Popular Expressions A - Z

 

 

 

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back to the drawing board: go back to the place where you started; to start over.

Our ideas were rejected, so it looks like we're back to the drawing board.

 

(the) ball is in (one's) court: this reference to tennis means that it's someone's turn to respond in a situation that goes back and forth.

We've made our offer. Now the ball is in their court.

we've made = we have made

This is the present perfect tense.

tennis raquet

bang (one's) head against the wall: an expression used when someone is angry or frustrated.

He's tired of banging his head against the wall when working with difficult customers online.

 

bark is worse than (one's) bite: to look or sound mean or dangerous, but in reality be relatively harmless; not really dangerous.

 

Don't worry about Poco. He might look mean, but his bark is worse than his bite.

 

 

bark up the wrong tree: to waste one's time; to do something and not get a result.

 

You're barking up the wrong tree if you think I can help you. You'll have to ask someone else.

 

batten down the hatches: get ready for something bad or a serious situation.

Batten down the hatches. A big storm is coming.

 

be my guest: go ahead; it's okay; it's okay to use something that a person owns.

A: Do you mind if I try your guitar?

B: No, not at all. Be my guest.

 

guitar

be that as it may: this is true, but...

A: There's a big storm ahead of us.

B: Be that as it may, we're just going to have to drive right through it.

picture

beat a dead horse: to make a point over and over again; to do something excessively without a result.

Trying to get an answer from that company is like beating a dead horse. They just won't return my calls.

What does the word "beat" mean?

 

beat someone at (one's) own game: to gain advantage over someone who is good at something or in a strong position.

Sarah thinks she can beat her older coworkers at their own game by making use of the internet to increase sales.

 

 

beat the living daylights out of someone: to defeat; to beat up

The U.S. military forces beat the living daylights out of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

 

tank

 

 

been there, done that: to say that someone has already done something; to say that an experience is not new. (Be careful with this expression. It can sound a little rude.)

Oh, he's going to the Mall of America? Big deal. Been there, done that.

 

mall of america

 

begin to see the light: start to understand something.

Americans are beginning to see the light when it comes to global climate change.

 

better late than never: it's better to be late than not to show up at all.

Bob thought it was better to be late than never to meet Carol outside the movie theater. When he gave her some flowers, she forgave him for being so late.

"Better late than never."

 

better safe than sorry: it's better to do anything that will keep you safe rather than do nothing and take a risk.

Rhonda always wears her seat belt when she drives figuring it's better to be safe than sorry.

between a rock and a hard place: to be caught between two difficult situations; to make a decision between two possibly bad outcomes.

 

Henry was between a rock and a hard place when he had to decide whether to stay with his wife and kids or go serve in the military.

 

a big fish in a small pond: a person whose circle of friends or business acquaintances is very small, thereby inflating his or her feeling of importance.

Rodney would never move his business from Knoxville to New York City. He likes being a big fish in a small pond.

fish

(the) bigger they come, the harder they fall: the larger the person or the thing, the more difficult it is to bring down. (This is usually used with people, but it can be used with things.)

Chopping down this tree is going to be a challenge. The bigger they come, the harder they fall.

You can find more expressions that use the word "big" on this page.

bite off more than (one) can chew: to try to do something that might be too difficult to accomplish.

 Gordon thought he could build the house all by himself, but it looks like he bit off more than he could chew.

 

bite the hand that feeds you: to hurt someone who helps you; to go against the person or thing that provides something necessary.

We were all surprised to hear Lisa say something so mean to her boss's face. It's not wise to bite the hand that feeds you.

blind leading the blind: to follow or lead people without necessary skills; to choose a bad leader.

It's hard to believe that they chose him as their new leader. It's like the blind leading the blind.

(be) born with a silver spoon in (one's) mouth: to be born rich.

 

He doesn't understand the financial difficulties faced by average people. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

breathe new life into something: to make something new again.

We're going to try to breathe new life into this old house by remodeling it.

bright-eyed and bushy tailed: ready to do something, especially early in the morning.

I don't feel bright-eyed and bushy tailed until I've had a couple cups of coffee in the morning.

bring (someone) into the world: to have a baby.

They can think of no greater responsibility than to bring a baby into the world.

 

Learn how to use the modal verb "can" by clicking here.

bucks stops here, the: the responsibility for decisions and results is found at the top of an organization. (originated by President Harry Truman and used by U.S. Presidents who have followed him.)

The buck stops here. If we lose money on this deal, I'll take the responsibility for the decision.

What does the word "buck" mean?

burn (one's) bridges: By burning your bridges, you are unable to go back to a previous position; you do or say something that makes it impossible to return to the situation before.

Victor was warned not to burn his bridges when he left his job to work at another company.

burn the candle at both ends: to work or play too much; not to get enough sleep because of activities.

Daryl thinks he can burn the candle at both ends, but because he stays up so late he's having a hard time getting things finished during the day.

busy as a beaver: beavers are known to work very hard at building their homes, and so it seems as if they're always working. When someone works very hard or is always busy, we say....

He's busy as a beaver.

by the skin of (one's) teeth: to finish something just in time; to reach a goal but just barely.

He made it on time to his meeting by the skin of his teeth.

* one's = my, your, his, her, its, our, your, their

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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