Questions tagged [idioms]

Use the idiom tag for questions which a dictionary cannot answer about set phrases with unusual meanings that can't be properly understood just from the separate words in them.

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14
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4answers
2k views

Does the idiom «to cross the pond» exist?

Recently I had a conversation with a native speaker. During it he has mentioned some movie reference. I guess he was not sure whether I have got it so he has also sent me a link to that movie ...
14
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3answers
6k views

Past form of “make do”

Looking for a synonym of 'to get by on", I came across "to make do with" and immediately started wondering what the past form of the latter could be. "Make did", "made do", made did" - they all sound ...
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2answers
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“keep one's name” meaning

I heard this idiom in a movie and looked it up in the web in vain. Here's the phrase: She's a lawyer, she's keeping her name. Throwing a light on this would be greatly appreciated.
14
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2answers
5k views

What does “eating your hat” mean?

What does it mean to eat your hat? Does it mean to really eat the hat or does it mean you have disagreement to someone? This expression appeared in the comments of Shawn Mooney's answer to Can we add “...
14
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4answers
10k views

Meaning of “doesn't even begin to cover it”

I saw the movie Ice Age 4, in which there was the quote "Okay doesn't even begin to cover it". After searching on the internet, I couldn't find the meaning of the sentence at all. Is that "Begin to ...
14
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5answers
25k views

Difference between “fat chance” and “slim chance”?

Is there a difference between "fat chance" and "slim chance," and if so, what is it? Taken literally, they seem to be opposites, but do they mean the same thing?
13
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5answers
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Saying for “Bomb proof”

In Spain, we normally use a saying when something always works well, although you try to break this one. The saying is "bomb proof". I would like to know a similar saying in English. For example: I ...
13
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4answers
5k views

To walk while holding/steering a bicycle

I couldn't figure out how to express this in English. In Swedish it is called "Att leda en cykel", but directly translating it to English ("to lead a bicycle") seems to mean something different. ...
13
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7answers
4k views

How do I express दिल लगाना in English? It literally means 'attaching heart.'

I am Indian, not a native English speaker. I can't figure out the English expression. We Indians use दिल लगाना literal translation 'to attach heart' which implies to be in love with someone in Hindi....
13
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5answers
3k views

Meaning of 'The Devil was sick, and a saint he would be; the Devil was well, and the devil a saint was he!'

I am not able to understand the meaning of this idiomatic phrase: The Devil was sick, and a saint he would be; the Devil was well, and the devil a saint was he!' I think it means "the devil is not ...
13
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3answers
6k views

Should “bring a plate” be taken literally?

When someone is told to "bring a plate" to a picnic in Australia, does it literally mean just bring a plate? Or should they be bringing something else as well?
13
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2answers
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What does “a drop in replacement” mean

Please see the second response here. You should try xelatex which is almost a drop in replacement for latex. Leaving aside the technical part, which of no interest to the general audience here, ...
13
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2answers
69k views

The exact meaning of “for that matter”

What is the exact meaning of, "for that matter," in the sentence: He did not speak to her, or anyone for that matter?
13
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2answers
5k views

“It's time … 'verb'/'verb-ed' …”

It's time colleges helped you compare apples to apples. (The Boston Globe) If the time is a present moment, why does the journalist use "help" in the past tense? Or is "helped" ...
12
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8answers
9k views

Is to talk “under four eyes” a common idiom in English?

In German there is an idiom "unter vier Augen" (under four eyes) which means privately, for example to talk with someone under four eyes. My question is if it is in also used in English, and whether I'...
12
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4answers
6k views

Why is the correct phrase “to come on the trip” and not “to come to the trip”?

I wrote the following: I was surprised Mary had agreed to come to the trip. A native English speaker told me I should write instead: I was surprised Mary had agreed to come on the trip. I ...
12
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1answer
2k views

What does “keeping someone in shoe leather” mean?

In the following sentence: Unless your work is pro-bono, you should make sure that your customers keep you in shoe leather. What does "keeping someone in shoe leather" mean?
12
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3answers
15k views

What does “I want to sleep on it” mean?

I got some mail from my boss. It contains: I will tell the details tomorrow. I want to sleep on it. What does this sentence mean?
12
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4answers
162k views

“Let's get started” vs. “let's start”

OALD gives an idiom: Get started meaning: to begin doing something. example: It's almost ten o'clock. Let's get started. In this example, can I say "let's start" instead? Both can mean we ...
11
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3answers
10k views

Difference between “I know where I stand” and “I know my place” and their interchangeability

I shouldn't have talked back to him. I know where I stand. I shouldn't have talked back to him. I know my place. What's difference between the two sentences and the difference between I know where I ...
11
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6answers
2k views

Why is there a definite article in the idiom “adding fuel to the fire”?

"adding fuel to the fire" Should there be no articles in this idiom? Can someone give an explanation as to why there is one?
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2answers
6k views

What does “Hashtag blessed” exactly mean here?

In the movie “Alexander and his worst day”, Alexander’s elder brother says: “I'm dating the hottest girl in school. I'm getting crowned at prom, and once I get my license tomorrow. I kind of ...
11
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2answers
43k views

Why is 'what will you do tomorrow evening' incorrect?

‘What will you do / are you doing tomorrow evening?’ ‘Nothing. I’m free.’ (Essential Grammar in Use) The book says ‘are you doing’ is correct. But I don’t know why ‘will you do’ is not correct?
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2answers
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The use of “be go”

The following dialog is taken from the FPS game Crysis Warhead level 7, All the Fury: Emerson: Psycho, be advised: all JSOC forces are go for withdrawal and re-grouping. We're still not sure the ...
11
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2answers
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“Filled in for someone” meaning

What does filled in for someone mean exactly? An example of a sentence with the idiom: While you were off, I filled in for you. Does it mean the author of that sentence took over my duties ...
11
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2answers
8k views

Problem (with) doing something

When you want to say that you had or are having problems with something, what is the best way to express this: I'm having a problem with saying this correctly. I'm having a problem saying this ...
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6answers
6k views

We're waiting in a BIG or LONG queue?

