English Idioms Daily Blog

... your resource for English idioms, ESL and more!


Go to the Dogs

If something is going to the dogs, it is becoming significantly worse. For example:

Do you really believe that this country is
going to the dogs?
Since he starred in
The Wizard of Oz, the actor’s career has gone to the dogs.
It seems that the company’s reputation
has gone to the dogs.

In all three of these sample sentences, something - a country, a career or a reputation - has been damaged and become worse in some way or another.

The following video shows a special education program for children with special needs and disabilities in a Canadian secondary school. The title of the video is entitled
Education goes to the dogs, a title that plays with the literal as well as figurative meaning of the English idiom to go to the dogs.


At a Loss

At a Loss

Have you been at a loss lately? If you have, something has perplexed or puzzled you and/or even left you uncertain about what you should say or do. To see how the English idiom to be at a loss can be used, check out the following example:

Bashir was
at a loss when he heard about his wife’s plan to open a Scottish restaurant.

In this sentence, Bashir is
confused and speechless about his wife’s new business plan, i.e. he is at a loss.

Some recent headlines that have included the English idiom
to be at a loss are:

Putin at a loss after Bethlehem street named for him
- ca.news.yahoo.com, 26 June 2012, AFP
EU at a loss over Syria
- dw.de, 25 June 2012, Christoph Hasselbach
Euro 2012: Germany’s Mats Hummels at a loss to explain England’s failings on world stage
- telegraph.co.uk, 21 June 2012, Chris Bascombe


On the Rocks

While the English idiom on the rocks can be used to describe a drink served with ice cubes (e.g. whisky on the rocks), it can also refer to being in a state of difficulty or danger and even likely to fail soon. For example:

The European solar panel industry is
on the rocks.
Who would have thought that Judy’s marriage was
on the rocks?
Is the Euro
on the rocks?

Some recent news headlines / publications that have used the expression
on the rocks are:

Are Canada-US relations on the rocks?
- the star.com, 26 June 2012, Mitch Potter
Johnny Depp’s Love is on the Rocks
- express.co.uk, 20 June 2012, Lizzie Catt, Lisa Higgins & Jack Teague
Greeks and Germans at Polar Opposites: European Unity on the Rocks
- pewglobal.org, 29 May 2012
Yann M’Vila’s move to Arsenal on the rocks following France Euro 2012 spat
- metro.co.uk, 26 June 2012, Jamie Sanderson

Can you think of an industry that is currently
on the rocks?


Come Out of the Woodwork

Come Out of the Woodwork

If someone or something comes out of the woodwork, he/she or it appears after having been hidden, unknown or inactive for a long time. For example:

Since his death, many Michael Jackson fans have
come out of the woodwork.

This sentence means that many of the singer’s fans, who, perhaps, had not listened to much of his music throughout the years prior to his death, have come out and publicly acknowledged their liking of Michael Jackson music, i.e. they have
come out of the woodwork.

The following headlines/blog titles also contain the English idiom
to come out of the woodwork:

DiManno: Post-Diamond Jubilee, anti-monarchists and uber-monarchists come out of woodwork
- the star.com, 6 June 2012, Rosie DiManno
Manchester City fans coming out of the woodwork says Rio Ferdinand
- idependent.co.uk, 23 March 2012, PA
Artists Coming Out of the Woodwork: Éva Jospin
- en.paris-lifestyle.fr, Thomas jean


Set One's Sights on Something

If you set your sights on something, you are determined to achieve a goal. For example:

The boxer
set his sights on the world heavyweight championship.
The company
set its sights on entering the Asian market.
Two local swimmers
have set their sights on the Olympic Games.

The video below shows how daredevil Nik Wellenda
set his sights on tightrope-walking across Niagara Falls, a feat that he later accomplished on 15 June 2012.


Get Cracking!

Let's Get Cracking

The English idiom to get cracking means to start working. For example:

There is no use standing around talking about what we want to do.
Let’s get cracking!

