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Essential Idioms in English

Robert J. Dixson

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Idiomatic expressions have long played an important role in the English

language. In fact, the use of idioms is so widespread that an understanding of

these expressions is essential to successful communication, whether in

listening, speaking, reading, or writing.

The student may learn grammar and, with time, acquire adequate vocabulary,

but without a working knowledge of such idioms as above all, to get along, on

the whole, to look up, etc., even the best student's speech will remain awkward

and ordinary.

Of course, the idioms selected for study should have practical value and be

within the student's ability to comprehend. Such expressions as to set the

world on fire or to wash one's dirty laundry in public may be very colorful,

but they do little to help the student achieve fluency in English.

Teachers of English have long recognized that idiomatic expressions add grace

and exactness to the language. The alert teacher will make their study an

integral part of the teaching process. However, learning such expressions is

never an easy task for the student learning English as a second or foreign

language. Attempts to translate literally from the student's native tongue

usually lead to roundabout expression of meaning and, more often, to


For this reason, only basic idioms have been included in this book,

appropriately named Essential Idioms in English, New Edition. Furthermore,

it was decided not to burden the student with discussion of the origins of

idioms. There is no need to define the exact nature of an idiom except to

assume that it is a phrase that has a meaning different from the meanings of

its individual parts. This helps to explain why it is often difficult to translate

an idiom from one language to another without incurring some change in

meaning or usage.

For the purposes of this book, two-word verbs are included in the general

category of idioms. A two-word verb is a verb whose meaning is altered by he

addition of a particle (a preposition used with a verb to form an idiomatic

expression.) to look, for example, may become to look up or to look over, each

having its own special meaning. When a two-word verb can be separated by a

noun or pronoun, the symbol (S) for separable is inserted in the definition.

Sentences illustrating both separable and nonseparable forms are included in

the examples.

Experienced ESL and EFL teachers will agree, for the most part, with the

selection of idioms in this text. However, it should be recognized that any

selection is somewhat arbitrary because the range is so great. Some teachers

might prefer to omit certain idioms and to add others not included, but all

should appreciate the attempt to make Essential idioms in English, New

Edition as representative as possible.

PRENTICE HALL REGENTS Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey 07632 - 1 -


Mention should be made of a unique feature that adds to the usefulness of this

book: Appendix II is a listing of the idioms in the text with their equivalents in

Spanish, French, and German. Having these equivalents should give the

student a surer grasp of the meaning of the English idioms and greater

confidence in using them.

This fourth revision of Essential Idioms in English, New Edition has

undergone several important changes. The text has been restored to the

original three-section format: Elementary (lessons 1-13), Intermediate (lesion

14-27), and Advanced (lessons 28-39). As would be expected, new idioms have

been included and outdated idioms have been removed. Lessons in all sections

review and build upon idioms introduced in earlier lessons. In some cases,

notes that explain special usage or meaning are provided after the definitions,

and related idiomatic forms are listed. New types of exercises provide greater

variety in activity from one section to another. Finally, there is an answer key

in the back of the book for all multiple-choice, matching, true-false, and fillin-the-blank exercises.




to get in/to get on: to enter or to board a vehicle

To get in is used for cars; to get on is used for all other forms of transportation.

o It's easiest to get in the car from the driver's side. The door on the other

side doesn't work well.

o I always get on the bus to work at 34th Street.

to get out of/to get off: to leave or to descend from a vehicle.

To get out of is used for cars; to get off is used for all other forms of


o Why don't we stop and get out of the car for a while?

o Helen got off the train at the 42nd Street terminal.

to put on: to place on oneself (usually said of clothes) (S)

o Mary put on her coat and left the room.

o Put your hat on before you leave the house.

to take off: to remove (usually said of clothes) (S)

o John took off his jacket as he entered the office.

o Take your sweater off. The room is very warm.

to call up: to telephone (also: to give some one a call) (S)

To call can be used instead of to call up, as in the first example below.

o I forgot to call up Mr. Jones yesterday. I'd better call him now.

o Call me up tomorrow, Jane. We'll arrange a time to have lunch together.

o I promise to give you a call as soon as I arrive in New York.

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to turn on: to start or cause to function (also: to switch on) (S)

o Please turn on the light; it's too dark in here.

o Do you know who turned the air conditioning on?

to turn off: to cause to stop functioning (also: to switch off, to shut off) (S)

Turn on and turn off, as well as their related forms, are used for things that

flow, such as electricity, water, gas, etc.

o Please turn off the light when you leave the room.

o Are you really listening to the radio, or should I turn it off?

right away: very soon; immediately (also: at once)

o Dad says that dinner will be ready right away, so we'd better wash our

hands and set the table.

o Tell Will to come to my office right away. I must see him immediately.

o Stop playing that loud music at once!

to pick up: to lift form the floor, table, etc., with one's fingers (S)

o Harry picked up the newspaper that was on the front doorstep.

o Could you pick your toy up before someone falls over it?

sooner or later: eventually, after a period of time

o If you study English seriously, sooner or later you'll become fluent.

o I'm too tired to do my homework now; I'm sure I'll do it sooner or later.

to get up: to arise, to rise from a bed; to make someone arise (S)

For the last definition a noun phrase must separate the verb and particle.

o Carla gets up at seven o'clock every morning.

o At what time should we get the children up tomorrow?

at first: in the beginning, originally

o At first English was difficult for him, but later he made great progress.

o I thought at first that it was Sheila calling, but then I realized that it

was Betty.


to dress up: to wear formal clothes, to dress very nicely

o We should definitely dress up to go to the theater.

o You don't have to dress up for Mike's party.

at last: finally, after a long time.

o We waited for hours and then the train arrived at last.

o Now that I am sixteen, at last I can drive my parents' car.

as usual: as is the general case, as is typical

o George is late for class as usual. This seems to happen every day.

o As usual, Dora received first prize in the swimming contest. It's the

third consecutive year that she has won.

to find out: get information about, to determine (S)

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This idiom is separable only when a pronoun is used, as in the second example.

o Will you please try to find out what time the airplane arrives?

o I'll call right now to find it out.

to look at: give one's attention to; to watch

o The teacher told us to look at the blackboard and not at our books.

o I like to walk along a country road at night and look at the stars.

to look for: to try to find, to search for

An adverb phrase such as all over can be put between the verb and

preposition, as in the second example, however, the idiom cannot be

separated by a noun or pronoun.

o He's spent over an hour looking for the pen that he lost.

o So there you are! We've looked allover for you.

all right: acceptable, fine; yes, okay

This idiom can also be spelled alright in informal usage.

o He said that it would be all right to wait in her office until she returned.

o Do you want me to turn off the TV? Alright, if you insist.

all along: all the time, from the beginning (without change)

o She knew all along that we'd never agree with his plan.

o You're smiling! Did you know all along that I'd give you a birthday


little by little: gradually, slowly (also: step by step)

o Karen's health seems to be improving little by little.

o If you study regularly each day, step by step your vocabulary will


to tire out: to make very weary due to difficult conditions or hard effort (also:

to wear out) (S)

o The hot weather tired out the runners in the marathon.

o Does studying for final exams wear you out? It makes me feel worn out!

to call on: to ask for a response from; to visit (also: to drop in on)

o Jose didn't know the answer when the teacher called on him.

o Last night several friends called on us at our home.

o Shy don't we drop in on Sally a little later?

never mind: don't be concerned about it; ignore what was just said

o When he spilled his drink on my coat, I said, "Never mind. It needs to

be cleaned anyway."

o So you weren't listening to me again. Never mind; it wasn't important.


to pick out: to choose, to select (S)

o Ann picked out a good book to give to her brother as a graduation gift.

o Johnny, if you want me to buy you a toy, then pick one out now.

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to take one's time: to do without rush, not to hurry

This idiom is often used in the imperative form. (See the first example)

o There's no need to hurry doing those exercises. Take your time.

o William never works rapidly. He always takes his time in every thing

that he does.

to talk over: to discuss or consider a situation with others (S)

o We talked over Carla's plan to install an air conditioner in the room,

but we couldn't reach a decision.

o Before I accepted the new job offer, I talked the matter over with my


to life down: to place oneself in a flat position, to recline

o If you are tired, why don't you lie down for an hour or so?

o The doctor says that Grace must lie down and rest for a short time

every afternoon.

to stand up: to rise from a sitting or lying position (also: to get up)

o When the president entered the room, everyone stood up.

o Suzy, stop rolling around on the floor; get up now.

to sit down: to be seated (also: take a seat)

o We sat down on the park bench and watched the children play.

o There aren't any more chairs, but you can take a seat on the floor.

all (day, week, month, year) long: the entire day, week, month, year

o I've been working on my income tax forms all day long. I've hardly had

time to eat.

o It's been raining all week long. We haven't seen the sun since last


by oneself: alone, without assistance

o Francis translated that French novel by himself. No one helped him.

o Paula likes to walk through the woods by herself, but her brother

prefers to walk with a companion.

on purpose: for a reason, deliberately

This idiom is usually used when someone does something wrong or unfair.

o Do you think that she didn't come to the meeting on purpose?

o It was no accident that he broke my glasses. He did it on purpose.

to get along with: to associate or work well with; to succeed or manage in

doing (also: to get on with)

o Terry isn't getting along with her new roommate; they argue


o How are you getting on with your students?

to make a difference (to): to be of importance (to), to affect

This idiom is often used with adjectives to show the degree of importance.

o It makes a big difference to me whether he likes the food I serve.

o Does it make any difference to you where we go for dinner?

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o No, it doesn't make any difference.

o It makes no difference to Lisa either.

to take out: to remove, to extract (S); to go on a date with (S) (also to go

out with)

o Student, take out your books and open them to page twelve.

o Did you take Sue out last night?

o No, she couldn't go out with me.


to take part in: to be involved in, to participate in (also: to be in on)

o Martin was sick and could not take part in the meeting yesterday.

o I didn't want to be in on their argument, so I remained silent.

at all: to any degree (also: in the least)

o Larry isn't at all shy about expressing his opinions.

o When I asked Donna whether she was tired, she said, "Not in the least.

I'm full of energy."

to look up: to locate information in a directory, dictionary, book, etc. (S)

o Ellen suggested that we look up Lee's telephone number in the


o Students should try to understand the meaning of a new word from

context before looking the word up in the dictionary.

to wait on: to serve in a store or restaurant

o A very pleasant young clerk waited on me in that shop.

o The restaurant waitress asked us, "Has anyone waited on you yet?

at least: a minimum of, no fewer (or less) than

o I spend at least two hours every night on my studies.

o Mike claims that he drinks at least a quart of water every day.

so far: until now, until the present time (also: up to now, as of yet)

This idiom is usually used with the present perfect tense.

o So far, this year has been excellent for business. I hope that the good

luck continues.

o How many idioms have we studied in this book up to now?

o As of yet, we have not had an answer from him.

to take a walk, stroll, hike, etc.: to go for a walk, stroll, hike, etc.

A stroll involves slow, easy walking; a hike involves serious, strenuous walking.

o Last evening we took a walk around the park.

o It's a fine day. Would you like to take a stroll along Mason Boulevard?

o Let's take a hike up Cowles Mountain this afternoon.

to take a trip: to go on a journey, to travel

o I'm so busy at work that I have no time to take a trip.

o During the summer holidays, the Thompsons took a trip to Europe.

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to try on: to wear clothes to check the style or fit before buying (S)

o He tried on several suits before he picked out a blue one.

o Why don't you try these shoes on next?

to think over: to consider carefully before deciding (S)

o I'd like to think over your offer first. Then can we talk it over tomorrow?

o You don't have to give me your decision now. Think it over for a while.

to take place: to occur, to happen according to plan

o The regular meetings of the committee take place in Constitution Hall.

o I thought that the celebration was taking place at John's house.

to put away: to remove from slight, to put in the proper place (S)

o Please put away your papers before you open the test booklet.

o John put the notepad away in his desk when he was finished with it.


to look out: to be careful or cautious (also: to watch out)

Both of these idioms can occur with the preposition for.

o "Look out!" Jeffrey cried as his friend almost stepped in a big hole in

the ground.

o Look out for reckless drivers whenever you cross the street.

o Small children should always watch out for strangers offering candy.

to shake hands: to exchange greetings by clasping hands

o When people meet for the first time, they usually shake hands.

o The student warmly shook hands with his old professor.

to get back: to return (S)

o Mr. Harris got back from his business trip to Chicago this morning.

o Could you get the children back home by five o'clock?

to catch cold: to become sick with a cold of the nose for throat

o If you go out in this rain, you will surely catch cold.

o How did she ever catch cold in such warm weather?

to get over: to recover from an illness; to accept a loss or sorrow

o It took me over a month to get over my cold, but I'm finally well now.

o It seems that Mr. Mason will never get over the death of his wife.

to make up one's mind: to reach a decision, to decide finally

o Sally is considering several colleges to attend, but she hasn't made up

her mind yet.

o When are you going to make up your mind about your vacation plans?

to change one's mind: to alter one's decision or opinion

o We have changed our minds and are going to Canada instead of

California this summer.

