Speak English Like an American » INDEX OF IDIOMS

a
  • about to
    about to
    ready to; on the verge of
    Example 1: It's a good thing Bob left the furniture store when he did. Peter was so angry, he was about to throw a dining room chair at him.
    Example 2: I'm glad you're finally home. I was just about to have dinner without you.
  • after all
    after all
    Despite everything; when everything has been considered; the fact is
    Example 1: You'd better invite Ed to your party. After all, he's a good friend.
    Example 2: It doesn't matter what your boss thinks of you. After all, you're going to quit your job anyway.
  • all along
    all along
    throughout; from beginning to end
    EXAMPLE 1: Jenny told Nicole she would vote for her, but all along she was planning on voting for Andrea.
    EXAMPLE 2: I never believed Joel when he told us he was marrying a princess from Denmark. I knew all along that he was lying.
  • all better
    all better
    completely cured
    EXAMPLE 1: "All better?" asked Maureen, after her son stopped crying.
    EXAMPLE 2: If you're not all better, you shouldn't go to work tomorrow.
  • all over
    all over
    throughout; everywhere
    EXAMPLE 1: Nicole's classmates are from all over the world, including Argentina, Brazil, China, Japan, Korea, Poland, and Ukraine.
    EXAMPLE 2: Oh no! I got ketchup all over my white sweater.
  • all the rage
    all the rage
    the latest fashion; popular right now
    EXAMPLE 1: Have you seen those new alligator-skin cowboy boots? They're all the rage this season!
    EXAMPLE 2: At Nate's high school, salsa dancing is all the rage this year.
  • as a matter of fact
    as a matter of fact
    in fact; actually
    EXAMPLE 1: We need more milk? As a matter of fact, I was just going to ask you to go shopping.
    EXAMPLE 2: This isn't the first time Andy has gotten in trouble at school. As a matter of fact, just last month he was suspended for an entire week.
  • at first
    at first
    in the beginning
    EXAMPLE 1: Nicole didn't like Don Quixote at first, but after 200 pages she started to get into it.
    EXAMPLE 2: Don't get discouraged if you don't succeed at first. The important thing is that you keep on trying!
  • at least
    at least
    anyway; the good thing is that...
    Example 1: We've run out of coffee, but at least we still have tea.
    Example 2: Tracy can't afford to buy a car, but at least she has a good bicycle.

    Note: The second definition of this phrase is "no less than": There were at least 300 people waiting in line to buy concert tickets.

b
  • ballpark figure
    ballpark figure
    an approximate number
    EXAMPLE 1: The auto mechanic didn't know exactly how much the repairs would cost, but he was able to give me a ballpark figure.
    EXAMPLE 2: The plumber estimated that it would cost $150 to fix our sink, but that was just a ballpark figure.
  • basket case
    basket case
    someone or something in a useless or hopeless condition
    EXAMPLE 1: After working a 12-hour day and then coming home and cooking dinner for her family, Tanya felt like a basket case.
    EXAMPLE 2: After running the marathon, Brian felt like a basket case.

    NOTE: You may also see the expression "economic basket case" to describe an economy that is doing very poorly. Example: After years of dictatorship, North Korea is an economic basket case.

  • beat around the bush
    beat around the bush
    to talk around the subject; to avoid getting to the point
    EXAMPLE 1: Kara beat around the bush for an hour, then finally told us she needed a ride to Kennedy Airport.
    EXAMPLE 2: If you want something, tell me. Don't beat around the bush!
  • beside the point
    beside the point
    not relevant; not important
    EXAMPLE 1: Whether or not I asked the waiter to bring us water is beside the point. Waiters should always bring water to the table.
    EXAMPLE 2: The reason you're late is beside the point. The fact is, your dinner is now cold.
  • better off
    better off
    in a more fortunate position
    EXAMPLE 1: We're better off leaving for France on Thursday evening, so we can spend the entire weekend there.
    EXAMPLE 2: If you're interested in studying languages, you'd be better off attending Northwestern University than the University of Chicago.

    NOTE: This expression is often used with conditional tense (would), especially when you're giving advice: "you would be better off doing something" or "you'd be better off doing something."

  • big deal!
    big deal!
    So what? That doesn't really matter.
    EXAMPLE 1: You won five dollars in the lottery? Big deal!
    EXAMPLE 2: Your father has a job with a big company in New York City? Big deal!
  • big head
    big head
    arrogant; too proud of oneself
    EXAMPLE 1: Stop bragging so much about the award you got at work! People will think you've got a big head.
    EXAMPLE 2: Jenny has such a big head. No wonder nobody wants to be friends with her!

    SYNONYM: to be full of oneself. Example: Joan is really full of herself. She's always talking about how smart she is.

  • big shot
    big shot
    a powerful or important person
    EXAMPLE 1: Martin has become a real big shot in Hollywood. This year he produced several movies.
    EXAMPLE 2: Adam is a big shot in Silicon Valley. He started a very successful software company.

    NOTE: This expression can also be used in the negative sense, to mean somebody who thinks they're very important. Example: Now that she's been promoted to vice president, Beth thinks she's such a big shot!

  • bite off more than one can chew
    bite off more than one can chew
    to take on more than one is capable of; to take on too much
    EXAMPLE 1: Jennifer is having a dinner party for 50 people, and she can't even cook. I think she's bitten off more than she can chew.
    EXAMPLE 2: You agreed to host 50 exchange students from Korea? Aren't you afraid you've bitten off more than you can chew?

    SYNONYM: to be or to get in over one's head. Example: Jennifer is in over her head with this dinner party!

  • blow it
    blow it
    to spoil an opportunity
    EXAMPLE 1: The actress got nervous and forgot all of her lines. She really blew it!
    EXAMPLE 2: I'll give you one more chance, but don't blow it this time!

    SYNONYM: to screw up [slang]. Example: I can't believe you screwed up during the interview by asking for six weeks of vacation before you even got the job offer!

  • blow something
    blow something
    to spoil or botch something
    EXAMPLE 1: Brenda blew the interview and didn't get the job offer.
    EXAMPLE 2: Randy managed to get a date with the most popular girl in his class. Now I hope he doesn't blow it!
  • blow things out of proportion
    blow things out of proportion
    to exaggerate; to make more of something than one should
    EXAMPLE 1: They sent a 12 year-old boy to jail for biting his babysitter? Don't you think they're blowing things out of proportion?
    EXAMPLE 2: Sally called the police when her neighbor's party got too loud. I think that was blowing things out of proportion.

    SYNONYM: To make a mountain out of a molehill

  • break into
    break into
    to enter or be let into a profession
    EXAMPLE 1: If you want to break into journalism, it's a good idea to work on a college newspaper.
    EXAMPLE 2: These days it's difficult to break into investment banking.

    NOTE: "Break into" has several other meanings:

    1. Interrupt. Boris and I were talking. Please don't try to break into our conversation.
    2. Enter illegally or by force. Somebody broke into Peter's house and stole his DVD player.
    3. To suddenly begin an activity, such as singing. After receiving the check from the National Cookie Company, Susan broke into song.
  • break the news
    break the news
    to make something known
    Example 1: Samantha and Michael are getting married, but they haven't yet broken the news to their parents.
    Example 2: You'd better break the news to your father carefully. After all, you don't want him to have a heart attack!
  • break up with (someone)
    break up with (someone)
    to end a relationship with a romantic partner
    EXAMPLE 1: When Nicole's boyfriend told her he didn't want to see her anymore, she replied, "I can't believe you're breaking up with me!"
    EXAMPLE 2: After dating her boyfriend Dan for four years, Erica finally decided to break up with him.
  • bright and early
    bright and early
    early in the morning
    EXAMPLE 1: Our flight to Berlin leaves at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow, so we'll have to get up bright and early.
    EXAMPLE 2: We have lots of cookies to bake so we'll have to start bright and early tomorrow.

    SYNONYM: at the crack of dawn

  • brown-noser
    brown-noser
    a person who's constantly trying to win favor with people above them, such as teachers or bosses
    EXAMPLE 1: Lauren is such a brown-noser. She's always telling her teacher how much she enjoys class.
    EXAMPLE 2: Dennis brought the boss lunch today? What a brown-noser!

    NOTE: You will also see the verb form of this expression: "to brown-nose." Example: Dennis is always brown-nosing the boss, but I still don't think he's going to get a promotion.

  • buckle down
    buckle down
    to start working seriously
    EXAMPLE 1: If Don buckles down now, he might be able to graduate from high school this year.
    EXAMPLE 2: Team, if we want to win this tournament, we're going to need to buckle down!
  • burn someone up
    burn someone up
    to make someone angry
    EXAMPLE 1: Jenny didn't vote for Nicole. That really burns Nicole up.
    EXAMPLE 2: I can't believe Kristen and Andrew didn't invite us to their wedding. That really burns me up!
  • burn the midnight oil
    burn the midnight oil
    to stay up late studying or working
    EXAMPLE 1: Michael burned the midnight oil studying for his algebra test.
    EXAMPLE 2: The project is due tomorrow and we're far from finished. We're going to have to burn the midnight oil tonight.
  • butt in
    butt in
    to interrupt; to interfere
    EXAMPLE 1: Nancy is always butting in to other people's business.
    EXAMPLE 2: Sara is really rude. She always butts in to other people's conversations.
  • buy (some) time
    buy (some) time
    to make more time available (in order to achieve a certain purpose)
    EXAMPLE 1: We're not sure yet whether or not we want to buy the house. We'd better buy some time so we can think about it over the weekend.
    EXAMPLE 2: I'm not sure whether or not I want to take the job offer. I'd better buy some time to think about it.
  • buy out
    buy out
    to purchase an entire business or someone's share of a business
    EXAMPLE 1: Microsoft bought out Adam's company for $12 million.
    EXAMPLE 2: Harriett and Jane sell homemade snack chips. They hope one day a big company will buy out their business.
  • by a hair
    by a hair
    just barely; very narrowly; by a small amount
    EXAMPLE 1: Larry won the bicycle race by a hair. The second-place winner came in just a second behind him.
    EXAMPLE 2: Was the tennis ball in or out? I think it was out by a hair. You know the old saying: "When in doubt, call it out!"
  • by far
    by far
    by a wide margin; by a great difference
    EXAMPLE 1: Some people think Tom Hanks is by far the best actor in America today.
    EXAMPLE 2: Mediterranean Grill is by far the best restaurant in town. No wonder it's so hard to get a reservation there!

    SYNONYMS: by a long shot; far and away; hands down

c
  • call it a night
    call it a night
    o stop an activity for the rest of the night
    EXAMPLE 1: We spent a few hours walking around downtown Chicago. It was so cold that we were ready to call it a night by nine o'clock.
    EXAMPLE 2: Let's call it a night and meet back at the office at seven o'clock tomorrow morning to finish preparing our report.

    NOTE: There is also the expression "to call it a day" which means to stop activity for the day.

  • can't complain
    can't complain
    things are going well; I'm fine
    EXAMPLE 1: "How's business, Mike?" - "Can't complain. I sold a lot of computers this month."
    EXAMPLE 2: "How are things going at your new job?"- "Can't complain."
  • can't stand
    can't stand
    to hate
    EXAMPLE 1: Bob can't stand bureaucrats, so he'd never do well working at a large corporation.
    EXAMPLE 2: Nicole can't stand broccoli. She simply refuses to eat it.
  • change one's mind
    change one's mind
    to change one's opinion or decision
    EXAMPLE 1: Brandon wasn't going to take a vacation this year, but then he changed his mind and went to Bora Bora for two weeks.
    EXAMPLE 2: Why aren't you applying to medical school this year? Did you change your mind about becoming a doctor?
  • cheer someone up
    cheer someone up
    to make someone happy
    EXAMPLE 1: Susan called her friend in the hospital to cheer her up.
    EXAMPLE 2: My father has been depressed for weeks now. I don't know what to do to cheer him up.

