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|English Idioms A-Z|
about to do something
- on the point of doing something
She was about to leave when the phone rang.
- something that should have happened earlier
It is about time that you returned that book to me.
My grandfather is very absent-minded and often forgets his key.
according to Hoyle
- strictly by the rules, the usual and correct way to do something
According to Hoyle you are not allowed to enter this room but if nobody is here I think it will be okay.
- seem consistent or reasonable
The things that he said about his boss don`t really add up.
ahead of time
We started the meeting ahead of time so we could go home early.
air one`s dirty laundry (linen) in public
- make public something embarrassing that should be kept secret
The dinner party became uncomfortable when the host began to air his colleagues' dirty laundry in public.
- all the time
I knew all along that he would not get the promotion.
all at once
- suddenly, without warning
All at once the fire alarm rang so we had to leave the building.
all day long
- the whole day
She has been sitting and waiting for the mail to arrive all day long.
- eager to listen to someone
Okay, I`m all ears, please tell me about the party.
all in all
- in summary, after considering everything
We had a few problems but all in all the meeting was successful.
all of a sudden
- suddenly, without advance warning
All of a sudden it became cloudy and began to rain.
- okay, satisfactory
She said that it would be all right for me to bring my friend to the party.
all the time
She asks for money all the time but I don`t like to give it to her.
- have difficulty fixing things or working with one`s hands, clumsy
He is all thumbs when it comes to fixing things around the house.
an arm and a leg
- (cost) a large amount of money
His new car must have cost him an arm and a leg.
apple of one`s eye
- one`s favorite
His youngest daughter is the apple of his eye.
as a rule
- usually, as a habit
As a rule I usually get up at 7:00 AM every morning.
as far as
- to the extent or degree that
As far as I know he will be here in a few minutes.
ask for trouble
- behave in a way that trouble is likely
He is asking for trouble if he misses another class.
asleep at the switch
- not alert to an opportunity
I think he was asleep at the switch. He didn`t even know that the job was available so he never applied for it.
as long as
- provided that, on condition that
As long as you promise to be careful you can borrow my car.
as the crow flies
- by the most direct way, along a straight line between two places
As the crow flies it is about 6 kilometers between my house and my company.
- most of the time, as is the custom
As usual, she forgot to bring her book to class.
as well as
- in addition to
Please bring your swimming suit as well as your towel.
- until now, up to the present
As yet, she has not told me about her plans to leave the company.
at cross purposes
- have opposite ways to do something, opposing goals
They are at cross purposes and are always arguing about what to do.
- be responsible or to blame for something
The truck driver was at fault in the terrible accident.
- at the beginning
At first she didn`t want to go to a movie but later she changed her mind.
at first blush
- when first seen, without careful study
At first blush he seemed like a good worker but later we had many problems with him.
- basically, fundamentally
She is a very nice person at heart although many people dislike her.
- in one`s house
I`m sorry but I left my money at home. Can you lend me some money?
- finally, after a long time
I was waiting all morning for her call but at last it came.
- having a quarrel, opposing each other
We have been at loggerheads over their plans to build a new office complex.
- in disagreement
He has been at odds with his boss over the new sales territory.
at someone`s beck and call
- always ready to serve somebody
His eldest daughter is always at his beck and call when he spends an evening at home.
at the end of one`s rope
- at the limit of one`s ability to cope
I am at the end of my rope about what to do about my current situation at work.
attend to someone
- take care or deal with someone
The doctor attended to the other patient before he got to my mother.
back on one`s feet
- return to good financial or physical health
He is finally back on his feet after his company went out of business.
- withdraw from an agreement or promise
The company backed out of the deal with the foreign firm.
back to the drawing board
- go back to start a project or idea from the beginning
The boss doesn`t like our idea so I guess we must go back to the drawing board.
bail someone or something out
- help or rescue
The government has decided to bail out the troubled bank.
- be sure of, count on
You can bank on them to come and help the company.
bark is worse than one`s bite
- someone isn`t as bad as they sound
Don`t worry if he gets angry - his bark is worse than his bite.
bark up the wrong tree
- make a wrong assumption about something
The police are barking up the wrong tree in their investigation of that person.
beat around the bush
- speak indirectly or evasively
Stop beating around the bush and give us your final decision.
beat someone to the punch (draw)
- do something before others
He beat me to the punch and arrived at the interview first.
(have a) bee in one`s bonnet
- have an idea that continually occupies one`s thoughts.
He has a bee in his bonnet over whether or not to build a new house or not.
