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The Most Helpful Idioms With Meaning and Examples. Topic – Actions – Behaviour

English idioms are the spice of language, offering a unique flavor to everyday communication. These common idioms serve as gems, each carrying a distinctive meaning beyond their literal interpretation. Let’s explore the fascinating world of idioms with an idiom example. Consider the phrase “burning the midnight oil,” depicting intense effort or working late into the night. In this idiom sample, the image of a lamp burning late symbolizes diligence and commitment. Understanding idioms with meaning is like deciphering a secret code, unlocking a deeper layer of expression. So, whether you’re “walking on eggshells” or “seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” incorporating these idiomatic expressions into your language repertoire adds flair and nuance, transforming ordinary conversations into rich tapestries of communication.

accidentally on purpose If you do something intentionally, but pretend it was an accident, you do it accidentally on purpose. I accidentally-on-purpose erased his email address, so I couldn’t contact him again.
add fuel to the flames If you add fuel to the flames, you do or say something that makes a difficult situation even worse. He forgot their wedding anniversary, and his apologies only added fuel to the flames.
all ears To say that you are all ears means that you are listening very attentively. Of course I want to know – I’m all ears!
answer the call of nature / answer nature’s call When a person answers the call of nature, they go to the toilet. I had to get up in the middle of the night to answer the call of nature.
backseat driver A passenger in a car who gives unwanted advice to the driver is called a backseat driver. I can’t stand backseat drivers like my mother-in-law!
badger someone If you badger someone into doing something, you persistently nag or pester them until you obtain what you want. Sophie badgered her parents into buying her a new computer.
balancing act When you try to satisfy two or more people or groups who have different needs, and keep everyone happy, you perform a balancing act. Many people, especially women, have to perform a balancing act between work and family.
bare your heart / soul If you bare you soul (or heart) to someone, you reveal your innermost thoughts and feelings to them. Mike couldn’t keep things to himself any longer. He decided to bare his soul to his best friend.
bark up wrong tree A person who is barking up the wrong tree is doing the wrong thing, because their beliefs or ideas are incorrect or mistaken. The police are barking up the wrong tree if they think Joey stole the car – he can’t drive!
beat a (hasty) retreat Someone who beats a (hasty) retreat runs away or goes back hurriedly to avoid a dangerous or difficult situation. The thief beat a hasty retreat as soon as he saw the security officer.
be one’s best bet The action most likely to succeed is called one’s best bet. Your best bet would be to try calling him at home.
bide your time If you bide your time, you wait for a good opportunity to do something. He’s not hesitating, he’s just biding his time, waiting for the price to drop.
binge drinking This term refers to heavy drinking where large quantities of alcohol are consumed in a short space of time, often among young people in rowdy groups. Binge drinking is becoming a major problem in some European countries.
bite hand that feeds you If you bite the hand that feeds you, you are unfriendly or do harm to someone who is kind to you. If you say bad things about the person who gives you a job, you bite the hand that feeds you.
blot one’s copy book Someone who blots their copy-book does something to spoil their good record or reputation. He blotted his copy-book when he was arrested for speeding.
on the bottle A person who drinks alcohol often and regularly is on the bottle. John went on the bottle when he lost his job.
break every rule in the book If you behave in a completely unacceptable way, you break every rule in the book. Our competitors obtained the contract by breaking every rule in the book.
breathe down somebody’s neck If someone is breathing down your neck, they are watching you too closely and making you feel uncomfortable. The atmosphere at work is not great; the boss keeps breathing down our necks all the time.
build bridges If a person builds bridges between opposing groups, they help them to cooperate and understand each other better. A mediator is trying to build bridges between the local community and the owners of the new plant.
burn your bridges If you burn your bridges, you do something that will be impossible to rectify in the future. If you refuse the offer, be careful not to burn your bridges by insulting them. They may make a better proposal later.
burn the candle at both ends If you burn the candle at both ends, you exhaust yourself by doing too much, especially going to bed late and getting up early. Scott looks exhausted – I’ll bet he’s been burning the candle at both ends lately.
burn your fingers If you burn your fingers (or get your fingers burnt), you suffer financially as a result of foolish behaviour. Jack got his fingers burnt playing on the stock market.
bury one’s head in the sand If you bury your head in the sand, you refuse to face the unpleasant reality by pretending that the situation doesn’t exist. It’s no good burying your head in the sand. We’ve got a problem on our hands.
bury the hatchet When people who have had a disagreement decide to forget their quarrel and become friends again, they bury the hatchet. I didn’t agree with my colleague’s decision, but for the sake of peace I decided to bury the hatchet.
butter somebody up When you butter someone up, you flatter them or you are very nice to them, especially if you want to obtain something. He was so keen to get the job that he spent his time buttering up the boss.
call someone’s bluff If you call someone’s bluff, you challenge them to do what they threaten to do (while believing that they will not dare to do it). After the neighbour’s threats to demolish the fence, when Jack decided to call his bluff, there were no more complaints.
call it quits When people temporarily stop doing something or put an end to an activity, they call it quits. OK, we’re all exhausted, so let’s call it quits for today.
call a spade a spade A person who calls a spade a spade speaks openly and truthfully about something, especially difficult matters. What I like about the new manager is that he calls a spade a spade – it makes things so much easier for everyone.
cap in hand If you do something cap in hand, you ask for something in a very respectful manner. They went to the teacher, cap in hand, and asked for more time to complete their project.
  1. What are idioms? Idioms are expressions or phrases that hold a figurative meaning beyond their literal interpretation. They add color and depth to language.

  2. Why are idioms important in English? Idioms help convey complex ideas succinctly and vividly, enhancing communication and offering cultural insights.

  3. Can you provide some examples of idioms? Certainly! Examples include “raining cats and dogs” (heavy rain), “kick the bucket” (pass away), and “bite the bullet” (face a difficult situation).

  4. How do I understand the meaning of idioms? Understanding idioms often requires context and cultural familiarity. Exploring their origins and usage in sentences helps grasp their meanings.

  5. Are all idioms universal or do they vary by region? Idioms can vary across regions and cultures. While some idioms are universal, many are culturally specific.

  6. Are there common idioms used in everyday conversation? Yes, several idioms, like “break a leg” (good luck) or “piece of cake” (easy task), are frequently used in daily conversations.

  7. Do idioms have fixed meanings? Generally, yes. However, some idioms might have slight variations in meaning or usage based on context or region.

  8. How can I incorporate idioms into my writing or speech? Using idioms contextually and accurately can add richness to your language. Start by understanding their meanings and then applying them naturally.

  9. Are idioms only found in English? No, idioms exist in many languages. Each language has its own set of colorful expressions and phrases.

  10. Where can I learn more idioms and their meanings? Online resources, books on idioms, and even language learning platforms offer extensive lists of idioms with explanations of their meanings and origins.

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