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o Matthew has changed his mind several times about buying a new cat.

for the time being: temporarily (also: for now)

o For the time being, Janet is working as a waitress, but she really hopes

to become an actress soon.

o We're living in an apartment for now, but soon we'll be looking for a

house to buy.

for good: permanently, forever

o Ruth has returned to Canada for good. She won't ever live in the United

States again.

o Are you finished with school for good, or will you continue your studies

some day?

to call off: to cancel (S)

o The referee called off the soccer game because of the darkness.

o The president called the meeting off because she had to leave town.

to put off: to postpone (S)

o Many student's put off doing their assignments until the last minute.

o Let's put the party off until next weekend, okay?

in a hurry: hurried, rushed (also: in a rush)

o Alex seems in a hurry; he must be late for his train again.

o She's always in a rush in the morning to get the kids to school.


under the weather: not feeling well, sick

o John stayed home from work because he was feeling under the weather.

o When you cat cold, you feel under the weather.

to hang up: to place clothes on a hook or hanger (S); to replace the receiver

on the phone at the end of a conversation (S)

o Would you like me to hang up your coat for you in the closet?

o The operator told me to hang the phone up and call the number again.

to count on: to trust someone in time of need (also: to depend on)

o I can count on my parents to help me in an emergency.

o Don't depend on Frank to lend you any money; he doesn't have any.

to make friends: to become friendly with others

o Patricia is a shy girl and doesn't make friends easily.

o During the cruise Ronald made friends with almost everyone on the


out of order: not in working condition

o The elevator was out or order, so we had to walk to the tenth floor of

the building.

o We couldn't use the soft drink machine because it was out of order.

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to get to: to be able to do something special; to arrive at a place, such as

home, work, etc. for the second definition, do not use the preposition to with

the words home or there.

o The children got to stay up late and watch a good movie for the family.

o I missed the bus and couldn't get to the office until ten o'clock.

o When are you planning to get home tonight?

few and far between: not frequent, unusual, rare

o The times that our children get to stay up late are few and far between.

o Airplane travel is very safe because accidents are few and far between.

to look over: to examine, to inspect closely (also: to go over, to read over,

to check over) (S)

Go over is different from the other forms because it is not separable.

o I want to look my homework over again before I give it to the teacher.

o The politician went over his speech before the important presentation.

o You should never sign any legal paper without checking it over first.

to have (time) off: to have free time, not to have to work (also: to take

time off (S))

The related form (S) to take time off is used when someone makes a decision

to have free time, sometimes when others might not agree with the decision.

o Every morning the company workers have time off for a coffee break.

o Several workers took the afternoon off to go to a baseball game.

to go on: to happen; to resume, to continue (also: to keep on)

o Many people gathered near the accident to see what was going on.

o I didn't mean to interrupt you. Please go on.

o The speaker kept on talking even though most of the audience had left.

to put out: extinguish, to cause to stop functioning (S)

To put out has the same meaning as to turn off (Lesson 1) for a light fixture.

o No smoking is allowed in here. Please put out your cigarette.

o The fire fighters worked hard to put the brush fire out.

o Please put out the light before you leave. Okay, I'll put it out.

all of a sudden: suddenly, without warning (also: all at once)

o All of a sudden Ed appeared at the door. We weren't expecting him to

drop by.

o All at once Millie got up and left the house without any explanation.


to point out: to show, to indicate, to bring to one's attention (S)

o What important buildings did the tour guide point out to you?

o The teacher pointed out the mistakes in my composition.

o A friend pointed the famous actor out to me.

to be up: to expire, to be finished

This idiom is used only with the word time as the subject.

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o "The time is up," the teacher said at the end of the test period.

o We have to leave the tennis court because our hour is up; some other

people want to use it now.

to be over: to be finished, to end (also: to be through)

This idiom is used for activities and events.

o After the dance was over, we all went to a restaurant.

o The meeting was through ten minutes earlier than everyone expected.

on time: exactly at the correct time, punctually

o I thought that Margaret would arrive late, but she was right on time.

o Did you get to work on time this morning, or did rush hour traffic delay


in time to: before the time necessary to do something

o We entered the theater just in time to see the beginning of the movie.

o The truck was not able to stop in time to prevent an accident.

to get better, worse, etc.: to become better, worse, etc.

o Heather has been sick for a month, but now she is getting better.

o This medicine isn't helping me. Instead of getting better, I'm getting


to get sick, well, tired, busy, wet, etc.: to become sick, well, tired, busy,

wet, etc.

This idiom consists of a combination of get and various adjectives.

o Gerald got sick last week and has been in bed since that time.

o Every afternoon I get very hungry, so I eat a snack.

had better: should, ought to, be advisable to

This idiom is most often used in contracted form (I'd better).

o I think you'd better speak to Mr. White right away about this matter.

o The doctor told the patient that he'd better go home and rest.

would rather: prefer to (also: would just as soon)

o Would you rather have the appointment this Friday or next Monday?

o I would just as soon go for a walk as watch TV right now.

to all it a day/night: to stop working for the test of the day/night

o Herb tried to repair his car engine all morning before he called it a day

and went fishing.

o We've been working hard on this project all evening; let's call it a night.

To figure out: to solve, to find a solution (S); to understand (S)

o How long did it take you to figure out the answer to the math problem?

o I was never able to figure it out.

to think of: to have a (good or bad) opinion of

This idiom is often used in the negative or with adjectives such as much and


o I don't think much of him as a baseball player; he's a slow runner and a

poor hitter.

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o James thinks highly of his new boss, who is a kind and helpful person.


to be about to: to be at the moment of doing something, to be ready

This idiom is often sued with the adverb just.

o I was just about to leave when you telephoned.

o Oh, hi, John. We're just about to eat dinner.

to turn around: to move or face in the opposite direction (S); to completely

change the condition of (S)

o The man turned his car around and drove back the way he came.

o The company has been very successful since the new business manager

was able to turn it around.

to take turns: to alternate, to change people while doing something

o During the trip, Darlene and I took turns driving so that neither of us

would tire out.

o I have to make sure that my two sons take turns playing the video game.

to pay attention (to): to look at and listen to someone while they are

speaking, to concentrate

o Please pay attention to me while I'm speaking to you!

o You'll have to pay more attention in class if you want to get a good


to brush up on: to review something in order to refresh one's memory

o Before I traveled to Mexico, I brushed up on my Spanish; I haven't

practiced it since high school.

o In order to take that advanced mathematics class, Sidney will have to

brush up on his algebra.

over and over (again): repeatedly (also: time after time, time and


o The actress studied her lines in the movie over and over until she knew

them well.

o Children have difficulty remembering rules, so it's often necessary to

repeat them over and over again.

o Time and again I have to remind Bobby to put on his seatbelt in the car.

to wear out: to use something until it has no value or worth anymore, to

make useless through wear (S)

o When I wear out these shoes, I'll have to buy some that last longer.

o What do you do with your clothes after your wear them out?

to throw away: to discard, to dispose of (S)

o I generally throw away my clothes when I wear them out.

o Don't throw the magazines away; I haven't read them yet.

to fall in love: to begin to love

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This idiom is used with the expression at first sight to indicate a sudden

interest in love.

o Ben and Sal fell in love in high school, and got married after graduation.

o Have you ever fallen in love at first sight?

to go out: to stop functioning; to stop burning; to leave home or work (also:

to step out)

o The lights went out all over the city because of an electrical problem.

o The campers didn't have to put out the fire because it went out by itself.

o Gary isn't here right now; he went out to the store for a moment.

o I have to step out of the office briefly to pick up a newspaper.

out of the question: impossible, not feasible

o Stephen told Deborah that it was out of the question for her to borrow

his new car.

o Don't expect me to do that again. It's absolutely out of the question.

to have to do with: to have some connection with or relationship to

o Ralph insisted that he had nothing to do with breaking the window.

o What does your suggestion have to do with our problem?


to wake up: to arise from sleep, to awaken (S)

Compare wake up and get up (Lesson 1) as used in the first example.

o Marge woke up this morning very early, but she did not get up until

about ten o'clock.

o My alarm clock wakes me up at the same time every day.

to be in charge of: to manage, to have responsibility for

o Jane is in charge of the office while Mrs. Haig is a business trip.

o Who is in charge of arrangements for the dance next week?

as soon as: just after, when

o As soon as it started to snow, the children ran outside with big smiles

on their faces.

o I'm busy now, but I'll meet you as soon as I've finished this work.

to get in touch with: to communicate with, to contact

o You can get in touch with him by calling the Burma Hotel.

o I've been trying all morning to get in touch with Miss Peters, but her

phone is always busy.

to have a good time: to enjoy oneself

o We all had a good time at the class reunion last night.

o Did you have a good time at the park? I really enjoyed it.

in no time: very quickly, rapidly

This idiom can be used with the idiom at all to add emphasis to the certainty

of the statement.

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o Mac said that he'd be ready to leave in no time.

o We thought that the meeting would take two hours, but it was over in

no time at all.

to cut down on: to reduce, to lessen (also: to cut back on)

o In order to lose weight, you have to cut down on your intake of sugar.

o The doctor told me to cut back on exercise until my back injury heals.

quite a few: many

o Quite a few students were absent yesterday; in fact, more than half of

them were not there.

o We did not expect many people to attend to affair, but quite a few of

our friends actually came.

used to: formerly did, had the habit of

This idiom is used to indicate a past situation, action, or habit that does not

exist in the present. The idiom is always followed by a simple verb form.

o I used to live in New York, but I moved to California two years ago.

o Kim used to smoke cigarettes, but she stopped the habit last month.

to be used to: be accustomed to

This idiom refers to a situation, action, or habit that continues in the present.

The idiom is always followed by a noun or gerund phrase.

o He is used to this climate now, so the changes in temperature do not

affect him much.

o I am used to studying in the library, so it's difficult for me to study at

home now.

to get used to: to become used to, to become adjusted to

This idiom describes the process of change that allows someone to be used to

a situation, action, or habit.

o It took Yoshiko a long time to get used to the food that her American

host family served her.

o Mark can't seem to get used to wearing contact lenses; recently he's

been wearing his glasses a lot.

back and forth: in a backward and forward motion

o The restless lion kept pacing back and forth along the front of its cage.

o Grandmother finds it relaxing to sit in her rocking chair and move back

and forth.


to make sure: to be sure, to ascertain (also: to make certain)

o Please make sure that you turn off the radio before you go out.

o Could you make certain of the time? I don't want to miss that TV show.

now and then: occasionally, sometimes (also: now and again, at times,

from time to time, off and on, once in a while)

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Both now and then and once in a while can be preceded by the adjective every.

Another idiom with the same meaning and form is every so often.

o I don't see him very often, but (every) now and then we arrange to have

lunch together.

o Gary gets a cold (every) once in a while even though he takes good care

of himself.

o Every so often my brother and I get together for a camping trip.

o I like to sleep late in the morning from time to time.

to get rid of: to eliminate, to remove; to discard, to throw away

o Jerry tried hard to get rid of the stain on his shirt, but he never


o The stain was so bad that Jerry finally had to get rid of his shirt.

every other (one): every second (one), alternate (ones)

o I play tennis with my father every other Saturday, so I usually play

twice a month.

o There were twenty problems in the exercise, but the teacher told us

only to do every other one. Actually, doing ten problems was difficult


to go with: to match, to compare well in color to design; to date, to

accompany (also: to go out with)

For the first definition, adverbs such as well and poorly are often used.

o That striped shirt goes well with the gray pants, but the pants go poorly

with those leather shoes.

o Eda went with Richard for about six months, but now she is going out

with a new boyfriend.

first-rate: excellent, superb

o The food served in that four-star restaurant is truly first-rate.

o The Beverly Hills Hotel provides first-rate service to its guests.

to come from: to originate from

This idiom is commonly used in discussion of one's home town, state, or


o What country in South American does she come from? She comes from


o I just learned that he really comes from Florida, not Texas.

o Where did this package come from? The mail carrier brought it.

to make good time: to travel a sufficient distance at a reasonable speed

The adjective excellent can also be used.

o on our last trip, it rained the entire time, so we didn't make good time.

o We made excellent time on our trip to Florida; it only took eighteen


to mix up: to stir or shake well (S); to confuse, to bewilder (S)

For the second definition, the passive forms to be mixed up or to get mixed up

are often used.

o You should mix up the ingredients well before you put them in the pan.

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o The teacher's poor explanation really mixed the students up.

o The students think it's their fault that they are mixed up so often.

to see about: to give attention or time to (also: to attend to, to see to)

o Who is going to see about getting us a larger room for the meeting?

o I'll see to arranging music for the wedding of you attend to the


to make out: to do, to succeed, to progress

o Charlie didn't make out very well on his final examinations. He may

have to repeat one or more classes.

o How did Rachelle make out on her acting audition in Hollywood


by heart: by memorizing

o He knows many passages form Shakespeare by heart.

o Do you know all the idioms you have studied in this book by heart?


to keep out: not to enter, not allow to enter (S)

o There was a large sign outside the door that said, "Danger! Keep out!"

o I've told you to keep the dog out of the house.

to keep away (from): to stay at a distance (from) (S); to avoid use of (also:

stay away from)

o Please be sure to keep the children away from the street!

o The signs on the burned-out house said, "Keep Away! Danger Zone."

o It's important for your health to stay away from dangerous drugs.

to find fault with: criticize, to complain about something

o It is very easy to find fault with the work of others, but more difficult to

accept criticism of one's own work.

o Mrs. Johnson is always finding fault with her children, but they really

try to please their mother.

to be up to: to be responsible for deciding; to be doing as a regular activity

The second definition is most often used in a question as a form of greeting.

o I don't care whether we go to the reception or not. It's up to you.

o Hi, George. I haven't seen you in a while. What have you been up to?

ill at ease: uncomfortable or worried in a situation

o Speaking in front of a large audience makes many people feel ill at ease.

o My wife and I were ill at ease because our daughter was late coming

home from a date.

to do over: to revise, to do again (S)

A noun or pronoun must separate the two parts of this idiom.

o You'd better do the letter over because it is written so poorly.