(do something) behind someone`s back
- without someone`s knowledge
He is very angry because they borrowed the car behind his back.
behind the times
- old fashioned
My aunt is a little behind the times.
be to blame
- be responsible for something bad or unfortunate
He`s not to blame for breaking the computer.
bend over backwards to do something
- try very hard
If I can, I will bend over backwards to help you get a promotion in the company.
beside one`s self
- very upset or excited about something
He was beside himself with joy at winning the contest.
beside the point
- not relevant to the subject that you are considering or discussing
"What you are saying is beside the point. We are not talking about salary now."
bet on the wrong horse
- misjudge a coming event, misread the future
I think that he bet on the wrong horse by putting all of his money into that new stock.
- be in a better situation than before
He would be better off if he sold his old car and bought a new one.
beyond the pale
- outside the bounds of acceptable behavior
What they are doing is totally unacceptable and beyond the pale.
bide one`s time
- patiently wait for an opportunity to occur.
He is biding his time as he waits to become president of the company.
- an important and powerful person
He is a big shot in the oil and gas industry.
- completely naked, no clothes on
The little boy was running down the street in his birthday suit.
bite off more than one can chew
- try to do more than one is able to do
I think I bit off more than I can chew by taking on the new assignment.
bite the bullet
- endure in a difficult situation, face a difficult situation bravely
I have decided to bite the bullet and begin studying for my Master`s degree.
bite the dust
- be killed, break down, be defeated
I think that my car has finally bitten the dust.
bite the hand that feeds you
- turn against a friend or supporter, repay kindness with wrong
He is biting the hand that feeds him if he continues to criticize and fight against his boss.
blind leading the blind
- someone who doesn`t understand something trying to explain it to others
It is like the blind leading the blind watching him try and explain how to operate the new computer.
blow it (something)
- fail at something
I tried hard but I am sure that I blew the final math exam last week.
blow one`s own horn
- praise oneself
He is always blowing his own horn and is very annoying at times.
- die down or calm down
The problem with the lost invoices has finally blown over and everyone is working hard again.
blue in the face
- very angry or upset, excited and very emotional
I argued with him until I became blue in the face but I couldn`t change his mind.
bone of contention
- a reason for quarrels, the subject of a fight
The family cottage was a major bone of contention when their father died.
- make someone go or leave, get rid of someone, dismiss
He was booted out of high school for smoking on the school grounds.
born with a silver spoon in one`s mouth
- born rich, provided from birth with everything you need
He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and has never worked in his life.
- absolutely new
He was finally able to buy a brand-new car.
- stop working because of mechanical failure
The car broke down on the lonely road so nobody knew about it.
We must break down these figures for further study.
break fresh ground
- deal with something in a new way
The researchers were able to break fresh ground in their search for a cancer cure.
break the bank
- win all the money at a casino gambling table
He didn`t really break the bank but he did win a lot of money.
break the ice
- relax and start a conversation in a formal situation
Nobody was enjoying the party until the host finally was able to break the ice.
break the news
- tell some information first
He is planning to break the news to her about his transfer tomorrow.
break up (with someone)
- stop a relationship
She broke up with her boyfriend last June.
bring home the bacon
- work and earn money for your family
He is out bringing home the bacon and is very busy.
bring home the importance of something to someone
- make someone fully realize something
He was unable to bring home the importance of arriving early for the meeting.
bring some new facts to light
- discover some new facts, make some new facts known
The lawyers were able to bring some new facts to light in the trial of the killer.
bring someone into line
- persuade someone to agree with you
He was finally able to bring the other members of the committee into line.
bring something on
- cause to develop rapidly
I don`t know what brought on his anger but you should avoid him until he calms down.
bring the house down
- cause much laughter in the audience
The comedian brought the house down with his jokes about the lost dog.
bring to mind
- recall something
Her perfect acting brought to mind some of the great actresses of the past.
- introduce a subject into a discussion
They brought up the subject at the meeting but nobody wanted to talk about it.
- raise or care for a child
My grandmother brought up ten children.
bring up the rear
- be at the end of the line or in the last position
The runner from the other school was bringing up the rear in the school relay race.
- have no money
I spent all of my money on my holiday and I am now broke.
brush up on something
- review something one has already learned
I`m going to brush up on my English before my trip to New York.
brush with the law
- a brief encounter or experience with the police because of a crime
He had a brush with the law when he was young but now he is totally honest.
bull in a china shop
- someone who is clumsy and upsets other people or plans
He was like a bull in a china shop when I saw him at the meeting last week.
- put on warm clothes, dress warmly
We bundled up and went for a walk in the park.
burn a hole in one`s pocket
- money that you want to spend quickly
I just got paid today and this money is burning a hole in my pocket.
- burn completely (usually used for buildings)
The neighbor`s house burnt down completely during the night.
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