.
- Relying on new or existing manufacturing jobs to save the day down the road isn't just beating a dead horse, it's laying down beside it.
- I also think that we may have reached the point of beating a dead horse ... so with thanks and love to all, I now respectfully close this thread.
-

The word beat in this idiom means hit. An alternative expression is to flog a dead horse. (Hitting a dead horse is not going to make it move!)

to bend someone's ear
to talk to someone (for a long time) in order to get them to do what you want; to bore someone with a long monologue
- I hate going to meetings with him. He always comes up to me afterwards and tries to bend my ear.
- There's no point trying to bend my ear. I've made up my mind.
- He bent my ear for a few hours and showed me all around his huge shop.
- I once had my ear bent at length by a distinguished Russian writer, who was outraged by some very famous English versions from Russian poets.

to bite off more than you can chew
to attempt something that is too difficult
- I think she's bitten off more than she can chew. She comes home tired and miserable every night.
- Are you sure you're not biting off more than you can chew? You know nothing about computers and yet you've applied to be IT manager!
- I am beginning to suspect that I bit off more than I could chew by starting this goddamn blog!
- Having bitten off more than he can chew in Iraq, President Bush wants to start on Iran?

If you bite off a large piece of meat, it will fill your mouth and you will find it difficult to chew and swallow it.

to bite the dust
to die; to fail or stop working
- My computer's just bitten the dust, and I've only had it a few months.
- Another one bites the dust is a famous song by Queen.
- It bit the dust last fall and we replaced it with an HP laser printer, model 1300.
- Many smaller firms have bitten the dust, but not Parkway, not yet.

When a cowboy was shot and fell down dead, he 'bit the dust'. In other words, he fell to the ground face first into the dust.

to bite your tongue
to not say what you would really like to say; to keep quiet
- I had to bite my tongue when he said he how worried he was. He's such a liar!
- You'll have to learn to bite your tongue. You can't just go shouting at the teachers every time they say something that annoys you.
- I have had to bite my tongue on so many occasions that I'm surprised it's still in my mouth at all!
- She bit her tongue rather than get right in his face and scream, "Why didn't you say so?"

to blow hot and cold
to keep changing your mind or opinion about something
- She's been blowing hot and cold about the idea for the last 3 months. I wish she would just make up her mind.
- The Press has been blowing hot and cold on the new president. They don't yet know what to think of him.
- I'm blowing hot and cold with it. Yesterday morning I hated it, then I loved it and now I'm just ambivalent about it.
- He blew hot and cold on network news, helping to found and develop it, but willing to cast much of that work aside to avoid controversy.

to blow your own horn
to boast; to say how good you are
- What I really dislike about her is how she's always blowing her own horn.
- He shouldn't go around blowing his own horn like that. He'll only make himself unpopular.
- He wasnít the kind of person who blew his own horn much but he was justifiably proud of his writings.
- Remember, you can nominate libraries other than your own -- so if you don't feel ready to blow your own horn, put in a good word for your favorite colleague.

The horn in question here is the musical instrument. An alternative is to blow your own trumpet.

to break the ice
to do or say something to ease a tense or uncomfortable situation
- She tried to break the ice with a joke, but no-one felt like laughing.
- Teachers often try to break the ice on the first day of the new school year by playing a game with the students.
- This broke the ice and helped the players to meet other teams and get acquainted.
- Tips: Breaking the Ice. Be the first person to extend your hand in a greeting. Offering a compliment usually warms things up.

to breathe down someone's neck
to be close behind someone; to watch and check someone's behaviour
- Must you keep breathing down my neck when we go shopping? I like to be left in peace to decide what to buy.
- The new boss has been breathing down my neck. She obviously doesn't trust me to do a good job.

to breathe fire
to show your anger
- She started breathing fire when I came late for the third time in three days.
- There's no need to breathe fire at me. It wasn't my fault.
- You're the last person I expected to see tonight after the way Bubba breathed fire all over me.
- He came in breathing fire and now he is just sitting back and watching while selfish Maina Kariuki continues to wreak havoc.

Dragons breathe fire.

to bring it home to someone
to make someone realize or understand something
- I watched a program on TV last night about teenage drinking. It brought it home to me the importance of setting a good example to your children.
- I tried to bring it home to her that she was playing a dangerous game, but she wouldn't listen to me.
- But the shoes brought it home to me that every single person who came here was not just a tattooed number but an individual human being with a past.
- In the end, he makes the decision that his friends are worth everything and that's why he's there; finally bringing home to him what Anderson meant.

to burn the candle at both ends
to work and play very hard so that you are in danger of becoming ill
- You're asking for trouble if you go on burning the candle at both ends like this.
- Doesn't he realize he's a bit too old to be burning the candle at both ends?
- Even though I was in really good shape until two years before I got sick, I was burning the candle at both end. I ate the wrong things and I wore myself out.

to burn the midnight oil
to stay up very late to get a piece of work finished
- When I was studying for my final exams I often needed to burn the midnight oil.
- I think I'll be burning the midnight oil this weekend. I've still got loads of work to do.
- Because she had a term paper due the next morning, Paulette was burning the midnight oil to finish it on time.
- It has been an awful week---you've worked yourself ragged, you've had to burn the midnight oil to get a major presentation out, the boss hated it, .... .

to call a spade a spade
to speak directly and bluntly; to avoid euphemisms
- He's not afraid to call a spade a spade. If he doesn't like something, he will come right out and say it.
- You sometimes need to be a little sensitive to other people's feelings - you can't always just call a spade a spade.
- It's time to call a spade a spade. Yes, the attack on the AL rally was an attack on the entire country and an attack against democracy.
- Horoscope: You donít know how to be diplomatic even in a dire situation; you like to call a spade a spade.

to call it a day
to stop (often after working hard for a long time)
- Ok, time to call it a day. We've got no chance of success unless we get more help.
- I've spent hours on this webpage, but I'm not going to call it a day until I'm finished.
- Unfortunately, by then, I had developed my cramp, so I had to call it a day and head back home.
- We decided afterwards that we didn't want to call it a day, so we've recruited the guitar talents of Justin Hagberg from war-metallers Allfather, and Shane.

to call the shots
to give the orders; to make the decisions
- You had better remember who calls the shots around here. If you don't do what I ask you, you're out of a job!
- It's clear who calls the shots in their marriage!
- Most importantly, in an industry where men have always called the shots, these new heavyweights are women.
- For me it is important to know who calls the shots. It certainly is not the UN.

to catch your eye
to see something that you find attractive, interesting or unusual
- There were many wonderful things to buy at the market, but what really caught my eye were the leather handbags.
- She caught my eye as I was sitting there waiting for the bus.
- A letter to the editor in the Summer 1988 issue of the Skeptical Inquirer caught my eye. It referred to an article called "The Aliens Among Us".
- Stories about teen drivers always catch her eye because she is a mother.

to change horses in midstream
to change your mind or your course of action in the middle of an activity
- Sorry, you can't just change horses in midstream. You signed up for basketball and you must stay with it until the end of the season.
- As soon as we realized that we were going to lose a lot of money we changed horses in midstream.
- She was working on several important projects and it would be a huge blow to the company to have to change horses in midstream, but there was nothing she could do.

It's not always good idea to change horses in the middle of a stream. You might fall in and get wet.

to come out of your shell
to be more sociable, less timid
- Why don't you come to the party with me? It's time that you came out of your shell.
- As a child she was very shy, but you should have seen her dancing on the tables at the disco last weekend. She's certainly come out of her shell!
- Despite all he has been through Tommy has really come out of his shell in his foster home.
- Tara had reverted to her shy quiet self, it was like she had never come out of her shell.

to come to a head
to reach a critical or dangerous state
- Things really came to a head when she fell drunk down the stairs.
- The problem came to a head when they started accusing each other of lying.
- The division between the two camps - rock enthusiasts and folk purists - came to a head when Dylan was booed for "going electric".
- At some point, the issue will come to a head. If you ask me, the Yankees ought to consider moving Jeter to second.

to come under fire
to be criticized
- The government came under fire for its proposals to increase the cost of health insurance.
- I'm surprised you didn't come under fire for your idea. Perhaps no-one understands the implications!
- Gibson also came under fire for spending exorbitant amounts on alcohol and other refreshments in August of 2003.
- They will come under fire if they ditch the FA Cup, but they will also be attacked if they jeopardise England's World Cup bid by snubbing FIFA.

'Fire' in this case means 'shooting fromn a gun'.

to come unstuck
to experience problems or difficulties
- Her business came unstuck when the price of oil started to rise.
- You'll soon come unstuck if you try to do everything by yourself.
- The psychological ascendancy which he thereby established survived even the moment when he came horribly unstuck in the 11th game and lost his queen.
- A movie that revolves purely around sex is sure to come unstuck eventually and this offering from writer/director/ producer Johnson is a prime example.

In American English the expression is to come unglued. A stamp that falls off an envelope has come unstuck - from the verb to stick.

to cross the line
to start behaving in an unacceptable way
- You really crossed the line when you started screaming at her.
- The new film had a lot of violence and bad language, but I don't think it crossed the line.
- In this case she knows she crossed the line of malicious and capricious female behavior and did so on purpose for some bizarre reason.
- I feel it's my obligation to warn her about the possible disadvantages of doing this, but I don't want to cross the line and advise her in making a decision.

to cross your mind
to (suddenly) think of something; to occur to you
- I was just about to buy the DVD when it crossed my mind that my friend had it and I could borrow it from her.
- When didn't you tell me about the accident? - Sorry, it never crossed my mind.
- It was a moment fit for the climax of the corniest Hollywood movie, yet as I watched, it suddenly crossed my mind that what I was witnessing was something special.
- On this occasion however, it would have never crossed his mind that the two girls might be lying about the photographs.

to cry over spilled milk
to complain or be unhappy about something that has happened and cannot be changed.
- What's the point in crying over spilled milk. There's nothing you can do about it.
- Ok, my wife has left me and I've just crashed my car, but you won't see me crying over spilled milk.
- Okay, so there's no point in crying over spilt milk, but can we please change some things here?
- It is no use crying over split milk but one thing is sure - if this trend is not reversed, and reversed early, what will be Indiaís fate in World Cup 2003?