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o Jose made so many mistakes in his homework that the teacher made

him do it over.

to look into: to investigate, to examine carefully (also: to check into)

o The police are looking into the matter of the stolen computers.

o The congressional committee will check into the financial dealings of

the government contractor.

to take hold of: to grasp, to grip with the heads

o You should take hold of the railing as you go down those steep stairs.

o The blind man took hold of my arm as I led him across the street.

to get through: to finish, to complete

This idiom is followed either by the –ing form of a verb (a gerund) or by the

preposition with.

o I didn't get through studying last night until almost eleven o'clock.

o At what time does your wife get through with work every day?

from now on: from this time into the future

o Mr. Lee's doctor told him to cut down on eating fatty foods from now

on, or else he might suffer heart disease.

o I'm sorry that I dropped by at a bad time. From now on I'll call you first.

to keep track of: to keep or maintain a record of; to remember the location


o Steve keeps track of all the long-distance telephone calls related to his

business that he makes from his house.

o With seven small children, how do the Wilsons keep track of all of them?

to be carried away: to be greatly affected by a strong feeling (S)

This idiom can also be used with get instead of be.

o Paula and Leanne were carried away by the sad movie that they saw


o James got carried away with anger when his roommate crashed his

new car into a telephone pole.


up to date: modern; current, timely

Hyphens (-) separate the parts of this idiom when it precedes a noun form, as

in the third example. The verb to update derives from this idiom.

o The president insisted that the company bring its aging equipment up

to date.

o This catalog is not up to date. It was published several years ago.

o The news program gave an up-to-date account of the nuclear accident.

The newscaster said that he would update the news report every half


out of date: not modern; not current, not timely; no longer available in

published form

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Again, hyphens separate the parts of this idiom when it precedes a noun form

as, in the second example. The passive verb to be outdated derives from this


o Many people buy new cars when their old cars become out of date.

o I don't know why Gene likes to wear out-of-date cloth. His clothes are

so outdated that even his girlfriend hesitates to be seen with him.

o This book can't be ordered any more because it is out of date.

to blow up: to inflate, to fill with air (S); to explode, to destroy (or be

destroyed) by explosion (S)

o Daddy, could you please blow up this balloon for me?

o When the airplane crashed into the ground, it blew up immediately.

o The military had to blow the missile up in midair when it started to go

the wrong way.

to catch fire: to begin to burn

o Don't stand too close to the gas stove. Your clothes may catch fire.

o No one seems to know how the old building caught fire.

to burn down: to burn slowly, but completely (usually said of candles); to

destroy completely by fire (S)

o There was a large amount of wax on the table where the candles had

burned down.

o The fire spread so quickly that the firefighters could not prevent the

whole block of buildings from burning down.

to burn up: to destroy completely by fire (S); to make angry or very annoyed

(S) (also to tick off)

To burn up and to burn down (previous idiom) share the same definition but

also have different definitions.

o She didn't want anyone to see the letter, so she burned it up and threw

the ashes away.

o It really burns me up that he borrowed my car without asking me first.

o Mike got ticked off that his friends never offered to help him move to

his new apartment. He had to do everything himself.

to burn out: to stop functioning because of overuse; to make tired from too

muck work (S)

o This light bulb has burned out. Could you get another one?

o Studying all day for my final exams has really burned me out.

to make good: to succeed

o He is a hard worker, and I'm sure that he will make good in that new


o Alma has always made good in everything that she has done.

stands to reason: to be clear and logical

This idiom is almost always used with the pronoun subject it and is followed

by a that clause.

o It stands to reason that a person without experience.

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o It stands to reason that he isn't going to pass the course if he never


to break out: to become widespread suddenly

o An epidemic of measles broke out in Chicago this past week.

o If a nuclear war ever breaks out, it is unlikely that many people will


o The news says that a large fire has broken out in a huge chemical plant.

as for: regarding, concerning (also: as to)

o As for the money, we will simply have to borrow some more from the


o There is no doubt as to her intelligence; she's the smartest one in the


to feel sorry for: to pity, to feel compassion for (also: to take pity on)

o Don't you feel sorry for someone who has to work the night shift?

o I helped drive Pierre around when he broke his foot because I took pity

on him.


to break down: to stop functioning

Compare this idiom with to burn out in Lesson 12. To burn out means that

electrical equipment becomes hot from overuse and stops functioning. To

break down means that something stops functioning mechanically, whether

from overuse or not.

o I just bought my new car yesterday and already it has broken down.

o The elevator broke down, so we walked all the way up to the top floor.

to turn out: to become or result; to appear, to attend (also: to come out)

The noun form turnout derives from the second definition of the idiom.

o Most parents wonder how their children will turn out as adults.

o Hundreds of people came out for the demonstration against new taxes.

o What was the turnout for the public hearing on the education reforms?

once in a blue moon: rarely, infrequently

o Snow falls on the city of San Diego, California, once in a blue moon.

o once in a blue moon my wife and I eat at a very expensive restaurant.

to give up: to stop trying, to stop a bad habit (S); to surrender (S)

o I'm sure that you can accomplish this task. Don't give up yet!

o If you give up smoking now, you can certainly live a longer life.

o The soldiers gave themselves up in the face of a stronger enemy forces.

to cross out: to cancel by marking with a horizontal lines (S)

o The teacher crossed out several incorrect words in Tanya's composition.

o I crossed the last line out of my letter because it had the wrong tone to


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to take for granted: not to appreciate fully (S); to assume to be true without

giving much thought (S)

A noun or pronoun often follows the verb take.

o John took his wife for granted until once when he was very sick and

needed her constant attention for a week.

o He spoke English so well that I took it for granted he was an American.

o He took for granted that I wasn't American because I spoke English so


to take into account: to consider a fact while evaluating a situation (S)

Again, a noun or pronoun often follows the verb take.

o The judge took the prisoner's young age into account before sentencing

him to three months in jail.

o Educators should take into account the cultural backgrounds of

students when planning a school curriculum.

to make clear: to clarify, to explain (S)

o Please make clear that he should never act so impolitely again.

o The supervisor made it clear to the workers that they had to increase

their productivity.

clear-cut: clearly stated, definite, apparent

o The president's message was clear-cut: the company had to reduce

personnel immediately.

o Professor Larsen is well known for his interesting and clear-cut


to have on: to be wearing (S)

o How do you like the hat which Grace has on today?

o When Sally came into the room, I had nothing on except my shorts.

to come to: to regain consciousness; to equal, to amount to

o At first they thought that the man was dead, but soon he came to.

o The bill for groceries at the supermarket came to fifty dollars.

to call for: to require; to request, to urge

o This cake recipe calls for some baking soda, but we don't have any.

o The member of Congress called for new laws to regulate the banking





to eat in/to eat out: to eat at home/to eat in a restaurant

o I feel too tired to go out for dinner. Let's eat in again tonight.

o When you eat out, what restaurant do you generally go to?

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cut and dried: predictable, known beforehand; boring

o The results of the national election were rather cut and dried; the

Republicans won easily.

o A job on a factory assembly line is certainly cut and dried.

to look after: to watch, to supervise, to protect (also: to take care of, to

keep an eye on)

o Grandma will look after the baby while we go to the lecture.

o Who is going to take care of your house plants while you are away?

o I'd appreciate it if you'd keep an eye on my car while I'm in the store.

to feel like: to have the desire to, to want to consider

This idiom is usually followed by a gerund (the –ing form of a verb used as a


o I don't feel like studying tonight. Let's go to a basketball game.

o I feel like taking a long walk. Would you like to go with me?

once and for all: finally, absolutely

o My daughter told her boyfriend once and for all that she wouldn't date

him anymore.

o once and for all, john has quit smoking cigarettes.

to hear from: to receive news or information from

To hear from is used for receiving a letter, telephone call, etc., from a person

or organization.

o I don't hear from my brother very often since he moved to Chicago.

o Have you heard from the company about that new job?

to hear of: to know about, to be familiar with; to consider

The second definition is always used in the negative.

o When I asked for directions to Mill Street, the police officer said that

she had never heard of it.

o Byron strongly disagreed with my request by saying, "I won't hear of


to make fun of: to laugh at, to joke about

o They are making fun of Carla's new hair style. Don't you think that it's

really strange?

o Don't make fun of Jose's English. He's doing the best he can.

to come true: to become reality, to prove to be correct

o The weatherman's forecast for today's weather certainly came true.

o Everything that the economists predicted about the increased cost of

living has come true.

as a matter of fact: really, actually (also: in fact)

o Hans thinks he knows English well but, as a matter of fact, he speaks

very poorly.

o I didn't say that. In fact, I said quite the opposite.

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to have one's way: to arrange matters the way one wants (especially when

someone else doesn't want to same way) (also: to get one's way)

o My brother always wants to have his way, but this time our parents

said that we could do what I wanted.

o If Sheila doesn't get her way, she becomes very angry.

to look forward to: to expect or anticipate with pleasure

This idiom can be followed by a regular noun or a gerund.

o We're greatly looking forward to our vacation in Mexico.

o Margaret never looks forward to going to work.


inside out: with the inside facing the outside

o Someone should tell little Bobby that his shirt is inside out.

o The high winds ruined the umbrella by blowing it inside out.

upside down: with the upper side turned toward the lower side

o The accident caused on car to turn upside down, its wheels spinning in

the air.

o one of the students was only pretending to read her textbook; the

teacher could see that the book was actually upside down.

to fill in: to write answers in (S); to inform, to tell (S)

For the second definition, the idiom can be followed by the preposition on and

the information that someone is told.

o You should be careful to fill in the blanks on the registration form


o Barry was absent from the meeting, so I'd better fill him in.

o Has anyone filled the boss in on the latest public relation disaster?

to fill out: to complete a form (S)

This idiom is very similar to the first definition above. To fill in refers to

completing various parts of a form, while to fill out refers to completing a form

as one whole item.

o Every prospective employee must fill out an application by giving name,

address, previous jobs, etc.

o The teenager had some trouble filling the forms out by himself, so his

mother helped him.

to take advantage of: to use well, to profit from; to use another person's

weaknesses to gain what one wants

o I took advantage of my neighbor's superior skill at tennis to improve

my own ability at the game.

o Teddy is such a small, weak child that his friends take advantage of

him all the time. They take advantage of him by demanding money

and making him do things for them.

no matter: regardless of

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This idiom is a shortened form of it doesn't matter. It is followed by a question

word such as how, where, when, who, etc.

o No matter how much money he spends on his clothes, he never looks

well dressed.

o No matter where that escaped prisoner tries to hide, the police will find

him sooner or later.

to take up: to begin to do or study, to undertake (S); to occupy space, time,

or energy (S)

o After today's exam, the class will be ready to take up the last chapter in

the book.

o The piano takes up too much space in our living room. However, it

would take too much time up to move it right now; so we'd better wait

until later.

to take up with: to consult someone about an important matter (S)

The important matter follows the verb take, while the person consulted

follows with.

o Can I take the problem up with you right now? It's quite urgent.

o I can't help you with this matter. You'll have to take it up with the


to take after: to resemble a parent or close relative (for physical appearance

only, also: to look like)

o Which of your parents do you take after the most?

o Sam looks like his father, but he takes after his mother in personality.

in the long run: eventually, after a long period of time

This idiom is similar in meaning to sooner or later (Lesson 1). The difference

is that in the long run refers to a more extended period of time.

o In the long run, the synthetic weave in this carpet will wear better than

the woolen one. You won't have to replace it so soon.

o If you work hard at your marriage, you'll find out that, in the long run,

your spouse can be your best friend in life.

in touch: having contact

o James will be in touch with us soon to relay the details of the plan.

o I certainly enjoyed seeing you again after all these years. Let's be sure to

keep in touch.

out of touch: not having contact; not having knowledge of

o Marge and I had been out of touch for years, but then suddenly she

called me up the other day.

o Larry has been so busy that he seems out of touch with world events.


on one's toes: alert, cautious

This idiom is usually used with the verbs stay and keep.

o It's important for all the players on a soccer team to stay on their toes.