    NOTE: You can tell somebody to "Cheer up!" if they are feeling sad.

  • cheer up
    cheer up
    to make someone happy
    EXAMPLE 1: Susan called her friend in the hospital to cheer her up.
    EXAMPLE 2: My father has been depressed for weeks now. I don't know what to do to cheer him up.

    NOTE: You can tell somebody to "Cheer up!" if they are feeling sad.

  • chill out
    chill out
    to relax
    EXAMPLE 1: Chill out! If we miss this train, we'll just take the next one.
    EXAMPLE 2: Your dog ate your homework? Chill out, I'm sure your teacher will understand!
  • chitchat
    chitchat
    casual conversation; gossip
    EXAMPLE 1: Peter told Heather to stop the chitchat and get back to work.
    EXAMPLE 2: Okay, enough chitchat! Let's start discussing this week's reading assignment.

    SYNONYM: to shoot the breeze

    NOTE: Chitchat can also be a verb. Example: Amber and Ted were chitchatting all night long.

  • come on in
    come on in
    enter
    EXAMPLE 1: Come on in, the door's open!
    EXAMPLE 2: If nobody answers the door when you ring tonight, just come on in.

    NOTE: This is a more conversational way of saying "come in."

  • come to an agreement
    come to an agreement
    to reach an agreement
    EXAMPLE 1: If we can come to an agreement now, I can start work on Monday.
    EXAMPLE 2: If you're not willing to negotiate, it's going to be very difficult for us to come to an agreement.
  • conventional wisdom
    conventional wisdom
    a widely held belief
    EXAMPLE 1: According to conventional wisdom, a diet high in salt can cause high blood pressure.
    EXAMPLE 2: Challenging conventional wisdom, the psychologist said that sometimes it's healthy to be in a bad mood.
  • cost an arm and a leg
    cost an arm and a leg
    to be very expensive
    Example 1: A college education in America costs an arm and a leg.
    Example 2: All of the furniture at Honest Abe's costs an arm and a leg!
  • count on someone
    count on someone
    to depend or rely on someone
    EXAMPLE 1: My brother has a great sense of humor, so I can always count on him to cheer me up.
    EXAMPLE 2: If I can count on you to wake me up, I won't set my alarm clock.
  • crank out
    crank out
    to produce rapidly or in a routine manner
    EXAMPLE 1: Last night, Nicole cranked out 200 signs for her campaign.
    EXAMPLE 2: We just bought a new printer at work. It can crank out 20 pages per minute.
  • crash course
    crash course
    short and intensive instruction
    EXAMPLE 1: Yesterday, Joan's son sat down with her for a couple of hours and gave her a crash course on using the Internet.
    EXAMPLE 2: Rachel had a date on Friday night with an auto mechanic. He gave her a crash course on changing her oil.
  • crazy about
    crazy about
    to like very much
    EXAMPLE 1: Amy is so crazy about golf, she'd like to play every day.
    EXAMPLE 2: I'm sure Katie will agree to go out on a date with Sam. She's crazy about him!
  • cream of the crop
    cream of the crop
    the best of a group
    EXAMPLE 1: In the world of women's tennis, the Williams sisters are the cream of the crop.
    EXAMPLE 2: Of course you'll get accepted to Harvard. Don't forget, you're the cream of the crop!

    SYNONYM: creme de la crème

  • crunch numbers
    crunch numbers
    to perform calculations (especially financial calculations)
    EXAMPLE 1: Scott loves to crunch numbers, so he decided to become an accountant.
    EXAMPLE 2: Wendy spends all her time at work in front of the computer crunching numbers and analyzing sales data.
  • crunch time
    crunch time
    a short period when there's high pressure to achieve a result
    EXAMPLE 1: The entire month of December is crunch time for Santa Claus.
    EXAMPLE 2: May is crunch time for many students. It's when they have their final exams.
  • cup of tea
    cup of tea
    the type of person or thing that one generally likes
    EXAMPLE 1: Hockey isn't Alan's cup of tea. He prefers soccer.
    EXAMPLE 2: I know Joy is nice, but she's simply not my cup of tea.

    NOTE: This expression is almost always used in the negative. She's not my cup of tea.

  • cut class
    cut class
    to miss class without an excuse
    EXAMPLE 1: Ted often cuts class to spend more time with his girlfriend.
    EXAMPLE 2: If you keep cutting French class, you're going to fail it.
  • cut it out
    cut it out
    stop it; stop the annoying behavior
    EXAMPLE 1: Tracy was chewing gum loudly during the movie. Her boyfriend finally told her to cut it out.
    EXAMPLE 2: Cut it out! Stop trying to pull my shoes off!
d
  • dead-end job
    dead-end job
    a job that won't lead to anything else
    Example 1: Diane realized that working as a cashier was a dead-end job.
    Example 2: Jim worked many dead-end jobs before finally deciding to start his own business.
  • deliver the goods
    deliver the goods
    to meet expectations; to do what's required
    EXAMPLE 1: Peter thought Bob wasn't delivering the goods, so he fired him.
    EXAMPLE 2: I'm depending on you to finish the job on time. I know that you can deliver the goods!

    SYNONYM: to cut the mustard. Example: If you can't cut the mustard here, you'll have to find a new job.

  • dime a dozen
    dime a dozen
    so plentiful as to be nothing special; common
    EXAMPLE 1: Reality TV shows are a dime a dozen these days.
    EXAMPLE 2: There are so many Starbucks coffee shops in Manhattan, they're a dime a dozen.

    NOTE: This expression comes from the fact that a "dime" is worth only ten cents (very little value).

  • do one's best
    do one's best
    to try as hard as possible
    EXAMPLE 1: Although Ted did his best, he still failed his chemistry test.
    EXAMPLE 2: You might not get a perfect score on your history test, but just do your best.

    SYNONYM: to give it one's all

  • do the trick
    do the trick
    to achieve the desired results
    EXAMPLE 1: Juan changed the light bulb and said, "That should do the trick!"
    EXAMPLE 2: My house is difficult to find, so I'll put 10 large balloons on my mailbox on the day of the party. That should do the trick.
  • don't mention it!
    don't mention it!
    you're welcome
    EXAMPLE 1: "Thanks for bringing the cookies," I said to Susan. "Don't mention it!" she replied.
    EXAMPLE 2: "Thanks for picking up my suit at the dry cleaners." - "Don't mention it. It was my pleasure."
  • down in the dumps
    down in the dumps
    to feel sad; to be depressed
    EXAMPLE 1: It's not surprising that Lisa is down in the dumps. Paws, the cat she had for 20 years, just died.
    EXAMPLE 2: It's easy to feel down in the dumps when it's raining outside.
  • dragon lady
    dragon lady
    a nasty woman who misuses her power
    EXAMPLE 1: Beth is a real dragon lady. She's always screaming at her employees and blaming them for her mistakes. I hope she gets fired!
    EXAMPLE 2: Liz was nasty to you? I'm not surprised. She's a dragon lady.

    SYNONYMS: bitch [slang]; shrew

  • drive a hard bargain
    drive a hard bargain
    to be tough in negotiating an agreement; to negotiate something in one's favor
    EXAMPLE 1: I wanted to pay less for the car, but the salesman drove a hard bargain.
    EXAMPLE 2: Eric drove a hard bargain and got the company to raise their salary offer by $15,000.
  • drive one crazy
    drive one crazy
    to annoy someone very much
    EXAMPLE 1: Don't ask Mrs. Smith how old she is. It drives her crazy.
    EXAMPLE 2: Please stop chewing gum so loudly. It's driving me crazy!

    SYNONYMS: to drive one nuts; to drive one up the wall

  • drop by
    drop by
    to pay a short, often unannounced visit
    EXAMPLE 1: If we have time before the movie, let's drop by Bill's house.
    EXAMPLE 2: "Hi, I was in the neighborhood so I thought I'd drop by!"
f
  • face it
    face it
    accept a difficult reality
    Example 1: Let's face it, if Ted spent more time studying, he wouldn't be failing so many of his classes!
    Example 2: Let's face it, if you don't have a college degree, it can be difficult to find a high-paying job.
  • fair and square
    fair and square
    honestly
    EXAMPLE 1: Did George Bush win the 2000 presidential election fair and square? That depends on whether you ask a Democrat or a Republican!
    EXAMPLE 2: Tony won the ping pong tournament fair and square.
  • fat chance!
    fat chance!
    definitely not
    EXAMPLE 1: The boys at school are always laughing at Dana. Will she be invited to the school dance? Fat chance!
    EXAMPLE 2: You want to borrow my new car and drive it across the country? Fat chance!

    SYNONYMS: never in a million years; no way!

  • feel free
    feel free
    go ahead and do something; don't hesitate (to do something)
    EXAMPLE 1: "Feel free to interrupt me and ask questions during my lecture," said the professor to his students.
    EXAMPLE 2: If you need legal advice, feel free to call my cousin Fred. He's a lawyer.
  • figure out
    figure out
    to solve; to determine
    EXAMPLE 1: Ted couldn't figure out one of his math problems, so he asked his sister for help.
    EXAMPLE 2: Susan is sure she'll never figure out why kids today behave the way they do.
  • find out
    find out
    to learn; to discover
    EXAMPLE 1: Al is calling the theater to find out what time the movie starts.
    EXAMPLE 2: David had a big party at his house while his parents were away on vacation. Fortunately for him, they never found out.
  • first things first
    first things first
    let's focus on the most important thing or task first
    EXAMPLE 1: You want to work here at Lulu's Dance Club? First things first, have you ever worked as a dancer before?
    EXAMPLE 2: You want to ask your teacher if you can hand in your paper two weeks late? First things first, you'd better think of an excuse.
  • fool around
    fool around
    to waste time, or spend it in a silly way
    EXAMPLE 1: If we keep fooling around here, we'll be late to the restaurant!
    EXAMPLE 2: Stop fooling around! You've got lots of work to do.

    NOTE: This expression also can mean to have casual sexual relations. Example: Steve and Tanya were fooling around in the back seat of the car when a policeman knocked on the window.

  • foot the bill
    foot the bill
    to pay
    EXAMPLE 1: You paid last time we went to the movies. Let me foot the bill this time.
    EXAMPLE 2: Fortunately, whenever we go out to dinner with the boss, she foots the bill.

    SYNONYM: to pick up the tab

  • for heaven's sake!
    for heaven's sake!
    A way of expressing emotions such as surprise, outrage, or impatience
    EXAMPLE 1: Hurry up, for heaven's sake! You're going to be late for school.
    EXAMPLE 2: Oh, for heaven's sake! Yesterday, I made three dozen chocolate chip cookies, and today there's only one cookie left!

