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Idioms, Slang, Phrasal Verbs, Colloquialisms, Cliches, and Proverbs, with Context Examples

by Sally Jennings

to be on call for
      The emergency room physician was on call for the weekend. He had his cell phone turned on and with him at all times.
to be reduced to tears
      When the toddler grabbed the books from her sister's arms, her sister was reduced to tears.
to be sick and tired of
      I'm sick and tired of you two children fighting.
to be sitting pretty
      If they sell that house for the list price, they will be sitting pretty.
to be there for someone
      I know you are having a hard time right now, but I'll be there for you [support you] when you need me.
to be tied down
      The mother of the baby triplets was tied down to a schedule of diaper changes, bottles, laundry and naps.
to be true to oneself
      If you speak up for what you believe in, you are being true to yourself.
to be willing to negotiate
      Union and management were both willing to negotiate a deal to avert a strike or lockout.
to be worried sick
      Ever since her daughter had failed the test, the mother had been worried sick about her future.
to bend over backwards
      The salesperson bent over backwards to be helpful when they bought the car.

to blank out /to draw a blank about something
      She couldn't find the right words. She just blanked out.
       When they asked the postal code at her last address, she drew a blank.
to blow a kiss to someone
       The charming toddler held her hand palm up, pursed her lips, and blew her Grandma a kiss.
to brace for the worst
      There is a hurricane warning, and residents of Atlantic Canada are bracing for the worst.
to break even
        The business is making as much as it has spent, so it is breaking even. It is viable.
to break every rule in the book
       The dishonest company made the sale, but in the process, it broke every rule in the book.
to break into
      The thief broke into the store through the back window, and stole the computer.
to break open
      The little girl broke the chocolate egg open and pulled out the prize.
to break the bank
      If our son spends any more on fancy cars, he'll break the bank. We just can't afford it.
to bring to bear on
       They brought all the facts to bear on the case and solved it.
to bring to justice
       The criminals were brought to justice. They will all be doing time behind bars.

to burn the candle at both ends
      He has committed far too much of his available time. He's only sleeping five hours at night; burning the candle at both ends.
to burst the bubble
       The man was quite attracted to the woman until she mentioned her husband and burst the bubble.
to buy off
       Rumours are that they have bought off half the team. It's all rigged.
to call the shots /to call all the shots
        In that family, Dad makes the money, but Mom calls all the shots.
to call to someone's attention/ to call someone's attention to something
       Someone walking by their car called their attention to the flat tire.
to carve out a niche
       That company is trying to carve out a niche in the interior design market.
to cause quite a stir
       Her engagement is causing quite a stir at work, since she has dated several men there.
to cave in
       Dad caved in and bought his oldest daughter a car for her graduation.
to celebrate a victory /birthday
       The winning team went out to a pub to celebrate their victory.
to chicken out
      He dared his sister to a roller blade race, but she chickened out at the last minute.


1 This Idiom Guide has 23 pages, in alphabetical order. This is page 12. Click below to go to a different page.

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