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o We'd better keep on our toes while we're walking along the dark

portions of this street.

to get along: to make progress; to manage to live in a certain state of health

o Juan is getting along very well in his English studies.

o How is Mr. Richards getting along after his long illness?

hard of hearing: partially deaf, not able to hear well

o You'll have to speak a little louder. Mrs. Evans is hard of hearing.

o Please don't shout. I'm not hard of hearing.

o Listening to loud music too much can make you hard of hearing.

to see eye to eye: to agree, to concur

o I'm glad that we see eye to eye on the matter of the conference location.

o A husband and wife don't always see eye to eye with each other, but a

good marriage can survive small disagreements.

to have in mind: to be considering, to be thinking (S)

o I don't want to see a movie now. I have in mind going to the park.

o It's up to you what we eat tonight. Do you have anything in mind?

to keep in mind: to remember, not to forget (S) (also: to bear in mind)

Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey 07632

o I didn't know that Paula doesn't like vegetables. We should bear that in

mind next time we invite her for dinner.

o Please keep in mind that you promised to call Stan around noon.

for once: this one time, for only one time

o For once I was able to win a game of golf against Steve, who is a much

better player than I am.

o Dad, for once would you please let me drive the new car?

to go off: to explode; to sound as an alarm; to leave suddenly without


o The accident happened when a box of firecrackers went off accidentally.

o For what time did you set the alarm clock to go off tomorrow morning?

o Vince went off without saying good-bye to anybody; I hope he wasn't


to grow out of: to outgrow, to become too old for; to be a result of

o He still bites his nails now and then, but soon he'll grow out of the


o The need for the salary committee grew out of worker dissatisfaction

with the pay scale.

to make the best of: to do the best that one can in a poor situation

o If we can't find a larger apartment soon, we'll just have to make the best

of it right here.

o Even though the Martinez family is having financial problems, they

make the best of everything by enjoying the simple pleasures of life.



to cut off: to shorten by cutting the ends (S); to disconnect or stop suddenly


o The rope was two feet longer than we needed, so we cut off the extra


o The operator cut our long-distance phone conversation off after two


to cut out: to remove by cutting (S); to stop doing something (S) (for the

second definition, also: to knock it off)

For the second definition, the idiom is usually separated by the pronoun it.

o The child likes to cut out pictures form the newspaper and to paste

them in a notebook.

o He kept bothering her, so finally she told him to cut it out. However, he

wouldn't knock it off until her larger brother appeared.


to blow out: to explode, to go flat (for tires); to extinguish by blowing (S)

o on our trip to Colorado, one of the car tires blew out when it hit a large

hole in the road.

o Little Joey wasn't able to blow all the candles out, so his big sister

helped him.

to become of: to happen to (a missing object or person)

This idiom is always used in a clause beginning with what.

o What has become of my pencil? I had it ten minutes ago, but now I

can't find it.

o I wondered what became of you. I looked around the shopping center

for two hours, but I couldn't find you at all.

to shut up: to close for a period of time (S); to be quiet, to stop talking

The second definition of this idiom is impolite in formal situations.

o During the hurricane, all the store owners shut their shops up.

o Bob's sister told him to shut up and not say anything more about it.

o The student got into big trouble for telling his teacher to shut up.

have got: to have, to possess

o Curtis has got a bad cold. He's sneezing and coughing a lot.

o How much money have you got with you right now?

have got to: must (also: have to)

o She has got to go to Chicago today to sign the contract papers.

o I have to be back home by two o'clock or my wife will feel ill at ease.

to keep up with: to maintain the same speed or rate as

o Frieda works so fast that no one in the office can keep up with her.

o You'll have to walk more slowly. I can't keep up with you.

on the other hand: however, in contrast

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o Democracies provide people many freedoms and privileges. on the

other hand, democracies suffer many serious problems such as crime

and unemployment.

o My sister takes after my father in appearance. on the other hand, I take

after my mother.

to turn down: to reduce in brightness or volume (S); to reject, to refuse (S)

o Please turn down the radio for me. It's too loud while I'm studying.

o Laverne wanted to join the military but the recruiting officer turned her

application down because Laverne is hard of hearing in one ear.

fifty-fifty: divided into two equal parts

o Let's go fifty-fifty on the cost of a new rug for our apartment.

o The political candidate has a fifty-fifty chance of winning the election.

to break in: gradually to prepare something for use that is new and stiff (S);

to interrupt (for the second definition, also: to cut in)

o It is best to break a new car in by driving it slowly for the first few

hundred miles.

o While Carrie and I were talking, Bill broke in to tell me about a

telephone call.

o Peter, it's very impolite to cut in like that while others are speaking.

a lost cause: a hopeless case, a person or situation having no hope of positive


o It seems that Charles will never listen to our advice. I suppose it's a lost


o The police searched for the missing girl for two weeks, but finally gave

it up as a lost cause.

o Children who have committed several crimes as teenagers and show no

sorrow about their actions are generally lost causes.

above all: mainly, especially

o Above all, don't mention the matter to Gerard; he's the last person we

should tell.

o Sheila does well in all her school subjects, but above all in mathematics.

Her math scores are always over 95 percent.


to do without: survive or exist without something (also: to go without)

With prices so high now, I'll have to do without a new suit this year.

o As a traveling salesperson, Monica can't do without a car.

o It's a shame that so many poor people in the world have to go without

basic necessities of life such as nutritious food and suitable shelter.

according to: in the order of; on the authority of

o The students on the football team were ranked according to height,

from shortest to tallest.

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o According to my dictionary, you are using that word in your essay


to be bound to: to be certain to, to be sure to

This idiom is used when the occurrence of an event seems inevitable or


o We are bound to be late if you don't hurry up.

o With the economy improving now, their business is bound to make

more money this year.

for sure: without doubt (also: for certain)

o In the dark, I couldn't tell for sure whether it was Polly or Sarah who

drove by.

o I now for certain that Gene will move back to Washington next month.

to take for: to perceive or understand as (S)

This idiom is usually used when someone is mistakenly perceived. A noun or

pronoun must separate the idiom.

o Because of his strong, muscular body, I took him for a professional

athlete. As it turns out, he doesn't play any professional sports.

o What do you take me for --- a fool? I don't believe what you're saying at


to try out: to test, to use during a trial period (S)

o You can try out the new car before you decide to buy it.

o I can let you try the computer out for a few days before you make a


to tear down: to destroy by making flat, to demolish (S)

o The construction company had to tear down the old hotel in order to

build a new office building.

o The owners had to tear the house down after it burned down in a fire.

to tear up: to rip into small pieces (S)

o Diedre tore up the letter angrily and threw all the pieces into the trash


o He told the lawyer to tear the old contract up and then to prepare a

new one.

to go over: to be appreciated or accepted

This idiom is usually followed by the adverb well. (I Lesson 6 this idiom has

the meaning to review, as in the second sentence of the second example


o The teacher's organized lessons always go over well with her students.

o The comedian's jokes weren't going over well; the audience wasn't

laughing much at all. I think that the comedian should go over his

material more carefully before each act.

to run out of: to exhaust the supply of, not to have more of

o We ran out of gas right in the middle of the main street in town.

o It's dangerous to run out of water if you are in an isolated area.

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at heart: basically, fundamentally

This idiom is used to describe the true character of a person.

o James sometimes seems quite unfriendly, but at heart he's a good


o The Fares often don't see eye to eye, but at heart they both love each

other very much.

about to: ready to, just going to

o We were about to leave the house when the phone rang.

o I'm sorry that I broke in. What were you about to say?


to bite off: to accept as a responsibility or task

This idiom is often used when one accepts more responsibility than one can

handle alone. It is usually used in the form to bite off more than one can chew.

o When I accepted the position of chairman, I didn't realize how much I

was biting off.

o When James registered for 18 units in his last semester at college, he

bit off more than he could chew.

to tell apart: to distinguish between (also: to pick apart, to tell from) (S)

o The two brothers look so much alike that few people can tell them


o That copy machine is so good that I can't pick the photocopy and the

original apart.

o Most new cars are very similar in appearance. It's almost impossible to

tell one from another.

all in all: considering everything

o There were a few problems, but all in all it was a well-organized


o Leonard got a low grade in one subject, but all in all he's a good student.

to pass out: to distribute (also: to hand out) (S); to lose consciousness

The verbal idiom to hand out can be made into the noun handout to refer to

items that are distributed in a class or meeting.

o Please help me pass out these test papers; there must be a hundred of


o Alright, students, here are the class handouts for this week.

o The weather was so hot in the soccer stadium that some of the fans in

the stands passed out.

to go around: to be sufficient or adequate for everyone present; to circulate,

to move from place to place

o We thought that we had bought enough food and drink for the party,

but actually there wasn't enough to go around.

o There's a bad strain of influenza going a

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to be in (the/one's) way: to block or obstruct; not to be helpful, to cause

inconvenience (for both, also: to get in the/one's way)

o Jocelyn couldn't drive through the busy intersection because a big truck

was in the way.

o Our small child tried to help us paint the house, but actually he just got

in our way.

to put on: to gain (pounds or weight) (S); to present, to perform (S)

o Bob has put on a lot of weight recently. He must have put at least

fifteen pounds on.

o The Youth Actor's Guild put on a wonderful version of Romeo and

Juliet at the globe Theater.

to put up: to tolerate, to accept unwillingly

o The employee was fired because his boss could not put up with his

mistakes any longer.

o While I'm studying, I can't put up with any noise or other distractions.

in vain: useless, without the desired result

o All the doctors' efforts to save the injured woman were in vain. She was

declared dead three hours after being admitted to the hospital.

o We tried in vain to reach you last night. Is your phone out of order?

day in and day out: continuously, constantly (also: day after day; for

longer periods of time, year in and year out and year after year)

o During the month of April, it rained day in and day out.

o Day after day I waited for a letter from him, but one never came.

o Year in and year out, the weather in San Diego is the best in the nation.

to catch up: to work with the purpose of fulfilling a requirement or being

equal to others

The idiom is often followed by the preposition with and a noun phrase. It is

similar in meaning to keep up with from Lesson 17.

o The student was absent from class so long that it took her a long time to

catch up.

o If you are not equal to others, first you have to catch up with them

before you can keep up with them.

Lesson 20

to hold still: not to move (S)

o Please hold still while I adjust your tie.

o If you don't hold that camera still, you'll get a blurred picture.

to know by sight: to recognize (S)

This idiom is used when the person has been seen previously but is not known

personally. The person must be used to separate the idiom.

o I have never met our new neighbors; I simply know them by sight.

o The woman said that she would know the thief by sight if she ever saw

him again.

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to be the matter: to be unsatisfactory, to be improper, to be wrong

In a question, this idiom is used with what or something. In an answer,

something or nothing is usually used.

o A: What is the matter, Betty? You look very upset.

o B: Yes, something is the matter. I've lost my purse!

o A: Is something the matter, Charles? You don't look well.

o B: No, nothing is the matter. I'm just a little under the weather.

to bring up: to rear, to raise from childhood (S); to mention, to raise an issue,

to introduce a topic (S)

o Parents should bring up their children to be responsible members of


o Sarah wanted to bring the scheduling problem up at the club meeting,

but finally she decided against doing so.

o one of the students brought up an interesting point related to the

subject in our textbook.

to get lost: to become lost; to go away in order not to bother

The second definition provides a very informal, even rude, meaning that

should be used only with close friends. It is sometimes used in a joking


o While driving in Boston, we got lost and drove many miles in the wrong


o Todd kept bothering me while I was studying, so I told him to get lost.

o Lisa joked that she wanted her sister to get lost forever.

to hold up: to delay, to make late (S); to remain high in quality

o A big accident held up traffic on the highway for several hours.

o Deidre is amazed at how well her car has held up over the years.

to run away: to leave without permission; to escape

o The young couple ran away and got married because their parents

wouldn't permit it.

o That cat is just like a criminal --- it runs away from anyone who tries to

come near!

to rule out: to refuse to consider, to prohibit (S)

o Heather ruled out applying to college in Texas because she would

rather go to school in Canada.

o I'd like to watch a good movie on TV tonight, but a ton of homework

rules that out.

by far: by a great margin, clearly

o Jacquie is by far the most intelligent student in our class.

o This is by far the hottest, most humid summer we've had in years.

to see off: to say good-bye upon departure by train, airplane, bus, etc. (also:

to send off) (S)

A noun or pronoun must divide the idiom.

o We are going to the airport to see Peter off on his trip to Europe.

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o When I left for Cincinnati on a business trip, no one came to the train

station to send me off.

to see out: to accompany a person out of a house, building, etc. (S)

A noun or pronoun must again divide the idiom.

o The Johnsons were certain to see their guests out as each one left the


o Would you please see me out to the car? It's very dark outside.]

no wonder: it's no surprise that, not surprisingly

This idiom derives form reducing it is no wonder that…

o No wonder the portable heater doesn't work. It's not plugged into the

electrical outlet!

o Jack has been out of town for several weeks. No wonder we haven't

seen him recently.


to go up: to increase (also: to drive up); to be constructed, to be erected

The second definition is the same as the one for to put up in Lesson 19, except

that go up is not used with a noun object.

o Economists are predicting that consumer prices are going up. Inflation

always has a tendency to drive up the cost of products.

o A new office is going up in the downtown area. A major construction

company is putting it up.

to go up to: to approach (also: to come up to, to walk up to, to run up to,

to drive up to, etc.)

The related forms have the same meaning, but the type of movement is


o After the lecture, several people in the audience went up to the speaker

to congratulate her.

o The little girl came up to me and shook my hand as if she had known

me for years.

o Bill's friend didn't want to admit that they had gotten lost, but finally he

agreed to drive up to a gas station and inquire about the correct route.

to hand in: to submit or deliver something that is due (S)

o Every student has to hand in an original composition each week of the


o All the salepeople hand their weekly reports in on Friday.

in case: in order to be prepared if

When the idiom occurs at the end of the sentence (the second example), then

the meaning is in order to be prepared if something happens. The

"something" might be an accident, a delay, etc.

o You'd better close the windows in case it rains.

o We should be sure to leave for the airport early, just in case.

o Cynthia, take one of your books in case you have some time to read on

our trip.