Once you have spilled milk it's impossible to get it back into the bottle.

to cut no ice
to not impress or influence someone
- His apologies cut no ice with me. He had made one mistake too many and I told him to leave.
- The manager's assurances cut no ice with the workers. They just didn't trust him any more.
- He tried to use his dubious standing as The Resident Gophercatcher for an excuse, but that cut no ice with me.
- The Sun's apology will cut no ice with Liverpudlians - and with good reason.

to cut off your nose to spite your face
to do something to hurt someone else (and not know or care that it will also harm you)
- If you do that you'll be cutting off your nose to spite your face.
- He was so desperate to get his revenge on her that he didn't realize he was cutting off his nose to spite his face.
- "Rani is cutting off her nose to spite her face," said Meera; "hurting herself as she punishes her parents.
- Naw, staying where I was much longer would be cutting off my nose to spite my face.

It is possible that you might not like the look of your face, but cutting your nose off is certainly not going to improve your appearance!

to do something on the off-chance
to do something even though there is only a small chance that you will be lucky or successful
- I stopped by his house on the off-chance he might be at home. He wasn't, of course!
- I went into the shop on the off-chance that they would have what I was looking for.
- I thought it would be a prudent move to play the lottery, on the off chance that our luck was overdue to change.
- I must hit your blog at least five or six times on a Saturday evening, on the off chance of finding an update.

to do something until you are blue in the face
to not succeed in something despite trying many, many times
- You can say that until you are blue in the face. It's not going to make me change my mind.
- The government can warn people about travelling to Iraq until it is blue in the face, but there will always be one or two who are brave or stupid enough to go there anyway.
- Maybe I've got genetics to thank for some of my results in the gym as well (although I'd argue otherwise until I was blue in the face).
- Well, okay, she could shout it at Naraku until she was blue in the face and he wouldn't care.

to drag your feet
to do something slowly and unwillingly; to try and delay something
- It's obvious why he's dragging his feet. He just doesn't want to do it.
- I wish you'd stop dragging your feet. How will we ever get finished?
- Elizabeth had started the process of restoring Mary to the Scottish throne but was dragging her feet as much as possible.
- It makes me want to drag my feet and see what other manufacturers might come up with in the near future.

An alternative is: to drag your heels.

to draw a line under something
to consider something as over or finished
- I think it's time for you to draw a line under your marriage. There are too many problems to solve.
- I need to draw a line under my past. I've made a lot of mistakes, but I have to look to the future.
- Sometimes, however, you will simply need to draw a line under an issue and ask the class to move on: "I'm afraid we simply do not have time to discuss this.
- It was when I found her in bed with a one-night stand that I finally drew the line under all the arguments and petty squabbling.

to draw the line
to stop; to know the point where something stops being ok and becomes not ok
- That's the trouble with you. You never know where to draw the line.
- If you don't help students, they will fail, but if you help them too much, they will also fail. It's very difficult to know where to draw the line.
- We all have to decide where to draw the line. It is about living for Jesus in a world where Me first is the order of the day, where honesty and integrity are rare.
- I camped on the land at women's music festivals, although I drew the line at eating the mysterious vegan mush that passed as festival food.

to drive someone up the wall
to irritate someone
- My neighbour's new dog barks every time I walk past the house - it's really driving me up the wall.
- Why can't you ever shut the door when you leave the room? It drives me up the wall.
- Since changing, I have had almost no Spam but the Netsky virus is driving me up the wall.
- There was only one thing that drove him up the wall...the masses of tiny flies that would forever pester him, getting into his eyes, nose and mouth.

This expression is not usually used for serious things that make people very angry.

to eat like a horse
to eat a huge amount of food
- I don't understand it. She eats like a horse but she never puts on any weight.
- I ate like a horse after walking all day in the mountains.
- And despite the fact that I was eating like a horse, I was never satiated. I was ravenous almost all day, every day, and was so screamingly hungry most of the time.
- Vanessa pi$$es me off cos she eats like a horse but doesnít appear to get any fatter.

to eat your words
to have to admit that what one has said was wrong
- She boasted that she was going to win the tennis tournament. Well, she really had to eat her words after losing in the first round.
- I had to eat my words after predicting he would fail his exams. In fact, he got top scores!
- Let us just say that Keek had to eat her words when she realized Mr. Reeves does have a knack for the bass.
- I know I will not have to eat my words when I say that public sympathy for the nurses will not evaporate.

to face something
to stand in front of something; to be confronted with something
- We've never faced such a difficult problem before.
- If you have ever faced a class of unruly 15 year olds, you will know what I'm talking about.
- I know it was difficult, so I appreciate how hard it was to share. I hope you will never have to face that kind of situation again.
- The memories I have experienced in the last couple of years have been more difficult than anything else I have ever had to face.

to face the music
to be criticized or punished
- I've made a mistake and now I'll just have to face the music.
- She was caught stealing from the cash desk and now she's going to have to face the music.
- Now, Frist can expect to face the music today in a speech before the Detroit Economic Club.
- Being empathetic to everyone else's needs is certainly quite charitable, but at some point you need to face the music and look at yourself.

to fall flat on your face
to do something that severely embarrasses you; to fail completely
- I might fall flat on my face but I've got to give it a try.
- Don't even think about it - you're sure to fall flat on your face!
- I went off to college, but instead of succeeding, I fell flat on my face! There was no way I could keep up with the work load using the reading skills I had.
- Expectations are going to be high, both from others and myself; I don't want to fall flat on my face.

to fall into your lap
to get or achieve someone with no effort or by good luck
- You can't just sit there waiting for Mr. Right to fall into your lap. You've got to get out and look for him!
- The job just fell into my lap. I guess i was in the right place at the right time.
- The job itself sort of just fell into his lap when Branford Marsalis left the post in 1995.
- 2003 showed me how much good music does exist out there if you are prepared to put a little effort in and not expect it to fall into your lap.

An alternative is to drop into your lap. (The lap is the top part of your upper legs.)

to fall on deaf ears
to be unheard; to be rejected
- I asked for an extra day's holiday, but my request fell on deaf ears.
- Our all pleas for help have so far fallen on deaf ears.
- But the warnings fell on deaf ears and by July 2005 dramatic pictures of the unfolding emergency began to play out in the world's media.
- Iraq's Sunnis are not rallying behind the call for Jihad and that once genuine sovereignty and democracy comes to Iraq the call will fall on deaf ears.

to fall on your feet
to come out of a difficult situation without getting hurt or damaged
- The gods must like him. No matter what difficulties he gets into, he always seems to fall on his feet.
- Just as she ran out of money, she won top prize in the lottery. Talk about falling on your feet!
- He always falls on his feet. How many close calls we have had since we joined forces: yet, thanks to his luck, we have come out first best every time.
- With a stroke of luck, I fell on my feet when I chose a course entitled: 'Creative Writing for Women'.

Cats that drop out of trees usually have the good luck (or instinct!) to fall on their feet.

to feather your nest
(to take advantage of your position) to get or save money in order to make your life comfortable
- Some politicians are only interested in feathering their nests.
- It's not fair to accuse me of feathering my nest. I have spent a lot of money on you and your family.
- As for the tax collector, he may or may not have feathered his nest in collecting the taxes.
- Iím not looking to feather my nest, Iím looking to make a difference one risk, one step, one issue at a time.

to feel the pinch
to suffer from problems (usually money problems)
- I won't be able to go on holiday this year. I'm feeling the pinch at the moment.
- Car manufactures are feeling the pinch of the current high price of oil.
- However, like every other medium or small sized brewer, Gunther was feeling the pinch of competition from the large national brewers.
- The US Treasury last week felt the pinch of a tight money market.

to fight fire with fire
to use risky methods to defeat or oppose someone or something
- If they are going to increase our working hours, then we should go on strike. We have to fight fire with fire.
- Our only hope is to fight fire with fire, but it will be dangerous.
- Phil Vickery insists England need to fight fire with fire when they clash with Wales in their World Cup quarter-final showdown tomorrow.
- Sure, I know itís easy to want to fight fire with fire and adopt their tactics of fear and smear.

to find your feet
to get used to a new situation
- Be patient with him. He's only been here a couple of months and needs time to find his feet.
- I wasn't given the chance to find my feet. I was put straight into the most difficult class.
- I gradually found my feet and married someone I had met in Cuba who helped me greatly as I began to settle.
- Having just found her feet again in the popular music scene, she obviously has a great team of people around her at Parlophone.