Instead of Let’s get cracking!, one could have also said Let’s get to work!. The following articles/blog posts all contain the idiom to get cracking in their titles:

Get cracking on that list of things to organize
- miamiherald.com, 22 January 2012, Mary Beth Breckenridge, Akron Beacon Journal
Get Cracking on Innovative Tax Reform
- jamaica-gleaner.com, 23 January 2012, Garth A. Rattray
Let’s Get Cracking: How toMake an Omelet
- artofmaniliness.com, 31 January 2012, Matt Moore

Due to the fact that you have to
crack an egg to open it, you often see the English idiom to get cracking in connection with eggs or egg products. Thus, the title of the last article above Let’s Get Cracking: How to Make an Omelet, in which Let’s Get Cracking has a double meaning.


'Problem' Idioms

There are many ways to say that you have a problem. Which of the following English idioms, however, does NOT mean I have a problemor I am in trouble?

a) I am in a bind.
b) I am in a fix.
c) I am in a mess.
d) I am in a pickle.
e) I am in a predicament.
f) I am in a jam.

Click here to view the
correct answer.


Honesty is the Best Policy

Today’s English idiom is an old proverb: honesty is the best policy. It means that it is always best to tell the truth. For example:

Student: I did my homework, but my dog ate it.
Teacher: Tell me the truth, Robert. Honesty is the best policy.


Jane: How do I look in my new dress, Fred? Tell me the truth.
Fred: You look beautiful, dear.
honesty is not the best policy)

Here is a humorous Canadian television commercial from expedia.ca that uses the English proverb
honesty is the best policy:


'Story' Idioms

Story idioms

In the course of a lifetime, you will hear many stories. Which of the following stories is a sad story that will likely make you cry?

a) a tall story
b) a shaggy dog story
c) a fish story
d) a sob story
e) a likely story

To find out which of the English idioms above refers to
a sad story that will likely make you cry, click here.


Teacher's Pet

The English idiom teacher’s pet refers to the teacher’s favorite student. For example:

The teacher is never angry when Albert forgets to do his homework. He is the
teacher’s pet.

Because the
teacher’s pet is liked best by the teacher, he is often treated better than the other students, which may cause some jealousy or resentment. Thus, while the expression teacher’s pet can be used in a positive way, it can also be quite negative.

But why does a certain student become the
teacher’s pet? What qualities does a teacher’s pet usually have? In the following video, a group of Canadian school children are asked why they are the teacher’s pets. Their answers are quite funny.


Blow a Fuse

The following Sesame Street video shows the literal meaning of to blow a fuse:

However, what does to blow a fuse mean in the idiomatic or figurative sense? Here’s a clue: it means the same thing as to flip one’s lid, to hit the ceiling and to fly off the handle. Now, do you know what this English idiom means?

A synonym for
to lose one’s temper, the expression to blow a fuse means to become very angry. For example:

When Lucinda found out how much her husband had spent on his Portuguese stamp collection, she
blew a fuse.


'Short' Idioms

Short idioms

Below, you will find a selection of English idioms that all contain the word short. Which idiom means to come away with less than you deserve or what is deemed fair in a deal or contest?

a) to cut someone or something short
b) to get the short end of the stick
c) to make a long story short
d) to sell someone or something short
e) to stop short of something

For the
correct answer, click here.


WhizzQuiz - New iPhone/iPad App!


NEW! The English Idioms Daily Blog now has its own official iPhone / iPad App. Intended for intermediate to advanced speakers of English, WhizzQuiz will test your knowledge of English idioms. For more information on WhizzQuiz and where to get it, click here!


It Takes Two to...

As with many things in life, e.g. a relationship, a project, etc..., you often need more than one party to make something happen or work successfully. If you want to say that it takes more than one participant to make something possible, which of the following English idioms would you use?

a) It takes two to tango.
b) It takes two to rumba.
c) It takes two to polka.
d) It takes two to samba.

Click here for the
correct answer.