    SYNONYMS: for God's sake, for goodness sake, for Pete's sake

  • for sure
    for sure
    definitely
    EXAMPLE 1: This year, Tom Cruise will win an Academy Award for sure.
    EXAMPLE 2: Mike is the most popular guy in school. If he runs for student body president, he'll win for sure.
  • freak out
    freak out
    to respond to something irrationally or crazily; to overreact
    EXAMPLE 1: Ashley's parents freaked out when she told them she was dropping out of college to become an actress.
    EXAMPLE 2: Don't freak out when I tell you this, but I lost the laptop you lent me last week.
  • from scratch
    from scratch
    from the beginning; using all fresh ingredients rather than using a prepared mix
    EXAMPLE 1: The house was in such bad shape, they decided to tear it down and re-build it from scratch.
    EXAMPLE 2: You baked these muffins from scratch? They're delicious!
  • full of oneself
    full of oneself
    to think too much of oneself
    EXAMPLE 1: After Angela appeared on the cover of Vogue magazine, she was really full of herself.
    EXAMPLE 2: Mitch thinks he's really great. He's so full of himself.
g
  • get (something) straight
    get (something) straight
    to clarify; to understand
    EXAMPLE 1: Are you sure you got the directions straight?
    EXAMPLE 2: Let me get this straight — you're leaving your husband?
  • get a handle on
    get a handle on
    to gain an understanding of
    EXAMPLE 1: This new computer program is very difficult. I still haven't gotten a handle on it.
    EXAMPLE 2: Once you get a handle on how the game works, please explain it to everybody else.
  • get canned
    get canned
    to lose one's job; to get fired
    EXAMPLE 1: After Chris got canned, it took him a year to find a new job.
    EXAMPLE 2: Lisa is a lousy secretary. She deserves to get canned!

    SYNONYMS: to get sacked; to be given the ax

  • get down to business
    get down to business
    to get serious about a task
    EXAMPLE 1: The book club members spent the first two hours of their meeting eating and drinking before finally getting down to business.
    EXAMPLE 2: Our dinner guests are arriving in two hours. We'd better get down to business and start preparing.
  • get going
    get going
    to get started on something; to set off for a destination; to leave
    EXAMPLE 1: If you don't get going on your homework soon, you're going to be up all night.
    EXAMPLE 2: We'd better get going to the restaurant now. Otherwise, we'll be late for our seven o'clock reservation.

    SYNONYMS: to get a move on; to get the show on the road

  • get it
    get it
    to understand
    EXAMPLE 1: I invited 40 people to my Thanksgiving dinner, but only 10 people came. I don't get it!
    EXAMPLE 2: Don't you get it? Your company is about to go out of business!
  • get on one's nerves
    get on one's nerves
    to annoy or irritate someone
    EXAMPLE 1: My neighbor's dog barks all night. It really gets on my nerves.
    EXAMPLE 2: Please stop whistling. It's getting on my nerves!

    SYNONYMS: to get under someone's skin; to bug someone [slang]

  • get one's act together
    get one's act together
    to get organized; to start operating more effectively
    EXAMPLE 1: If Ted gets his act together now, he might be able to get into a good college.
    EXAMPLE 2: We'd better get our act together. Otherwise, we're going to miss our flight.
  • get or to have under one's belt
    get or to have under one's belt
    to have or to get experience
    EXAMPLE 1: Kristen had three years of working for a large law firm under her belt before leaving to start her own firm.
    EXAMPLE 2: Ernie needs to get an MBA under his belt to get the job he wants.
  • get out of the way
    get out of the way
    to move out of the way; to stop interfering with someone's plans or activities
    EXAMPLE 1: If you're not planning on helping us prepare dinner, please get out of the way. The kitchen is crowded.
    EXAMPLE 2: Get out of the way! That truck is backing up and it might run you over.
  • get plastered
    get plastered
    to get drunk
    EXAMPLE 1: Harold got plastered at the wedding and fell into the wedding cake.
    EXAMPLE 2: That's your fifth martini. What are you trying to do, get plastered?

    SYNONYMS: to get loaded [slang]; to get sloshed [slang]

  • get real
    get real
    be serious or realistic about what's going on
    EXAMPLE 1: You think you won't get a speeding ticket when you drive 85 miles per hour? Get real!
    EXAMPLE 2: You think you're going to win $1 million in the lottery? Get real!
  • get rid of
    get rid of
    to free oneself of; to throw out
    EXAMPLE 1: We finally got rid of our spider problem, but now we have ants.
    EXAMPLE 2: I've got too many old magazines and newspapers in my office. I need to get rid of some of them.
  • get the ball rolling
    get the ball rolling
    to get started
    EXAMPLE 1: Let's get the ball rolling on this project. We've only got one week to finish it.
    EXAMPLE 2: If we don't get the ball rolling on our vacation plans soon, we'll end up going nowhere.
  • get the hang of (something)
    get the hang of (something)
    to learn how to do something; to acquire an effective technique
    EXAMPLE 1: Billy had trouble learning how to ride a bike, but after a few months he finally got the hang of it.
    EXAMPLE 2: When I went snowboarding for the first time, I kept falling down. But after a while, I got the hang of it.
  • get the show on the road
    get the show on the road
    to start working; to begin an undertaking
    EXAMPLE 1: We can't afford to waste any more time — let's get the show on the road!
    EXAMPLE 2: Kids, let's get the show on the road. We don't want to be late for the movie!
  • give (someone) a ring
    give (someone) a ring
    to telephone someone
    EXAMPLE 1: Give me a ring tomorrow so we can discuss plans for this weekend.
    EXAMPLE 2: If you're free on Saturday, give me a ring and we can go to the movies.

    SYNONYM: to give (someone) a buzz [slang]

  • give (someone) a run for (one's) money
    give (someone) a run for (one's) money
    to be strong competition
    EXAMPLE 1: We lost the soccer tournament, but we certainly gave the girls from Stamford High School a run for their money.
    EXAMPLE 2: Tina is a good tennis player and always gives me a run for my money.
  • give (someone) credit
    give (someone) credit
    to acknowledge someone's contribution; to recognize a positive trait in someone
    EXAMPLE 1: The scientist gave his assistant credit for the discovery.
    EXAMPLE 2: I can't believe you asked your boss for a raise when your company is doing so poorly. I must give you credit for your courage!
  • give credit where credit is due
    give credit where credit is due
    to give thanks or acknowledgement to the person who deserves it
    EXAMPLE: I will be sure to thank you when I give my speech. I always give credit where credit is due.
  • give it a shot
    give it a shot
    to try something
    EXAMPLE 1: I've never tried to make wine in my bathtub before, but perhaps I'll give it a shot.
    EXAMPLE 2: You can't open that jar? Let me give it a shot.

    SYNONYMS: to give it a try; to try one's hand at something

    NOTE: "To give it one's best shot" means to try as hard as one can. I know you're nervous about the interview — just give it your best shot.

  • give it one's best shot
    give it one's best shot
    to try as hard as one can
    EXAMPLE 1: Courtney lost the race, but at least she gave it her best shot.
    EXAMPLE 2: I know you're nervous about the interview. Just give it your best shot and see what happens.
  • give me a break
    give me a break
    that's ridiculous; that's outrageous
    EXAMPLE 1: You want me to pay $3 for one cookie? Give me a break!
    EXAMPLE 2: You expect me to believe that excuse? Give me a break!

    NOTE: YOU might see this written in its informal, conversational form: "Gimme a break!" This is usually how the idiom is pronounced.

  • give me a break!
    give me a break!
    that's ridiculous; that's outrageous
    EXAMPLE 1: You want me to pay $3 for one cookie? Give me a break!
    EXAMPLE 2: You expect me to believe that excuse? Give me a break!

    NOTE: YOU might see this written in its informal, conversational form: "Gimme a break!" This is usually how the idiom is pronounced.

  • give one the creeps
    give one the creeps
    to create a feeling of disgust or horror
    Example 1: Ted's friend Matt has seven earrings in each ear and an "I Love Mom" tattoo on his arm. He really gives Nicole the creeps.
    Example 2: There was a strange man following me around the grocery store. He was giving me the creeps!
  • give someone the ax
    give someone the ax
    to fire someone
    EXAMPLE 1: Mary used to talk to her friends on the phone all day at work, until one day her boss finally gave her the ax.
    EXAMPLE 2: Poor Paul! He was given the ax two days before Christmas.
  • give someone the cold shoulder
    give someone the cold shoulder
    to be cold to someone on purpose; to snub someone
    EXAMPLE 1: When Lisa saw Amber at the mall, she didn't even stop to talk to her. She really gave her the cold shoulder.
    EXAMPLE 2: I can't understand why Joe would give you the cold shoulder. I thought you two were good friends!

    SYNONYM: to blow someone off. Example: Amber can't understand why Lisa blew her off at the mall.

  • give someone the time of day
    give someone the time of day
    to ignore someone; to refuse to pay any attention to someone
    EXAMPLE 1: Sandra never gave me the time of day back in college, but now she calls me all the time for advice.
    EXAMPLE 2: Why don't you find a new stockbroker? Yours is always so busy, she barely gives you the time of day.
  • give up
    give up
    to admit defeat; to surrender
    EXAMPLE 1: Bill gave up golf after realizing he'd never be good at it.
    EXAMPLE 2: I know you're 100 points ahead of me, but I still might win the Scrabble game. I'm not giving up yet!
  • go ahead
    go ahead
    to continue; to proceed without hesitation
    EXAMPLE 1: We have more than enough food for dinner. Go ahead and invite your friend to join us.
    EXAMPLE 2: Let's go ahead and buy our plane tickets now.

    NOTE: "GO ahead" can also be used as a noun, as in the expression "to give somebody the go ahead," meaning to give somebody permission to move forward with an activity.

  • go back to the drawing board
    go back to the drawing board
    to start a task over because the last try failed; to start again from the beginning
    EXAMPLE 1: Frank's new business failed, so he had to go back to the drawing board.
    EXAMPLE 2: The president didn't agree with our new ideas for the company, so we had to go back to the drawing board.
  • go belly-up
    go belly-up
    to go bankrupt
    EXAMPLE 1: Many people lost their jobs when Enron went belly-up.
    EXAMPLE 2: My company lost $3 million last year. We might go belly-up.
  • go into
    go into
    to enter a profession
    EXAMPLE 1: Lisa enjoys arguing with people, so she decided to go into law.
    EXAMPLE 2: Do you like solving people's problems? If so, you should consider going into psychology.

    NOTE: "Go into" has several other meanings, including:

    1. Enter. Go into the house and get a pen.
    2. Enter another emotional state. Sally went into hysterics.
    3. Discuss details. I don't have time now to go into the whole story.
  • go into business
    go into business
    to start a business
    EXAMPLE 1: Jeff decided to go into business selling baseball cards.
    EXAMPLE 2: Eva went into business selling her homemade muffins.
  • go nuts
    go nuts
    to react with great enthusiasm
    EXAMPLE 1: When Tiger Woods got a hole-in-one during the golf tournament, the crowd went nuts.
    EXAMPLE 2: When Eminem appeared on stage, everybody went nuts.

    NOTE: This expression also means "to go crazy" or "to become crazy with anger." Example: Jim went nuts when his wife told him she was leaving him for another man.

  • go wrong
    go wrong
    to make a mistake; to go astray; to malfunction; to work incorrectly
    EXAMPLE 1: Follow the directions I gave you, and you can't go wrong.
    EXAMPLE 2: Something went wrong with my neighbor's car alarm system, and the alarm wouldn't stop ringing all night.
  • good for you!
    good for you!
    Good job! Well done!
    EXAMPLE 1: You won $100,000 on the TV game show Jeopardy? Good for you!
    EXAMPLE 2: You passed your math test? Good for you!
  • good thinking
    good thinking
    good idea; smart planning
    EXAMPLE 1: I'm glad you brought an umbrella — that was good thinking!
    EXAMPLE 2: You reserved our movie tickets over the Internet? Good thinking!
  • goody-goody
    goody-goody
    self-righteously or smugly good
    EXAMPLE 1: Goody-goodies usually sit in the front row and smile at the teacher during class.
    EXAMPLE 2: Samantha is a real goody-goody. She always offers to erase the blackboard at the end of class.