The expression derives from the situation where a baby is just getting used to its body and learning to walk.

to follow your nose
to trust your instincts or first thoughts
- You'll know when you've met the person you want to marry. You just have to follow your nose.
- I got lost in the backstreets of Paris but I followed my nose and soon found the hotel again.
- I have always followed my nose and so far, it has not let me down.
- After being cooped up in the city for fifty weeks a year, she had just followed her nose until she had discovered a small hidden lake.

to foul your own nest
to do something that makes your own life unpleasant or difficult
- If you do that you'll only be fouling your own nest.
- Yes, we all like the comforts of modern life, but we don't seem to realize that we are fouling our own nest. Pollution has never been more of a problem than it is today.
- My father was just moral enough to avoid fouling his own nest by fooling around with her with me on the premises.

to get a kick out of something
to enjoy it
- He seems to get a kick out of making people look stupid. No wonder nobody likes him.
- Some kids get a kick out of doing things that are stupid or dangerous.
- At the same time, in real life I get no kick out of people admitting what I told them turned out to be the truth.
- Gamers will probably get a huge kick out of smashing entire buildings to rubble

to get cold feet
to become worried about something; to not want to do it any more
- I had planned to emigrate to Australia but now I'm beginning to get cold feet about it.
- You're getting married tomorrow. It's much too late to get cold feet!
- The press jumped all over that and Paramount got cold feet about supporting the movie and pulled all the ads on it.
- That is, as long as companies don't get cold feet about moving to Fargo or expanding their operations here because they fear they can't find enough workers.

to get hold of the wrong end of the stick
to misunderstand a situation or what someone has told you
- No, you've got hold of the wrong end of the stick. It wasn't like that at all!
- She's always getting hold of the wrong end of the stick. Sometimes I think she doesn't really listen to what I'm saying.
- Either I didn't make myself clear or you've got hold of the wrong end of the stick.
- Since you didn't appear to be listening very attentively, it's not surprising that you got hold of the wrong end of the stick.

to get off on the wrong foot
to start something in a wrong or bad way
- He got off on the wrong foot on his very first day when he swore at the teacher.
- Let me tell you what to do. It's important not to get off on the wrong foot.
- Clearly I got off on the wrong foot with Mrs. Evans, but I guess most other people in the department felt the same way about her.
- Calcavecchia got off on the wrong foot with a bogey on the first hole, but still maintained the lead at 14 under when Mayfair also bogeyed.

to get out of hand
to get out of control
- His behaviour is getting out of hand. If he's not careful he'll be kicked out of school.
- The street demonstrations in Paris quickly got out of hand. Thousands of cars were set on fire and over a hundred police were injured.
- This whole thing of treating us like criminals is getting way out of hand.
- Like most obsessions, this quickly got out of hand, and he now owns enough instruments for a full steel orchestra.

to get something off your chest
to talk about something that has been worrying you for a long time; to admit something you have done wrong
- Can I talk to you? I've got something I'd like to get off my chest.
- I have a feeling that you've got something you'd like to get off your chest - am I right?
- If you don't want to pursue a friendship, then that's fine too, because you're entitled to your feelings, but I just needed to get it off my chest.
- If there's something you need to get off your chest, let the world know through the Evening News's letters page.

to get the picture
to (come to) understand
- Now I get the picture. She was just pretending to be sick all along.
- First you have to press this button, then you type in your password. Do you get the picture?
- Despite repeated attempts to communicate verbally with him, he didn't get the picture until I held up both of my hands with 10 fingers extended.
- Please note: dogs are carnivores - they do not need either fruit or vegetables. - do you get the picture yet?

to get too big for your boots
to believe you are more important than you really are
- He's getting too big for his boots. It's time someone told him he's not the boss around here.
- Don't you think you're getting too big for your boots? After all, you are only the assistant secretary.
- It could be said that teenage entrepreneur Oliver Bridge is getting too big for his boots.
- She certainly has got too big for her boots if she is using the "don't you know who I am" phrase when getting into clubs, bars, restaurants etc.

to get up someone's nose
to annoy or irritate
- He's always asking me for money. It really gets up my nose!
- Can you please stop that awful whistling. You're getting right up my nose!
- This is just my opinion, donít let it get up your nose, I donít know you and you donít know me.
- What does get up my nose a bit is the fact that again you've got this enormous multi-national company with unlimited resources cracking down on two people.

to get wind of something
to get to know about something (often unexpectedly and often about something that should be a secret)
- There were massive demonstrations when the workers got wind of the company's plans to close the factory.
- She was hoping that no-one would get wind of her intentions, but she was not clever enough.
- Jail officials didn't get wind of it until they found a letter from one of Wendell's cellmates to a girlfriend.
- Gore is apparently spreading this sort of garbage overseas where he probably thinks most Americans won't get wind of it.

to get your feet under the table
to settle down; to become established
- It took me a long time to get my feet under the table, but now I feel really comfortable here.
- Don't expect her to be able to do anything about it yet. She needs to get her feet under the table first.
- Ill be swapping my springs just as soon as I get my feet under the table at my new place of work.
- And barely had he got his feet under the table than he was peppering the newspapers with highly opinionated remarks.

to get your feet wet
to experience something for the first time; to get used to something
- I know it will be difficult at first, but you'll just have to get your feet wet.
- Once I had got my feet wet, things didn't seem so bad after all.
- I got my feet wet in college, writing instructions for the students using the computer labs.
- "We were trying to give him an opportunity to get his feet wet," Wisconsin defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove said of Aiello.

to get your fingers burned
to experience unwanted or unpleasant results to a course of action
- She invested all her money in a small internet company and really got her fingers burned when it closed down.
- Don't worry. I'm not going to do it again. I got my fingers burned once already.
- Having had her fingers burned once by her war correspondent partner, she's determined never to fall in love again.

to get your goat
to annoy or irritate you, to get on your nerves
- It really gets my goat when you do that!
- What really gets my goat is that he didn't even apologize.
- He really got my goat. Heíd miss rehearsals, stress out Heidi to no degree, and complain loudly during almost every rehearsal.
- Whenever he got her goat, she'd start howling and yelling before taking a good swipe at him.

A goat is an animal like a sheep, with a beard and horns. The goat is the animal associated with the devil.

to get your teeth into something
to become interested in something and keep on doing it (despite difficulties)
- Once she gets her teeth into a problem, you know she's not going to give up until she's solved it.
- I'm sorry I didn't manage to finish. I couldn't really get my teeth into it.
- Once Jayavel had got his teeth into it, there was no stopping him.
- I just couldn't get my teeth into it, despite the fact that the translucent Gong Li is my favourite screen temptress.

to give someone a hand
to help
- Can you give me a hand moving this box? It's too heavy for me.
- Will you give me a hand up the stairs? I've hurt my foot and can't make it by myself.
- Talia gave me a hand so I know that the main page looks fine. However, if you run into any problems, just let me know.
- They will give you a hand if youíre having troubles and make you feel welcome.

Some people say: "Can you lend me a hand?"

to give someone a piece of your mind
to criticize someone sharply for what they have said or done
- Why did you let her say that? I would have given her a piece of my mind.
- His parents gave him a piece of their mind when he told them that he'd dropped out of university.
- I can't remember how we figured out he wasn't who he said he was, but I gave him a piece of my mind and alerted all concerned.
- I'd like to give her a piece of my mind, but that just wouldn't be very nice of me considering she's still in grief mode.

to give someone the cold shoulder
to avoid, ignore or ostracize someone
- She's given me the cold shoulder ever since I said I didn't like her new hairstyle.
- Do you know why he's giving me the cold shoulder? - I think it's because you disagreed with him at the meeting.
- I still have total feelings for him, and when I see him now, I don't know how to act. Do I give him the cold shoulder? It's so awkward, Help! ...
- He then gave me the cold shoulder and continued his lively chat with Dolores.

to give something a whirl
to try something
- I've never done anything like this before, but I'm prepared to give it a whirl.
- Why don't you give it a whirl? You might find you like it!
- I thought they were crazy but for $16.95 I decided to give it a whirl.
- I gave it a whirl, but it wasnít to be. Iím just not the best person to be in charge of a general chat forum.

to give the game away
to reveal a secret
- I'm getting her a new bike for her birthday, but please don't give the game away.
- The government tried to keep the matter quiet but they had to give the game away after enormous pressure from the media.
- And yesterday, in an unguarded moment, Rumsfeld gave the game away, when he disparaged David Kay's judgment on the status of the search for WMD.
- Think about your footwear - if you're going to wear a suit don't give the game away by wearing your trainers!

to give up the ghost
to stop trying or working
- My computer has given up the ghost again. I really will have to buy a new one.
- Are you haven't a birthday party this year? - No, so few people have come to my last parties that I've given up the ghost.
- I had an HP932C printer for many years that I'd been happy with, but it gave up the ghost recently and needed to be replaced.
- It can even be barely tolerable as long as your air conditioning unit doesn't give up the ghost.

to go down like a lead balloon
to be unpopular and unsuccessful
- The company directors' idea went down like a lead balloon. The employees suspected it was a ploy to get them to work longer.
- The government's plan to ban smoking in public places went down like a lead balloon with the bar and nightclub owners.
- The decision by Ferrari to order Barrichello to give Michael the win went down like a lead balloon. The crowd reacted angrily and booed the German.
- Sometimes Iíll play a song that I think merits revival, and it goes down like a lead balloon, so Iíll drop it hastily.

In this expression lead is the heavy metal, pronounced as in the color red.

to go in one ear and out the other
(information that is) not remembered
- I did tell him when he was supposed to be here, but it obviously went in one ear and out the other.
- With her it's in one ear and out the other. You'll have to phone her the day before if you want her to remember.
- Some of the men at the racetrack tried to talk me out of riding but it went in one ear and out the other.
- Is it possible to discuss such a dry topic with your students without having the information go in one ear and out the other?

to go places
to be successful
- He's going places that boy. I've never taught anyone so clever and ambitious.
- If we work harder and have a little luck, we can really go places.
- It was a very interesting time for us - my work was very stimulating and the city was really going places.
- I don't want to waste my time. I intend to go places, and am looking for people who are as well.

to go through the mill
to experience a difficult or unpleasant situation
- She really went through the mill for a time when her husband left her, but she's feeling much better now.
- We've been going through the mill a bit since we moved here. The climate is cold and the people are not very friendly.
- Luckily for my brothers and I, we grew up in a sporting family and had a father who had been through the mill before us and knew how to prepare us.
- She is going through the mill at the minute and needs lots of prayer to get through the next few months.