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to take apart: to disassemble, to separate the parts of something (S)

A noun or pronoun usually divides this idiom.

o It is much easier to take a watch apart than it is to assemble it.

o The engine had a serious problem, so the mechanic had to take it apart

completely in order to fix it.

to put together: to assemble (S)

A noun or pronoun usually divides this idiom. The preposition back is used

when something has been disassembled and then is being reassembled, as in

the second example.

o Todd followed the directions on the box but he couldn't manage to put

the bicycle together properly.

o After the teenager took the broken video game apart and fixed it, he

was unable to put it back together again.

to be better off: to be in a more favorable condition or situation

The opposite of this idiom is to be worse off.

o Jim would be better off staying at home because of his cold.

o You'd be much better off working in an office than in a factory.

o The economies of some nations are worse off than they were several

decades ago.

to be well-off: to have enough money to enjoy a comfortable life, to be rich

(also: to be well-to-do)

o They live in the best section of town in a large home; they are very welloff.

o By the time I reach the age of fifty-five, I hope to be well-to-do and to

travel frequently.

to take by surprise: to surprise, to amaze, to astonish (S)

A noun or pronoun usually divides this idiom.

o The offer of a high-paying position with another company took me by


o The president's announcement that the university was in financial

trouble didn't take anyone by surprise.

to keep in touch with: to maintain contact with (also: to stay in touch


This idiom should be compared with to get in touch with in Lesson 9.

o You can telephone me every few days, and in that way we can keep in

touch with each other.

o He promised to stay in touch with us while he was abroad. However, we

were very disappointed that he never did get in touch with us.

to name after: to give the same name as another (S)

o Helen's parents named Helen after her grandmother.

o My grandson is named after Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the

United States.

to hold on: to grasp tightly or firmly; to wait, to be patient

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The second definition is often used when someone is talking on the telephone.

o The little girl held on to her mother's hand and refused to let go as they

walked through the large crowd of people.

o (on the telephone) Could you please hold on a moment while I get a

pencil and paper?

o Come on, Mike, hold on. I can't get ready so quickly.


to stop by: to visit or stop somewhere briefly in order to do something

o James had to stop by the registrar's office to submit a transcript

request form.

o Let's stop by the supermarket and pick up a few grocery items.

to drop (someone) a line: to write a note to someone (S)

o As soon as I get to Florida, I'll drop you a line and tell you about my

new job.

o If you have time, drop me a line now and then while you're traveling.

to come across: to meet or find unexpectedly (also: to run across); to be

perceived or judged as (also: to come off)

o While Cheryl was cleaning the attic, she came across some very old

coins. It took her by surprise to run across something like that.

o Jeff's boss comes across as a tough, unpleasant person, but actually Jeff

says that he is a good employer.

o Some people come off quite differently than they really are.

to stand for: to represent, to signify; to tolerate

The second definition is usually used in a negative sense. The meaning is the

same as to put up with in Lesson 19.

o on the American flag, each start stands for one of the fifty states, and

each stripe stands for one of the original thirteen colonies of the 1800s.

o The citizens wouldn't stand for the increase in crime in their city, so

they hired more police officers and built another jail.

to stand a chance: to have the possibility of accomplishing something

This idiom is often used with an adjective such as good or excellent. It also

occurs in the negative, sometimes with the adjective much.

o The New York baseball team stands a good chance of winning the

World Series this year.

o Because John doesn't have any previous work experience, he doesn't

stand a chance of getting that job.

o The woman injured in the serious train accident doesn't stand much

chance of surviving.

to take pains: to work carefully and conscientiously

o She takes pains to do everything well; she's our best employee.

o He took great pains with his last assignment because he needed to get

an excellent grade to pass the class.

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to look on: to watch as a spectator, to observe

o Hundreds of people were looking on as the police and firefighters

rescued the passengers in the wrecked train.

o I stayed with my son at his first soccer practice and looked on as the

coach worked with the boys.

to look up to: to admire, to respect greatly

o Children will most certainly look up to their parents if the children are

brought up well.

o Everyone looks up to the director of our department because he is a

kind and generous person.

to look down on: to feel superior to, to think of someone as less important

o People who are in positions of power should be careful not to look

down on those who work for them.

o Why does Alma look down on Mario just because his family is so poor?

to take off: to leave the ground (for airplanes); to leave, often in a hurry

The noun form takeoff derives from this idiom.

o The plane took off over an hour late. The passengers had to buckle their

seatbelts during takeoff.

o Do you have to take off already? You just arrive an hour ago!

to pull off: to succeed in doing something difficult (S); to exit to the side of a


o The group of investors pulled off a big deal by buying half the stock in

that company. I wonder how they pulled it off before the company

could prevent it.

o The motorist pulled off when the police officer turned on the red lights

and the siren.

to keep time: to operate accurately (for watches and clocks)

This idiom is usually used with adjectives such as good and perfect.

o Although this is a cheap watch, it keeps good time.

o The old clock keeps perfect time; it's never fast or slow.


to make do: to manage, to cope

This idiom is used when a person must accept a substitute that is not the most


o Pearl doesn't have a clean blouse so she has to make do with the one

she wore yesterday.

o During difficult economic times, many people have to make do with


to give birth to: to bear a human being or animal

o Jane's mother has just given birth to twin girls.

o The zoo's Siberian tiger just gave birth to a baby cub.

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close call: a situation involving a narrow escape from danger (also: close


o Bob, that car nearly hit us! What a close call.

o We had a close call when a small fire in our kitchen almost spread to

the rest of the house.

to get on one's nerves: to annoy or disturb (also: to bug)

o Laura loves to talk to anyone. Sometimes her chatter really gets on my


o Jack asked his neighbor to turn down the stereo because it was bugging

him and he couldn't concentrate.

to put down: to suppress, to quell (S); to criticize unfairly (S)

o The police arrived just in time to put down the disturbance before it got

very serious.

o Fred tries his best at playing tennis. You shouldn't put him down like


to go for: to be sold at a certain price; to seek or strive for

o This dress probably goes for about $50, don't you think?

o Peter was going for first place in the swim meet, but he wasn't able to

do better than third place.

to go in for: to have as an interest, such as a sport or hobby (also: to go for,

to be into, to get into)

o Hal goes in for tennis while his wife goes for painting and sculpture.

o What sports are you into? I don't have any time to get into sports.

to stay up: to remain awake, not to go to bed

o I want to stay up tonight and watch a late movie on TV.

o He stays up every night until after one o'clock, preparing his homework.

to stay in: to remain at home, not to go out

An idiom with the opposite meaning is to stay out.

o on a rainy day, I like to stay in and read.

o Young people are able to stay out late at night and get very little sleep.

to take over: to assume control or responsibility for (S); to do or perform

again (S)

The meaning of the second definition is almost the same as do over in Lesson

11. also for the second definition, a noun or pronoun must divide the idiom.

o That large investment company specializes in taking over smaller

businesses that are in financial trouble.

o Most students didn't do well on the important test, so the instructor let

them take it over.

o Little Mickey didn't have much chance to hit the baseball during

practice, so the coach let him take his turn over.

to show up: to appear, to arrive; to be found or located (also for the second

definition: to turn up)

o It really gets on my nerves that Ursula shows up late for every meeting.

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o Willie hopes that the watch he lost last Sunday shows up soon.

o We've looked everywhere for that book, but it hasn't turned up yet.

to clean out: to empty, to tidy by removing (S); to steal, to rob (S); to buy or

purchase all of something (S)

o It's time for you to clean out your closet so that you can store more

things in there.

o A burglar entered my apartment while I was gone and cleaned me out.

He took over $200 in cash and jewelry.

o Thousands of shoppers cleaned out the store that had gone bankrupt

and was selling all its remaining products at very reduced prices.


to knock out: to make unconscious (S); to impress or attract greatly (S)

This idiom can be made into the noun form knockout for both definitions.

o The prizefighter knocked out his opponent with one punch in the first

five seconds of the first round. It was the fastest knockout in boxing


o Linda's beautiful appearance and slender figure really knock me out.

Isn't she a real knockout tonight?

to knock one self out: to work very hard (sometimes too hard) to do


A reflexive pronoun must divided the idiom.

o She really knocked herself out trying to pass that difficult class.

o Don't knock yourself out during practice. Save your strength for the

competition later.

to carry out: to accomplish, to execute (S) (also: to go through with)

o It's easy to write down a plan for losing weight, but much harder to

carry it out.

o Charles promised to go through with his plan to enroll in graduate

school and get an advanced degree.

to run into: to meet someone unexpectedly; to crash or collide into (also: to

bump into)

o It was a shock to run into an old friend from high school recently.

o The drunk driver was slightly injured when he ran into a telephone


to set out: to start traveling toward a place (also: to set off, to heat out); to

arrange or display neatly (also: to lay out) (S)

o We set out for the top of the mountain at dawn. Unfortunately, as we

set off, it started to snow heavily, so we decided to head out again later.

o The children tried to set out the dishes on the table, but their dad had

to help to lay the dishes out properly.

to draw up: to create by drawing, such as a map (S); to prepare documents

or legal papers (S)

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o Max asked me to draw up a map to the party so that he wouldn't get


o Our lawyer agreed to draw the contract up as soon as possible.

give and take: compromise, cooperation between people

o Give and take is an important element of a successful marriage.

o Most business negotiations involve give and take between the parties


to drop out of: to stop attending; to withdraw from

This idiom can be made into the noun form dropout.

o Some students drop out of secondary school early in order to get jobs.

However, such dropouts often regret their decision later in life.

o Two more baseball teams have dropped out of the youth league due to a

lack of players.

to believe in: to accept as true, have faith in

o Some people believe in being honest in all human affairs, while others

accept the need to lie in order to get one's way.

o Throughout the history of man, some cultures have believed in one god

while others have believed in the existence of many gods.

to cheer up: to make happier, to feel less sad (S)

o We all tried to cheer up the little boy when he stared to cry.

o After the death of Deanne's husband, it was difficult to cheer her up at


to make sense: to be sensible or reasonable

o It makes sense to wait until a sunny day to visit the park together.

o That Jimmy ran away from home suddenly doesn't make sense to any

of us.


to burst out: to depart quickly (also: to storm out); to act suddenly

For the second definition, this idiom is usually followed by a gerund form such

as laughing, crying, singing, etc.

o Faye and Debbie were so angry at each other that one of them burst out

the front door of the house and the other stormed out the back door.

o It was so funny to see a little baby in the audience burst out crying

when the choir group burst out singing at the start of the recital.

to get away: to get free, to escape

o We always try to get away from the noise and heat of the city for a

month or two each summer.

o No one knows how the suspected criminal got away from the police.

to get away with: to avoid punishment for

o Jonathan tries to get away with coming late to work almost every day;

someday he'll suffer the consequences.

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o Terence can't continue to put his friends down like that and expect to

get away with it forever.

to serve (someone) right: to receive one's just punishment (S)

This idiom is usually used at the beginning of a sentence after the subject it.

Compare the following examples with those in the previous idiom above.

o It serves Jonathan right to be fired from his job.

o It serves Terence right that none of his friends are willing to help him

move to a new apartment.

to keep up: to prevent from sleeping (S); to continue maintaining (speed,

level of work, condition, etc.) (S)

o Could you please turn down the TV volume? You're keeping up the


o If we can keep up this speed, we should arrive there in about two hours.

o James is so proud of his daughter for getting mostly A's in school. He's

certain that she can keep up the good work.

o The Federal Reserve Bank hopes to keep the value of the dollar up at

least through the rest of the year.

to keep up with: to have current knowledge of; to understand as an


This idiom should be compared to the meaning of to keep up with in Lesson 17.

o Evan keeps up with world affairs by reading a new magazine each week.

o I understand a lot of the Spanish language, but I can't keep up with the

fast conversation in this Mexican film.

to stand out: to be easily visible or noticeable (also: to stick out)

This idiom is used for someone or something that is different from all others.

o Her bright red hair makes her stand out from others in the group.

o Brandon Styles is a tall, distinguished gentleman who sticks out in any


to let on: to reveal or tell what you know, to hint

o We are going to the movies tonight and we don't want Doris to go. If

you see her, make sure not to let on.

o They asked me not to let on to Ted that we're planning the birthday

party; it's supposed to be a big surprise.

to go wrong: to fail, to result badly

o Something went wrong with the engine, so we had to have the car

towed to a garage.

o Shawn should have been here over an hour ago; I'm certain that

something went wrong.

to meet (someone) halfway: to compromise with someone

o Steve wanted $4,500 for his car, and Gwen offered $4,000. They met

each other halfway and agreed on $4,250.

o After a long process of give and take, the owners of the company agreed

to meet the workers halfway by providing some additional health

benefits but no wage increase.

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to check up on: to examine with the purpose of determining condition (also:

to check on)

This idiom has the related noun form checkup.

o The government always checks up on the background of employees who

are hired for sensitive military projects.

o The doctor wants me to have a thorough medical checkup as part of a

preventive medicine program.

to stick up: to point or place upwards (S); to rob (S)

o You should put some water on your hair. It's sticking up in the back.

o A masked thief stuck up a grocery store in the neighborhood last night.


to come about: to happen

o I didn't find any explanation in the newspaper about how the political

coup came about.

o The flood came about as a result of the heavy winter rains.

to bring about: to cause to happen

This idiom is used to indicate who or what caused something to come about.

o John brought about the accident because of his carelessness.

o The heavy rains we have each spring bring about serious flooding.

to build up: to increase slowly, to make stronger gradually (S)

o They built up their savings account so that they could buy a new house.

o The professional athlete exercises regularly to build her strength up.

to die down: to decrease, to lessen in strength

o The hurricane became a less serious tropical storm when its winds died


o We let the fire in the fireplace die down and enjoyed watching the

embers as they glowed in the dark.

to fade away: to diminish gradually in time or distance

o The memory of that unpleasant experience has slowly faded away.

o The music of the band gradually faded away as the parade passed

down the street.

to die out: not to exist anymore; to be in the process of disappearing

o Scientists still are not sure exactly why the dinosaurs died out.

o That strange, new style of dancing is slowly dying out.

to make out: to read or see clearly (S); to prepare a legal document, such as

a will, a check, etc. (S)

o The letter was so poorly handwritten that I couldn't make out many of

the words.

o Harold, please make the check out to Acme Piano Company.

