Using idiomatic expressions
The correct use of idiomatic expressions will earn you merit points when you write your essays.
Get an "A" on a test, homework assignment, project, etc.
I heard that Susie aced the test yesterday
2 As easy as a pie
The test was as easy as a pie.
3 at the eleventh hour
at the last minute; almost too late.
He finished the project at the eleventh hour and he nearly lost his job.
4 all ears
eager to hear what someone has to say.
Tell me about your latest trip overseas. I’m all ears.
5 be broke
be without money.
I need to borrow some money. I am broke.
6 be on the go
be very busy (going from one thing or project to another).
I am very tired. I've been on the go since 5 in the morning.
exhausted; very tired
I need a break after this. I'm beat!"
8 beat around the bush
evade an issue; avoid giving a direct answer.
Stop beating around the bush! Just tell me what happened to my car.
9 bite off more than one can chew
take responsibility for more than one can manage.
Mrs Lee finds it difficult to finish all her work. She has bitten off more than she could chew!"
10 blow one's top
become extremely angry.
My father blew his top when he found out I had taken his car without his permission.
11 burn the midnight oil
study/work all night or until very late at night.
Johan is not ready for the test. He will have to burn the midnight oil."
12 call it a day
stop work for the day.
The labourers call it a day after working for five hours on the field.
13 can't make heads or tails of something
can't understand something at all;
find something confusing and illogical.
I cannot make heads or tails of your notes. Were you sleepy during the class?
14 catch one's eye
attract one's attention/interest.
This colourful advertisement caught my eye when I was in the bus.
15 change one's mind
decide to do something different from what had been decided earlier.
David did not go to Australia. He changed his mind when he heard that his mother is ill.
16 cost (someone) an arm and a leg cost a lot;
be very expensive.
This car costs him an arm and a leg. He has to get another job to help pay for it.
17 couch potato
someone who spends too much time watching TV.
You are becoming a couch potato. You need to get out and do some exercise.
18 Don't count your chickens until (before) they hatch (they've hatched) Don't assume that something will happen until it has happened.
I think you should not count your chickens until they’ve hatched. Wait till the boys win the competition this Sunday.
19 drop someone a line
write to someone
Do drop me a line when you have time.
20 drag one's feet delay;
take longer than necessary to do something.
Why are you dragging your feet? You should have finished your homework by now.
21 an eager beaver
a person who is always willing to volunteer or do extra work.
Rahim is an eager beaver. He is the first to volunteer for any job to be done.
22 feel blue
feel sad and depressed.
Rita is feeling blue because she has not heard from her boyfriend for a long time.
23 fire someone
dismiss someone from a job because of poor performance. Lokman might be fired if he continues to be late for work.
24 get it
understand something (often negative).
I don’t get it. Could you please explain it to me again?
25 get on one's nerves
irritate someone; make someone upset.
His constant chatter is getting on my nerves. Please tell him to keep quiet.
26 get out of hand:
become out of control; become badly managed.
The situation is getting out of hand. The relief centre can only hold forty people but we have one hundred people to care for.
27 give someone a hand
i. help someone.
ii. applaud someone
Please give a hand to the poor old lady. She is trying to cross the road.
The gardener has done a wonderful landscaping job. Let’s give him a hand.
have one's hands full stubborn; inflexible; unwilling to change.
It’s pretty difficult to get Simon to change his mind. He is hard-headed.
29 have one's hands full
Peggy usually has her hands full in the beginning of a new school term.
30 in the black:
profitable; not showing a financial loss.
The company is back in the black after suffering from great losses the last two months.
31 in the red:
unprofitable; showing a financial loss.
The company is in the red. We have to stop some of the workers if the situation continues.
32 keep an eye on
check something regularly.
Please keep an eye on the children while I go to the bank.
33 keep one's fingers crossed
hope for the best.
He is keeping his fingers crossed while waiting for the results of his interview.
34 lend someone a hand
Can you please lend a hand at the relief centre for the flood victims?
35 live from hand to mouth
survive on very little money; have only enough money
to pay for basic needs.
Ros and the children live from hand to mouth after the fire destroyed their house.
36 make a mountain out of a molehill
make something seem much more important than it really is.
Susila is making a mountain out of a molehill. I am sure the boys are perfectly capable of looking after themselves.