You would not feel very happy if you were ground like corn between two millstones! You can also put someone through the mill.

to go through the motions
to do something with little energy or enthusiasm
- He attended the class every day, but he was just going through the motions. He never did very much work.
- There's no point in just going through the motions. If you don't want to do it, then don't. But if you do, do it properly.
- After school at practice I was just going through the motions without really excelling.
- I mean, I don't want to go through the motions of putting up a Christmas tree because "that's the way it's always been done."

to go to pieces
to get bad; to deteriorate; to break down
- The poor woman went to pieces after her husband left her.
- Is anything the matter? Your work has really gone to pieces since you got back from holiday.
- She had them in her class, and this teacher totally went to pieces. I mean, she was just a nervous wreck from a simple question like that.
- Well, Slinky is getting his 15 minutes of fame out of this . . let's hope it doesn't go to pieces.

to go to pot
to go bad; to deteriorate
- You're really going to pot - you need to start eating more healthily and take some exercise from time to time.
- This part of town has really gone to pot since they opened the new supermarket just around the corner.
- I have discovered that my formerly beautiful handwriting has completely gone to pot, and besides, my hand cramps up very easily when I'm holding a pen.
- When I couldn't play every day my game went to pot.

to go to someone's head
to make someone believe they are better or more important than they really are; to make someone conceited
- It really went to her head when the headmaster praised her in front of the other teachers. Now she thinks she can tell everyone what to do.
- Ok, you've been chosen to be Miss Frankfurt, but don't let it go to your head.
- Lazenby`s ego went to his head. Instant success spoiled him before filming even began. She has to make sure that all the early adulation doesn't go to her head.

to go to the dogs
to get worse, to deteriorate
- Your work is really going to the dogs. If you don't start working harder, you'll fail the course.
- Manners these days are going to the dogs. Nobody says 'please' or 'thank you' any more or holds the door open for others.
- Within 6 months things went totally to the dogs,
- Advertising is going to the dogs. Itís getting on everyoneís nerves, especially since weíre seeing it everywhere.

to go to town
to spend a lot of time, money or energy on something
- When she discovers a new hobby that she likes, she really goes to town on it.
- I decided to go to town for once in my life and I spent all my savings on a new sports car.
- He really went to town on this cover. If I had known he was going to be so intense, I would just have drawn a stick figure.
- First, I'll get the basic storyline out of the way before I go to town on what is awful about this movie.

to hand it to someone
to give some praise or credit for something
- I've got to hand it to you. I didn't expect it but you did a really good job.
- You have to hand it to Mary. She always keeps cool - even under the most intense pressure.
- I have to hand it to her, she is doing a masterful job with Skye.
- I had to hand it to him, Billy knew how to give a good pep talk.

The expression must be used with have got to or have to as in the examples.

to have a finger in the pie
to be involved in something
- I'm not surprised he's got his finger in the pie. He can't leave anything alone.
- Can you keep it a secret please. I don't want her putting her finger in the pie.
- Every arm of government seems to have had a finger in the pie.
- I like to know what's going on around me and I prefer to have a finger in the pie.

People who use this expression are usually showing disapproval. Would you like someone else's finger in your pie?

to have a frog in your throat
to be unable to speak clearly because of a cold or strong emotion
- I've got a bit of a frog in my throat, so I'll have to speak quietly.
- She had a frog in her throat so it was difficult to understand what she was saying.
- Jon tried to speak, but he had a frog in his throat, and once again, the walls began to close in as his hands trembled.
- I had a frog in my throat reading your article about "Many happy returns of the day" because l felt the same too.

to have a long face
to look unhappy
- Why the long face? Have you heard some bad news?
- The spectators went home with long faces. They had not expected their team to lose.
- Kandy had grinned during the wedding ceremony, but now she had a long face, and she looked like she was million miles away.
- He had a long face on all the way to the Reeves mansion. ĎAww donít worry youíll find a girl to marry!í she joked.

to have a lot on your hands
to have a lot to do; to be busy
- Sorry, I won't be able to come with you tomorrow. I have a lot on my hands at the moment.
- There's no point asking him. He has a lot on his hands looking after two children by himself.
- Sorry for the delay but I had a lot on my hands at work for the past few days.
- They had a lot on their hands when they decided to make a movie based on some of the best books ever written.

The expression is very common in the form: I've got too much on my hands.

to have a lot on your plate
to have many things to do or worry about
- Sorry, I can't take on this new project. I've got enough on my plate as it is.
- I know you've got a lot on your plate at the moment, but do you think you could help me move house next weekend.
- I was going to join this year, but I had a lot on my plate, so I'm going to sign up next year.
- We've forgotten all those long years we spent in exile, where we had to work for every donation and every vote, We had a lot on our plate back then.

to have a nose for something
to be good at understanding, finding or predicting something
- She's always had a nose for the next big thing in clothes or music.
- Can you help me choose a jacket for the party? You have a better nose than me!
- Her fashion sense is way better than mine, and she has a nose for bargains at clothes shopping.
- I think it may prove one of the most influential albums of the new century, and I have a nose for these things.

to have a screw loose
to behave strangely; to be crazy
- Don't believe a word he tells you - he's got a screw loose.
- You have a screw loose if you think I'm going to lend you any more money.
- As we parted company in the hardware store, he still believed I had a screw loose.
- Sounds like the guy has a screw loose, he definitely doesn't seem to have a clue about what the competition is doing

to have a sweet tooth
to like sweet food
- You should buy him chocolates for his birthday. You know what a sweet tooth he has!
- I'm not keen on ice-cream or cake. I don't have much of a sweet tooth.

to have a thin skin
to be sensitive; to be easily upset or made angry
- She's got such a thin skin. There's no way she'll be a successful politician.
- Be careful what you say to him. He has a very thin skin.

The opposite is: thick skin. Nothing you can say to a thick-skinned person will upset or anger them.

to have a whale of a time
to have a wonderful time
- We had a whale of a time last week. Our boss was away and we just played video games all day.
- The children were having a whale of a time - climbing all over the chairs, shouting and laughing.

to have eyes in the back of your head
to be alert and observant; to be aware of what is happening behind your back
- You need eyes in the back of your head if you want to be a teacher of young children.
- How do you expect me to know that. I haven't got eyes in the back of my head!

to have green fingers
to be good at gardening
- He's got green fingers. Everything in his garden is growing beautifully.
- She's got the most wonderful garden. She must have been born with green fingers.
- Do you have green fingers? Do plants grow big and strong under your care, or are you like me who can't seem to get any consistency at all?
- I'd prefer to save my green fingers for a rainy day.

to have kittens
to become nervous or agitated
- He'll have kittens if you tell him that!
- She was having kittens until he finally phoned to say that he had arrived safely.

A kitten is a baby cat.

to have other fish to fry
to have something more important (to do)
- Let him do it if he wants. I have other fish to fry.
- Ok, I'll help you. I have no other fish to fry at the moment.

An alternative is: bigger fish to fry.

to have someone's number
to understand someone; to know about them
- Don't expect you can fool me like that. I have your number!
- I think she had my number from the first day I met her.

to have something up your sleeve
to be hiding something or keeping it secret
- He's been very quiet lately. Do you think he has something up his sleeve?
- Trust me. I have nothing up my sleeve!

This expression is also used with have got or the verb to keep. (A sleeve is the arm of a shirt or jacket.)

to have two left feet
to be awkward and clumsy
- I wouldn't ask him to dance. He was born with two left feet.
- She must have grown two left feet. She's always tripping over over falling down stairs.
- The best part however was watching Jenna try to dance with her dad, either he has two left feet or she just can't ballroom dance.
- I have two left feet so I'd just be walking in a clockwise circle.

to have your head in the sand
to be blind to what is going on around you
- No wonder you don't know what's going on. You have your head in the sand the whole time.
- It's time you took your head out of the sand and saw how she's cheating you.
- Iím no racist, but I don't have my head in the sand like most liberals.
- We knew Stalin had his head in the sand as the Nazi invasion approached in June 1941, but not how criminally deluded he was.

The expression is often used with the verb to bury: Don't bury your head in the sand. (Ostriches are said to put their heads in the sand.)

to have your head screwed on
to be sensible and realistic
- I always thought she had her head screwed on. How could she make such a stupid mistake?
- He'll be all right. He's got his head screwed on.
- You deserve the very best, and any guy who had his head screwed on right would realise that.
- I live alone, hold a steady job and believe I have my head screwed on pretty straight.

to have your heart in the right place
to be kind and thoughtful
- She's always ready with help or a kind word. Her heart is in the right place.
- His heart is in the right place, but he doesn't always realize that people don't want his help or advice.
- His ambition may have outstretched his means, but at least his heart was in the right place.
- She may come off as a prima donna in her interviews, but her heart is in the right place when it comes to her fans.

to hit the nail on the head
to make a comment that is exactly right
- I agree with him 100%. He hit the nail right on the head!
- She's just not good enough for the job. - Yes, you've hit the nail on the head.
- Jeff had hit the nail on the head when he'd accused her of being afraid of the sea ever since their father had been lost out there.
- As much as you would like to think you hit the nail on the head, you swung, missed and hit your thumb.

to hit the road
to start a journey; to start on your way to somewhere
- OK, it's time to hit the road. My parents will be expecting me home soon.
- We wanted to arrive early so we hit the road before breakfast.
- We hit the road after we got Ben into dry clothes and made a stop at Camp 18 for lunch.
- What with having breakfast and everything, I didn't hit the road until 11.30. This was not exactly the best way to eat miles and try to make up for lost time.

to hit the roof
to suddenly become very angry
- She hit the roof when he told her he couldn't come after all.
- My parents hit the roof when I told them I'd dropped out of college.
- She'll hit the roof if she knows I paid this much for a pair of shoes.
- When I tell the boss I don't want to do it, he's going to hit the roof, because he needs somebody training for it In order to qualify for some extra funding.

to hold the fort
to do a job for someone (e.g. while they are away or busy)
- Can you hold the fort for me for a couple of hours? I've got to go out to the doctor's.
- She just walked out and expected me to hold the fort with the children.

