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Phrases & Idioms

ABC (the rudiments): He does not know the ABC of science.

Above all (chiefly): Nazrul was above all a good poet.

Above board (without any secret) His dealings are open and above board.

After all (in spite of all that has been said): He is after all an honest man.

All at once (suddenly): All at once, I saw a crowd.

All in all (all powerful): The Headmaster is all in all in the school.

All of a sudden (unexpectedly): All of a sudden, the girl fell into the pond.

All the same (no difference): It is all the same whether you come or not.

Anything but (far from): Your statement is anything but true.

Apple of discord (subject of quarrel): A piece of land is the apple of discord between the two brothers.

As it were (so to say): The moon is, as it were, the lamp of the earth.

As usual (as it commonly happens): He started for school as usual.

As good as (keeping promise): He is as good as his word.

At all (even a little): I do not care for him at all.

At a loss (puzzled): I am at a loss to decide what to do now.

As to (about): As to that, I know nothing.

At all events (in any case): I shall go there at all events.

At daggers drawn (at enmity): The two brothers are at daggers drawn with each other. At home(familiar): He is very at home in English.

At last (ultimately): At last, he came.

At a time (each time): Come in one at a time.

At times (occasionally): At times, he loses his temper.

At random (without any aim): He talks at random.

At large (freely): Birds fly at large in the sky.

At the eleventh hour (at the last moment): They visit the patient at the eleventh hour.

At a stretch (without a break): I can walk ten miles at a stretch.

At the point of (very near): The man is now at the point of death.

At one's disposal (under one's control): The job is now at your disposal.

At one's finger-ends (thoroughly familiar with): Mathematics is at his finger­ends.

At stake (in danger): His life is at stake.

At sixes and sevens (in disorder): The books are at sixes and sevens on the table.

Bad blood (ill feeling): There was a bad blood between the two brothers.

Bag and baggage (with all belongings): The students left the hostel bag and baggage.

Bed of roses (a pleasant condition of life): Life is not a bed of roses.

Before long (soon): He will arrive before long.

Beggar description (to be indescribable): Their sufferings in the rains beggar description:

Bid fair (seem likely to): A good boy bids fair to success.

Birds of a feather (persons of the same nature): Birds of a feather flock together.

Blue blood (high birth): The man is proud of his blue blood.

Black sheep (a man of bad character): There are some black sheep in every society.

Bolt from the blue (unexpected calamity): The news of his death came to me as a bolt from the blue.

Bone of contention (matter of dispute): This boundary wall is a  bone of contention between the two neighbours.

Bosom friend (most intimate friend): He is my bosom friend.

By all means (in every possible way): I shall help you by all means.

Beyond doubt (undoubtedly): He will come back beyond doubt.

By dint of (by means of): You can succeed in life by dint of hard work.

By fits and starts (irregularly): If you read by fits and starts, you cannot pass

By virtue of (because of): He claimed a pension by virtue of his long service.

By leaps and bounds (at a rapid rate): The price of essentials is increasing by tars and bounds.

By turns (one after another): They worked in the garden by turns.

By hook or by crook (any how): I shall do it by hook or by crook.

Burning question (an important thing): Population problem is a burning question of the day.

By the by (incidentally): By the by, he  told me about his plan.

By this time (by now): He must have reached home by this time.

Bring to light (to let the public know): The secret was brought to light.

Bring to book (to call to account): The criminal should be brought to book.

By chance (incidentally): By chance, I met him on the way.

Call to mind (to remember): I cannot call to mind what he told me.

Chicken-hearted (cowardly): A chicken-hearted man like you cannot do it.

A close-fisted man (a miser): A close-fisted man spends nothing in charity.

Cock and bull story (a foolish story): A  cook and bull story makes us laugh only.

Come in question (to doubt): His honesty cannot be called in question.

Come to light (to be known): The secret has come to light.

Come true (to be proved true): His dream came true.

Crocodile tears (pretendedgrief): His step-mother shed crocodile tears at the death of his sister.

Crying need (urgent necessary): Education is the crying need of a nation.

Cut a sorry figure (to produce bad result): He cut  a sorry figure in the examination.

Cut short (to shorter): Please cut short your lecture.

Cold war (unfriendly relation and no actual fighting): The two nations are at cold war.

Dead letter (not in force): This law is a dead letter now.

Dead language (not spoken): Sanskrit is now a dead language.

Dog in the manger policy (unnecessarily obstructing others): I do not support your dog in the manger policy.

End in smoke (to become useless): All his attempts ended in smoke.

Every other day (on alternate day): Take the medicine every other day. .

Fall flat (not to be effective): The plan fell flat for want of money.

Fair weather friend (false friend): Fair weather friends never come in hard days.

Far and wide (all around): His fame spread far and wide.

First and foremost (main & most important): The first and foremost duty of a student is to read.

Flesh and blood (human nature) : A flesh and blood cannot tolerate this torture.

For the time being (for the present): Please let me wait here for the time being

Find fault with (to detect fault): Do not find fault with others.

Fall short of (be inadequate): Your performnce fell short of our expectation.

For good (for ever): He left the country for good.

For the sake of (on account of): He sacrificed much for the sake of peace.

From hand to mouth (very poorly): A beggar lives from hand to mouth.

From head to foot (the whole body): The Headmaster looked at him from head to foot. Get rid of (to make free): We should try to get rid of the problem.

Gift of the gab (a talented orator) Sher-e-Bangla was a gift of the gab.