What's the idiomatic adjective for the noun "queue"? I waited there in a very long queue. or I waited there in a very big queue. Or maybe something else?
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3answers
8k views

Like a Swiss watch

Here in Spain we have a saying to mark that something works perfectly, we say that it works like a Swiss watch. Is there any equivalent expression in English?
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4answers
2k views

How to understand “bomb the expletive out of something”? Is that an idiomatic expression?

I came across this sentence with a strange use of the word "expletive", Trump has variously expressed enthusiasm for outsourcing the fight against the Islamic State to Vladimir Putin and for ...
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4answers
5k views

Idiom: “What are we looking at? Minutes, hours, or days?”

Can I say: What are we looking at? Minutes, hours, or days? in order to get a rough estimate on how long something will take? Or is "What are we looking at?" part of some other common ...
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4answers
3k views

What does “rabbited” mean/imply in this sentence?

I am totally lost in the sentence as when Agent Coulson was dying, he said this to Fury: I’m sorry, boss. The god rabbited," I assume the god refers to Loki? And how did rabbit have anything to do ...
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7answers
19k views

What does “Don't take my words at face value” mean?

What does "Don't take my words at face value" mean?
10
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2answers
13k views

“few and far between” meaning

I checked the dictionary for the meaning of this expression. It means "not very many or not appearing very frequently". Can anybody decompose this structure and justify why the expression gets this ...
10
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5answers
15k views

Meaning of “to take the biscuit”?

What is the meaning, origin and earliest use of the phrase "to take the biscuit"? In the British comedy TV serial I am watching, the guy is upset because things are not happening as per his wishes. ...
9
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4answers
4k views

Barking up a tree (“barking up the wrong tree”)

I don't understand expression barking up a wrong tree Does it think about putting bark on tree or taking it off? A person says you're barking up the wrong tree and he means don't bother me ...
9
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1answer
2k views

What does the phrase/idiom “no sacred cow remains untipped” mean?

From Everything You Know about English is Wrong: Now that you know, it's time to, well, bite the mother tongue. William Brohaugh, former editor of Writer's Digest, will be your tour guide on this ...
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4answers
4k views

Can “traffic” be used as a shortened form of “traffic jam”

I heard somewhere that in English-speaking countries folks use just "traffic" instead of "traffic jam" and that it is used as widely as "see you" for "see you later". Now I tried to Google it, but ...
9
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5answers
3k views

Is “Not even an inch” considered a correct phrase?

I found the idiom "not move/budge/change an inch" used when talking about something that won't change as someone's stubborn opinion. Example from Cambridge Dictionary: She's definite that she ...
9
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2answers
3k views

Meaning and origin of “Drop dead”

One of my favorite songs on my school years was Drop Dead Legs from the album "1984" of Van Halen. (It was one of the first cassette I bought). My language is Spanish. I've always imagined that the ...
9
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2answers
1k views

What does “everything is all MoonPies and salted peanuts” mean in this context?

Please help me to understand the meaning of "everything is all MoonPies and salted peanuts" in this context: “Toby.” A brief pause. “Don’t even try. You really expect I would give that ...
9
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5answers
13k views

“On one hand” vs “on the one hand.”

I'm confused because I've seen both mentioned in dictionaries. Example sentence (context: writing a story): On (the) one hand, I want to wrap up everything perfectly. On the other hand, I want to ...
9
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3answers
40k views

Why does “tap into” mean what it means?

According to Macmillan "tap into" means "use" or "get some benefit": tap or tap into [TRANSITIVE] if you tap something such as someone’s ability or a supply of information, you use it or get some ...
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3answers
9k views

Walking up/down a level road/street

Is walking up/down the road/street applicable if the street is not sloped? I think I heard something about "with/against the numbering of houses" but I'm not sure if it's correct. Also, if that were ...
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4answers
28k views

Where does “Can't see the wood for the trees” come from?

I looked online for the meaning of the expression "Can't see the wood for the trees"; see for example, this. It means getting so much involved in the details of something such that you can not see the ...
9
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1answer
5k views

What does “ribbiting” mean in the sentence “I heard this class is ”ribbiting“”?

I'm subtitling the barely lethal movie and in one scene which happens in a biology class, the new girl sits next to a boy and says: I heard this class is "ribbiting." and the boys answers: ...
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2answers
2k views

The meaning of an expression “he wasn't born, he was knitted”

In S04E04 of Irish crime series Single-Handed two shady characters talk about gullible police officer they managed to take advantage of, not once but twice A: Finbar's a fairly handy local ...
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3answers
3k views

You pays your money, you takes your choice

From BBC News on Airport expansion comes the quote: But the Gatwick scheme is better for the local environment, and it should be easier to deliver politically and financially. You pays your money, ...
9
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1answer
479 views

Is it correct to use “no love lost” to describe hostility in one direction only?

The idiom no love lost describes a feeling of mutual hostility between two people or groups. For example, There's no love lost between him and his neighbour. But is it correct to also use it ...
8
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8answers
10k views

Is there any expressions related to eyes which means extremely tired in English?

In Chinese, we use an expression which literally "I'm so tired and my eyes could only focus on one point (or my eyeballs can not move anymore)" after a long workday to express that we are extremely ...
8
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3answers
3k views

Meaning of “until the hand is called”

I encountered the following sentence, the meaning of which I couldn't get even after looking up in dictionaries and googling. Still, it might seem costless to bluff – until the hand was called. (...

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