    SYNONYMS: goody two-shoes; teacher's pet

  • green with envy
    green with envy
    desiring another's advantages or things
    EXAMPLE 1: When Daniel got promoted to vice president of the bank, his colleagues were green with envy.
    EXAMPLE 2: You won the lottery? I'm green with envy!
  • gung ho
    gung ho
    very enthusiastic; very excited (about something)
    EXAMPLE 1: Heather is really gung ho about her new job.
    EXAMPLE 2: Sharon really loves college. She's very gung ho.

    NOTE: If the expression "gung ho" doesn't sound like English to you, there's a reason. It comes from a Mandarin Chinese phrase meaning "working together." A US Marine Corps commander in China adopted this expression as the motto for his battalion during World War 2 and from there it sailed over to the United States and came into common use.

l
  • last resort
    last resort
    if there are no other alternatives left; the last solution for getting out of a difficulty
    EXAMPLE 1: David was locked out of his house. He knew that as a last resort, he could always break a window.
    EXAMPLE 2: I don't like taking medicine. I'll only take it as a last resort.
  • learn the ropes
    learn the ropes
    to learn the basics
    EXAMPLE 1: Mark learned the ropes of the restaurant business by working as a cook at Outback Steakhouse.
    EXAMPLE 2: David worked at a big law firm for 10 years where he learned the ropes. Now he runs his own law firm.
  • lend a hand
    lend a hand
    to help
    EXAMPLE 1: When Amber saw Susan washing the cookie sheets, she offered to lend a hand.
    EXAMPLE 2: Would you mind lending a hand in the garden? We need to finish planting these flowers before it starts raining.
  • let (someone) go
    let (someone) go
    to fire; dismiss employees
    EXAMPLE 1: The investment bank let Chris go after they discovering he was stealing erasers, paper clips, and other office supplies.
    EXAMPLE 2: The Xerxes Corporation was doing so poorly, they had to let many workers go earlier this year.
  • level with (someone)
    level with (someone)
    to speak openly and honestly with someone
    EXAMPLE 1: Let me level with you. I'm voting for Andrea instead of you.
    EXAMPLE 2: I have a feeling you're not telling me the whole truth. Please just level with me.
  • lighten up
    lighten up
    to stop taking things so seriously
    EXAMPLE 1: Lighten up! I'm sure Ted was only joking when he said your guitar playing gave him a headache.
    EXAMPLE 2: Don always takes his job so seriously. He needs to lighten up.

    SYNONYMS: chill out [slang]; take it easy

  • like a chicken with its head cut off
    like a chicken with its head cut off
    in a hysterical manner; in a frenzy; in a very nervous way
    EXAMPLE 1: Ken was late for work, and he couldn't find his car keys. He was running around his apartment like a chicken with its head cut off.
    EXAMPLE 2: Patricia ran around the school looking for her lost backpack like a chicken with its head cut off.

    NOTE: This idiom is usually used with the phrase "to run around" as in the above examples.

  • like crazy
    like crazy
    with great speed or enthusiasm
    EXAMPLE 1: When Pete Sampras won the tennis match, the crowd started cheering like crazy.
    EXAMPLE 2: Ann ran like crazy, but she still didn't manage to catch the bus.
  • like pulling teeth
    like pulling teeth
    very difficult
    EXAMPLE 1: It's like pulling teeth getting Max to talk about his girlfriend.
    EXAMPLE 2: Kyle hates to study. It's like pulling teeth getting him to do his homework every night.
  • live from hand to mouth
    live from hand to mouth
    to barely have enough money to survive
    EXAMPLE 1: Jenny was earning $5 an hour working at the store. She was really living from hand to mouth.
    EXAMPLE 2: George is really poor. He lives from hand to mouth.
  • live with it
    live with it
    to accept a difficult reality
    EXAMPLE 1: Your boss is an idiot. Live with it.
    EXAMPLE 2: Your hair will never be straight. Just live with it!

    NOTE: There is also the expression "to learn to live with it," which means to get used to something annoying or difficult. Example: Sandra knew that Roger would always throw his dirty clothes on the floor. She'd just have to learn to live with it.

  • load off one's mind
    load off one's mind
    a relief
    EXAMPLE 1: When Amber called Ted to tell him that she arrived home safely, it was a big load off his mind.
    EXAMPLE 2: Finishing her English essay was a load off Nicole's mind.
  • look forward to
    look forward to
    to anticipate eagerly
    EXAMPLE 1: I'm looking forward to my trip to Mexico next month.
    EXAMPLE 2: Ron has worked as a high school teacher for over 40 years. He's really looking forward to retiring next year.
  • look like
    look like
    have the appearance of
    EXAMPLE 1: Before agreeing to go out on a date with her, Keith wanted to know what my cousin Maria looked like.
    EXAMPLE 2: Please tell me what the cover of that new book looks like so it will be easier for me to find it in the bookstore.

    NOTE: The expression "it looks like" can mean "it is likely that..." Example: It's snowing, so it looks like the schools will be closed today.

  • look on the bright side
    look on the bright side
    to be optimistic; to think about the positive part or aspect of a situation
    EXAMPLE 1: Leo was upset that his soccer game was canceled. His mother said, "Look on the bright side, now you can stay home and watch TV."
    EXAMPLE 2: You lost your job? Look on the bright side, now you'll have more free time!
  • lose one's head
    lose one's head
    to lose control of one's behavior; to not know what one is doing
    EXAMPLE 1: Nicole lost her head after losing the elections and started yelling at all her friends.
    EXAMPLE 2: Remember to stay calm before the judge. Don't get nervous and lose your head!
  • lose one's temper
    lose one's temper
    to become very angry
    EXAMPLE 1: Bob always loses his temper when his kids start talking on the telephone during dinner.
    EXAMPLE 2: When Ted handed in his essay two weeks late, his teacher really lost her temper.
  • lose one's touch
    lose one's touch
    to no longer be able to do something well
    EXAMPLE 1: I used to make delicious pies, but this one tastes terrible. I think I've lost my touch.
    EXAMPLE 2: Dr. Stewart used to be a very good doctor, but recently several of his patients have died. He seems to have lost his touch!
  • lost cause
    lost cause
    something hopeless
    EXAMPLE 1: Cindy spent five years studying Russian. Finally, she realized it was a lost cause. She would never learn it.
    EXAMPLE 2: Jack needs to stop drinking so much coffee, but he's so addicted to caffeine that it's a lost cause.
  • love at first sight
    love at first sight
    an immediate attraction
    EXAMPLE 1: It took Allison several months to fall in love with Karl. It wasn't love at first sight.
    EXAMPLE 2: Tony liked Tara immediately. It was love at first sight!
m
  • made of money
    made of money
    very rich
    EXAMPLE 1: My neighbor is re-modeling his house to look like Versailles. He doesn't have good taste, but he certainly is made of money.
    EXAMPLE 2: Max should be willing to loan you $10,000 to start your new business. He's made of money.

    SYNONYMS: loaded; rolling in dough; to have money to burn

  • make a bundle
    make a bundle
    to make a lot of money
    EXAMPLE 1: Bob's friend Charles made a bundle in the stock market and retired at age 45.
    EXAMPLE 2: Sara made a bundle selling her old fur coats on eBay, a website where you can buy and sell used things.
  • make a fool of oneself
    make a fool of oneself
    to cause oneself to look stupid
    EXAMPLE 1: Dan drank too much and then made a fool of himself.
    EXAMPLE 2: Please stop arguing with me in front of all these people. You're making a fool of yourself!
  • make a fortune
    make a fortune
    to make a lot of money
    EXAMPLE 1: Adam made a fortune when he sold his company to Microsoft.
    EXAMPLE 2: Emma made a fortune selling candy to her classmates after lunch every day.

    SYNONYMS: to make a bundle; to make a killing

  • make a living
    make a living
    to earn enough money to support oneself
    EXAMPLE 1: Many people laugh at him, but Bill actually makes a living selling gourmet dog food.
    EXAMPLE 2: Danny makes some money playing his guitar on street corners, but not enough to make a living.
  • make a pig of oneself
    make a pig of oneself
    to overeat; to eat too much
    EXAMPLE 1: I made a pig of myself by eating four slices of pie.
    EXAMPLE 2: Of course you could eat another hamburger, but you don't want to make a pig of yourself.
  • make a splash
    make a splash
    to win popularity quickly
    EXAMPLE 1: Nicole's beautiful cousin Cecilia from Santo Domingo really made a splash at the high school dance.
    EXAMPLE 2: Those new jeans really made a splash. All the kids are wearing them.

    SYNONYM: to be a hit

  • make ends meet
    make ends meet
    to manage one's money so as to have enough to live on; to be okay financially
    EXAMPLE 1: Kimberly wasn't able to make ends meet so she had to ask her parents to pay her rent.
    EXAMPLE 2: If you can't make ends meet, you'll need to start spending less.
  • make one's day
    make one's day
    to give one great satisfaction
    EXAMPLE 1: Our neighbors with the crazy dogs are moving away? That really makes my day!
    EXAMPLE 2: Thanks for bringing over those cookies last week. That made my day!
  • make out
    make out
    to kiss with much passion
    EXAMPLE: Ted and Amber started making out at the stoplight and didn't realize that the light had turned green.

    NOTE: "Make out" also means:

    1. To manage. How did you make out at the doctor's today?
    2. To understand or see with difficulty. It was so foggy, I could barely make out the street signs.
    3. To prepare a check or other payment. Please make out a check for this month's rent.
  • make time for
    make time for
    to put time in one's schedule for something
    EXAMPLE 1: Don is a busy lawyer, but he always makes time for his family.
    EXAMPLE 2: I'll be sure to make time for you when you visit me.
  • make up one's mind
    make up one's mind
    to reach a decision; to decide
    EXAMPLE 1: Stephanie couldn't make up her mind whether to attend Harvard or Stanford. Finally, she chose Stanford.
    EXAMPLE 2: Do you want an omelette or fried eggs? You'll need to make up your mind quickly because the waitress is coming.
  • mess up
    mess up
    to make a mistake; to spoil an opportunity
    EXAMPLE 1: Amber messed up and put salt instead of sugar in the cookies.
    EXAMPLE 2: Ted really messed up on his chemistry test. He got a "D."

    SYNONYM: screw up [slang]

  • mixed feelings
    mixed feelings
    to feel positive about one aspect of something and negative about another
    EXAMPLE 1: When our houseguests decided to stay for another week, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, I enjoyed hanging out with them. On the other hand, I was tired of cooking for them.
    EXAMPLE 2: I have mixed feelings about the president of our company. He's good with the clients, but he's nasty to his employees.
n
  • needless to say
    needless to say
    obviously
    EXAMPLE 1: You've got a test tomorrow morning. Needless to say, you can't stay out late tonight.
    EXAMPLE 2: Needless to say, you shouldn't have waited until Christmas Eve to do your shopping. The stores are going to be very crowded!

    SYNONYM: it goes without saying. Example: You've got a test tomorrow, so it goes without saying that you can't stay out late tonight.