Golden age (an age of develooment): Queen Elizabeth's period is called the golden age of English literature

Golden opportunity (an excellent opportunity): You have lost a golden opportunity of going abroad.

Hue and cry (up roar): They raised a hue and cry at the sight of the tiger.

Hard and fast (fixed): There are some hard and fast rules in cricket.

Heart and soul (earnestly): He tried heart and soul to win the prize.

Hale and hearty (physically sound): I hope you are hale and hearty.

Head or tail (no meaning): I could not make out head or tail of what he said. (Make out = understand)

High and low (all without exception): He is loved by all high and low.

Hang in the balance (to remain uncertain): The fate of the prisoners are still hanging in the balance.

In black and white (in writing): Please give the statement in black and white.

In a fix (in a difficult situation): I am in a fix and so I cannot do it without your help.

In case (if): In case you fail, you have to try again.

In fine (in conclusion): In fine, he advised us to co-operate with one another.

In full swing (in full force): The school is going on in full swing.

In lieu of (in stead of): He gave me a pen in lieu of a pencil.

In spite of (not withstanding): He came in spite of rain.

In the long run (ultimately): If you are lazy, you have to suffer in the long run.

Ins and outs (details): I know the ins and outs of the affair.

In a nut-shell (in short): He told us the story in a nut-shell.

In quest of (in search of): Tigers prowl in quest of prey.

In the- good book of (in favour with): You are in the good  book of the Managing Director.

In view of (in consideration): In view of his age, he was forgiven.

In no time (soon): He will return in no time.

In cold blood (deliberately): He murdered the man in cold blood.

Kith and kin (relatives): He has no kith and kin in the city.

Know no bounds (to be boundless): The orphan's sufferings after the death of his father knew no bounds.

Leave no stone unturned (to neglect no means): He left no stone unturned to gain the object.

Lion's share (major portion):The mill owners take the lion's share of the profit.

Lose heart (to be in despair): You should not lose heart when you fail to get your desired thing.

Long and short (the simple fact) This is the long and short of the story.

Man of letters (learned man): Everybody respects a man of letters.

Maiden speech (the first speech in public): Everybody was charmed to hear his maiden speech.

Make good (to compensate for): I shall make good of the loss.

Muster strong (to gather in a large number): People mustered strong in the meeting.

Make the best use of (use properly): You should make the best use of your time.

Make sure (to ascertain): You must make sure of your aim.

Nip in the bud (to destroy in the initial stage): All his hopes were nipped in the bud at the death of his father.

Now and then (occasionally): He visits our house now and then.

Null and void (invalid): This law is now null and void.

On behalf of (as a representative of): The chairman spoke on behalf of the council.

Of course (surely): Of course he will return soon.

Once and again (frequently): Father warned me once and again not to see the film.

Once for all (now and for the last time): I have seen his dead face once for all.

Open secret (secret known to all): Corruption in upper levels is an open secret.

Out of pocket (having no money): I am now out of pocket, so I cannot give you the money.

On foot (by walking): He came on foot.

On the eve of (just before): I went to the airport on the eve of his departure.

Part and parcel (an integral part): A library is a part and parcel of an educational institution.

Play hide and seek (a hiding and finding out game): The children were playing hide and seek.

Play truant (to leave or stay away from school without reason): Nazrul used to play truant.

Pros and cons (advantages & disadvantages): You must know the pros and cons of the matter.

Point blank (directly): The terrorist shot at him point blank.

Play tricks (play false): Some politicians play false with people.

Put off (lay aside): Do not put off your lesson for tomorrow.

Put off (take off/ remove): Put off your dirty shirt.

Put out (extinguish): Put out the lamp.

Rag day (the last day of education): Students enjoy the Rag day every year.

Red letter day (a memorable day): The Independence Day is a red letter day.

A rainy day (hard times): We should save money against a rainy day.

Red-handed (at the time of, committing a crime):The thief was caught red- handed.

Skin and bone (skeleton): Disease makes a man skin and bone.

Slow coach (a person slow in action): A slow coach like him cannot do it within this time.

Stone's throw (at short distance): My school is at a stone's throw from my residence.

Sum and substance (summary): This is the sum and substance of the story.

Summer friends (false friends): Summer friends do not come during evil days.

Square meal (full meal): The poor cannot have two square meals a day.

Step by step (gradually): Try to advance step by step.

Tell upon (to affect): Overwork will tell upon your health.

To the back bone (in the inmost being): The boy is wicked to the backbone.

Ups and downs (rise and fall): Every life has ups and downs.

Up and doing (very active): Be up and doing to prosper in life.

Without fail (certainly): I will go there tomorrow without fail.

Weal and woe (in happiness and sufferings): Good friends will help you in weal and woe.

Well-to-do (solvent): He comes of a well-to-do family.


Exercise :

Fill in the gaps with the phrases & idioms from the box. There are more phrases and idioms than necessary:

After all first and



find fault



by turns golden



at home in



all in all Black



by dint of by fits and



all on a



  1. [dash] he is a good man.
  2. Rafiq is very [dash] English.
  3. There appeared a tiger [dash] .
  4. The spoilt son is a [dash] of his family. ,
  5. You should not read [dash] if you want to do well in the examination.
  6. Joy and sorrow come [dash] in our life.
  7. The boy prospered in life [dash] hard work.
  8. Your [dash] duty is to study regularly.
  9. it is a bad habit to[dash] others.
  10. You have lost [dash] of getting a good job.