A fort is a fortified building like a castle; or built by cowboys to keep out Indians.

to hold your horses
to wait; to slow down and take more time to think
- Hold your horses! I haven't made up my mind yet
- He needs to hold his horses. He'll have a lot of problems if he rushes into things.

to jump down someone's throat
to react angrily to something someone says or does
- She's always jumping down my throat. Why can't she just leave me alone!
- I only asked how she was, but she immediately jumped down my throat.

to keep a straight face
to avoid laughing
- I couldn't keep a straight face when the teacher fell off his chair.
- It's not easy to keep a straight face when he shouts at you like that. Doesn't he realize how stupid he looks?
- So it comes as no surprise that leaders in both state political parties couldn't keep a straight face when they received a letter from the Colorado Bar.
- I couldn't keep a straight face when I came down to see him floating in mid-air, or rather lying on the ceiling.

to keep someone on their toes
to keep someone working and concentrating
- The new teacher really keeps her classes on their toes. No-one can have a little sleep at the back of the class like before.
- He's starting to get a little lazy - he needs a new challenge to keep him on his toes.
- With Brendan, we worked at a pace that kept us &on our toes, and that's exactly what we needed.
- This defeat at the hands of Nadal is actually good for Federer because it will keep him on his toes.

to keep someone posted
to keep someone informed
- I need to know what's going on while I'm away next week. - Don't worry. I'll keep you posted.
- Could you keep me posted on any change in his condition? - Of course. I'll call you every day from the hospital.
- On top of that, you did everything in your power to keep me posted about the delivery date of my job.
- I have kept her posted on the great results I have had. ... Hopefully someone will see this and take notice and help get the word out.

to keep something in mind
to remember something (often advice or a warning you have been given)
- Yes, it's a beautiful place but keep in mind that there are some parts of it that are not very safe for tourists.
- Ok, you can go to the disco, but keep in mind that you need to be home by midnight.
- But keep in mind that one bad review doesn't prove it's a low quality brand just as one stellar review doesn't prove it's a high quality brand.
- She worked nights and days and seldom enjoyed any personal time because she kept in mind that her family needed the financial support.

An alternative expression is bear in mind.

to keep something under your hat
to keep something secret
- Did you know that she's going to marry John? - Yes, but keep it under your hat until they have put the announcement in the newspaper.
- You're not going to be able to keep it under your hat for very long. People are sure to find out!
- But, it MUST be kept hush-hush, you know? I mean, I don't mind telling YOU. But, you MUST keep it under your hat.....really...ok?
- So I kept it under my hat, hoping all along that no one would discover it and snatch it out from under my feet before I got a chance to find it.

to keep the lid on something
to keep something secret; to keep something from getting out of control
- The government tried to keep the lid on their plans to ban reduce spending on schools, but they were unsuccessful.
- There will be trouble if you don't keep the lid on it.
- He is a bit of a show-off and has a tendency to erupt at times but he managed to keep the lid on it.
- There is a silent, secret but nonetheless deadly partnership between the drug lords and the bankers. How long can the capitalist government keep the lid on this?

This idiom is often used in its alternative form to put the lid on something. (A lid is the flat object that is put on top of a pot.)

to keep your chin up
to remain cheerful and optimistic
- Keep your chin up. I'm sure things will soon get better!
- After all the things that had gone wrong I found it very difficult to keep my chin up.
- It can be difficult to keep your chin up when dealing with the symptoms of PCOS, but for the first time in a long time I have hope.
- All my friends said it would never happen and I was starting to believe them, but I kept my chin up and remained open-minded.

to keep your feet on the ground
to stay calm and realistic
- You need to keep your feet on the ground. Just because you have acted in a TV commercial doesn't mean you are going to be the next Hollywood star.
- It's difficult to keep your feet on the ground when everyone is telling you how wonderful you are.
- Then Grisham added: "...and when it's all over I hope I can say it was a whole lot of fun, but I kept my feet on the ground and I didn't change."
- Observers say that Federer's success lies in his ability to keep his feet on the ground in the dizzying whirl of tennis.

to keep your fingers crossed
to wish or hope for good luck
- Good luck. We'll be keeping our fingers crossed for you.
- Keep your fingers crossed that everything goes OK.
- From Friday night until Sunday evening I constantly rotated ice and a hot water bottle on my injury and kept my fingers crossed that I would be able to run.
- I am corresponding with some European booking agents and deejays too, so keep your fingers crossed for us.

to keep your nose clean
to stay out of trouble
- Make sure you keep your nose clean. You don't want any problems with the police or the drug gangs.
- I tried to keep my nose clean, but it was difficult when all my friends were out at bars or clubs all night.
- Fall and winters, I hit the books and kept my nose clean, working toward a degree to make my mother happy.
- They are currently hiding out because Luke couldn't keep his nose clean and got caught in a money laundering scam.

to keep your nose to the grindstone
to keep working hard
- If you want to pass your exams. You'll just have to keep your nose to the grindstone.
- The new boss is very strict. She certainly keeps everyone's nose to the grindstone.
- At the very least, the pressure I feel has kept my nose to the grindstone for the last month.
- It is highly demoralizing when a subordinate has to keep his nose to the grindstone while the boss just ambles around the office all day shooting the breeze.

A grindstone is a stone used for sharpening knives.

to keep your shirt on
to not be angry; to keep calm
- Ok, keep your shirt on. It's not as bad as it seems.
- I'm not going to ask you for money, so you can keep your shirt on.

This expression is usually found in the imperative (command) form. (An alternative is: Keep your hair on!)

to knock someone for six
to surprise or shock someone
- It knocked us for six when we were told that the company was closing down.
- She knocked me for six when she told me she was pregnant.
- Then I saw the headline - I didn't even bother going to read it - and that just shocked me, knocked me for six.
- To target an old lady in this way is unforgivable. "She's 91 years old and is a tough old bird, but this really did knock her for six.

Six is the highest score you can make when hitting a cricket ball.

to know something by heart
to have learned something completely
- It's not usual these days for children at school to have to learn poems by heart.
- I know it by heart - I've done it a thousand times already.
- She had told that story so often that Jess knew it by heart.
- You make me cry..... such beautiful words, I do not deserve them. Thank you so much. I think I'll read this comment that many times I will know it by heart.

to know something inside out
to know all about something (or someone)
- I'll show you around. I know the place inside out.
- Ask John to help you. He knows cars inside out.
- I really thought that after owning this unit for 4 years, I really knew it inside out. I was wrong.
- I suggest you ask the authors of the script as they will know it inside out.

to know the score
to know the truth or the real facts
- There's no point pretending you have no money. I know the score.
- He must know the score by now - this has been going on for months.
- Even though I may deny certain truths for the sake of comfort, deep down I know the score.
- Well, it's pure speculation, but he's been around for two hundred years, so I assume he knows the score.

to lay it on the line
to say something clearly and forcefully
- I'm going to lay it on the line to you. One more mistake and you're off the team!
- The doctor laid it on the line that if I didn't stop smoking I'd be dead in 6 months.
- If I become terminally ill, I hope my doctor will lay it on the line, and give me his best estimate of how much time I have left.
- While other commentators may hedge, the 70-year-old Rukeyser lays it on the line bluntly, often with impish wit.

to lead someone by the nose
to control someone (so that they do what you want them to do)
- Don't let her lead you by the nose any more. It's time your took control of your own life.
- The teacher allowed himself to be led by the nose by some of the tough boys in the class.
- The first three months, they could have led me by the nose anywhere they wanted to take me and I'd go willingly.
- She had made her choice to continue on her adventure and it wasn't up to him to lead her by the nose.

to lead someone up the garden path
to deceive someone (often over a long period of time)
- How long have you been leading me up the garden path?
- She keeps promising to loan me the money, but I think she's just leading up the garden path.

You can also lead someone down the garden path.

to let sleeping dogs lie
to walk away from trouble; to do nothing to cause unnecessary trouble
- Why can't you just let sleeping dogs lie? There's no need to say anything to anyone.
- If only you had just let sleeping dogs lie. Then we wouldn't be in all this trouble now!

It's not a good idea to wake a sleeping dog. It might bite you!

to let the cat out of the bag
to give away a secret
- I didn't want to tell anyone until I was sure, but she let the cat out of the bag.
- Whatever you do, don't let the cat out of the bag. We'll have big problems if anyone finds out yet.

to lie through your teeth
to tell big and obvious lies
- Michael Jackson invited us backstage after the concert, he said, lying through his teeth.
- Don't believe a word she says - she's lying through her teeth.

to live from hand to mouth
to exist with very little money
- When my mother was young she had to live from hand to mouth. Neither of her parents had work.
- When I was a student I lived from hand to mouth. I never knew where the next dollar was coming from.

to look after number one
to look after yourself only; to not care about other people
- Don't expect her to help you - she only ever looks after number one.
- The company directors were looking after number one. They didn't care that many of the workers would lose their jobs.

to look down your nose
to show disrespect or disdain for someone or something
- There's no need to look down your nose at him just because he comes from a poor family. He's every bit as intelligent as you.
- It's all very well to look down your nose at the way she dresses, but she doesn't have as much money as you.

to lose face
to lose self-respect or other people's respect
- No I can't break my promise. I don't want to lose face.
- She lost face when her boss criticized her in front of the other workers.

This is a direct translation of a Chinese expression.

to make a face
to show your thoughts or emotions by moving parts of your face
- She made an angry face when I told her she couldn't go to the disco.
- I didn't want to upset her, but the smell was so bad in the room that I couldn't help making a face.

