Glossary of English Idioms 2
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- If someone is ______, they are not involved in anything illegal.
- be as clean as a whistle
He hasn't got a criminal record - he's clean as a whistle.
- to tell someone in authority about something bad that is happening so that it can be stopped.
- blow the whistle on sb/sth
The kids are encouraged to blow the whistle on any of their friends who are using drugs.
- something that you say which means you are determined that someone will not get what they want
- He/She/They can whistle for it!
If they want money, they can whistle for it. They're not getting a penny out of me!
- a whistle high sound that is made by blowing air through the lips that some men do when they see a woman who is sexually attractive
- a wolf whistle
She'll get a few wolf whistles if she walks through town in those shorts.
- someone who does or says something that stops other people from enjoying themselves
- a wet blanket (informal)
I don't want to be a wet blanket, but you really must play your music more quietly or you'll disturb the people next door.
- someone who spoils other people's enjoyment of social activities by being unhappy or by refusing to become involved
- a party pooper
Tim called me a party pooper because I left the party just after midnight.
- to discover someone doing something wrong
- catch sb in the act
I was trying to clear up the mess on the carpet before anyone noticed it, but Isobel came in and caught me in the act.
- a situation where one thing must happen in order to cause another thing to happen, but because the first thing does not happen the second thing cannot happen
- a catch 22 situation
If you don't have a place to stay, you can't get a job and with no job, you can't get an apartment. It's a catch 22 situation.
- something that you say in order to tell someone they will be punished for something bad they have done
- you'll catch it
You'll catch it if dad sees you smoking.
- achieved any way that is possible and not in a planned way
We were working round the clock to finish the project so food and sleep were catch-as-catch-can.
- to stop breathing for a moment because something surprises or frightens you
- catch your breath
I caught my breath when I saw the scar on her face.
- to surprise someone with an event, a question, or a piece of news they are not expecting
- catch sb cold
You caught me cold with this news - I didn't know anything about it.
- to be attractive or different enough to be noticed by people
- catch sb's eye
There were lots of dresses to choose from, but none of them really caught my eye.
- If you ________, you do something when they are not ready for it and may not be able to deal with it well
- catch sb on the hop
If we attack at the very start of the game, we may just catch their defenders on the hop.
- something that you say which means that everyone is successful during some period in their life
- Every dog has its day
He'll get that promotion eventually. Every dog has its day.
- something that you say which means it is difficult to make someone change the way they do something when they have been doing it the same way for a long time
- You can't teach an old dog new tricks.
You're never going to teach your father at the age of 79 to use a computer. You can't teach an old dog new tricks, you know.
- something that you say which means that life is hard and unpleasant
- It's a dog's life!
I've got to go to the supermarket, then cook a meal, then pick Dave up from the station - it's a dog's life!
- a joke which is a long story with a silly end
- a shaggy dog story
My grand father insists on telling these shaggy dog stories, which nobody finds funny except him.
- to be very sick
- be as sick as a dog
She was as sick as a dog after that dinner.
- to argue violently all the time
- fight like cat and dog
We get on very well as adults but as kids we fought like cat and dog.
- If a situation is ______, people will do anything to be successful, even if what they do harm other people
It's a dog-eat-dog world out there so you've got to know who your real friends are.
- something that you say which means that although someone is old, they still have enough energy to do things
- There's life in the old dog yet.
I may be 90 but there's life in the old dog yet.
- something that you say which means there is no purpose in doing something yourself when there is someone else who will do it for you
- Why keep a dog and bark yourself?
Just leave the glasses on the table - the bar staff will collect them. After all, why keep a dog and bark yourself?
- a story or explanation which is obviously not true
- a cock-and-bull
She told me some cock-and-bull story about her car breaking down.
- to keep the ball away from the team competing against you at the end of a game so that they cannot score any points
- run out the clock
The Pistons thought they were running out the clock but lost the ball and the game in the last nine seconds.
- to be wearing clothes which are intended to make people sexually attracted to you
- be dressed to kill
Rosie emerged from the house, dressed to kill and clutching a bottle of champagne.
- to prepare to defeat someone completely in an argument or competition when they are already in a weak position
- move in for the kill
At 6-3 6-2 up, Sampras went in for the kill and won the final set 6-0.
- a way of solving a problem which will either fail completely or be very successful
- kill or cure
Having a baby can be kill or cure for a troubled marriage.
- to be too kind to someone
- kill sb with kindness
Rob's killing me with kindness - he phones me all the time to see if I'm alright when really I just need to be left alone.
- something that you say in order to describe the unpleasant or angry way in which someone looked at you
- If looks could kill...
I'll never forget the expression on her face when she saw me with Pete. If looks could kill...
- If a telephone is _______, the part that you speak into is not lying in the part that holds it so the telephone will not ring
- off the hook
He left the telephone off the hook because he didn't want to be disturbed.
- If you intend to do something ______, you are determined not to let anything stop you doing it and are ready to use any methods
- by hook or by crook
I decided that I was going to get that job by hook or by crook.