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to live up to: to fulfill (a standard or promise)

o It was clear that the lazy student would never live up to his family's


o It surprised us that the car salesperson lived up to all the promises he


to stick to: to adhere to (a promise), to follow or obey (a set of rules,

procedures, etc.)

o He made a promise to his wife to quit smoking and drinking, and so far

he has stuck to it.

o All organizations expect their employees to stick to established work

rules and procedures.

o If you try hard to stick to your principles, then you'll be able to live up

to them.

to stick it to: to cheat, to take unfair advantage of (also: to rip off, the


o Be careful in doing business with that salesperson. He'll stick it to you

at the first opportunity.

o The car dealership certainly ripped me off when I bought this car. It

has caused me trouble constantly.

o You paid over $400 for that jacket? What a ripoff!

to stand up for: to insist on, to demand; to defend, to support

o If you don't stand up for your rights in court, the lawyers will try to

stick it to you.

o Frank stood up for his friend, who was being put down by other

teenagers nearby.

to cut corners: to economize, to save money

o Most students live on limited budgets and have to cut corners

whenever possible.

o The Livingstons have nine children, so it is essential that they cut

corners at all times.


to take on: to employ, to hire (S); to accept responsibility for, to undertake

o That factory is taking a lot of new employees on for its new production


o Would you be willing to take on the task of organizing the next

company picnic?

to take down: to remove from an elevated place (S); to write what is said, to


o We should take the pictures down from the wall and clean off the dust.

o The secretary took down everything that was said at the meeting.

to fall through: to fail to materialize, not to succeed

This idiom is usually used with the noun plan or plans as the subject.

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o Our plan to travel to Europe last summer fell through when we were

unable to save up enough money.

o Felix made plans to have a party for everyone in his office, but they fell

through at the last moment.

to give in: to surrender, to stop resisting

o Completely surrounded by our soldiers, the enemy finally gave in.

o Management gave in to the strikers' demands and agreed to a

shortened work week.

to give off: to release, to produce, to release

o When water boils, it gives off stream.

o The flowers in this garden give off a strange odor.

to give out: to distribute; to become exhausted or depleted (also: to run out)

The first definition has the same meaning as the second definition of to pass

out in Lesson 19.

o An usher stood at the door of the theater giving out programs.

o I couldn't finish the ten-mile race because my energy gave out.

o Jeff plans to stay in Las Vegas and gamble until his money runs out.

to have it in for: to want revenge on, to feel hostile towards (also: to hold a

grudge against)

o Martina expects to lose her job because her boss has had it in for her

for a long time.

o The teacher has held a grudge against Al ever since the time that he

insulted her in front of the class.

to have it out with: to quarrel with, to confront

o I am going to have it out with Jack about all the times that he has told

us lies.

o Ben had it out with his roommate about coming back home so late and

making a lot of noise.

to hold off: to delay, or to be delayed, in occurring (S)

This idiom has the same meaning as to put off in Lesson 5 when a noun or

pronoun is used as an object, as in the second example.

o If the rain holds off for a few more days, they can finish planting the

rest of the crop.

o The judge agreed to hold off making a decision until new evidence

could be introduced into court.

to hold out: to endure, to be sufficient; to survive by resisting; to persist in

one's efforts

The first definition for to hold out has the opposite meaning of the second

definition for to give out (seventh idiom, this lesson).

o If our supply of food and water holds out, we plan to camp here for

another week. However, whenever it gives out, we'll have to leave.

o That nation's troops cannot hold out much longer against the superior

forces of the enemy.

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o The valuable football player held out for more money before signing a

new contract with his team.

to hold over: to extend, to keep for a longer time (S)

o They are going to hold over that movie for another week because so

many people are coming to see it.

o Let's hold discussion of this problem over until our next meeting.




to let up: to slacken, to lessen in intensity; to relax or ease one's effort (also:

related idiom: to take it easy)

o If the rain doesn't let up soon, we won't be able to have our picnic.

o When Jane is working, she never lets up for a moment.

o Jane should take it easy or she'll get exhausted.

to lay off: to abstain from, stop using as a habit; to release or discharge from

a job (also: related idiom: to let go) (S)

o If you're trying to lose weight, you should lay off sweet things.

o If business continues to be slow, we will have to lay off some workers.

o It will be necessary to let the youngest employees go first.

to bring out: to show or introduce (to the public) (S); to make available (S)

o Most automobile companies bring out new models each year.

o My mother brought some snacks out for my friends and me to have.

to bring back: to return a bought or borrowed item (also: to take back) (S)

To bring back is used when you are speaking at the place that speaking at

another place.

o Ma'am, our store policy is that you can bring back the dress as long as

you have your sales receipt.

o You can borrow my car if you promise to bring it back by six o'clock.

o I have to take this book back to the library today.

to wait up for: to wait until late at night without going to bed

o Don't wait up for me. I may be back after midnight.

o We waited up for our son until two o'clock in the morning before we

called the police.

to leave (someone or something) alone: not to disturb, to stay away

from (S) (also: to let alone)

o Leave the baby alone for a while and she may go to sleep.

o After the cat had scratched Peter twice, he let it alone.

let along: and certainly not (also: not to mention, to say nothing of)

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Let alone is used after negative forms. The example that follows let alone is

much less possible than the example that precedes let alone.

o I'm too sick today to walk to the kitchen, let alone to go to the zoo with


o He doesn't even speak his own language well, let alone French.

to break off: to terminate, to discontinue (S)

o After war began, the two countries broke off diplomatic relations.

o Elsa and Bob were once engaged, but they have already broken it off.

to wear off: to disappear gradually

o My headache isn't serious. It will wear off after an hour or so.

o The effect of the painkilling drug didn't wear off for several hours.

to wear down: to become worn gradually through use (also: to wear away,

to wear through) (S)

Compare with to wear out (to become useless from wear) in Lesson 8.

o If you drag your feet while you walk, you'll wear down your shoes


o The pounding of ocean waves against the coast gradually wears it away.

o Johnny has worn through the seat of his pants.

o Helga threw away that dress because she had worn it out.

on the whole: in general, in most ways (also: by and large)

o He is, on the whole, a good student.

o By and large, I agree with your suggestions.

touch and go: risky, uncertain until the end

o The complicated medical operation was touch and go for several hours.

o The outcome of the soccer final was touch and go for the entire match.


to work out: to exercise; to develop, to devise (a plan) (S)

o Jane works out at the fitness center every other morning before going

to school.

o The advertising department worked out a plan to increase company


o We couldn't come up with a good plan for solving the problem, but we

agree to work it out at a later date.

to back up: to drive or go backwards (S); to defend, to support (S); to return

to a previous thought

o I couldn't back my car up because there was a bicycle in the driveway

behind me.

o Ursula asked her friends to back her up when she went to court to fight

a ticket for an illegal lane change on the highway.

o Wait a minute. Could you back up and say that again?

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to back out: to drive a vehicle out of a parking space (S); to withdraw

support, to fail to fulfill a promise or obligation

o The parking lot attendant had to back another car out before he could

get to mine.

o We were all ready to sign the contracts when one of the parties to the

agreement backed out.

to have one's heart set on: to desire greatly, to be determined to

o She has her heart set on taking a trip abroad. She's been thinking about

it for months.

o Todd has his heart set on going to medical school and becoming a


to buy up: to buy the complete stock of (S)

o Before the hurricane struck, residents bought up all the food and water

in local stores.

o The government plans to buy up all surplus grain in order to stabilize

the price.

to buy out: to purchase a business or company (S); to purchase all of a

person's chares or stock (S)

This idiom is similar in meaning to take over in Lesson 23.

o Larger companies often buy out smaller companies that are having

financial difficulties.

o Mr. Lee has been trying for come time to buy his partner out so that he

can control the company by himself.

to sell out: to sell all items (S); to arrange for the sale of a company or

business (S)

o That store is closing its doors for good and is selling out everything this


o If my new business enterprise is successful, I'll sell it out for a few

million dollars.

to catch on: to become popular or widespread; to understand, to appreciate

a joke

This idiom is often used with the preposition to for the second definition.

o Fashions of the past often catch on again among young people.

o When the teacher speaks quickly like that, can you catch on easily?

o His joke was very funny at the time, but when I told it to others later,

nobody seemed to catch on. I had to tell the joke again before anyone

could catch on to it.

to be cut out for: to have the necessary skills or talent for

The idiom is most often used in the negative or in questions.

o John is certainly not cut out for the work of a trial lawyer.

o Are you certain that you are cut out for that kind of job.

to throw out: to discard (S); to remove by force (S); to refuse to consider, to

reject (S)

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o Instead of throwing out our paper waste in the office, we should recycle


o When a fight broke out between two people on the dance floor, the

management threw them out.

o The judge threw the case out because there was insufficient evidence to

try the defendant successfully.

to throw up: to erect or construct quickly (S); to vomit (S)

o The Red Cross threw up temporary shelters for the homeless victims of

the earthquake.

o The ill patient is unable to digest her food properly, so she is throwing

all of it up.

to clear up: to make understandable (also: to straighten out) (S); to

become sunny

o The teacher tried to clear up our confusion about the meaning of the

difficult paragraph in the reading.

o It's rather cloudy this morning. Do you think that it will clear up later?


to slow down: to go, or cause to go, more slowly (also: to slow up) (S)

This idiom can be used both with and without an object.

o The car was going so fast that the motorist couldn't slow it down

enough to make the sharp curve.

o You're eating too fast to digest your food well. Slow down!

o Slow up a bit! You're talking so quickly that I can't catch on well.

to dry up: to lose, or cause to lose, all moisture (S); to be depleted

o Every summer the extreme heat in this valley dries the stream up.

o All funds for the project dried up when the local government faced

budget crisis.

to dry out: to lose, or cause to lose, moisture gradually (S); to stop drinking

alcohol in excess (also: to sober up)

o Martha hung the towel outside on the clothesline in order to dry it out.

o Some people go to alcohol recovery centers in order to dry out.

to be up to (something): to be doing something; to be planning or plotting

something, scheming

The first definition usually takes the form of a question.

o Hi, Jake. I haven't seen you in a long time. What have you been up to?

o Those boys hiding behind the building must be up to something bad.

to beat around the bush: to avoid discussing directly, to evade the issue

o Our boss beats around the bush so much that no one in the office

knows exactly what he wants us to do.

o Instead of beating around the bush, Melinda explained her objection in

very clear terms.

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to come to an end: to end, to stop

This idiom is used with finally and never when some activity lasts too long.

o The meeting finally came to an end at ten o'clock in the evening.

o Even though my friend seemed to enjoy the movie, I thought that it

would never come to an end.

to put an end to: to cause to end, to terminate in a definite manner (also: to

do away with)

o The dictatorial government put an end to organized opposition in the

country by making it illegal to form a political party.

o It may never be possible to do away with all forms of prejudice and

discrimination in the world.

to get even with: to seek revenge, to retaliate

This idiom is similar in meaning to to have it in for in Lesson 27.

o Bill has had it in for his boss for a long time. He told me he's planning

to get even with his boss by giving some company secrets to a


o I want to get even with Steve for beating me so badly in tennis last time.

The scores were 6-1 and 6-2.

to fool around: to waste time (also: to screw around); to joke, not to be


o The teacher got angry because her students were fooling around and

couldn't finish their work before the end of class.

o Sometimes I wish that Pat would stop fooling around so much and talk

about something more interesting to others.

to look out on: to face, to overlook

o We really enjoy our new apartment that looks out on a river.

o Their rear window looks out on a lovely garden.

to stir up: to cause anger (S); to create (trouble or difficulty) (S)

o The senseless murder of a small child stirred up the whole


o The boss is in a bad mood today so don't stir her up with any more

customer complaints.

to take in: to visit in order to enjoy (S); to decrease the size of clothes (S); to

deceive, to fool (S)

o We decided to take in Toronto on our trip to Canada, and that is where

we took in the most memorable outdoor stage play we have ever seen.

o Lois lost so much weight that she had her skirts and slacks taken in by

her tailor.

o The fraudulent investment advisor took everyone in with his sincere

manner and generous promises. Most investors lost all their money.


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to go through: to undergo, to experience; to consume, to use (also: to use


The first definition is used when someone is having some hardship or


o I can't believe what she went through to get that job. She had four

interviews with the hiring committee in one week!

o Frank said that they had gone through all the toilet paper in the house,

but Steve couldn't believe that they had used it all up.

to go without saying: to be known without the need to mention

This idiom occurs with a that-clause, often with the pronoun it as the subject.

o It goes without saying that you shouldn't drive quickly in bad weather.

o That he will gain weight if he continues to eat and drink so much goes

without saying.

to put (someone) on: to mislead by joking or tricking (S)

This idiom is usually used in a continuous tense form. A noun object must

divide the idiom.

o Don't worry. I wouldn't expect you do all that work by yourself. I'm just

putting you on.

o Jack can't be serious about what he said. He must be putting us on.

to keep one's head: to remain calm during an emergency

o When the heater caused a fire, Gloria kept her head and phoned for

assistance right away; otherwise, the whole house might have burned


o When the boat starting sinking in heavy seas, the crew members kept

their heads and led the passengers to the lifeboats.

to lose one's head: not to think clearly, to lose one's self-control

o When Mel saw a god in the street right in front of his car, he lost his

head and drove onto the sidewalk and into a tree.

o If the politician hadn't gotten stirred up and lost his head, he never

would have criticized his opponent unfairly.

narrow-minded: not willing to accept the ideas of others (the opposite of

narrow minded is broad-minded)

o Narrow-minded people tend to discriminate against groups of people

with which they have nothing in common.

o Ted is so broad-minded that he has almost no standards by which he

judges others.

to stand up: to withstand use or wear; to fail to appear for a date or social

engagement (S)

o My old car has stood up well over the years. I haven't had any major

problems at all.

o Janet was very angry because her new boyfriend stood her up on their

second date. She waited over an hour for him before returning home.

to get the better of: to win or defeat by gaining an advantage over someone

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o Jim doesn't seem very athletic at tennis, but if you're not careful, he'll

get the better of you.

o Lynn gets frustrated when Bruce gets the better of her in arguments.