  • nervous wreck
    nervous wreck
    a person feeling very worried
    EXAMPLE 1: Ted was a nervous wreck before his chemistry test.
    EXAMPLE 2: Whenever Nicole rides on the back of her friend's motorcycle, Susan is a nervous wreck.
  • never mind
    never mind
    don't worry about something; forget it; it doesn't matter
    EXAMPLE 1: You forgot to pick up eggs at the supermarket? Never mind. I'll get them tomorrow morning.
    EXAMPLE 2: Never mind what your friends say. You need to do what you think is right.
  • night owl
    night owl
    a person who enjoys being active late at night
    EXAMPLE 1: Sara goes to sleep every night at 3 a.m. She's a real night owl.
    EXAMPLE 2: I never go to bed before midnight. I'm a night owl.
  • no hard feelings
    no hard feelings
    no anger; no bitterness
    EXAMPLE 1: After the elections, Andrea said to Nicole, "I hope there are no hard feelings."
    EXAMPLE 2: I know you were disappointed that I beat you in the golf tournament, but I hope there are no hard feelings.
  • no laughing matter
    no laughing matter
    nothing to joke about; something serious
    EXAMPLE 1: When the tornado came into town, it was no laughing matter.
    EXAMPLE 2: Jim might have been fooling around when he hit John, but he really hurt him. It was no laughing matter.
  • no point in
    no point in
    no reason to; it's not worth (doing something)
    EXAMPLE 1: There's no point in worrying about things you can't change.
    EXAMPLE 2: There's no point in going on a picnic if it's going to rain.
  • no use crying over spilt milk
    no use crying over spilt milk
    there's no point in regretting something that's too late to change
    EXAMPLE 1: Nicole realized she'd made some mistakes with her campaign for president, but there was no use crying over spilt milk.
    EXAMPLE 2: Your bike was ruined in an accident? There's no use crying over spilt milk. You'll just have to buy a new one.
  • no wonder
    no wonder
    it's not surprising
    EXAMPLE 1: Brian's entire body is in pain. It's no wonder since he ran a marathon yesterday!
    EXAMPLE 2: No wonder you're cold — it's January and you're walking around outside without a coat!

    SYNONYM: small wonder

  • not give a hoot
    not give a hoot
    to not care about
    EXAMPLE 1: Tom likes to walk around town in his pajamas — he doesn't give a hoot what people think.
    EXAMPLE 2: Stephanie doesn't give a hoot if she's the only one wearing a green dress to the high school prom.

    SYNONYMS: to not give a damn; to not give a darn

  • not have a clue
    not have a clue
    to know nothing about
    EXAMPLE 1: Bob talks about working at McDonald's, but the truth is he doesn't have a clue about making hamburgers.
    EXAMPLE 2: "Do you know how to fix a broken printer?" - "No, I don't have a clue!"
  • not on your life!
    not on your life!
    definitely not
    EXAMPLE 1: You want me to sit in that sauna for an hour? Not on your life!
    EXAMPLE 2: Thanks for offering me a job in Siberia. Am I going to take it? Not on your life!
  • not sleep a wink
    not sleep a wink
    to be awake all night
    EXAMPLE 1: Ted was so nervous about his chemistry test that he didn't sleep a wink the night before.
    EXAMPLE 2: It's not surprising that Jill didn't sleep a wink last night. She drank a large cup of coffee before going to bed.
  • nothing doing!
    nothing doing!
    Not a chance!
    EXAMPLE 1: You want me to buy the Golden Gate Bridge from you for a million bucks? Nothing doing!
    EXAMPLE 2: You want me to write your paper on Catherine the Great? Nothing doing!

    SYNONYMS: No way! Not on your life!

  • nothing to do with (someone or something)
    nothing to do with (someone or something)
    not have any relationship with someone; to not get involved with something
    EXAMPLE 1: After I found out that Nora shoplifted some lipstick from the drugstore, I wanted nothing to do with her.
    EXAMPLE 2: Larry asked Nick if he wanted to help him plan a robbery. Nick told Larry that he wanted nothing to do with it.
  • now you're talking
    now you're talking
    you're saying the right thing
    EXAMPLE 1: You want to offer me free tickets to the J. Lo concert? Now you're talking!
    EXAMPLE 2: You'd like to offer me a $10,000 raise and a corner office? Now you're talking!
  • nuts about
    nuts about
    to like very much
    EXAMPLE 1 : Ted has every single Metallica album — he's nuts about that band.
    EXAMPLE 2: We're just nuts about our new neighbors. We have them over for dinner once a month.

    SYNONYM: crazy about

  • nuts and bolts
    nuts and bolts
    details; basic components of something
    EXAMPLE 1: I don't need to know the nuts and bolts of how the computer works — just show me how to turn it on.
    EXAMPLE 2: Simon really understands the nuts and bolts of how toilets work. He would be a very good plumber.
p
  • pain in the neck
    pain in the neck
    an annoyance
    EXAMPLE 1: Yesterday I had to stay home all day and wait for the repairman. What a pain in the neck!
    EXAMPLE 2: Alice wants me to drive her to the airport early tomorrow morning. That's going to be a pain in the neck!
  • pay (someone) a compliment
    pay (someone) a compliment
    to give someone a compliment; to offer someone an admiring comment
    EXAMPLE 1: Professor Russo paid Jennifer a compliment. He said she had a beautiful smile.
    EXAMPLE 2: Isn't it wonderful to pay someone a compliment? It makes them feel good, and it doesn't cost you anything!
  • pay (someone) back
    pay (someone) back
    to repay a loan or debt
    EXAMPLE 1: Nicole paid her friend back the $10 she borrowed.
    EXAMPLE 2: You can borrow $50, but don't forget to pay me back!

    NOTE: "Pay back" also means to "get revenge." Example: I know you're the one who stole my car, and one day I'll think of a way to pay you back!

  • pick up
    pick up
    to acquire; to learn
    EXAMPLE 1: Bob picks up languages quickly. After two weeks in Spain, he was already speaking Spanish.
    EXAMPLE 2: Diana picked up some great new ideas at the workshop.

    NOTE: "Pick up" has several other meanings, including:

    1. To take from the floor or ground. Pick up the pen you dropped.
    2. To buy. I'll pick up some burritos on my way home.
    3. To clean up. Let's pick up the bedroom before the guests arrive.
    4. To retrieve someone. I'll pick you up at seven for our date.
  • piece of cake
    piece of cake
    very easy
    EXAMPLE 1: Nicole finished her physics test in just 25 minutes. It was a piece of cake.
    EXAMPLE 2: The driving test is a piece of cake. Don't worry about it.

    SYNONYM: easy as pie. You should have no trouble passing the driving test. It's as easy as pie.

  • pig out
    pig out
    to eat greedily; to stuff oneself
    EXAMPLE 1: Ted pigged out on hot dogs and hamburgers at the barbeque and then got a stomachache.
    EXAMPLE 2: "Nicole, stop pigging out on cookies or you'll never be able to eat your dinner!"

    NOTE: Pay attention to the preposition "on" after the verb "to pig out." One can pig out on hotdogs, pig out on candy, pig out on ice cream.

  • pipe dream
    pipe dream
    an unrealistic hope
    EXAMPLE 1: Susan would like to move to New Zealand and write romance novels, but she knows that's just a pipe dream.
    EXAMPLE 2: You want to become a famous actor on Broadway? That sounds like a pipe dream.
  • pitch in
    pitch in
    to help
    EXAMPLE 1: Nicole offered to pitch in and clean up her neighborhood beach. She picked up five plastic cups and an old towel.
    EXAMPLE 2: If you need my help, just ask. I'd be happy to pitch in.

    SYNONYMS: to lend a hand, to lend a helping hand; to help out

  • plug away (at something)
    plug away (at something)
    to proceed with a boring or routine task; to keep trying
    EXAMPLE 1: Only 842 more cookies to bake. Let's keep plugging away!
    EXAMPLE 2: Don't give up on chemistry class. If you keep plugging away, you will eventually learn the material.
  • pull an all-nighter
    pull an all-nighter
    to stay up all night to do work
    EXAMPLE 1: Ted pulled an all-nighter to study for his chemistry test and ended up falling asleep in class the next day.
    EXAMPLE 2: I've got a 20-page paper due tomorrow morning, and I haven't even started writing it yet. I guess I'll be pulling an all-nighter!
  • put the blame on (someone)
    put the blame on (someone)
    to name somebody else as responsible for a misdeed or misfortune
    EXAMPLE 1: Mrs. Lopez put the blame on her husband for losing their life savings in the stock market.
    EXAMPLE 2: Don't put the blame on me that your plants died while you were on vacation. You forgot to tell me to water them!
  • put up with
    put up with
    to endure without complaint
    EXAMPLE 1: For many years, Barbara put up with her husband's annoying behavior. Finally, she decided to leave him.
    EXAMPLE 2: I don't know how Len puts up with his mean boss every day.
r
  • rant and rave
    rant and rave
    to talk loudly, often in anger
    EXAMPLE 1: A customer in the video rental store was ranting and raving that the DVD he rented was broken.
    EXAMPLE 2: Please stop ranting and raving! Let's discuss this issue in a calm manner.
  • real flop or flop
    real flop or flop
    a failure
    EXAMPLE 1: The Broadway play closed after just 4 days - it was a real flop!
    EXAMPLE 2: The company was in trouble after its new product flopped.
  • rest assured
    rest assured
    be sure
    EXAMPLE 1: Rest assured that the police will find the thieves.
    EXAMPLE 2:  Rest assured I'll take good care of your dog while you're on vacation.
  • right away
    right away
    immediately
    EXAMPLE 1: When Meg realized her house was on fire, she called the fire department right away.
    EXAMPLE 2: You need some sugar for your cookies? I'll bring some over right away.
  • right-hand man
    right-hand man
    the most helpful assistant or employee
    EXAMPLE 1: Juan's right-hand man helps him make all of his decisions.
    EXAMPLE 2: When Jack Thompson retired as president of his company, his right-hand man took over.
  • roll up one's sleeves
    roll up one's sleeves
    to prepare to work
    EXAMPLE 1: Let's roll up our sleeves and finish making these cookies!
    EXAMPLE 2: You'd better roll up your sleeves and finish your homework.
  • rolling in dough
    rolling in dough
    very rich
    EXAMPLE 1: Susan and Bob don't need to work anymore. They're rolling in dough.
    EXAMPLE 2: Adam will be able to retire young. He's rolling in dough.

    NOTE: This is a play on words. "Dough" means "money" as well as what is used to make cookies, breads, and pastries. The dough (cookies) made by Bob and Susan brought them lots of dough (money).