An alternative is: to pull a face. The expression is normally used only when the face-puller wants to show annoyance or disgust.

to make a killing
to make a lot of money; to make a big profit
- She made a killing in the 1990s but lost it all again in the dotcom crash.
- You will never make a killing if you are not prepared to take any risks.

to make a meal of something
to spend more time, worry or energy on something than is necessary
- Ok, I said I was sorry. There's no need to make such a meal of a tiny mistake.
- All she had to do was buy a new one. I don't understand why she had to make a meal of it.

to make a mountain out of a molehill
to make a small problem into a large one
- Don't make such a mountain out of a molehill. Everything's going to be all right.
- Take no notice of her - she's always making a mountain out of a molehill

A mole is a small, black animal that lives underground. It lives little piles of earth called molehills when it digs to the surface.

to make a pig's ear of something
to make a mess of something; to spoil or ruin something
- I went to a new hairdresser last week but he really made a pig's ear of my hair. I won't be going to him again.
- Why do you always make such a pig's ear of things? Can't you ever concentrate on what you're doing?

to make a rod for your own back
to do something that causes problems for yourself
- If she marries that loser she's just making a rod for her own back.
- If you invite people to comment on your proposals you will just be making a rod for your own back.

to make ends meet
to have enough money for daily needs
- My grandfather was unemployed for many years so as you can imagine my grandparents found it hard to make ends meet.
- I don't know how I'm going to make ends meet if the cost of food and petrol keeps going up.

to make heavy weather of something
to take more time and trouble to do something than expected
- She's making heavy weather of her report - I don't think she'll be finished in time.
- It's a mystery why he had to make such heavy weather of the homework. It should have been very easy.

to make someone's mouth water
this expression is used for something that people find very appealing and attractive
- It makes my mouth water to think how much money I'll be earning in the new job.
- The prospect of inheriting a villa by the sea made his mouth water.

to make the right noises
to say the right things (to make promises)
- The government is making the right noises, but I don't really trust them to actually do something.
- It's not enough to just make the right noises, you actually have to do something!
- Korea has made the right noises but action speaks louder than words.
- On e-commerce, the government is making all the right noises. But what has it achieved?

to make your toes curl
to embarrass someone
- It made my toes curl when the presenter started to talk about her terrible childhood.
- The so-called comedian made my toes curl - he was just awful!

to not bat an eyelid
to not get agitated or excited; stay calm
- She didn't bat an eyelid, even when he told her he'd wrecked her car.
- The restaurant bill was $350 for the two of them, but he paid it without batting an eyelid.
- Amazing how you can go home after work, slump in front of the TV for 6 hours solid before going to bed and no-one would bat an eyelid, but if you do it at the computer there must be something wrong with you!

You must use this expression with 'not'. You cannot say "I batted an eyelid" to mean "I got agitated" or "I lost my calm".

to not give a hoot
to not care or worry at all
- I don't give a hoot what you think. I'm going to do it anyway.
- The managers don't give a hoot about the workers. They are only interested in making as much money as possible.

A hoot is the sound made by an owl

to not have a leg to stand on
to be in a very weak position; to have no justification for doing something
- She can't just kick you out of the house like that. She doesn't have a leg to stand on.
- You don't have a leg to stand on. Nobody saw what happened so it's your word against mine.

to not have a prayer
to have no chance
- He thinks he's going to beat me at chess, but he doesn't have a prayer!
- She doesn't have a prayer of making the soccer team.

to not have the heart
to not be brave enough to do something (often because this will hurt someone else)
- I didn't have the heart to tell her that she wasn't good enough.
- I should have told her that she had no chance of being chosen, but I didn't have the heart.
- I didn't have the heart to say goodbye And heaven knows a thousand times I tried.
- While I was deeply flattered by that, I didn't have the heart to tell him that I sincerely doubt that there's anyone in the Bush administration reading my blog.

to not have the stomach for something
to not feel interested, strong or brave enough to so something
- No, forget it. I don't have the stomach for an argument with her.
- I'd really like to visit New Zealand but I don't have the stomach for the endless journey to get there.

An alternative is to use stomach as a verb: I watched bull-fighting once, but I couldn't stomach it.

to not lift a finger
to do nothing
- She didn't lift a finger to help in the house while I was away.
- You never lift a finger around here. Why should I have to do all the work?

An alternative expression is raise a finger.

to not put it past (someone)
to not be surprised if (someone) ..
- You need to be careful. I wouldn't put it past him to go straight to the boss and tell her what you said.
- I wouldn't put it past her to turn up in a bikini. You know how crazy she is.

This idiom is almost always used with the starting words: I wouldn't.

to not see the wood for the trees
to be so involved in details that you don't see what's really important
- I realize now that I wasn't seeing the wood for the trees. How could I have been so blind?
- He always gets bogged down in petty arguments. It seems he can never see the wood for the trees.

to open someone's eyes
to make someone aware of something
- When I walked through the bus station for the first time at night it really opened my eyes to the drug problem in the city.
- The street demonstrations opened the government's eyes to the strength of feeling about the issue.

to pay through the nose
to pay more for something than it is worth
- He paid through the nose for his new computer. If he'd just asked me I could have got him a much cheaper one.
- If you buy from there, you'll pay through the nose.
- I'm not going to that restaurant any more. The food is quite cheap, but you have to pay through the nose for a decent bottle of wine.
- I paid through the nose for the painting - but I liked it so much that I had to have it!

to pick nits
to criticize small and unimportant details
- She's always picking nits with my ideas, but she never has any good ones of her own.
- I know this will seem like picking nits, but don't you think it's a little expensive?

Monkeys pick nits from the fur of their fellow monkeys.

to pick up the pieces
to (try to) return to normal after something bad has happened
- It took him a long time to pick up the pieces after he lost his job.
- We need to help Jane pick up the pieces again - she's suffering badly from the death of her mother.

to play for time
to try and delay something
- Will you please stop playing for time and tell me what you have decided.
- He said he needs to ask his wife first, but I think he's just playing for time and he doesn't intend to help us at all.

to play it by ear
to do things without planning; to improvise
- Where are we going to stay? - I don't know; we'll play it by ear when we arrive.
- You can't just play this one by ear. If you want to do a good job, you need to do some thinking first.

to play second fiddle
to have a less important job; to be less important
- She's moved to a new department and is finding it difficult to play second fiddle.
- I like to be my own boss. I'm not very good at playing second fiddle.

A fiddle is a violin. People usually prefer to play first fiddle.

to play with fire
to put yourself into danger; to do something dangerous or unwise
- You're playing with fire if you intend driving home after drinking so much.
- Doesn't she realize she's playing with fire? Sooner or later there's going to be a terrible accident.

to point the finger at someone
to blame or accuse someone
- You have to point the finger at her parents. If they have treated her better I'm sure she wouldn't be having such problems today.
- I don't want to point the finger at anyone, but I do want to know how it happened.

to pour oil on troubled waters
to calm an angry or tense situation
- Things are getting a little dangerous. The government needs to do something to pour oil on troubled waters.
- We need someone who can pour oil on troubled waters. She is likely to do exactly the opposite!

to practise what you preach
to do as you say
- You need to practise what you preach. You can't shout at your students for being late to class when you come late to every meeting.
- It's not always easy to practise what you preach!

to pull no punches
to talk bluntly and critically
- I pulled no punches. He had to know how serious the situation is, and I told him!
- She certainly pulled no punches in telling her workers how about the risks to the company if they didn't start working more productively.

A boxer who pulls his punch doesn't hit his opponent as hard as he could.

to pull someone's leg
to play a trick or a joke on someone
- Are you pulling my leg? - No, I mean every word of what I say.
- Don't take it too seriously; she's only pulling your leg.

to pull the plug
to stop supporting or financing something
- I've decided to pull the plug on the building project. We just cannot afford it.
- I can't believe it. He pulled the plug on us just as we were having some success at last.

If you pull a plug out of a socket, you interrupt the electricity supply.

to pull your socks up
to start working harder
- You'd better start pulling your socks up or you're going to fail the course.
- He was doing badly at first, but then he really pulled his socks up, and ended up at the top university.

to pull your weight
to work as hard as you should or as hard as everyone else
- You need to start pulling your weight. Why should everybody else have to do your job for you?
- If he doesn't start pulling his weight, the whole project is in danger of failing.

to put it past (somebody)
to not be surprised if (somebody) did something bad, stupid, dangerous, nasty, etc.
- You know she's thinking of marrying that junkie boyfriend of hers. - I wouldn't put it past her!
- I wouldn't put it past him to come dressed as a banana. You know how crazy he is!

It would be unusual to start this idiom with any words other than I wouldn't ...

to put someone in their place
to show someone they are not as important or clever as they think
- The boss really put him in his place when he asked to lead the next project.
- That boy is getting a little too arrogant - he needs putting in his place.

to put someone or something in the shade
to make someone or something seem less good or important
- I thought Jane's presentation was good, but Simon's really put hers in the shade.
- I felt sorry for him - he worked hard and did fairly well, but his enormously-talented brother put him in the shade.

to put someone through the hoops
to make someone do unnecessary and irritating things
- She likes to put the new employees through the hoops. It shows them who's boss.
- If you want to start a new business in Germany they put you through a thousand hoops. It's a wonder that anyone ever tries!

At a circus tigers and other animals are trained to jump through hoops. (There are an number of variations on this idiom: to go through the hoops, to jump through the hoops, etc.)

to put someone's nose out of joint
to upset or offend someone
- It really put her nose out of joint when he turned up at her party, uninvited.
- He had his nose put right out of joint at the last meeting - nobody at all agreed with his proposal.

to put something on ice
to postpone doing something or making a decision about it
- I'm afraid we have no money left. We'll have to put the project on ice for a little while.
- You need to put your plans on ice while you're at college. You can always try again when you are finished.

to put the cart before the horse
to do things in the wrong order
- Aren't you putting the cart before the horse? Surely we first need to decide if we have enough money.
- Planning your honeymoon before you've even asked her to marry you is rather putting the cart before the horse!

In the days before cars and trucks, horses were used to pull carts containing people or things.

to put the cat among the pigeons
to cause trouble or panic
- He really put the cat among the pigeons when he claimed that the directors had been lying.
- I don't want to put the cat among the pigeons, but did you know that they not going to loan us the money after all.