No matter what she says, he always has a clever response.

to break loose: to become free or loose, to escape

o During the bad storm, the boat broke loose from the landing and

drifted out to sea.

o one bicyclist broke loose from the pack of racers and pulled ahead

towards the finish line.

on edge: nervous, anxious; upset, irritable

o Cynthia was on edge all day about the important presentation she had

to give to the local citizens group.

o I don't like being around Jake when he's on edge like that. Someone

should tell him to calm down and relax.

to waste one's breath: not be able to convince someone

This idiom is used when someone is wasting time trying to convince another

person. The idiom to save one's breath is related and means not to waste

effort trying to convince someone.

o Don't argue with Frank any longer. You are wasting your breath trying

to get him to agree with you.

o I have already decided what I'm going to do. You can't change my mind,

so save your breath.

to cut short: to make shorter, to interrupt (S)

o The moderator asked the speaker to cut short his talk because there

wasn't much time remaining for questions from the audience.

o We were very unfortunate when we received bad news from home that

forced us to cut our trip short.


to step in: to become involved or concerned with something; to enter a place

for a brief time (also: to step into)

o When the children started fighting on the play-ground, a teacher had to

step in and stop the fight.

o The supervisor asked one of the employees to step in her office for a


o Would you step into the hallway so that I can show you the information

posted on the bulletin board?

to step down: to retire or leave a top position, to resign

o Next May the principal will step down after thirty-five years of service

to the school.

o The angry shareholders wanted the company president to step down

because of the stock scandal.

to step on: to treat severely, to discipline; to go faster, to work more quickly

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For the second definition, the idiom is followed by the pronoun it.

o Sometimes it's necessary to step on children when they do something


o We're going to be late for the movies. You'd better step on it!

a steal: very inexpensive, a bargain

This idiom is often used in an exclamation using what.

o I can't believe that I paid only $2,000 for this three year-old car. What

a steal!

o Scott considered it a steal when he bought a complete bedroom set for

only $99.

to play up to: to behave so as to gain favor with someone

o The other students in the class resent Jim because he plays up to the

teacher in order to get better grades.

o When my children asked me to go shopping for a new video game, I

knew why they had been playing up to me all morning.

more or less: approximately, almost; somewhat, to a certain degree

o Although your bedroom feels smaller, it's more or less the same size as


o Ted more or less agreed with our decision to put off the meeting until

more members could show up. At least he didn't object strongly.

to screw up: to confuse, to scramble (S); to cause problems in (S)

o Chris had trouble finding Jane's apartment because the addresses of

the buildings screwed him up.

o Instead of fixing the television set, the technician screwed it up even


to goof up: to perform badly, to make a mistake (also: to mess up, to slip


o I really goofed up on the exam today; did you mess up, too?

o Karen slipped up when she forgot to deposit money into her checking


to go off the deep end: to get very angry and do something hastily

o Just because you had a serious argument with your supervisor, you

didn't have to go off the deep end and resign, did you?

o When Dan's wife demanded a divorce, he went off the deep end again.

This time he was shouting so that the whole neighborhood could hear.

to lose one's touch: to fail at what one used to do well

o Milton used to be the best salesman at the car dealership, but recently

he seems to have lost his touch.

o I used to play tennis very well, but today you beat me easily. I must be

losing my touch.

in hand: under firm control, well managed

o The copilot asked the pilot if he had the plane in hand or whether he

needed any help navigating through the severe thunderstorm.

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o The police officer radioed to the station that she had the emergency

situation in hand and didn't require any assistance.

on hand: available, nearby

This idiom is often followed by in case.

o I always keep some extra money on hand in case I forget to get cash

from the bank.

o The concert organizers arranged to have some security guards on hand

in case there were any problems during the performance.


to kick (something) around: to discuss informally (over a period of time)

(S) (also: to toss around)

o At first my friends were reluctant to consider my suggestion, but they

finally were willing to kick it ground for a while.

o Herb thought that we should kick around the idea of establishing a

special fund for supporting needy members of the club.

on the ball: attentive, competent, alert

o Jim was the only one who caught that serious error in the bookkeeping

statements. He's really on the ball.

o Ella was certainly on the ball when she remembered to reconfirm our

fight arrangements. All the rest of us would have forgotten.

to make up: to meet or fulfill a missed obligation at a later time (S); to create,

to invent (an idea) (S); to apply cosmetics to (S); to comprise, to be composed


Note that all of the definitions are separable except the last one.

o The teacher allowed several students who missed the exam to make it

up during the next class.

o The little boy made up a bad excuse for wearing his dirty shoes in the

house, so his mother punished him.

o Dee was able to make her face up in half the normal time because she

didn't use much makeup.

o Two separate bodies --- the House of Representatives and the Senate --

- make up the Congress of the United States.

to make up with: resolve differences with

This idiom is used for differences of opinion between friends and lovers.

o Gundula made up with her roommate after their serious

misunderstanding about arrangements for the party.

o After the bad quarrel the two lovers kissed and made up with each


to pull together: to gather, to collect (information) (S); to gain control of

one's emotions (S)

A reflexive pronoun must e used for the second definition.

o The reporter pulled together information from several sources in

preparing the newspaper article.

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o Mr. Simpson was so frightened when he heard footsteps behind him on

the lonely, dark street that it took several minutes to pull himself


to be looking up: to appear promising or optimistic, to be improving

This idiom is used in a continuous tense, very often with the subject things.

o The board chairman is glad to report that things are looking up for the

company after several years of declining sales.

o Prospects for building that new library in the downtown area are

looking up.

to kick the habit: to stop a bad habit

o once a child becomes accustomed to chewing his nails, it's difficult kick

the habit.

o The doctor advised the heavy cigarette smoker that her heart had

become damaged and that she should kick the habit right away.

to cover up: to conceal, to hide (S)

This idiom is used for events which are potentially embarrassing to one's

reputation, as well as against the law. The noun coverup can be formed.

o The office worker tried to cover up his crimes, but everyone knew that

he had been stealing office supplies all along.

o The political coverup of the bribery scandal failed and was reported by

all the major media.

to drop off: to fall asleep; to take to a certain location (S); to decrease (for

the third definition, also: to fall off)

o My mother dropped off during the boring television show; her head

was nodding up and down.

o I don't mind dropping you off at the store on my way to work.

o Business has been dropping off rapidly recently, but fortunately it

hasn't been falling off as quickly as for our competitors.

to turn over: to place upside down (S); to flip, to turn upside down; to pass

or give control to someone (S)

o the teacher asked the students to turn the answer sheet over and to

write a short essay on the back.

o The car was going too fast around the corner and turned over twice.

o Mr. Collins has decided to turn over his jewelry store to his son at the

end of the year.

to go through channels: to send a request through the normal way

This idiom can be used with the adjective proper.

o If you go through proper channels in this company, it's sometimes

impossible to get anything done quickly.

o The police told the important civic leader that even she had to go

through channels in reporting the burglary of her house.

last straw: the final event in a series of unacceptable actions

This idiom is always used with the definite article the.

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o When John asked to borrow money from me for the fourth time, it was

the last straw. I finally told him that I couldn't lend him any more.

o I can't believe that my roommate left the door to our department

unlocked again. It's the last straw; I'm moving out.


to get cold feet: to become unable or afraid to do something

This idiom is usually used in the case of an important or dangerous action.

o Karl was supposed to marry Elaine this weekend, but at the last

moment he got cold feet.

o only one of the rock climbers got cold feet when the group reached the

base of the hundred-meter cliff.

to trade in: to receive credit for the value of an old item towards the

purchase of a new item (S)

This idiom is used to form the noun trade-in.

o The car dealership offered me $1,000 for my old car if I traded it in for

a new model.

o The appliance company was offering a $50 trade-in during the special

promotion for its new line of refrigerators.

face-to-face: direct, personal; directly, personally (written without hyphens)

This idiom can be used both as an adjective (the first definition) and as an

adverb (the second definition).

o The workers' representatives had a face-to-face meeting with

management to resolve the salary issue.

o The stepmother and her teenage soon talked face to face about his

troubles in school.

to be with (someone): to support, to back (also: to go along with); to

understand or follow what someone is saying

o Although others thought that we shouldn't go along with Jerry, I told

Jerry that I was with him on his proposal for reorganizing the staff.

o After turning left at the traffic light, go two blocks and turn right on

Madison. After three more blocks, turn right again. Are you still with


to be with it: to be able to focus or concentrate on (also: to get with it)

To be with it in the negative has the same meaning as to feel out of it. The

related form to get with it is used in commands.

o Jack's really with it today. I've never seen him play such good soccer.

o You've done only a small amount of work in two hours. You're not with

it today, are you?

o It's no excuse to say that you feel out of it. We need everyone's help on

this, so get with it!

to fall for: to fall in love quickly; to be fooled or tricked by

o Samantha and Derek never expected to fall for each other like they did,

but they got married within two weeks of having met.

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o The Masons wanted to believe their son, but unfortunately they had

fallen for his lies too many times to be deceived once again.

it figures: it seems likely, reasonable, or typical

This idiom is either followed by a that-clause or by no other part of grammar.

o It figures that the children were willing to help with the yardwork only

if they received a rewarded for doing so.

o When I told Evan that his secretary was unhappy about not getting a

raise, he said that it figured.

to fill (someone) in: to inform, to give background information to (also: to

clue in) (S)

This idiom is often followed by the preposition on and a noun phrase

containing the pertinent information.

o Could you fill me in on what is going to be discussed at tomorrow's


o Not having been to the convention, my associate asked me to clue him

in on the proceedings.

to make (someone) tick: to motivate to behave or act in a certain way (S)

This idiom is used within a what-clause.

o If a salesperson knows what makes a customer tick, he will be able to

sell a lot of merchandise.

o It's been impossible for us to figure out what makes our new boss tick.

One moment she seems pleasant and then the next moment she's upset.

to cover for: to take someone's place temporarily, to substitute for; to

protect someone by lying or deceiving

o Go ahead and take your coffee break. I'll cover for you until you return.

o The criminal made his wife cover for him when the police asked if the

man had been home all day. She swore that he had been there.

to give (someone) a break: to provide a person with another opportunity

or chance (S); not to expect too much work from (S); not to expect someone to

believe (S)

Command forms are most common with this idiom. For the third definition,

the pronoun me must be used.

o The driver pleaded with the police officer to give him a break and not

issue him a ticket for speeding.

o When the students heard how much homework the teacher wanted

them to do over the holiday, they begged, "Give us a break, Professor


o Oh, Jim, give me a break! That's a terrible excuse for being late.

to bow out: to stop doing as a regular activity, to remove oneself from a


The related idiom to want out indicates that someone desires to bow out.

o She bowed out as the school's registrar after sixteen years of service.

o one of the two partners wanted out of the deal because they couldn't

agree on the terms of the contract.

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to pin on: to find guilty of a crime or offense (S) (also: to hang on)

This idiom is divided by a noun phrase containing the crime or offense. The

accused person is mentioned after the preposition on.

o The prosecuting attorney tried to pin the murder on the victim's

husband, but the jury returned a verdict of "not guilty."

o I wasn't anywhere near the window when it got broken. You can't pin

that on me.

to get a rise out of: to provoke a response from

This idiom is usually used when someone is teased into responding in anger or


o You can kid me all day about my mistake, but you won't get a rise out

of me.

o I got a rise out of Marvin when I teased him about his weight. Marvin

weighs over two-hundred pounds.

to stick around: to stay or remain where one is, to wait

This idiom is used when someone is waiting for something to happen or for

someone to arrive

o Todd had to stick around the house all day until the new furniture was

finally delivered in the late afternoon.

o Why don't you stick around for a while and see if Sarah eventually

shows up?

to pick up the tab: to pay the cost or bill

This idiom applies when someone pays for the cost of another person's meal,

tickets, etc.

o The advertising manger is flying to Puerto Rico for a conference, and

her firm is picking up the tab.

o The government picked up the tab for the visiting dignitary. It paid for

all of the lodging and meals, as well as transportation, during his stay.

by the way: incidentally

This idiom is used when someone thinks of something further in the course of

a conversation.

o Movies are my favorite form of entertainment. Oh, by the way, have

you seen the new picture that's playing at the Bijou?

o Vera's been divorced for three years now. She told me, by the way, that

she never plans to remarry.

to go to town: to do something with enthusiasm and thoroughness

o Our interior decorator really went to town in remodeling our living

room. I'm afraid to ask how much it's going to cost.

o Charlie really went to town on his research project. He consulted over

forty reference works and wrote a ninety-page report.

to let slide: to neglect a duty (S); to ignore a situation (S)

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o Terry knew that she should have paid the electric bill on time instead of

letting it slide. Now the utility company has turned off her service.

o When he tried to get a rise out of me by mentioning my failure to

receive a promotion at work, I just let it slide.

search me: I don't know (also: beats me)

This idiom is used informally, usually as a command form.

o When Elmer asked his wife if she knew why the new neighbors left their

garage door open all night, she responded, "Search me."

o When I asked Dereck why his girlfriend wasn't at the party yet, he said,

"Beats me. I expected her an hour ago."

to get off one's chest: to express one's true feelings (S)

This idiom is used when someone has long waited to express themselves.

o Ellen felt a lot better when she finally talked to a counselor and got the

problem off her chest.

o Faye hasn't shared her concern about her marriage with her husband

yet. I think that she should get it off her chest soon.

to live it up: to spend money freely, to live luxuriously

o Kyle and Eric saved up money for two years so that they could travel to

Europe and live it up.

o After receiving a large inheritance from a rich aunt, I was able to live it

up for years.

to liven up: to energize, to make more active (also: to pick up)

o The teacher occasionally took the class on field trips just to liven things

up a bit.

o The animals in the zoo began to liven up when evening came and the

temperatures dropped.

o Many people have to drink coffee every morning just to pick themselves


to have a voice in: to share involvement in

o The new vice-president was promised that she would have a voice in

developing the company's international expansion.

o The students are trying to have a voice in college affairs by gaining

representation on administrative committees.


to check in: to register at a hotel or motel; to leave or deposit for

transporting or safekeeping (S)

The adjective form check-in derives from this idiom.

o Courtney arrived in town at mid-day and promptly checked in at the

Plaza Hotel. The hotel permitted an early check-in time.

o There dozens of people at the airline counters waiting to check their

bags in for their flights.