    SYNONYMS: rolling in it; rolling in money; loaded

  • round up
    round up
    to gather people together
    EXAMPLE 1: The town rounded up 200 volunteers to search for the hiker, who was lost in the woods of Yosemite National Park.
    EXAMPLE 2: Let's round up some volunteers to help bake cookies and pies for the bake sale.
  • rule of thumb
    rule of thumb
    a useful principle
    EXAMPLE 1: When cooking fish, a good rule of thumb is 10 minutes in the oven for each inch of thickness.
    EXAMPLE 2: "Ted, as a rule of thumb, you should always plan to study for your chemistry tests for at least two hours."
  • run around
    run around
    to move about quickly
    EXAMPLE 1: I've been running around all day making final arrangements for our trip to Costa Rica tomorrow.
    EXAMPLE 2: Debbie is exhausted. She ran around town all day today.
s
  • save the day
    save the day
    to prevent a disaster or misfortune
    EXAMPLE 1: The Christmas tree was on fire, but Ted threw water on it and saved the day.
    EXAMPLE 2: We forgot to buy champagne for our New Year's party, but Sonia brought some and really saved the day!
  • second nature
    second nature
    a behavior that has been practiced for so long, it seems to have been there always
    EXAMPLE 1: Karen has been arguing with her husband every day for the past 20 years, so by now it's just second nature.
    EXAMPLE 2: With practice, riding a unicycle becomes second nature.
  • sell like hotcakes
    sell like hotcakes
    to sell fast; to be a popular item
    EXAMPLE 1: Those new Fubu blue jeans are selling like hotcakes. All the girls love them.
    EXAMPLE 2: Stephen King's new novel is selling like hotcakes.
  • set eyes on
    set eyes on
    to look at; to see for the first time
    EXAMPLE 1: Ted was in love from the moment he set eyes on Amber.
    EXAMPLE 2: Susan knew from the moment she set eyes on Ted's friend Lucas that he would be trouble.
  • set the record straight
    set the record straight
    to correct an inaccurate account
    EXAMPLE 1: Ken knew his father was innocent, and he hoped he could set the record straight one day.
    EXAMPLE 2: Let me set the record straight. I won the last game.
  • shake in one's shoes
    shake in one's shoes
    to tremble with fear; to be afraid
    EXAMPLE 1: Brianna is scared of her French teacher, Monsieur Le Monstre. Whenever he speaks to her, Brianna starts shaking in her shoes.
    EXAMPLE 2: During the storm, Billy was hiding under his kitchen table and was really shaking in his shoes.
  • sharp as a tack
    sharp as a tack
    very intelligent
    EXAMPLE 1: Jay scored 100% on his science test. He's as sharp as a tack.
    EXAMPLE 2: Anna got a scholarship to Yale. She's as sharp as a tack.
  • shell out
    shell out
    to pay (often more than one would like)
    EXAMPLE 1: Bob shelled out $5,000 for Nicole's piano lessons before she decided she'd rather play the flute.
    EXAMPLE 2: How much am I going to have to shell out to get two tickets to the Rolling Stones concert?
  • shut up
    shut up
    be quiet, stop speaking; Stop speaking!
    EXAMPLE 1: The professor talked for hours. I thought he'd never shut up.
    EXAMPLE 2: Nicole kept telling Ted to turn down his stereo. Finally, he got angry and said, "Shut up!"

    NOTE: Remember that telling somebody to "shut up!" is rude. It's better to say "Be quiet!" or more politely, "Please be quiet!"

  • sick and tired of
    sick and tired of
    completely bored with; sick of
    EXAMPLE 1: Ted is sick and tired of hearing about what an excellent student Nicole is.
    EXAMPLE 2: I'm sick and tired of this nasty weather we've been having!
  • sit tight
    sit tight
    to wait patiently
    EXAMPLE 1: Nicole won't hear back from the colleges she applied to until April. For now, she'll just have to sit tight.
    EXAMPLE 2: Sit tight, the doctor will be with you in a few minutes.
  • sitting pretty
    sitting pretty
    in a good position (often financially)
    EXAMPLE 1: After Chad won the lottery, he was really sitting pretty. He quit his job and bought a mansion in Malibu, California.
    EXAMPLE 2:  Gina was one of the first people to work at Amazon.com, and she made millions on her stock options. Now she's sitting pretty.
  • slack off
    slack off
    to waste time
    EXAMPLE 1: Amanda doesn't get much done at the office. She's too busy slacking off.
    EXAMPLE 2: I'd better stop slacking off. My essay is due in two hours.

    NOTE: People who slack off all the time are called "slackers."

  • small fortune
    small fortune
    a good amount of money
    EXAMPLE 1: When her great aunt died, Anne inherited a small fortune.
    EXAMPLE 2: You won $25,000 in the lottery? That's a small fortune!
  • sold out
    sold out
    completely sold
    EXAMPLE 1: Becky was really disappointed when she found out that the Britney Spears concert was sold out.
    EXAMPLE 2: Susan's cookies were very popular at the bake sale. In fact, they sold out in just 20 minutes!
  • spending money
    spending money
    money for minor expenses
    EXAMPLE 1: Before Tim left for Europe, his parents gave him $400 in spending money.
    EXAMPLE 2: Martin's parents are paying his college tuition, but he has to earn his own spending money.

    SYNONYM: pocket money

  • stab someone in the back
    stab someone in the back
    to betray someone
    EXAMPLE 1: Jill and Heather were friends, until Heather stabbed Jill in the back by stealing her boyfriend.
    EXAMPLE 2: You're firing me after all I've done for this company? You're really stabbing me in the back!
  • stand a chance
    stand a chance
    to have the possibility of success
    EXAMPLE 1: Although the American figure skaters were good, they didn't stand a chance of winning a gold medal at the Olympics.
    EXAMPLE 2: Wilton High School has the best soccer team in the state. I'm afraid we don't stand a chance against them!
  • stay up
    stay up
    not to go to bed; to stay awake
    EXAMPLE 1: Ted and Amber stayed up all night talking about cookies.
    EXAMPLE 2: Whenever I stay up late, I regret it the next morning.
  • stop by
    stop by
    to pay a quick visit
    EXAMPLE 1: I'm having some friends over for pizza tomorrow night. Why don't you stop by?
    EXAMPLE 2: Stop by my office on your way home tonight.
  • stressed out
    stressed out
    under severe strain; very anxious
    EXAMPLE 1: Al is so stressed out about his job that he can't sleep at night.
    EXAMPLE 2: You've been so stressed out lately. You really need to take a long vacation!
  • strike it rich
    strike it rich
    to attain sudden financial success
    EXAMPLE 1: Chad struck it rich with the winning lottery ticket.
    EXAMPLE 2: Craig hopes to strike it rich so he can quit his job and open a winery in California.
  • sure thing
    sure thing
    an outcome that is assured
    EXAMPLE 1: Gary bet all his money on a horse named Trixie, thinking she was a sure thing.
    EXAMPLE 2: Nicole has a good chance of getting accepted to Yale, but it's still not a sure thing.
  • sweep (something) under the rug
    sweep (something) under the rug
    to hide something, often a scandal
    EXAMPLE 1: "Senator, don't try to sweep it under the rug. Everybody knows about your affair with the intern."
    EXAMPLE 2: Let's just sweep this incident under the rug and move on.
  • sweet tooth
    sweet tooth
    an enjoyment of sugary foods
    EXAMPLE 1: Amber's got a real sweet tooth. Last night, she ate a whole box of Godiva chocolates.
    EXAMPLE 2: No wonder Liz is so overweight. She's got such a sweet tooth!
  • sweeten the deal
    sweeten the deal
    to make an offer more attractive
    EXAMPLE 1: IBM offered to sweeten the deal by giving John a company car if he agreed to work for them.
    EXAMPLE 2: We really want you to take the job here at Magna Corporation, so let us know what we can do to sweeten the deal.
t
  • take (something) by storm
    take (something) by storm
    to win popularity quickly
    EXAMPLE 1: The play "The Producers" really took New York by storm.
    EXAMPLE 2: That new restaurant really took Chicago by storm!
  • take a break
    take a break
    to stop and rest from an activity
    EXAMPLE 1: Bob always worked 10 hours straight, never taking a break.
    EXAMPLE 2: Let's take a break from our work and go get some ice cream.
  • take it easy
    take it easy
    relax; don't worry
    EXAMPLE 1: You lost your keys? Take it easy, I'm sure you'll find them.
    EXAMPLE 2: Stop yelling and take it easy. I'm sure there's a good explanation for why Joe borrowed your car without asking first.
  • take it or leave it
    take it or leave it
    accept or reject an offer, usually a final one
    EXAMPLE 1: The highest salary we can offer you is $50,000 a year — take it or leave it.
    EXAMPLE 2: I'm offering to do the dishes for one week if you'll help me with my science project. Take it or leave it.
  • take off
    take off
    to become popular; to grow suddenly
    EXAMPLE: Julia Roberts' career took off with the film "Pretty Woman."

    NOTE: "Take off" has several other meanings:

    1. Remove. Please take off your shoes before coming inside our apartment. We just vacuumed this morning.
    2. To leave. We're taking off now. See you later!
    3. To deduct. The waiter forgot to bring us drinks, so he took $10 off the bill.
    4. To leave the ground. The airplane took off on time.
  • take over
    take over
    to assume control
    EXAMPLE 1: After 11 hours of driving, I was getting tired. Fortunately, my friend offered to take over.
    EXAMPLE 2: My new boss will be taking over some of my projects.
  • take something the wrong way
    take something the wrong way
    to take offense
    EXAMPLE 1: Don't take this the wrong way, but I liked your hair better before you got it cut.
    EXAMPLE 2: Jessica is offended. I guess she took it the wrong way when I told her she should exercise more.

    NOTE: This expression is often used in the negative form: "Don't take this the wrong way, but..."

  • taken aback
    taken aback
    surprised (almost always in a negative sense)
    EXAMPLE 1: Nicole was taken aback when her friend Rosa told her she no longer wanted to hang out with her.
    EXAMPLE 2: I was taken aback when my friend asked me if she could borrow my toothbrush because she forgot hers at home.
  • talk into
    talk into
    to persuade; to convince
    EXAMPLE 1: Chris didn't want to jump out of the plane, but Erin talked him into it.
    EXAMPLE 2: Stop trying to talk me into going to the dance club on Saturday night. I already decided that I'm going to Maria's party instead.
  • talk over
    talk over
    to discuss
    EXAMPLE 1: Dave and I spent hours talking over the details of the plan.
    EXAMPLE 2: Before you make any big decisions, give me a call and we'll talk things over.
  • tall order
    tall order
    a task or goal that is difficult to achieve
    EXAMPLE 1: It'll be a tall order to find a new governor as popular as the current one.
    EXAMPLE 2: You want me to figure out how to clone your pet rabbit? That's a tall order!
  • tell off
    tell off
    to scold; to tell someone in strong words what one really thinks
    EXAMPLE 1: When Ted showed up for chemistry class a half an hour late, his teacher really told him off.
    EXAMPLE 2: Patty is going to tell off the plumber because the pipes he said he fixed are still leaking.
  • thank goodness
    thank goodness
    I'm grateful; I'm relieved
    EXAMPLE 1: When Ted came home at 4 a.m. last Sunday, his mother said, "Thank goodness you're home! I was so worried about you."
    EXAMPLE 2: Thank goodness you didn't go to California on Monday. It rained there every day this week.
  • that's the way the cookie crumbles
    that's the way the cookie crumbles
    that's the way things go sometimes and there's nothing you can do about it
    EXAMPLE 1: You lost your job? That's the way the cookie crumbles.
    EXAMPLE 2: Somebody drank your last can of Pepsi? Oh well, that's the way the cookie crumbles.
  • the breaks
    the breaks
    when something bad happens and you can't do anything about it
    EXAMPLE 1: By the time we got to the theater, the new Harry Potter movie was already sold out. Oh well, that's the breaks!
    EXAMPLE 2: Your glasses fell on a rock and broke while you were fishing? Those are the breaks!
  • there's no accounting for taste
    there's no accounting for taste
    it's impossible to explain individual likes and dislikes
    EXAMPLE 1: Ted likes to put sugar on his spaghetti. I guess there's no accounting for taste.
    EXAMPLE 2: Tiffany has a tattoo of a squirrel on her leg. There's no accounting for taste.
  • things are looking up
    things are looking up
    things are improving
    EXAMPLE 1: Elizabeth found a wonderful new job and just moved into a beautiful new apartment. Things are looking up for her.
    EXAMPLE 2: Things are looking up with the economy.
  • think big
    think big
    to set high goals
    EXAMPLE 1: Why run for Governor of New York? Think big: run for President of the United States!
    EXAMPLE 2: Ken and Sandra hope to sell their house for $3 million dollars. They always think big.
  • three sheets to the wind
    three sheets to the wind
    drunk
    EXAMPLE 1: After drinking four beers, Bob was three sheets to the wind.
    EXAMPLE 2: Somebody needs to make sure Greg gets home safely. He's three sheets to the wind.

