List 15 - Idioms






about time

To mean something should have happened earlier or about now.



It’s about time I had my hair cut.


above all

Most importantly.



Above all, I would like to thank you all for volunteering your services. 


above average

Better than average. 



The boss is very pleased with her as her work has always been above average.


above board

Honest and legal and not deceiving.



They doubt the deal was above board when it was negotiated in secret.


above par

Better than normal.



Her performance was hailed by critics as above par.


above/beyond reproach

Not deserving any blame or criticism. 



His conduct had always been above reproach.


above suspicion

To be not suspected. 



Family members of the murdered person are not above suspicion according to the police. 


acid test

A means to find out whether something can be believed.



His constant strong feeling of loyalty to his spouse was the acid test of his faithfulness. 


a first

Something that happens or is done for the first time. The highest level of university degree one can get in Britain.



The triplet delivery is a first for the new hospital.



My grandmother had a first in Economics from this university.


Achilles’ heel

A weak point or vulnerable spot of someone or something.



The team’s Achilles’ heel is its poor defence, and it is expected to lose in the final. 


after all

Something that needs to be considered; in spite of something that had been said or done.



You shouldn’t have talked to her like that – after all, she’s your only sister.



She decided to come along with us after all.


against time

To complete a task, etc. within a time-limit.



We’re working against time to finish the project.


ahead of 

In front of; before.



One of us has to call the restaurant ahead of time to make the dinner reservation.


alive with

Swarming with.



The carrion was alive with maggots.


all along

During the entire time while something was happening.



She knew all along that her husband kept a string of mistresses.


all but




It was all but dark when our train pulled into the city.


all for

Strongly support or in favour of something.



Most members are all for the club moving out of the city because it’s too expensive.


all gone

Used up or finished.



Someone had eaten all my peanuts; they are all gone.


all in

Very tired; exhausted.



What had you been doing? You look all in.


all of

Not more than.



He took all of ten minutes to finish the two pizzas. 


all out

Using as much of one’s effort as possible.



We went all out to get it done before the deadline.


all over

Everywhere; finished.



“Where had you been? We looked all over for you.”



It’s all over – I have lost all my money and I’m not playing anymore.


all right

Good or okay; beyond doubt; used to express agreement or consent. 



Our new house is all right, but it’s a bit small. 



We are late all right; the train is no longer here.



“You can call him tomorrow.” “All right, I will call him in the afternoon.”


all set

Ready or prepared to do something.



I was all set to leave when the rain started falling.


all square

With all accounts settled, and no money owed.



Here’s the amount due to you; we’re all square now.



Having equal scores in a game.



Both teams are all square at two goals each at half-time.


all talk

Talking about doing something without actually doing it.



He said one week ago that he would help me with the research work, and he’s still saying it. He’s all talk and no action.


all that

To a high degree.



She isn’t all that enthusiastic about going to all-night party, not that she’s married.


all there

Mentally incompetent or unable to think clearly.



Having listened to what he said, we don’t think he’s quite all there.


all told

As a complete total; in all.



All told, it took twelve men to pull the baby rhino out of the muddy pond.



There were fifteen of them at the discussion all told.


all wet

To be completely wrong.



That’s not the professor; you are all wet.


along with

Together with someone or something. 



My uncle went to the beach along with his daughter and dog.


answer for

To take responsibility for something; to speak for somebody.



We will all have to answer for our wrongdoings in our next lives. 



I think she likes to join the discussion, but I can’t really answer for her.


any longer

In the past but not now; anymore



We have to do something. We can’t ignore water leaking from the roof any longer.


any moment

Very soon.



The plane should be arriving at any moment now.


appear as

To play a role in a film, play, etc.



She appeared as a toothless witch in her first comedy film.


as against

When compared with something else.



Her candidacy for president was supported by 35 percent of the senior party members as against 57 percent of young members.  


as ever

Usually; in the same way as always.



As ever, he’s the last one to arrive.


as for

With regard to.



We all have decided to go. As for him, he’s still deciding.


as if

In a manner that it is true or false.



The stranger looked at me as if he knew me.


as is

The existing state as at the particular time.



All the items are being auctioned off as is.


as of

The time or date when something begins.



As of next month, the lunch time will be cut from one hour to fifty minutes.


as one

At the same time; together.



The audience rose as one to give her a standing ovation for her performance.


as such

In the true or exact meaning of the word or phrase.



They don’t have children as such, but they do have an adopted child.


as yet

Until now.



We haven’t decided to buy our own house as yet, but are likely to do so in the near future. 


aside from

Except for; in addition to.



The skin rash continues to appear on my legs but aside from that I’m a perfectly healthy person.



Aside from being beautiful, she is also highly intelligent.


at all

To make a statement or question more forceful. 



Why blame me; it’s wasn’t my fault at all. 


at bay

At a distance.



The policemen had to keep the rioters at bay until reinforcement arrived.


at best

Taking the most hopeful view.



At best we found his speech slightly long-winded.


at ease

Relaxed and comfortable.



She never feels at ease driving in the rain.


at first

At the beginning.



We were casual friends at first, but soon we developed a special liking for each other. 


at gunpoint

Under threat of injury or death from a gun.



We were forced at gunpoint to hand over all our money.


at hand

Close by or readily accessible; near in time or about to happen.



We have three staff at hand to attend to the needs of the inmates.


at hazard

At risk.



