Idioms You Must Know

Here are some common idiomatic expressions in English.

Meet someone halfway

To meet someone halfway is to reach an agreement with them by making a few compromises.

  • We can’t give you all that you want but we can certainly meet you halfway.

Meet trouble halfway

To meet trouble halfway is to worry about something that hasn’t even happened.

  • Don’t you think it is foolish to meet trouble halfway?

Put someone on their mettle

To put someone on their mettle is to test their ability to face challenges.

  • We used to have regular internal assessments where we would be put on our mettle.

Of a piece (with)

If something is of a piece with something else, it is very similar to it.

  • His latest novel is of a piece with his last one.

Be worth one’s salt

If somebody is worth their salt, they are very competent and deserve what they earn.

  • I really feel that you should sack your private secretary. He isn’t worth his salt.

Make both ends meet

To make both ends meet is to earn enough to make a living.

  • Now that the cost of living has increased, we are struggling to make both ends meet.

Set one’s face against

To set one’s face against something is to resist it with determination.

  • She had set her face against the proposal.

Within an ace of

If you are within an ace of something, you are very close to it.

  • We came within an ace of defeat.

Rest on your laurels

To rest on your laurels is to be satisfied with what you have already achieved without making any effort to do anything more.

  • Just because you have been selected for the audition does not mean you can rest on your laurels.

Win / gain your spurs

To win your spurs is to do something that proves that you are capable of doing something really well.

  • He won his political spurs by launching a massive campaign against corruption.

With open arms

To receive someone with open arms is to receive them with pleasure.

  • The parents received their prodigal son with open arms.

Play fast and loose with somebody

To play fast and loose with somebody is to treat them without respect or care.

  • Don’t play fast and loose with the facts.
  • He accused me of playing fast and loose with his sentiments.

Hold water

If an argument holds water, it sounds logical or true.

  • Your excuses just don’t hold water, baby.

By hook or by crook

  • He is determined to achieve his objective by hook or by crook. (= by whatever means)

For / to all intents and purposes

An expression used to say in the most important ways:

  • For all intents and purposes, the town has been abandoned by its occupants.

Hang together

To hang together is to stay together

  • If we can hang together, we might be able to find a solution.

Your flesh and blood

An expression used to refer to someone from your family.

  • She isn’t my flesh and blood but I can’t help loving her.

Make an exception

To make an exception is to not treat someone according to the usual rules.

  • While it is true that we don’t accept late applications, we will make an exception in this case.
  • Everyone should obey the law. We can’t make an exception in your case.

Take exception to something / somebody

To take exception to something is to be offended by it.

  • He took exception to my harmless remark.

To a fault

This expression is usually used with an adjective referring to a positive quality and has a negative meaning. So, for example, if you are generous to a fault, you are so generous that your generosity does you more harm than good.

Gain ground

If a belief or an idea gains ground, it becomes more acceptable or popular.

  • Inter-caste marriages are yet to gain ground in this part of the world.

Settle old scores / settle a score

To settle old scores is to punish someone for something they did to you in the past.

  • The minister was accused of using his power to settle old scores.
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