    SYNONYMS: wasted [slang]; liquored up [slang]; dead drunk

  • throw the book at someone
    throw the book at someone
    to punish or chide severely
    EXAMPLE 1: When Ted failed his chemistry test the second time, his teacher really threw the book at him.
    EXAMPLE 2: The judge threw the book at Matt for stealing a football from the store. He'll be going to jail for six months.
  • to tell you the truth
    to tell you the truth
    to speak openly; to admit
    EXAMPLE 1: To tell you the truth, Ted isn't a very good student.
    EXAMPLE 2: To tell you the truth, I didn't even want to attend Katie's wedding. But I knew she'd be offended if I didn't go.
  • too many cooks spoil the broth
    too many cooks spoil the broth
    too many people involved in an activity can ruin it
    EXAMPLE 1: After Bob and Susan edited Nicole's college applications, they were worse than when she started. Too many cooks spoil the broth.
    EXAMPLE 2: You don't need to help us. We have enough people helping already, and too many cooks spoil the broth.

    NOTE: Broth is a clear liquid that forms the base for soups.

  • top dollar
    top dollar
    the highest end of a price range; a lot of money
    EXAMPLE 1: Nicole paid top dollar for a shirt at Banana Republic.
    EXAMPLE 2: Wait until those jeans go on sale. Why pay top dollar?
  • track record
    track record
    a record of achievements or performances
    EXAMPLE 1: The women's basketball team at the University of Connecticut has an excellent track record.
    EXAMPLE 2: We've spoken to your past employers, so we know you've got an excellent track record.
  • treat (someone) like dirt
    treat (someone) like dirt
    to behave in a nasty way towards someone; to treat someone poorly
    EXAMPLE 1: Nobody was surprised when Nicole's boyfriend broke up with her, since she treated him like dirt.
    EXAMPLE 2: I feel sorry for Jeffrey. The kids at school are very nasty to him. They really treat him like dirt.
  • tricks of the trade
    tricks of the trade
    clever shortcuts gained by experience
    EXAMPLE 1: The new teacher learned some tricks of the trade from Mrs. Blackstone, who'd been teaching at the school for 40 years.
    EXAMPLE 2: My new job will be easier once I learn some tricks of the trade.
  • turn off
    turn off
    to cause to feel dislike or revulsion
    EXAMPLE 1: I used to be friends with Monica, but she gossiped all the time and it really turned me off.
    EXAMPLE 2: At first, Sara really liked Jacob. But when he started talking about all his ex-girlfriends, she was really turned off.

    NOTE: The noun form, turn-off, is also common and usually describes something that causes the opposite sex to respond negatively. Example: When Jake started talking about all his ex-girlfriends, it was a real turn off for Sara.

  • twist (someone's) arm
    twist (someone's) arm
    to persuade someone; to convince someone
    EXAMPLE 1: Ted didn't want to get another tattoo on his back, but Amber twisted his arm.
    EXAMPLE 2: Okay, you've twisted my arm. You can borrow my new car and drive it across the country.
e
  • easier said than done
    easier said than done
    more difficult than you think
    EXAMPLE 1: You want to climb Mount Everest? Easier said than done!
    EXAMPLE 2: Moving into a new home is easier said than done.
h
  • hang around
    hang around
    to spend time idly; to linger
    EXAMPLE 1: We had to hang around the airport for an extra six hours because our flight was delayed.
    EXAMPLE 2: Nina's boyfriend Boris is coming over soon. She hopes her parents aren't planning on hanging around the house.
  • hang in there
    hang in there
    to persevere; to not give up
    EXAMPLE 1: I know you're four games behind, but you can still win the tennis match. Just hang in there!
    EXAMPLE 2: Hang in there, Don! Your invention will soon be a success.
  • hang out
    hang out
    to spend time (often doing nothing)
    EXAMPLE 1: Ted spent all of last summer hanging out by his friend's pool.
    EXAMPLE 2: Kathy and her friends like to hang out at the mall.

    NOTE: "Hang out with" means to keep company with someone.

  • happy camper
    happy camper
    a happy person; a satisfied participant
    EXAMPLE 1: When Linda's passport was stolen in Florence, she was not a happy camper.
    EXAMPLE 2: Steve is taking five difficult courses this semester. He's not a happy camper!

    NOTE: This expression is usually used in the negative (not a happy camper).

  • hard times
    hard times
    a time of difficulty
    EXAMPLE 1: Since his wife left him for her dentist, Dan has been going through hard times.
    EXAMPLE 2: Nancy's family is going through hard times. Her father just lost his job.
  • have a blast
    have a blast
    to enjoy oneself very much
    EXAMPLE 1: Last summer, Nicole had a blast backpacking through Europe with some friends.
    EXAMPLE 2: Heather spent her spring break in Fort Lauderdale with millions of other college students. She had a blast!
  • have a good time
    have a good time
    to enjoy oneself
    EXAMPLE 1: Marcy and Jose had a good time salsa dancing at Babalu, a nightclub in Manhattan.
    EXAMPLE 2: Nora and Jake had a good time on their honeymoon in Maui.
  • have a heart of gold
    have a heart of gold
    to be very kind and giving
    EXAMPLE 1: Alexander has a heart of gold and always thinks of others before himself.
    EXAMPLE 2: You adopted five children from a Romanian orphanage? You've got a heart of gold!
  • have one's heart set on
    have one's heart set on
    to really want something
    EXAMPLE 1: Nicole has her heart set on going to New York this weekend.
    EXAMPLE 2: Did you really have your heart set on going to Harvard?
  • head and shoulders above
    head and shoulders above
    far superior to
    EXAMPLE 1: The Boston Symphony Orchestra is head and shoulders above any other orchestra in the area.
    EXAMPLE 2: I can't believe you only won second prize in the competition. You were head and shoulders above the first-prize winner!
  • head over heels in love
    head over heels in love
    very much in love
    EXAMPLE 1: During the first years of their marriage, Brad and Jennifer were head over heels in love with each other.
    EXAMPLE 2: Sara is head over heels in love with Mark. Unfortunately, he doesn't even know her name!
  • help out
    help out
    to give assistance; to help
    EXAMPLE 1: Amber offered to help out in the kitchen by chopping nuts.
    EXAMPLE 2: I'd be happy to help out by baking cookies for the picnic.

    SYNONYM: to lend a hand

  • help yourself
    help yourself
    serve yourself
    EXAMPLE 1: "Help yourselves to cookies and coffee," said Maria before the meeting started.
    EXAMPLE 2: You don't need to wait for me to offer you something. Please just help yourself to whatever you want.

    NOTE: Pay attention to the reflexive form: Help yourself in singular, help yourselves in plural.

  • hit the books
    hit the books
    to start studying
    EXAMPLE 1: Ted parried all weekend. Finally, on Sunday night, he decided it was time to hit the books.
    EXAMPLE 2: Hit the books! I know you have a test tomorrow.
  • hit the nail on the head
    hit the nail on the head
    to be right
    EXAMPLE 1: Dawn hit the nail on the head when she said that Tiffany is jealous of Amber.
    EXAMPLE 2: Steve hit the nail on the head with his idea of moving his company's manufacturing facility to China.
  • hold a grudge against (someone)
    hold a grudge against (someone)
    to stay angry with someone about a past offense
    EXAMPLE 1: Nicole holds a grudge against Jenny for voting for Andrea instead of her.
    EXAMPLE 2: Julia held a grudge against her boyfriend for not bringing her flowers on Valentine's Day.
  • how's it going?
    how's it going?
    How are you?
    EXAMPLE 1: "How's it going?" I asked Ted. "Everything's fine. How are you?" he replied.
    EXAMPLE 2: "How's it going?" Vladimir asked me. "Not bad," I replied.
i
  • if worse comes to worst
    if worse comes to worst
    in the worst case; if absolutely necessary
    EXAMPLE 1: Ted's car isn't running well. If worse comes to worst, he can take the bus to school.
    EXAMPLE 2: I know you're running out of money. If worse comes to worst, you can always sell some of your jewelry.
  • i'll say!
    i'll say!
    yes, definitely!
    EXAMPLE 1: "Did you enjoy the Madonna concert?" - "I'll say!"
    EXAMPLE 2: "Your sister must've been very happy after winning $50,000 in the lottery." - "I'll say!"
  • in a bad mood
    in a bad mood
    unhappy; depressed; irritable
    EXAMPLE 1: After her boyfriend broke up with her, Nicole was in a bad mood for several days.
    EXAMPLE 2: I don't like to see you in a bad mood. How can I cheer you up?
  • in any case
    in any case
    whatever the fact is; certainly
    EXAMPLE 1: We can either go to the new Star Wars movie or see a play tonight. In any case, you'll need to be at my house by six o'clock.
    EXAMPLE 2: You'll probably be too tired on Sunday to come over. In any case, give me a call in the morning to discuss.
  • in charge of
    in charge of
    having responsibility for
    EXAMPLE 1: John is in charge of all international sales for his company.
    EXAMPLE 2: Who's in charge of making sure we don't run out of toilet paper in the bathroom?
  • in good hands
    in good hands
    in good, competent care
    EXAMPLE 1: Don't worry — your dog will be in good hands while you're on vacation. We'll take her to the New York Dog Spa & Hotel.
    EXAMPLE 2: You're in good hands with Tony. He's an excellent driver.
  • in good spirits
    in good spirits
    happy; in a good mood
    EXAMPLE 1: After she won the tennis tournament, Elizabeth was in good spirits.
    EXAMPLE 2: Sam was in good spirits after receiving his Christmas bonus.
  • in person
    in person
    personally; in one's physical presence
    EXAMPLE 1: Tim hoped that he and Svetlana would get along as well in person as they did over the Internet.
    EXAMPLE 2: After hearing so much about Donna's boyfriend, I'm looking forward to meeting him in person.
  • in progress
    in progress
    happening; under way; going on now
    EXAMPLE 1: The play is already in progress, so you'll have to wait until intermission to sit down.
    EXAMPLE 2: Once the test is in progress, you will not be allowed to leave the room.
  • in reality
    in reality
    in fact; actually
    EXAMPLE 1: Ted thinks it'll be easy to become a rock star. In reality, it will take years of hard work.
    EXAMPLE 2: I know you think it'll be easy to get cheap tickets to a Broadway play. In reality, we'll have to wait in line for hours!
  • in that case
    in that case
    under that circumstance
    EXAMPLE 1: It's snowing? In that case, you'd better take the bus to school today instead of driving.
    EXAMPLE 2: You forgot your wallet at home today? In that case, you can borrow five bucks from me for lunch.
  • in touch with (someone)
    in touch with (someone)
    to be or to get in contact with (someone)
    EXAMPLE 1: I was surprised when Luis called me, since we hadn't been in touch with each other since high school.
    EXAMPLE 2: Leave me your contact information in case I need to get in touch with you while you're on vacation.
  • it looks like
    it looks like
    it's likely that
    EXAMPLE 1: It looks like I'll be able to get out of work early today, so let's plan on meeting downtown at 4:30.
    EXAMPLE 2: It looks like it's going to rain, so we'd better just cancel the picnic now.
  • it's a deal
    it's a deal
    I agree (to a proposal or offer)
    EXAMPLE 1: You'll make dinner every night for a month if I help you with your homework? Okay, it's a deal!
    EXAMPLE 2: "If you rake up all the leaves in front of the house, I'll do the dishes'' - "It's a deal!"
k
  • keep one's chin up
    keep one's chin up
    to stay positive
    EXAMPLE 1: Even when he was unemployed and homeless, Bill managed to keep his chin up.
    EXAMPLE 2: Keep your chin up! You'll find your lost dog soon.
  • keep posted
    keep posted
    to provide up-to-date information
    EXAMPLE 1: Keep me posted about your plans for the summer. If you're going to be at your cottage on the lake, I'd love to come visit.
    EXAMPLE 2: Good luck selling your house and keep me posted! I'd love to know how much you get for it.
  • kid around
    kid around
    to joke around; to tease
    EXAMPLE 1: Jeremy loves to kid around, so don't be offended by anything he says.
    EXAMPLE 2: While they were kidding around, Tim accidentally poked Rob in the eye. He had to be rushed to the emergency room of the hospital.