Your health is at hazard unless you give up heavy smoking. 


at heart

One’s true character and not what one may appear to be.



Both her parents are septuagenarians but they are still young at heart. 


at issue, 

(Matter, subject, question, problem, etc.) under discussion or in dispute.


at it

Engaging in some activity.



The quarrelsome couple are at it again. When will they stop arguing?


at large

Not having been captured; in general.



Police issued pictures of the escaped prisoner who is still at large.



More information regarding the programme of vaccination should be made available to the public at large.


at last

In the end, after a long wait.



They have ended their argument at last!


at least

Not less/fewer than; used to show something could be worse; used to indicate the minimum that one could do.



The witness said there were at least four people in the armed gang that robbed the bank. 



The meal was expensive, but at least the food was adequate and superb.



You could at least have given her a smile even if you didn’t want to talk to her. 


at leisure

In a slow and relaxed or unhurried way; not working.



We often have our evening meal at leisure at the same restaurant.



He likes to sit on his rocking chair at leisure.


at length

For a long time; after a long period of time.



He went on at some length about his trip abroad. 



At length, we decided to call it a night and went to bed.


at liberty

Not in captivity or confinement; free to do something.



After spending twelve years in prison, he is now at liberty to lead a normal life.



Only the senior managers are at liberty to speak to reporters about the company’s affairs.


at loggerheads

In total disagreement or bitter dispute.



The woman is at loggerheads with the man over a parking space.


at most

Not more than a specified number or amount.



Each time we jogged three kilometers at most.


at odds. 

In conflict or disagreement.



The brothers are always at odds about whose car should be put in the garage.


at once

At the same time; immediately.



If we all talk at once, who will be listening?



She was so angry with me that she told me to leave her house at once.


at peace 




He is at peace now after a long illness.


at play

Playing (at the present time).



We can hear the noisy children at play.


at present

At this time; now.



At present he is sleeping.


at random

Not in any order.



Ten names were selected at random from the list of volunteers.


at rest 

Not moving or active; dead; in a relaxed and comfortable state.



You must not unfasten your safety belt until the rollercoaster is at rest.



It is utterly unfair that she’s at rest at such a young age.



You can set your mind at rest by thinking positively.


at risk

In a situation where something bad or dangerous could happen.



Your job is at risk if you keep turning up late for work.


at sea 

In a ship on the sea.



I felt seasick on the first day at sea on my cruise.


at stake

Might be lost; at risk.



The cause of the new disease is still unknown, putting many lives at stake.


at times

Occasionally but not usually.



I feel quite lonely at times.


at that 

Used to provide additional information 



The arrested man is a murderer, and a serial one at that.


at will

Whenever and in whatever way one wants.



The animals have their own enclosures where they were allowed to roam at will.


at work

Working (at the present time); having an effect or influence.



My dad is at work on the farm.



They believe there are evil forces at work trying to undermine the stability of the state.


at worst

Used to show the most negative or unpleasant result.



At worst, he can only get a fine for the offence.


bad blood

Feelings of hate between two people or groups.



There’s been a lot of bad blood between the two families since their parents’ days. 


bad/badly off

Having little money; in a bad or difficult situation or condition.



We are not too bad off compared to our younger days.



The family was so badly off they could only dream of eating in a restaurant.



We had no idea how bad off they were until they told us.



At that time, he was so badly off that he had to stay in bed all the time.


bear fruit

To produce successful result or a reward.



Her hard work bore fruit as she passed the exam with flying colours. 


bear watching

To deserve close observation.



It will bear watching the behavioural problems in these children.


beat it

To leave quickly or tell someone to leave quickly.



The looters beat it when the police arrived. 



Beat it! I’m trying to get this done.


before long




Before long, the whole area was flooded.


below average

Lower than the usual standard.



His test results are well below average.


below par

Not as good as normal.



The rocking boat is making me feel a little below par. I think I am getting seasick.


bent on

Determined to have or do something.



He was bent on realizing his life’s ambition.


beside oneself

Feeling some very strong emotion.



She was beside herself with joy when he told her the news.


bet on

To place a bet on someone or something. 



We bet on the horse which came in last.


better half

Wife or husband.



I’m not going alone; my better half is coming along.


better off

Having more money; in better condition.



We are better off now than we used to be when we started working.



We would be better off if we sold off the loss-making business.


beyond (one’s) depth

In water that is too deep; too advanced for one’s understanding or capabilities.



He swam out beyond his depth to get the ball that was fast floating away.



I failed in the two subjects as they were really beyond my depth.


beyond help

A condition that cannot be made better.



Their terminally ill grandmother is beyond help.


beyond (one’s) ken

Not within the range of one’s knowledge or understanding.



Why her husband chose to leave her is beyond her ken. 


beyond me

Not being able to understand something.



How an intelligent guy like him having a long history of academic failure is beyond me.


beyond (one’s) means

More than one can afford.



Presently, a sailing yacht is well beyond our means.


beyond measure

More than can be quantified.



The abundance of foods and drinks served out in the grand wedding dinner is beyond measure.


beyond repair

No able to be restored or fixed.



The gearbox was damaged beyond repair.


beyond words

More than one can say.



She was thankful beyond words for the public donations towards her medical surgery.



We are grateful beyond words to the volunteers who come forward to offer their help.



The visitors were visibly shocked beyond words by the conditions they witnessed in the refugee camps.