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to check out: to pay the bill at a hotel or motel and then leave; to investigate,

to examine (S)

The adjective form check-out derives from this idiom.

o The latest you should check out of the hotel is 12 noon. However, in

your case, we can set a special check-out time of 2:00 P.M.

o The police received a call from someone claiming to have witnessed a

murder. The police sent two detectives to check the call out right away.

to take at one's word: to accept what one says as true, to believe

o When he offered to be responsible for the fund raiser, I took him at his

word. Now he's saying that he's not available to do it.

o You should be careful about taking her at her word. She's been known

to say one thing but to do another.

to serve (the/one's) purpose: to be useful, to suit one's needs or


o I don't have a screwdriver to open this, but I think that a knife will

serve the purpose.

o Jane prefers working to studying, so it served her purpose to drop out

of school and take that job.

in the worst way: very much, greatly

o Jim and Claudia want to have children in the worst way. They are

trying very hard to conceive.

o Because Umer ahs relatives in Turkey, he wants to visit there in the

worst way.

to cop out: to avoid one's responsibility, to quit

This idiom is an informal version of the second definition to back out (lesson

29). The noun form copout means an excuse for avoiding responsibility.

o Evelyn had agreed to help us with arrangements for the party, but she

copped out at the last minute.

o I can't believe that Cindy offered such an explanation for failing to show

up. What a poor copout!

to line up: to form a line; to arrange to have, to manage to obtain (S)

o The moviegoers lined up in front of the theater showing the most

popular film of the summer.

o Rob is going to schedule the famous author to speak at the convention

if he can line her up in time.

to lose one's cool: to get excited, angry, or flustered

o Despite the boos from some in the audience, the actors on stage never

lost their cool.

o Although the group of skiers were in danger form an apparent

avalanche, their ski guide never lost his cool.

to leave open: to delay making a decision on (S)

o In making up the job announcement, the firm decided to leave the

salary open until a qualified candidate was found.

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o We know that the annual summer camp will be held in August, but let's

leave the exact dates open for now.

to turn on: to interest greatly, to excite (S)

The idiom with the opposite meaning is to turn off. These idioms are used to

form the nouns turnon and turnoff.

o Does great art turn you on? I find going to a museum and viewing

classic works of art a real turnon.

o Going to a bar and having silly conversation with strangers really turns

me off. In fact, most bar scenes are really turnoffs to me.

to miss the boat: to lose an opportunity, to fail in some undertaking

o The precious metals market was looking up several months ago, but

unfortunately most investors missed the boat.

o Mr. Vlasic's new business went bankrupt within a short time. He really

missed the boat by opening a tanning salon near the beach.

to think up: to invent, to create (also: to dream up)

This idiom is often used for an unusual or foolish thought.

o Who thought up the idea of painting the living room walls bright red?

o When asked by the teacher why she was late, the student dreamed up a

plausible excuse.


to throw (someone) a curve: to introduce an unexpected topic, causing

embarrassment (S)

o The first week of class was going very well until a student threw the

teacher a curve by suggesting that the textbook was too difficult.

o The director asked us in advance to stick to the meeting agenda and not

to throw him any curves.

to make waves: to create a disturbance, usually by complaining

This idiom is similar in meaning to the previous idiom, but the emphasis is on

the aspect of complaining rather than causing embarrassment.

o In most companies, an employee who makes waves is not appreciated.

o The meeting was going smoothly until one of the participants made

waves about the newly revised compensation package.

to carry on: to continue as before; to conduct, to engage in; to behave in an

immature manner

o Even in the face of disaster, the inhabitants carried on as though

nothing had happened.

o The business associates decided to carry on their discussion in the

hotel bar instead of the conference room.

o I can't believe that John carried on so much just because his dog died.

He looked depressed and cried for weeks after it happened.

not on your life: absolutely not (also: no way)

This idiom is used as a kind of exclamation by itself.

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o You're asking me to invest in that poorly rated company just because

you know the son of the president? Not on your life!

o When a friend tried to get Mark to jump out of a plane with a parachute,

he immediately responded, "No way!"

to cover ground: to be extensive, to discuss much material

Forms such as a lot of, too much, too little are used before the noun ground.

o That national commission's report on urban ghettos covers a lot of

ground. Many of the recommendations are too costly to implement.

o In his first lecture on Greek philosophers, I thought that our professor

covered too little ground.

to mind the store: to be responsible for an office while others are gone

o It seems that all of our employees are taking a lunch break at the same

time. I wonder who's minding the store.

o Lynne agreed to mind the store while the others went outside to watch

the parade passing by.

to throw the book at: to punish with full penalty, to be harsh on

o Because the criminal was a repeat offender, the judge threw the book at

him with heavy fines and a long prison term.

o My boss threw the book at me when he discovered that I had been

using company time for personal business. I was severely reprimanded

and forced to make up the lost time.

to put one's foot in: to say or do the wrong thing

This idiom is used with the noun phrase one's mouth or the pronoun it.

o Fred really put his foot in his mouth when he called his supervisor by

the wrong name.

o I really put my foot in it when I forgot my girlfriend's birthday and

didn't buy her anything. She almost lost her cool.

to be up for grabs: to become available to others

this idiom is used when something is highly desirable to many other people.

o When one of the full-time contract instructors stepped down, her nice

office overlooking the river was up for grabs.

o Did you know that Senator Stone is retiring and that her Senate seat is

up for grabs?

to show off: to display one's ability in order to attract attention (S); to let

others see, to expose to public view (S)

This idiom can form the noun showoff for the first definition.

o Elizabeth is an excellent swimmer, but I don't like the way she shows

off in front of everyone. It's very obvious that she enjoys being a


o Jacquie showed her large wedding ring off to all her friends.

to learn the ropes: to become familiar with routine procedures at work or


o The job applicant didn't have much previous experience or knowledge,

but she seemed intelligent enough to learn the ropes quickly.

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o It took the new schoolteacher a year to learn the ropes regarding

administrative and curricular matters.

to keep one's fingers crossed: to hope to have good results, to hope that

nothing bad will happen

This idiom reflects the way people cross their fingers to hope for good luck.

o Let's keep our fingers crossed that we got passing grades on that

college entrance exam.

o Jerry kept his fingers crossed that the good weather would hold up for

the picnic he was planning for the coming weekend.


to land on one's feet: to recover safely form an unpleasant or dangerous


o After a series of personal and professional difficulties, it's amazing that

George has landed on his feet so quickly.

o Some young adults get into so much trouble at school that they are

never able to land on their feet again. They drop out before graduating.

to dish out: to distribute in large quantity (S); to speak of others in a critical

manner (S)

o Mary's mom dished out two or three scoops of ice cream for each child

at the birthday party.

o Larry can't seem to take any criticism of his actions but he certainly

likes to dish it out.

to get through to: to communicate with, to make someone understand (also:

to break through to)

This idiom has the meaning of to make someone "catch on" (Lesson 29, eighth

idiom, the first definition)

o Some of the students in my reading class understand English so poorly

that it is difficult to get through to them.

o The doctors have never succeeded in breaking though to Mr. Ames,

who is a silent and secretive patient.

to keep one's word: to fulfill a promise, to be responsible

An idiom with the opposite meaning is to break one's word.

o Suzanne kept her word to me not to let on to others that I intend to

step down next month.

o Thomas always intends to keep his word, but invariably the end result

is that he breaks his word. He just isn't capable of being a responsible


to be over one's head: to be very busy, to have too much to do (also: to be

up to one's ears); to be beyond one's ability to understand

o I'd love to take a week off for a hiking trip, but at the moment I am over

my head in work. Maybe next week when I'm only up to my ears!

o It was impossible for the tutor to get through to Bill about the physics

problem because the subject matter was over Bill's head.

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to ask for: to deserve, to receive a just punishment (also: to bring upon)

o If you drink alcohol and then drive a car, you're only asking for trouble.

o Don't complain about your cut in salary. You asked for it by refusing to

heed our repeated warnings not to be late and inefficient.

to be a far cry from: to be very different from

o I enjoyed visiting Seattle, but it was a far cry from the ideal vacation

spot I expected.

o Ned is enjoying his new job, but his responsibilities are a far cry from

what he was told they would be.

by all means: certainly, definitely, naturally (also: of course); using any

possible way or method

o If the Johnsons invite us for dinner, then by all means we have to

return the invitation. Of cause, we don't have to invite their children,


o In order to ensure its survival, the ailing company has to obtain an

infusion of cash by all means.

to get out from under: to restore one's financial security, to resolve a

difficult financial obligation

o After years of struggling to get ahead, the young couple finally got out

from under their debts.

o The ailing company, succeeding in obtaining the necessary cash, was

able to get out from under its financial burdens.

to take the bull by the horns: to handle a difficult situation with


This idiom is usually used when someone has been postponing an action for

some time and finally wants or needs to resolve it.

o After three years of faithful service, Jake decided to take the bull by the

horns and ask his boss for a raise.

o Vic has been engaged to Laura for a long time now, and I know that he

loves her. He should take the bull by the horns and ask her to marry


to give (someone) a hand: to assist, to aid, to help (also: to lend

someone a hand) (S)

o Would you give me a hand lifting this heavy box?

o When Terry's car broke down at night on the highway, no one would

stop to lend her a hand.

to give (someone) a big hand: to clap one's hands in applause, to applaud


o After the talented new vocalist had sung her number, the audience

gave her a big hand.

o Should we give a big hand to each beauty contestant is as she is

introduced, or should we wait until all the introductions are finished?

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to goof off: to waste time, to be idle

o Some of the workers in our office always goof off when the boss is out.

o on Saturday afternoons, I like to go to a movie or just goof off at home.

to talk back to: to answer in a rude manner, to speak to disrespectfully

o Billy, if you talk back to me like that once more, you're going to spend

the rest of the day in your room.

o The school principal had to reprimand the child for talking back to her


to be in: to be popular or fashionable; to be available at one's work or home

o Most young people tend to want anything that is in at the time, but a

few don't care about current trends.

o Could you please tell me when Mrs. Zachary will be in? I'd like to talk to

her soon.

to be out: to be unpopular or no longer in fashion; to be away from one's

work or home

o These days, designer jeans are in and long skirts are out.

o I'm sorry, Mr. Jensen is out at the moment. Could I take a message?

to draw the line at: to determine to be unacceptable, to refuse to consider

o I don't mind helping him with his homework, but I draw the line at

writing a term paper for him.

o The conference organizers tried to accommodate the needs of the

various interest groups, but they drew the line at extending the

conference by two day.

to get out of line: to disobey or ignore normal procedures or rules (also: to

step out of line)

o When a child gets out of line in that teacher's class, she uses the oldfashioned method of making the child sit in the corner of the room.

o Any employee who steps out of line by coming to work in an

unacceptable condition will be fired.

dry run: rehearsal, practice session

o The college president requested a dry run of the graduation ceremony

in order to ensure that all aspects went smoothly.

o Before the manager present the reorganizational plans to the board of

directors, he did several dry runs of his presentation.

to play by ear: to play music that one has heard but never read (S); to

proceed without plan, to do spontaneously (S)

The pronoun it is often used with the second definition.

o That pianist can play most popular music by ear. She never needs to

read sheet music.

o My husband wanted to plan our trip carefully, but I argued that it was

more fun if we played it by ear.

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to be in (someone's) shoes: to be in another person's position, to face the

same situation as another person

o If I were in your shoes, I wouldn't take too many classes this semester.

o When his boss finds out about that accounting error, I wouldn't want to

be in his shoes.

to keep after: to remind constantly, to nag

o Lynn always has to keep after her children about cleaning up their

rooms and doing chores around the house.

o Lon is so forgetful that it's necessary to keep after him about every little


to fix up: to repair or put back in good condition (S); to arrange a date or an

engagement for another person (S)

o Instead of buying an expensive new home, we decided to buy an older

home and fix it up ourselves.

o Since my visiting friend didn't have a date for dinner, I fixed her up

with a male friend of mine. They got along very well together.

to be had: to be victimized or cheated

o When the jeweler confirmed that the diamonds that the woman had

purchased abroad were really fake, she exclaimed, "I've been had!"

o The angry customer complained about being overcharged at the store,

asserting that this was the third time that he had been had.


PRENTICE HALL REGENTS Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey 07632 - 61 -

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