    NOTE: YOU will often here this in the negative "not kidding around." This means to take something very seriously. Example: The White House is not kidding around with airport security.

  • knock oneself out
    knock oneself out
    to work very hard at something (sometimes too hard)
    EXAMPLE 1: Ted knocked himself out getting votes for Nicole, and she didn't even say thank you.
    EXAMPLE 2: I really knocked myself out getting these free concert tickets for you and your girlfriend. I hope you appreciate it.

    NOTE: "Don't knock yourself out!" means don't work too hard at something or for someone; it's not worth it. Example: Don't knock yourself out for Jeremy — he won't appreciate it anyway!

  • know one's stuff
    know one's stuff
    to have an expertise in a field
    EXAMPLE 1: Steve has been an auto mechanic for 25 years. He really knows his stuff.
    EXAMPLE 2: When it comes to cooking, Kristen knows her stuff. She spent two years studying at the Culinary Institute of America.
o
  • on a shoestring
    on a shoestring
    on a very low budget
    EXAMPLE 1: Bob and Susan were living on a shoestring after Bob lost his job.
    EXAMPLE 2: In the beginning, the Hewlett-Packard company ran on a shoestring out of a garage.
  • on edge
    on edge
    nervous; irritable
    EXAMPLE 1: Whenever Susan feels on edge, she takes several deep breaths and starts to feel more relaxed.
    EXAMPLE 2: Ever since his car accident, Neil has felt on edge.
  • on the job
    on the job
    at work
    EXAMPLE 1: Jennifer has four men on the job painting her house.
    EXAMPLE 2: Dan got fired for drinking on the job.
  • on thin ice (with someone)
    on thin ice (with someone)
    to be in a dangerous position; to be temporarily on somebody's bad side
    EXAMPLE 1: Joey was on thin ice with his mom after he spent his lunch money on candy bars.
    EXAMPLE 2: Bill was on thin ice with his girlfriend after she saw him at the movie theater with another girl.

    NOTE: There is also the variation "to skate on thin ice." Joey knew he was skating on thin ice when he bought candy with his lunch money.

  • one's heart goes out to (someone)
    one's heart goes out to (someone)
    to feel sorry for someone
    EXAMPLE 1: My heart goes out to the Richardsons. Their home was destroyed in a fire.
    EXAMPLE 2: Naomi's heart went out to all the people who lost their jobs when the auto plant shut down.
  • one-track mind
    one-track mind
    having all thoughts directed to just one thing or activity; focused on just one thing
    EXAMPLE 1: Ryan thinks about football all the time. He's got a one-track mind.
    EXAMPLE 2: Mia has a one-track-mind. She thinks about boys all the time.
  • out of it
    out of it
    not aware or knowledgeable about trends or modern habits
    EXAMPLE 1: Don't ask for Susan's advice on fashion. She's really out of it. She wears sneakers with everything.
    EXAMPLE 2: Betsy has never even heard of Harry Potter. She's really out of it!

    NOTE: "Out of it" also means "confused" or "disoriented." Example: After staying up all night studying, Ted felt out of it the next day.

  • out of practice
    out of practice
    no longer good at doing something
    EXAMPLE 1: Susan studied French in high school, but she hasn't spoken it since. She's really out of practice.
    EXAMPLE 2: I used to play tennis every day, but I haven't played in years. I'm out of practice.
  • out of the question
    out of the question
    impossible
    EXAMPLE 1: My friend Emily wanted me to climb Mount McKinley with her, but I told her it was out of the question.
    EXAMPLE 2: You want to borrow my new car and drive it across the country? I'm sorry, but that's out of the question.
  • out of this world
    out of this world
    delicious
    EXAMPLE 1: Mrs. Field's oatmeal raisin cookies are out of this world!
    EXAMPLE 2: Mmmm, I love your chicken soup. It's out of this world!
  • out of work
    out of work
    unemployed; not working
    EXAMPLE 1: Gary was out of work for a year before finding a new job.
    EXAMPLE 2: Bob is out of work. Do you know anybody who might want to hire him?
  • over one's head
    over one's head
    beyond one's understanding
    EXAMPLE 1: The professor was speaking over our heads. None of us could understand him.
    EXAMPLE 2: The article on cloning was written for scientists. It was over my head.
w
  • way to go!
    way to go!
    Good work!
    EXAMPLE 1: You won $2,000 in the poetry writing contest? Way to go!
    EXAMPLE 2: That was an interesting article you wrote. Way to go!
  • well off
    well off
    wealthy; financially secure
    EXAMPLE 1: Betsy's grandfather used to be very well off, but he lost most of his fortune when the U.S. stock market crashed in 1929.
    EXAMPLE 2: Debbie is a doctor and her husband is a lawyer. They're quite well off.
  • what's the matter?
    what's the matter?
    What's the problem?
    EXAMPLE 1: What's the matter, Bob? You don't look very happy.
    EXAMPLE 2: Oscar looks very pale. What's the matter with him?
  • what's up?
    what's up?
    What's going on? What's new?
    EXAMPLE 1: What's up? I haven't spoken to you in a long time.
    EXAMPLE 2: You never call me anymore. What's up with that?
  • when pigs fly!
    when pigs fly!
    never
    EXAMPLE 1: Will Ted teach Nicole how to play the guitar? When pigs fly!
    EXAMPLE 2: Sure, I'll give you my new laptop. When pigs fly!

    SYNONYMS: when hell freezes over; never in a million years

  • wine and dine
    wine and dine
    to take someone out for an evening or an expensive meal
    EXAMPLE 1: Donna wined and dined Bob and Susan and then presented them with a contract for the sale of Susan's Scrumptious Cookies.
    EXAMPLE 2: Kate was wined and dined during her trip to Santiago.
  • winning streak
    winning streak
    a series of wins
    EXAMPLE 1: The basketball team hasn't lost a game all season. They're on a winning streak!
    EXAMPLE 2: You won 10 games in a row? You're on a winning streak!
  • wise guy
    wise guy
    a smart aleck; one who makes a lot of sarcastic comments
    EXAMPLE 1: When Mrs. Lee asked Joey what he wanted to be when he grew up, he said, "An adult." She told him not to be such a wise guy.
    EXAMPLE 2: That clerk in the video store is a real wise guy. He's always making nasty comments about the customers.

    SYNONYMS: wise ass [rude], smart ass [rude]

  • work like a dog
    work like a dog
    to work very hard
    EXAMPLE 1: Larry became an investment banker after college, and now he works like a dog.
    EXAMPLE 2: Al worked like a dog on his term paper and got an "A+" on it.

    SYNONYMS: to work one's tail off; to work like a horse; to work one's fingers to the bone

  • work one's tail off
    work one's tail off
    to work very hard
    EXAMPLE 1:  Don worked his tail off to save money for his son's education.
    EXAMPLE 2: Bob worked his tail off at the furniture store, but his boss fired him anyway.
  • work out
    work out
    to find a solution; to resolve
    EXAMPLE 1: Nicole spent half the night helping Ted work out a very difficult chemistry problem.
    EXAMPLE 2: Sally couldn't work out her problems with her neighbors, so she finally decided to move away.

    NOTE: "Work out" has several other meanings, including:

    1. succeed; prove effective. This plan won't work out — you'll need to go back to the drawing board and work out a new plan.
    2. endure; last. Tony and Angela argue all the time. I don't think their marriage will work out.
    3. exercise. After working out at the gym for two hours, Scott could barely walk.
  • worth one's while
    worth one's while
    worthy of one's effort or time
    EXAMPLE 1: It would be worth your while to audition for the game show Jeopardy. You'd probably win a lot of money.
    EXAMPLE 2: Let me make it worth your while to work weekends. I'll pay you an extra $10 per hour on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • wrap up
    wrap up
    to finish
    EXAMPLE 1: If you wrap up your homework by eight o'clock, we'll have time to catch a movie tonight.
    EXAMPLE 2: Okay folks, let's wrap up these exercises so we can go home early tonight.
u
  • under one's breath
    under one's breath
    quietly; in a whisper
    EXAMPLE 1: "Amber is strange," muttered Nicole under her breath, as Ted was leaving the room.
    EXAMPLE 2: Mike agreed to take out the garbage, saying under his breath, "I always do the dirty work around here."
  • up in the air
    up in the air
    not yet determined; uncertain
    EXAMPLE 1: It might rain later, so our plans for the picnic are up in the air.
    EXAMPLE 2: Our trip to Russia is up in the air. We aren't sure we'll get our visas in time.
j
  • jump the gun
    jump the gun
    to start doing something too soon or ahead of everybody else
    EXAMPLE 1: Nicole really jumped the gun by writing her acceptance speech before the results of the elections were announced.
    EXAMPLE 2: The bookstore jumped the gun by selling the new Harry Potter book two weeks before its official release date.
  • just kidding
    just kidding
    talking more to get a laugh than anything
    EXAMPLE 1: I was just kidding when I said your new orange dress makes you look like a pumpkin.
    EXAMPLE 2: Are you sure that's your boyfriend? I thought he was your grandfather. Just kidding!
  • just what the doctor ordered
    just what the doctor ordered
    exactly what was needed
    EXAMPLE 1: Martin wanted a hot drink after spending the day skiing. A cup of hot cocoa was just what the doctor ordered.
    EXAMPLE 2: Our trip to Florida was so relaxing. It was just what the doctor ordered!
y
  • you can say that again
    you can say that again
    I agree with you
    EXAMPLE 1: You think our house needs repairs? You can say that again — even our toilet is broken!
    EXAMPLE 2: "The weather is so nasty today." - "You can say that again! I don't even want to go outside!"
  • you scratch my back and i'll scratch yours
    you scratch my back and i'll scratch yours
    if you do me a favor, I'll do you a favor; let's cooperate
    EXAMPLE 1: I'll help you with your homework if you do the dishes. You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.
    EXAMPLE 2: If I drive you into the city, will you pick up my dry cleaning? You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.
  • your guess is as good as mine
    your guess is as good as mine
    I don't know; I don't know any more than you do
    EXAMPLE 1: Will we ever find intelligent life on other planets? Your guess is as good as mine.
    EXAMPLE 2: Will Ted graduate on time? Your guess is as good as mine!
Answer Key
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