Pigeons are the birds you see on the squares of European cities. They fly off in a hurry when a cat (or a person) approaches. (An alternative verb is: set.

to put the screws on someone
to put pressure on someone
- I told the boss I didn't want to work at the weekend, but he put the screws on me, and I ended up working all Saturday and Sunday.
- If she doesn't start coming to class on time, I think we'll have to put the screws on her.

to put the wind up someone
to scare or worry someone
- It really put the wind up him when his wife threatened to walk out.
- The new boss has really put the wind up his employees. No-one dares to come late any more!

to put two and two together
to realize; to understand the truth about something
- The boy never said that he was a smoker, but his mother put two and two together when she found a cigarette lighter in his room.
- I finally put two and two together when she said was not planning a holiday this year.

to put words into someone's mouth
to tell someone that they said or meant one thing whereas they think they said or meant a different thing
- No, that's not what I meant at all. Don't put words into my mouth.
- She accused me of putting words into her mouth, but I was only repeating exactly what she had told me two days before.

to put your feet up
to relax
- You've been working hard all day. Why don't you go and put your feet up for a while.
- You've got too much to do. There's no time to put your feet up!

to put your finger on something
to be able to understand, explain or identify something
- I know there's something wrong, but I just can't put my finger on it.
- It wasn't until much later that she was able to put her finger on it - her daughter had been lying all along.

to put your foot down
to use your authority to stop something happening
- Her parents put their foot down when the daughter came home after midnight, drunk. She was not allowed out for the next month.
- It's time you put your foot down. You can't just let him speak to you like that!

to put your foot in it
to say or do something embarrassing
- I really put my foot in it when I asked about her husband. I didn't know that he's walked out on her.
- He's always putting his foot in it. He seems to have a real talent for embarrassing both himself and other people.

The full expression is to put your foot in your mouth.

to put your money where your mouth is
to not just talk about what is right but also to do something about it (usually by spending money)
- If the government is really serious about improving our schools, it needs to put its money where its mouth is.
- With him it's all just talk. He never puts his money where his mouth is.

to put your neck on the line
to take a risk (for example, of losing money or reputation)
- I'm not going to put my neck on the line for her. She has never done me any favours.
- He put his neck on the line when he admitted to taking drugs as a student.

to put your shirt on something
to bet; to take a risk (usually with money)
- I'm pretty sure she's going to get the job, but I wouldn't put my shirt on it.
- I put my shirt on a small internet company in California, but I lost all my money in the dotcom crash.

to put your shoulder to the wheel
to make an effort
- If you are not willing to put your shoulder to the wheel, don't be surprised if you fail your exams.
- We should be able to finish the job by Friday if we all put our shoulders to the wheel .

to read between the lines
to understand something even when it is not clearly written or stated
- I know she doesn't love me any more. I can read between the lines.
- The bosses did not say outright that the factory would have to close, but the workers could read between the lines.

to reinvent the wheel
to do something unnecessary
- We've done all this before. Why do we need to reinvent the wheel?
- There's no need to reinvent the wheel here. The old system is perfectly fine for a few years yet.

to rub shoulders with someone
to know someone; to be or be friends with someone
- I wouldn't do anything to annoy her. She rubs shoulders with the president's wife.
- The last thing I want is to rub shoulders with those obnoxious rich kids.

Americans rub elbows not shoulders.

to rub someone up the wrong way
to annoy someone
- There's something about her that rubs him up the wrong way.
- If you continue to rub me up the wrong way like this, I'm going to have to report you to the boss.

to run out of gas
to lose energy or enthusiasm; to feel tired
- After writing 9 books in the first 10 years of his career, he ran out of gas and only managed 3 more vefore he died.
- If you don't start getting more sleep, you're soon going to run out of gas.

to run rings around someone
to defeat someone easily; to show how superior you are to somebody
- Don't expect to beat her at tennis. She can run rings around people twice her age.
- The governing party ran rings around the opposition in the recent election.

to see beyond the end of your nose
to be able to think about other people as well as yourself; to be able to think of the future as well as the immediate present
- She doesn't realize the effect she's having on other people. She's never been able to see beyond the end of her nose.
- You are soon going to run into problems if you don't begin to see beyond the end of your nose.

This expression is often used in its shorter form: to see beyond your nose.

to see eye to eye
to agree; to get on with someone
- It's not a good idea to ask both John and Mike to your party. They don't see eye to eye.
- He doesn't see eye to eye with his father. They're always arguing about something or other.

This expression is typically used in the negative, as in the example sentences.

to see red
to be or become angry
- I see red if anyone tries to tell me what to do or how to live.
- The teacher saw red when I fell back off my chair for the third time that lesson.

This expression comes from bull-fighting in which the red cloth enrages the bull.

to see the light
to come to understand something
- For a long time he didn't realize that she was cheating him, but I think he's finally seen the light.
- She's very sharp. It didn't take her long to see the light.

to send someone packing
to send someone away; to reject someone's request
- She asked me to lend her some more money, but I sent her packing. She still owes me $100 from last month.
- The student wanted more time to do his essay, but the teacher sent him packing.

to set your heart on something
to want something very much
- She had set her heart on a job in television.
- I've set my heart on a new mountain bike, but I don't have the money to buy one yet.

to set your teeth on edge
to find something extremely irritating or unpleasant
- It sets my teeth on edge how you can never shut the door after you.
- There's something about him that really sets my teeth on edge.

to shoot down in flames
to severely criticize someone; to reject their idea or proposal
- I thought it was a good idea, but the boss shot it down in flames.
- She shot me down in flames when I suggested asking my parents to look after the children.

to shoot the messenger
to be angry at someone who brings you bad news
- There's no need to shoot the messenger. It wasn't me who made the mistake!
- Why are you shooting the messenger? It's her you should be angry with.

to shoot your mouth off
to talk loudly, publicly and often in a boastful way
- Please don't go shooting your mouth off until the contract has finally been signed.
- He'd been shooting his mouth off about how good he is but when he actually started to play he was awful!

to shoot yourself in the foot
to do something that hurts yourself
- She really shot herself in the foot when she criticized the boss in the meeting. He gave her extra work to do!
- Be careful you are not shooting yourself in the foot. You don't know what his reaction will be.

to show someone the ropes
to show someone what to do
- Don't worry if this is all new to you. I'll show you the ropes.
- I've never done anything like this before. I hope someone will be able to show me the ropes.

to sit on the fence
to be undecided; to not make a decision
- Are you going to vote for us or not? You can't just sit on the fence.
- Do you mind if I sit on the fence for a little while longer? I can't make up my mind at the moment.

to skate on thin ice
to be in a dangerous situation; to be taking a risk
- She's skating on very thin ice. The next little mistake and she's out of a job.
- Doesn't he know that he's skating on thin ice? People are not going to tolerate his bad behaviour for ever.

to smell a rat
to see something suspicious in what someone says or does
- I smelled a rat as soon as she started trying to be nice to me.
- I smell a rat. I can't believe he is really as honest as he pretends.

to split hairs
to make small, petty and unnecessary comments or distinctions between things
- I didn't say I was angry. I said I was annoyed. - That's just splitting hairs.
- It depends what you mean by the word "mean". - Oh, I do wish you would stop splitting hairs!

to stand on your own two feet
to be independent; to succeed without help
- You're 23 now. It's time you learned to stand on your own two feet.
- You have to let the new teacher stand on her own two feet. You can't keep rushing in every time she has a problem with a student.

to steal someone's thunder
to "steal" the praise or attention given to another person
- She really stole his thunder when she said that in fact it was her who thought of the idea in the first place.
- I don't want to steal your thunder, but I really do think you could mention that I helped you with part of the project.

to step out of line
to do something different from other people (often something wrong or inappropriate)
- The moment you step out of line you're going to lose your job. Have you understood that?
- I stepped out of line a few times when I was young and it doesn't seem to have done me any harm.

to stick out like a sore thumb
to be very obvious and noticeable
- Can't you see she's pregnant? It sticks out like sore thumb!
- That new building in the town center sticks out like a sore thumb - it's so ugly.

to stick your neck out
to take a risk; to make a bold prediction
- I'll stick my neck out and say that a team from Africa will win the next World Cup.
- What's the point in sticking your neck out? You have nothing to gain and everything to lose.

to stick your nose into something
to interfere in or be curious about something
- Don't try to stick your nose in. It has nothing to do with you.
- He's always trying to stick his nose into my affairs. I wish he'd just leave me alone.

This expression can be used with the verb to poke: to poke your nose into something. If you do this, you may well be told: Keep your nose out of it!

to strike while the iron is hot
to take advantage of an opportunity while it is still open to you
- House prices are very low at the moment. You need to strike while the iron is hot.
- Yes, I know. I should have struck while the iron was hot, but it's too late to cry about it now.

A blacksmith strikes (and shapes) a piece of iron when it's red hot. He cannot shape it when it is cold.

to swallow the pill
to accept a bitter or unpleasant situation; to make a difficult or unpleasant decision
- You'll just have to swallow the pill and tell him you don't want to see him any more.
- I had to swallow the pill and sell my house. Otherwise I would have had to go to prison.

The expression is often used in the form: That was a bitter pill to swallow.

to swallow your pride
to have to do something you find shameful or distressing
- I'm sorry, you'll just have to swallow your pride and apologize to her.
- I had to swallow my pride and admit that I'd made a bad mistake.

to sweep under the carpet
to hide something; to keep something secret
- It's no use trying to sweep it under the carpet. We have a problem and we have to deal with it.
- She tried to sweep the fact she used to be a drug addict under the carpet.

to take a back seat
to allow others to take control or make decisions
- I'm quite happy to take a back seat and let her make all the decisions.
- The doctor recommended that I take a back seat until I have fully recovered from my illness

If you sit in the back seat of a car, you allow someone else to drive it.

to take a leaf out of someone's book
to follow someone's example; to copy their good or sensible behaviour
- Why don't you take a leaf out of her book? She doesn't need to drink herself stupid, but she still can have a great time.
- I took a leaf out of his book and started jogging every day. I feel much healthier now.

Leaf is another word for the page of a book.

to take a raincheck
this expression is used to politely reject an offer or invitation
- Would you like to go to the movies tonight? - I'll have to take a raincheck; I've got too much work to do.
- I'm completely exhausted. Do you mind if I take a raincheck.

