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Idioms: English Expressions

Study 10 idioms below. Then answer the questions.





add salt to the wound

to make a bad situation or emotion even worse, often used apologetically when a person brings additional bad news

negative, apologetic

Sorry your vacation was canceled! I don't want to add salt to the wound, but I heard that the company is planning a major lay-off.

beat around the bush

to avoid the main topic


I have something to tell you. I won't beat around the bush. Your wife is having an affair.


someone who tries too hard to please people in authority, usually showing a lack of personal integrity or honesty


I used to like Jack, but he has become such a brown-noser! If it made him look good, I'm sure he would tell the manager that I am not doing my job.

clean house

as a business term: to lay off employees who are no longer necessary or those who have stopped being productive


The company's fiscal year ends in June. That's when they always clean house and fire the extra contractors.

cut it out

stop doing something

neutral, negative

Hey, cut it out! Stop whispering jokes. I don't want to laugh out loud while the professor is lecturing.

dump someone

to end a relationship


Her boyfriend dumped her on Valentine's Day. Isn't that terrible?

fast track

to set as a priority, to pursue quickly


Wow, these ideas are perfect! We're going to fast track your project.


to perfect


Your essay is very good now. The organization works. You just need to fine-tune it by editing some of the sentences.

go all out

to do everything and even more, often includes spending a lot of money


They went all out for their daughter's wedding. They invited over 3,000 people and hired a well-known DJ.

good call

good decision


I disagreed when you fired Mary, but now I think it was a good call. The other members of the team seem happier and more productive.

Answer the Questions

1. Try to think of a time when you or someone you know had a few bad things happen.
Describe the first bad thing and then how the second bad thing added salt to the wound.

2. If you have to give someone bad news, do you usually beat around the bush or do you say it quickly?

3. Do you know anyone who is a brown-noser? If so, describe this person.

4. Have you heard any recent news about a company cleaning house?

5. When might you tell someone to cut it out?

More Questions

6. Have you ever dumped someone or has someone dumped you (or both)?

7. Do you have any projects or goals that you want to fast track right now?

8. Do you have a project that you are fine-tuning? Do you usually fine-tune your projects?

9. When was the last time you went all out to give someone a party or to help someone? Or did someone go all out for you?

10. Think of a decision made by you or a friend or family member. Say whether or not it was a good call.

Now learn 10 more idioms. A blank ____ indicates a place for a pronoun.
Then answer more questions about your everyday life.





how come?



"I cannot make it to your party."
"How come?"

make a fool of ____self

to embarrass oneself by doing something unwise

negative, humorous

I made a fool of myself in front of the new CEO. I couldn't think of anything to say, and I just stood there, staring at him.

don't see eye-to-eye

to disagree, to have differing outlooks

usually negative, but can be positive "see eye to eye"

Your brother and I don't see eye to eye. I'd rather avoid going out while he's in town.

people person

a person who likes people, a social person


Your husband is such a people person! He's a pleasure at any dinner party.

piece of cake



You can't sew at all? I can sew your button back onto your coat. It's a piece of cake.

Rome wasn't built in a day

big projects take time


She is worried about her small business, but she just started it a month ago. I told her that Rome wasn't built in a day.

take a crack at something

to try

neutral, positive

I have never used an electric drill, but I can take a crack at it.

the lesser of two evils

the better way when there are only bad or unpleasant options


He really wanted to publish his book, but the publishers rejected it. He can either wait and see if he has better luck next year or self-publish it. I told him that self-publishing is the lesser of two evils.

top of ____ game

doing very well, performing at one's best


My friend's website is getting so many hits! She's at the top of her game lately.

you took the words right out of my mouth

you said exactly what I would have said


"The English language is not easy."
"Yeah. You took the words right out of my mouth."

Answer the Questions

1. How do you feel today? How come?

2. When was the last time you made a fool of yourself? Or do you have a friend who behaved foolishly?

3. Describe a person that you usually do not see eye to eye with. What is different about your viewpoints?

4. Are you a people person? If not, do you know someone who is?

5. Do you think that meeting people is a piece of cake? Why or why not?

More Questions

6. Describe a long project or long-term goal that you have experienced. Do you agree that Rome wasn't built in a day?

7. If someone gave you a new recipe that looked good, would you take a crack at it? Or do you dislike cooking?

8. If you had to lose all of your money or go to jail for a month, which would be the lesser of two evils?

9. Are you at the top of your game right now? Or do you hope to be at the top of your game in the future?

10. Think of the last time you were in complete agreement with someone. When might you have said, you took the words right out of my mouth?

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