- to allow someone to escape from a difficult situation or to avoid doing something that they do not want to do
- get/let sb off the hook
John has agreed to go to the meeting in my place, so that lets me off the hook.
- to be extremely nervous and easily frightened
- be afraid of your own shadow
She's always having panic attacks, she's the kind of person who's afraid of her own shadow.
- something that you say in order to tell someone to stop doing or saying something because they are going too fast
- Hold your horses!
Just hold your horses, Bill. Let's think about this for a moment.
- to stop talking
- hold your tongue
George had learned to accept these little insults. He held his tongue.
- to show that you are proud of something
- hold your head up high
When this country has full employment and an education system for all, then we can hold our head up high.
- something that you say in order to tell someone that an event is not likely to happen
- Don't hold your breath.
She said she'd phone but don't hold your breath.
- If an opinion or a statement does ______, it can be shown to be wrong
- not hold water
Most of the arguments put forward by our opponents simply do not hold water.
- to decide that you will leave an activity until a later time
- put sth on hold
The project has been put on hold until our financial position improves.
- if you go_________, you have to start planning a piece of work again because the previous plan failed
- back to the drawing board
Our proposal might not be accepted, in which case we'll have to go back to the drawing board.
- if someone is ________, they are angry and irritated.
- hot under the collar
The issue of waste disposal is getting a lot of people hot under the collar.
- If you take what someone says _______, you do not completely believe it.
- with a pinch of salt
It's interesting to read the reports in the newspapers, but I tend to take them with a pinch of salt.
- to make a difficult situation even worse for someone
- rub salt into the wound
Losing was bad enough, having to watch them receiving the trophy just rubbed salt into the wound.
- a rude way of telling someone to go away
- Beat it!
OK you kids, beat it!
- to avoid talking about a difficult or embarrassing subject because you are worried about upsetting the person you are talking to
- beat around the bush
1)Don't beat around the bush. Just tell me where my brother is
2)There is no point in beating about the bush. I'm leaving you.
- to do something before someone else does it
- beat sb to it
I was just about to open some wine but I see you've beaten me to it
- to do something before someone else does it (Hint: punch)
- beat sb to the punch
I was thinking of applying for that job but Carol beat me to the punch.
- to escape being punished
- beat the rap
There's no way he can beat the rap now. No lawyer can save him.
- something that you say when you decide to do something bad because other people are getting an advantage from doing it and you cannot stop them.
- If you can't beat 'em, (join 'em)!
If everyone else is making a bit of money out of it I will too. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, is what I say.
- very rarely, hardly, seldom
- once in a blue moon
1)My sister lives in Alaska, so I only get to see her once in a blue moon.
- if something happens _______, it happens suddenly and you are not expecting it.
- out of the blue
Then one day, completely out of the blue, I had a letter from her.
- if a person or part of their body is ________, their skin is covered with bruises, black marks caused by being hit.
- black and blue
He was beaten black and blue at boarding school.
- a man who is liked and admired by someone in authority
- a blue-eyed boy
He was very much the blue-eyed boy in the office.
- to be very solid
- be as solid as a rock
So much furniture these days is so flimsy - this table here was made a hundred years ago and it's as solid as a rock.
- the lowest possible level
- rock bottom
1)The morale of prison officers is at rock bottom.
2)The president's opinion poll ratings have hit rock bottom.
- to do or say something that causes problems, especially if you try to change a situation which most people do not want to change
- rock the boat
We certainly don't want anyone rocking the boat just before the election.
- if an experience, a skill, or a qualification will ________, it will be useful in the future
- stand sb in good stead
She hoped that being editor of the school magazine would stand her in good stead for a career in journalism later on.
- everything ________ is everything that exists or is possible
- under the sun
1)We talked about everything under the sun.
2)She seems to have an opinion on every subject under the sun.
- money that is paid ________ is paid secretly, usually because it is illegal.
- under the table
A lot of these people work 80-hour weeks with all or half of their salaries paid under the table.
- to become familiar with and confident in a new job or situation
- get your feet under the table
It's better to wait until you've got your feet firmly under the table before you make any big changes.
- official rules which do not seem necessary and make things happen very slowly
- red tape
My passport application has been held up by red tape.
- to go out and enjoy yourself in the evening, often drinking a lot of alcohol and dancing
- paint the town red
Jack finished his exams today so he's gone out to paint the town red.
- a flight that leaves late at night and arrives early the next morning
- a red eye
1)We took the red eye from Seattle to New York.
2)There's a red-eye flight to Los Angeles leaving at 10pm.
- to give an important person a special welcome
- roll out the red carpet
The red carpet was rolled out for the President's visit.
- to do something difficult in a determined and confident way
- take the bull by the horns
Why don't you take the bull by the horns and tell him to leave?
- to often say stupid or wrong things
- be full of crap
I wouldn't listen to what Jeremy says, he's always full of crap.
- someone who is ________ is determined to do exactly what they want to do, and does not think about what other people want.
He's completely bull-headed. I asked him not to throw out that old table, but he did it anyway.
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