An idiom is a fixed group of words or an expression with a special meaning that cannot be literally interpreted and understood. It is also different from the meanings of the individual words.
Examiner’s Comments on the Uses of Idiomatic Expressions
Thus, being all eyes is not connected with anything done to all eyes; it means to watch intently or be vigilant. For the reason above, one will find the idiomatic expressions difficult to interpret if one is not familiar with them and their meanings. Let us learn more idiomatic expressions below.
More Idiomatic Expressions
There are idiomatic expressions in the English language but some of them with their meanings will be learnt here.
|1.||With a pinch of salt||some doubt whether it is altogether true.|
|2.||Keep an open door||to be ready to welcome guests at any time|
|3.||Be/Keep abreast of something||to be always aware of latest news or ideas|
|4.||A chapter of accident||a series of unfortunate events|
|5.||(Have) an ace up one’s sleeve||keep a useful plan, piece of information, etc|
|(Have) an ace in the hole||secret and ready to be used when necessary|
|6.||Hold all the aces||have all the advantages|
|7.||Once in a blue moon||rarely/seldom/occasionally|
|8.||Smell a rat||be suspicious|
|9.||A chip off the old block||a son who is very like his father|
|10.||More haste, less speed||approach whatever you are doing carefully to avoid mistake|
|11.||Play to the gallery||attempt to win cheap popularity|
|12.||Living a cat-and-dog life||always quarreling with each other|
|13.||Let the sleeping dog lie||not looking for trouble/give peace a chance|
|14.||Act/Play fool||behave in a silly way to amuse others|
|15.||Action speakers louder than words||what someone actually does means more than what he says he will do|
|16.||Swing into action||act quickly|
|17.||Add fuel to the flames||to say something that makes people react more strongly|
|18.||Add insult to injury||make something worse|
|19.||A state of affairs||a situation or circumstance|
|20.||Keep one at arm’s length||avoid being familiar with somebody|
|21.||Be above board||open/without deception|
|22.||Stand one’s ground||maintain one’s position|
|23.||Develop cold feet||feel afraid or reluctant or unwilling to do something that is risky|
|24.||Feather his own nest||make himself rich|
|25.||Being led by the nose||being controlled completely|
|26.||A bone of contention||a cause of dispute|
|27.||Come to a head||reach a point where something has to be done or
|28.||Paid in one’s coin||Revenge|
|29.||Pull the wool over one’s eye||Deceive|
|30.||Talking with his tongue in his cheek||not sincere or saying something and meaning the opposite|
|31.||With malice aforethought||with the deliberate intention to commit a crime to marry|
|32.||To the altar||to marry|
|33.||Be poles apart||be widely separated/have nothing in common|
|34.||The apple of one’s eye||a person loved more than others|
|35.||Argue the toss||disagree about a decision|
|36.||In apple-pie order||very neat arrangement|
|37.||Up in arms||protesting strongly|
|38.||Under the auspices of||with the help or support of|
|39.||Have an axe to grind||have a private reason for something|
|40.||Have the ball at one’s feet||have a good chance of succeeding|
|41.||A baptism of fire||a difficult introduction to an experience|
|42.||Not to mince words||to speak plainly in condemnation of something|
|43.||Beat about the bush||approach the subject without coming directly to the point|
|44.||Kick the bucket||Die|
|45.||To cross the Rubicon||to be irreversibly or irrevocably committed|
|46.||Tarred with the same brush||had the same faults|
|47.||To take the bull by the horns||to tackle problems boldly|
|48.||Rain cats and dogs||rain heavily|
|49.||Let the cat out of the bags||reveal the secret|
|50.||Raise eyebrows or see red eyes||annoy or angry|
|51.||From the bottom of one’s heart||sincerely, seriously|
|52.||Have a thick skull||be stupid|
|53.||Bite off more than one can chew||attempt to do something too much|
|54.||The tip of the iceberg||very little|
|55.||A chip on one’s shoulder||feeling quarrelsome and being in a bad temper|
|56.||Throw a new light on the matter||provide fresh information that makes the matter clear|
|57.||Kill two birds with one stone||get two outcomes with one action or do two things
at a time
|58.||Nipped in the bud||not successful or was aborted|
|59.||Make a clear breast of||tell the whole truth about|
|60.||Like a bat out of hell||very fast|
Examiner’s Uses of Some of the Expressions
To Identify and know the meanings of idiomatic expressions is not enough, one also has to know how they are used correctly in sentences. Using these expressions correctly will add to your scores under expression in your essays or letters. Remember that some of them can be used as a subject, a verb, an object or a complement, and an adjunct. Let us learn some of them in the following sentences. Then make each of them in a sentence to convey the meaning of the expression.
- I tried to make a clear breast of the matter to the boss but he didn’t listen.
- The General Manager makes them work like a bat out of hell.
- Please, don’t let the cat out of the bag.
- From the bottom of my heart, I love you.
- The man killed the thief with malice aforethought.
- The students are up in arms against bad practices of their management.
- Everybody disagreed on that state of affairs.
- There are more chapters of accidents this year.
- The boss and his employees are often living a cat-and-dog life.
- Sade pulls the wool over my eyes often.
Answer the following questions correctly.
Choose the word or a group of words that best completes each of the following sentences.
- The police vehicle raced ______ full speed with its siren blaring.
(a) on (b) with (c) at (d) in
- Stella wanted to show _______ with her necklace.
(a) off (b) on (c) over (d) back
- The national essay competition came _____ on the 23rd of July, 1986.
(a) out (b) in (b) by (d) up
- There was a lot of tension in the area and it was felt that a dispute might flare ______ any time.
(a) up (b) down (c) in (d) to
- Please, look _______ my answers for me.
(a) over (b) across (c) after (d) on
- Lekan has tried hard to live ______ to his parent’s expectations.
(a) over (b) on (c) through (d) up
- There are ______ new employees at the headquarters of the factory.
(a) taking up (b) taking after (c) taking on (d) taking over
- The celebrations were rounded ______ with a novelty match.
(a) off (b) up (c) down (d) out
- Mary is a friendly sort of person. I _____ her the first time I met her.
(a) took on (b) took for (c) took after (d) took to
- The boy was seen hitting the girl, but the teacher merely cautioned him and let him _____
(a) down (b) on (c) through (d) off
- Many affidavits have been ______ as evidence in this case.
(a) sworn in (b) sworn with (c) sworn for (d) sworn to
- The new bakery will _______ one thousand loaves of bread daily.
(a) turn over (b) turn out (c) turn up (d) turn in
- Ahmadu would have arrived earlier but he was ______ in heavy traffic.
(a) held up (b) held down (c) held off (d) held about
- Bola is a good friend of mine, but I am sometimes ______ by her careless attitude.
(a) blown off (b) forced out (c) turned out (d) put off
- Luck ______ the robbers on that fateful day.
(a) came down (b) ran out on (c) ended up with (d) made away with
- I tendered for that contrast, but my application _______.
(a) fell in (b) fell off (c) fell through (d) fell down
- Janet could not attend the party because she _____ with flu over the weekend.
(a) came up (b) came down (c) came away (d) came in
- The worker’s strike was ______ as a result of the Director’s intervention.
(a) called back (b) called in (c) called off (d) called out
- Since we were not given everything we requested, we should ______ with what we have.
(a) makeup (b) make out (c) made do (d) makeover
- The manager is leaving the company to ______ a new appointment elsewhere.
(a) take over (b) take on (c) take up (d) take off
WAEC June 1998 – 2003