No More Mr. Nice Guy

No More Mr. Nice Guy

No more Mr. Nice Guy is an English expression that is used to refer to someone who is no longer going to be friendly, agreeable and accommodating to achieve his goals. It can be used in the following way:

A: I have had enough of my co-workers’ constant demands.
B: What do you mean?
A: I have been trying to please them for years and they still aren’t happy. From now on, I am doing what I want.
No more Mr. Nice Guy!

The English idiom No more Mr. Nice Guy implies that the speaker is now going to take a tougher approach to how he does things. In other words, he won’t be the nice guy that everyone, perhaps, thinks he is. No more Mr. Nice Guy can be further exemplified in the following recent articles:

Barack Obama: No More Mr. Nice Guy
- www2.mcleans.ca, 8 June 2012, Luiza Ch. Savage
No More Mr. Nice Guy’ - Why You Should Think Twice Before Co-Signing a Loan
- www.huffingtonpost.com, 7 June 2012, Jeanne Kelly
Bill Clinton is Back and it’s No More Mr. Nice Guy
- townhall.com, 8 June 2012, Donald Lambro


How does that grab you?

Today’s English idiom is the question How does that grab you?. Do you know what this expression means? Test yourself and see if you can select the correct definition below:

How does that grab you? means...

a) Are you well?
b) Are you comfortable?
c) Would you like more?
d) What do you think of that?

Click here for the correct definition of
How does that grab you?.


On the Mend

When you are on the mend, you are recovering from an illness, injury or a time of hardship. To see how this English idiom is used, have a look at the following dialogue:

A: How is Muriel? Has she recovered from her operation?
B: Thankfully, she is
on the mend and should be back at work next week.

Good synonyms for
to be on the mend are to get better or to improve. Two recent headlines that demonstrate the meaning of to be on the mend quite well are the following:

Prince Philip on the mend as Queen visits hospital
- scotsman.com, 7 June 2012
US jobless claims fall, labor market still on mend
- in.reuters.com, 7 June 2012,

The following video is a news report about a man who is
on the mend after a shark attack:


Corner the Market

If a company corners the market for a particular type of product or service, it is more successful than any other company at selling that particular product or service. For example:

With a current market share of 48.6%, the company has
cornered the smartphone market.
Has China
cornered the solar panel market?
German brands have
cornered the luxury automobile market.

In other words, when a company
corners the market, it dominates it.

The following video from 2009, which is entitled
Convenience Store Corners the Market, shows how a well-known convenience store has cornered the market in the United States.


At Loggerheads

Test your knowledge of English idioms! Look at the following sentence and, then, select the correct definition of the English idiom to be at loggerheads:

Fernando and Florence are
at loggerheads.

To be at loggerheads means...

a) to be relatives
b) to be good friends
c) to be married
d) to be in a quarrel

For the
correct answer and some good examples, click here.

Talk Shop


The English idiom
to talk shop means to talk about business, particularly in a non-work environment. For example:

A: Ted and Sue came to our party last night, but they didn’t speak to anyone.
B. What did they do all night?
A. They stood at the bar and
talked shop.
B. As if there isn’t anything more interesting to talk about than that!

As the dialogue above confirms, it is often considered impolite to
talk shop at social events. At the very least, talking shop is considered to be boring. However, when you consider how much time we spend in the workplace, it does seem rather natural to talk about what we do every day, doesn’t it?

For some further examples of how the English idiom
to talk shop can be used, have a look at these two recent articles :

Putin Welcomes Kissinger: Old Friends to talk Shop
- nytimes.com, 19 January 2012, Ellen Barry
African American Engineers Convene in Pittsburgh to Talk Shop, Promote Their Field
- imaginepittsburghnow.com, 28 March 2012, Bonnie Pfister


'Broken' Idioms

On the Fritz

Which of the following four English idioms mean not in working order? Clue: there is more than one correct answer.

a) on the fritz
b) on the blink
c) on the outs
d) out of order

To go to
the answers, click here.