This is much more common in American English than British English.

to take it lying down
to show no reaction to an insult or threat
- You let him walk all over you. Are you just going to take it lying down?
- She wants to kick me off the team, but I'm not going to take it lying down.

to take no prisoners
to act in a ruthless way, not caring about the effects on other people
- The new headmaster took no prisoners. Five of the older teachers were told they were no longer needed.
- If you want me to save the company money, donít expect me to take any prisoners.

This expression derives from the situation in a war where the victorious army kills the defeated opposing soldiers rather than taking them prisoner.

to take someone down a peg or two
to make clear to someone that they are not as good or clever as they think
- He's started trying to tell everyone what to do. I think he needs taking down a peg or two.
- She's always going on about how wonderful she is. I'd really like to take her down a peg or two.

A peg is a small piece of wood or plastic; e.g. used to keep clothes on a washing line.

to take someone for a ride
to trick or deceive someone
- Are you trying to take me for a ride? I don't believe a word you're saying.
- She's taking you for a ride. She's no intention of giving you the house.

to take someone under your wing
to look after someone; to take care of them
- Could you take the new girl under your wing? This is her first job and she seems very nervous.
- I don't need you to take me under your wing. I'm perfectly capable of standing on my own two feet.

The mother bird takes her chicks under its wing to protect them.

to take something to heart
to allow something to affect or upset you deeply
- You shouldn't take it so much to heart. You are better off without her.
- She really took it to heart that he had forgotten their wedding anniversary.

to take something with a pinch of salt
to be suspicious of what you hear; to not believe everything you hear
- You need to take what she says with a pinch of salt. She's known to bend the truth.
- He told me he was a tennis champion in his younger days. But I've learned to take everything he says with a pinch of salt.

In American English it is usual to refer to a grain of salt.

to take the plunge
to take a risk; to do something even though it is unpleasant, difficult or dangerous
- If you really like him, why don't you take the plunge and ask him out. Maybe he's too shy to ask you!
- I'd really like to quit my job and start again somewhere else but I'm too scared to take the plunge.

To plunge means to dive, e.g. into water.

to take the rough with the smooth
to accept both the good and the bad aspects of something
- You can't expect to like everything about your new job - you have to take the rough with the smooth.
- Ok, it's not perfect, but he needs to learn to take the rough with the smooth.

to take the words out of someone's mouth
to say exactly what someone was about to say
- "What an awful dress she's wearing!" - "You took the words right out of my mouth!"
- I was going to thank him for a wonderful evening but he took the words right out of my mouth.

This expression is used almost always in the past simple tense, with the word right.

to take your hat off to someone
to express admiration to someone for what they have said or done
- I take my hat off to you. I didn't think that you were good enough but you've done a great job!
- You've got to take your hat off to her. She was very brave to tell the boss what's been going wrong.

to talk shop
to talk about your work; usually when you are not actually at work
- If you are a teacher and you are married to a teacher it's difficult not to talk shop in the evenings.
- The last thing I want to do in my lunch hour is to talk shop with my colleagues. I prefer to sit in the park and read my newspaper!

to talk through your hat
to talk nonsense
- Don't believe a word of it. He's talking through his hat.
- She's talking through her hat. She knows nothing about computer networks.

to tell someone where to get off
to tell someone, strongly and possibly rudely, to stop what they are saying
- I told him where to get off as soon as he suggested that I need to see a doctor.
- Why do you let her talk to you like that? If she said that to me, I'd tell her where to get off.

to throw good money after bad
to spend more money in an unwise attempt to recover money lost
- No, he's not going to get another cent from me. I don't intend to throw good money after bad.
- If you do that you'll just be throwing good money after bad.

to throw in the towel
to give up; to stop trying
- Don't throw in the towel now. One last effort and you'll succeed.
- I'm thinking of throwing in the towel. I've got no chance of winning and a big chance of getting hurt.

When a boxer is getting badly hurt in a boxing match, his trainer throws a towel into the ring to stop the fight. (A towel is a cloth used to dry the face or body.)

to throw the baby out with the bathwater
to get rid of good things along with bad things when trying to improve a situation; to start again unnecessarily
- Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I know we have to save some money but we don't need to start all over again.
- Our computer system has a few problems but we can fix them without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

You usually want to get rid of the bathwater but to keep your baby!

to thumb your nose at someone or something
to show disrespect or disdain for someone or something
- He always thumbed his nose at his teachers. Nothing they could say or do had any effect on him.
- In some countries it is dangerous to thumb your nose at the religious or political authorities.

to treat someone with kid gloves
to treat someone very carefully (because they are fragile or sensitive)
- You've been treating him with kid gloves for too long and it's not doing him any good!
- You have to treat her with kid gloves. She gets upset at the slightest hint of criticism.

In this expression the word kid means the soft leather made from a baby goat. (It is also possible to say handle instead of treat.)

to turn a blind eye
to ignore; to do nothing
- I'm sorry. It's impossible to turn a blind eye when someone is having such problems.
- If you turn a blind eye to his rudeness, it's only going to get worse.
- Overall, however, what is significant is that the police initially turn a blind eye to the violence of the right wing.
- For anyone to turn a blind eye, as Novogrodsky did in his letter, to a few simple, quite obvious facts is to me inexcusable.

to turn over a new leaf
to start again and do things better
- It's time you turned over a new leaf. If you carry on the way you are, you're going to end up in hospital.
- He turned over a new leaf when he met the girl he wanted to marry.

Leaf is another word for the page of a book.

to turn your nose up
to reject or show disapproval of something
- There's no reason to turn your nose up just because you don't like it.
- My ex-wife had always turned her nose up at my family. She thought they were too low class for her.
- I'm not going to turn my nose up at it just because it was cheap.

to twist someone's arm
to apply pressure to someone (to make them agree to what your want)
- At first she didn't want to do it, but after twisting her arm a little, she agreed.
- I know this will seem like twisting your arm, but if you don't stop, I shall have to report you to the boss.

to wash your hands of someone or something
to have nothing more to do with someone or something
- No, it's not my problem any more. I washed my hands of it long ago.
- If you come home drunk one more time, I'm going to wash my hands of you once and for all.

to wind someone up
to irritate someone by tricking them or playing a joke on them
- Why did you do that? Are you trying to wind me up?
- He's always trying to wind up the boss. He'll get himself the sack one day.

In this expression wind rhymes with find.

to work your fingers to the bone
to work very hard (for a long time)
- You just sit around while I work my fingers to the bone. Well, I'm not going to do it any more.
- I've worked my fingers to the bone for the last three months and now I need a long holiday.

tongue in cheek
meant to be funny or ironic
- What I said was tongue in cheek. I didn't mean to upset anyone.
- Don't take what he said seriously - I sure he was being tongue in cheek.

touch wood
you use this expression when you say how things are going well for you and you don't want to bring yourself bad luck
- I've never had to go to hospital, touch wood.
- Touch wood, I won't have any problems at the dentist tomorrow.

Most people actually try to touch something made of wood when they say this expression.

under the weather
not feeling very well
- Sorry, I don't think I'll be able to play tennis tonight. I'm feeling a little under the weather.
- She had been under the weather all day so she decided not to go to the party as planned.

under your thumb
in your power; under your control
- He's really under his wife's thumb. He won't do or say anything without asking her first.
- In some countries the media is firmly under the thumb of the government.

up to your eyes
to be very busy or occupied; to have a lot of
- Sorry, I won't be able to come tomorrow. I'm up to my eyes at the moment.
- I feel sorry for her. She's up to her eyes in problems at work, and it's making her ill.
- I've been up to my eyes in several projects and out of town on others, so my email has built up.
- I was a typical housewife, up to my eyes in washing-up and nappies.

An alternative is up to my ears.

water under the bridge
you use this expression to say that something is finished and there is no point or need to think or worry about it any longer
- We use to argued every time we saw each other, but that's now water under the bridge.
- I tried to apologize for what I'd said, but he was good enough to tell me that it was water under the bridge for him.

wet behind the ears
naÔve; inexperienced
- Didn't he realize it was a spam? How could he be so wet behind the ears?
- Don't be so wet behind the ears. She doesn't love you; she's just after your money!

When a baby is born, it is wet behind the ears.

wet blanket
a boring person
- She's a real wet blanket. She never wants to do anything or go anywhere.
A blanket is put on the bed to keep you warm at night. Sleeping under a wet blanket would not be a very pleasant experience!

wide of the mark
not true or accurate
- Your criticism is wide of the mark. I think you should apologize.
- There are rumours that I'm resigning but these are wide of the mark.

with your eyes closed
very easily
- What's the big deal. I could do it with my eyes closed.
- No, you need to concentrate. This is not a job that you can do with your eyes closed.

An alternative is: with your eyes shut.

you can say that again
you use this expression when you want to show absolute agreement with what the speaker has just said
- Wow, he was lucky! - You can say that again!
- I don't think that was a very good idea. - You can say that again!

your ears are burning
you think people are talking about you
- My ears are burning. Were you just talking about me?
- We were just saying what a good job you did yesterday. Were your ears burning?

your heart is in your mouth
you very anxious or nervous about something bad or unpleasant that you think will soon happen
- My heart was in my mouth when she walked onto the stage. But she gave a wonderful performance.
- Her heart was in her mouth when she saw the boy climbing the tree. She thought he was going to fall any second.

your heart isn't in it
you are not really interested or enthusiastic about something
- I've started having piano lessons, but my heart isn't in it.
- She tried to learn Russian but her heart wasn't really in it and she gave up after a couple of months.
- But there was something else wrong with that business, and it took a while before I could see it. I got another job, the pay was good, the benefits were great... but my heart wasn't in it.
- I dutifully helped my little brother prepare milk and cookies for Santa, but my heart wasn't in it.

your name is mud
you are not popular; everyone is complaining about you or talking critically about you
- My name is mud after I forgot my wife's birthday for the second year in a row!
- No, I won't ever buy anything from that store again. Their name is mud after they tried to sell me a used computer.

Copyright Paul Shoebottom 2005
http://esl.fis.edu

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