37 make up one's mind
decide what to do
Moses has to make up his mind whether to continue his studies or take up a job.
38 on the dot exactly at a given time.
If you do not come on the dot, we will leave without you.
39 (on the) cutting edge
using the most recent technology
This car boasts of having a cutting edge technology. It has a computer and tracking system.
40 pull someone's leg tease someone by trying to make her/him believe something that's untrue.
She pulled my leg when he said that he had quit his job to get married.
41 Rain or shine
no matter what the weather
"We're leaving for Cameron Highlands, rain or shine."
42 rain cats and dogs
It’s raining cats and dogs now. You better leave later.
43 read someone's mind:
know what someone is thinking.
I can read your mind. I know you are very hungry and I have ordered pizza.
44 rub someone the wrong way
I cannot stand Robert. He seems to rub me the wrong way every time we discuss something.
45 sleep on it take some time to think about something before making a decision.
You should sleep on it first and we will discuss again tomorrow.
46 To make his own bed; now let him lie in it.
Someone has caused his/her own problems; he/she will have to solve them himself/herself.
He insisted that he should take up the project alone. So, he has made his own bed, let him lie in it.
47 under the weather
Susan was feeling under the weather yesterday, so she decided not to go to work."
48 until you're blue in the face
You can advise him until you're blue in the face, but he won’t change his ways.
49 wet behind the ears inexperienced and naive.
I do not think Suresh is suitable for this project. He is still wet behind the ears, having only joined us last month.
without an opinion of one's own.
You better check with the other members. John can be wishy-washy at times.
By Khuthadzo Malinda, South Africa:
If your English teachers were anything like mine, then they would have taught you to use simple words. During comprehension writing, my English teacher would absolutely discourage us (me) using words too big for the normal everyday Joe (teacher) to understand. Well, I am not in high school anymore and these words are just plain fun! It is even better when you know how and when to use them. Learn a new word as often as you can, it is really great for your vocabulary.
1. Meaning of bombastic (adjective)
Pompous; wordy; turgid; inflated; exaggerated
The bombastic woman talks a lot about herself.
2. Meaning of mettlesome (adjective)
courageous; brave; fearless.
Such an attitude required fresh springs of energy, and the effect – I was delighted to sense it as I woke each day – was to make me more bouncy and mettlesome than I had been for weeks.
3. Meaning of obtrusive (adjective)
Thrusting oneself or itself into undue prominence; invasive.
But the waitresses in Marshall and Shelly had new uniforms, dark purple instead of the old coffee-cream shade, and a different style of cap, more up to date and less obtrusive.
4. Meaning of cynical (adjective)
Sarcastic; doubting the sincerity of others; pessimistic.
The conversation which follows is the last in the book, and the weakest, too, a stagey means of imparting some crucial news for Bellow to fulminate against all that is rotten and cynical in American youth.
5. Meaning of depraved (adjective)
Corrupt; degenerate; debauched.
The depraved state of women in monogamy, associated as it is with private property and capitalism, will according to him, be replaced when capitalism is overthrown.
6. Meaning of labyrinthine (adjective)
Complicated; confusing; maze-like.
she forced her mind through the labyrinthine sentences of Jacques Mhlongo and Jacques Derrida until her eyes were bloodshot and her head ached.
7. Meaning of rueful (adjective)
Regretful; mournful; pitiable.
His head was bare and his smile was just a little rueful, as if he were uncertain of his welcome.
She looked down at her new French muslin pyjamas, the corners of her thin lips turning up in a rueful smile, wondering if the whiskey stains would come out – and deciding that they probably wouldn’t.
8. Meaning of improvident (adjective)
Wasteful; careless; not saving up for future needs.
An improvident person may end up destitute in later life.
9. Meaning of sordid
Filthy; base; vile; foul; dirty.
The sordid gutters needed to be cleaned after the long, rainy autumn.
The criminals thought patterns were so sordid that he was not granted parole.
10. Meaning of quixotic (adjective)
Foolishly idealistic; extravagantly chivalrous; impractical.
He was popular with the ladies due to his quixotic charm.
She had a quixotic view of the world, believing that humans need never suffer.
11. Meaning of obtuse (adjective)
Lacking in quickness and perception or intellect.
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