Speak Read Write

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

by Sally Jennings

to look up to
      The small girl really looked up to her aunt and uncle. She just adored them.
to lose out on
      If you don't get back to the tour bus on time, you will lose out on the explanation the tour guide is giving about the next stop.
to lose the scent
      The dog tracked the rabbit through the bushes, and then lost the scent.
to lose track of
      She enjoyed the new book so much, she lost track of time and two hours went by before she realized it.
to make one's mark
      He has really made his mark in the art world and now sells his work for many thousands of dollars a piece.
to make a good /bad showing
      The junior soccer team is making a good showing, winning three games so far this season.
to make a mockery of
      In that trial, the acquittal of the accused makes a mockery of justice.
to make a mountain out of a molehill
      "Don't make such a fuss," said the parent to her toddler, "you are making a mountain out of a molehill."
to make a pact
      The seven-year-old girls made a pact to start a secret club where no boys would be allowed.
to make amends for
      The young offender will have to make amends for the damage he caused. Some are suggesting community service would be appropriate.

to make an effort
      I know you can pass the exam if you apply yourself to studying the material and really make an effort.
to make ends meet
      Between the two of them, her parents make enough money to make ends meet.
to make it to the top of a list
      She made it to the top of the list of post-doctoral candidates they were interviewing for the job.
to make the most of an opportunity
      In order to make the most of the opportunity, you must act now, before all the units are sold.
to maximize your return
      Certain investments will do better than others, maximizing your return on the dollars you invest.
to meet the criteria for
      He met all the criteria for entrance to the elite school. He met all their entrance requirements.
to mess around
      Do it right, don't just mess around.
      Don't mess around with that cat now, or he will claw you.
to milk something dry
      He renewed the business contract until the hiring company ran out of money for his project. He had milked them dry.
to miss the action /to miss all the action
      If she comes to the party two hours late, she is going to miss all the action.
to miss out (on)
      Three people showed up at the Canada Day Celebrations an hour after the last of the cake was gone. They missed out on a very good cake.

to miss the boat
      If she waits too late to apply for that school, she will miss the boat and not get in.
to miss the mark
      He was aiming for a bank balance of $5,000 this month, but it's only about $4,500. So, he missed the mark by about $500.
to mix metaphors
      Parts of two different metaphors should not be used together. For instance, "to pull the wool out from under (someone's) feet" and "to pull  the rug over (someone's) eyes," are both incorrect. They are mixed metaphors. The correct metaphors are "to pull the rug out from under (someone's) feet," and "to pull the wool over {someone's}eyes."
to muddy the waters
      The professor asked the class if they understood his explanation, or whether it had only muddied the waters and made things worse.
to name a panel
      The firm named a panel of distinguished members to lead the public discussions.
to need a crutch
      He does just fine in his third language, but his mother still needs a crutch, so she takes an a dictionary everywhere.
to opt for
      "I'll opt for the blue sports car," the game show contestant said. "That's my choice."
to opt out of
       They opted out of the undercoating for their new car, because the local road maintenance crews use sand, not salt. So they reasoned the car wouldn't rust.
to owe a debt of gratitude
      She saved our son's life when he was drowning, so we owe her a debt of gratitude.
to paint the town red
      The old fashioned song said they would have a really good time partying, painting the town red.

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This Idiom Guide has 23 pages, in alphabetical order. This is page 17. Click below to go to a different page.

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