Common Idioms - B - They're Back

Teaching English in Taiwan

Idioms - B

back on one's feet

- to return back to good financial or physical health

They are finally back on their feet after they lost their house in the earthquake.

back out


- to withdraw from an agreement or promise

They backe3d out of the contract to but the house.

back to the drawing board

- go back to start a project or idea from the beginning

Our idea didn't work so I guess we must go back to the drawing board.

bail someone out

- to help or rescue someone

The government decided to bail out the troubled airline companies one last time.

bank on

- to be sure of, count on

You can bank on me to help help you when you move to your new house.

bark is worse than one's bite

- to describe someone who isn't as bad as they sound

Don't worry about what he said - his bark is worse than his bite.

bark up the wrong tree

- to make a wrong assumption about something

You are barking up the wrong tree if you think I am the one who took your watch.

beat around the bush

- to speak indirectly or evasively

Stop beating around the bush and tell me what you really think

beat someone to the punch (draw)

- to do something before others do

My roommate beat me to the punch and got the last piece of pizza before I got home.

(have a) bee in one's bonnet

- to have an idea that continually occupies one's thoughts.

Betty has a bee in her bonnet over whether or not to but a new car.

(do something) behind someone's back

- to do something bad without someone's knowledge

Carla was very angry when her boy friend used her cell phone behind her back.

behind the times

- to be out of fashion, not up on what's new

They still don't have a computer; they are a little behind the times.

to blame

- to be responsible for something bad or unfortunate

Andrew was to blame for breaking the wine glasses.

bend over backwards to do something

- to try very hard to do something

She bent over backwards to help me find a new apartment.

beside one's self

- to be very upset or excited about something

He was beside himself with joy when he won the lottery.

beside the point

- to be unrelated to the subject that you are considering or discussing

"What you are saying is beside the point. We are not talking about is completely different"

bet on the wrong horse

- to misjudge a coming event, misread the future

Donavan bet on the wrong horse by putting all of his money into the Taiwan stock market.

better off

- to be in a better situation than before

Wayne would be better off if he stayed at his old job.

big shot

- an important and powerful person

This restaurant is very expensive, but you can usually see many big shots here.

birthday suit

- to be naked, no clothes on

The little boy was running down the street in his birthday suit.

bite off more than one can chew

- to do more than one is able to do

I think I bit off more than I can chew by taking on the new assignment.

bite the bullet

- to endure in a difficult situation, face a difficult situation bravely

I have decided to bite the bullet and begin studying for my Master`s degree.

bite the dust

-to be killed, break down, be defeated

I think that my car has finally bitten the dust.

bite the hand that feeds you

- to turn against a friend or supporter, repay kindness with wrong

He is biting the hand that feeds him if he continues to criticize and fight against his boss.

blind leading the blind

- someone who doesn't understand something trying to explain it to others

It is like the blind leading the blind watching him try and explain how to operate the new computer.

blow it (something)

- to fail at something

I tried hard but I am sure that I blew the final math exam last week.

blow one's own horn

- to praise oneself

He is always blowing his own horn and is very annoying at times.

blow over

- to calm down or die down

The problem with the lost invoices has finally blown over and everyone is working hard again.

blue in the face

- endlessly, fruitlessly

You can argue with him until you are blue in the face but you will never change his mind.

born with a silver spoon in one's mouth

- to be born rich, provided from birth with everything you need

He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and has never worked in his life.

brand new

- absolutely new

He was finally able to buy a brand-new car.

break down

- to stop working because of mechanical problems

The car broke down on the lonely road so nobody knew about it.

break down

- to analyze something

We must break down these figures for further study.

break fresh ground

- to deal with something in a new way

The researchers were able to break fresh ground in their search for a cancer cure.

break the bank

- to win all the money at a casino gambling table

He didn`t really break the bank but he did win a lot of money.

break the ice

- to relax and start a conversation in a formal situation

Nobody was enjoying the party until the host finally was able to break the ice.

break the news

- to tell some information first

He is planning to break the news to her about his transfer tomorrow.

break up (with someone)

- to stop a relationship

She broke up with her boyfriend last June.

bring home the bacon

- to work and earn money for your family

He is out bringing home the bacon and is very busy.

bring some new facts to light

- to discover some new facts, make some new facts known

The lawyers were able to bring some new facts to light in the trial of the killer.

bring something on

- cause to develop rapidly

I don't know what brought on his anger but you should avoid him until he calms down.

bring the house down

- cause much laughter in the audience

The comedian brought the house down with his jokes about the lost dog.

bring up

- introduce a subject into a discussion

They brought up the subject at the meeting but nobody wanted to talk about it.

bring up

- raise or care for a child

My grandmother brought up ten children.

bring up the rear

- be at the end of the line or in the last position

The runner from the other school was bringing up the rear in the school relay race.


- have no money

I spent all of my money on my holiday and I am now broke.

brush up on something

- review something one has already learned

I'm going to brush up on my English before my trip to New York.

brush with the law

- a brief encounter or experience with the police because of a crime

He had a brush with the law when he was young but now he is totally honest.

bull in a china shop

- someone who is clumsy and upsets other people or plans

He was like a bull in a china shop when I saw him at the meeting last week.

bundle up

- put on warm clothes, dress warmly

We bundled up and went for a walk in the park.

burn a hole in one's pocket

- money that you want to spend quickly

I just got paid today and this money is burning a hole in my pocket.

burn down

- burn completely (usually used for buildings)


The neighbor's house burnt down completely during the night.

burn the candle at both ends

- work or play too hard without enough rest

He has been burning the candle at both ends with his work and his studies. That is why he became sick.

burn the midnight oil

- to study until very late at night

The students burned the midnight oil for three nights in a row in order to study for the exam.

burn up

- burn completely (usually things not buildings)

The uniforms burned up in the fire.

bury (hide) one's head in the sand

- refuse to see or face something, keep from seeing or knowing something unpleasant

He always buries his head in the sand and never wants to deal with his family problems at all.

bury the hatchet

- stop quarreling and become friendly with someone

He decided to bury the hatchet with his brother and they are now on friendly terms again.

butter someone up

- flatter someone

He is trying to butter up his boss so that he can leave early on Friday.

buy a pig in a poke

- buy something without seeing it or knowing if it will be satisfactory

You shouldn't buy that car without first inspecting it. It is like buying a pig in a poke.

by and large

- on the whole, considering everything

By and large we had a good meeting even though it was a little short.

by and by

- before long

By and by they will come and we can go out for dinner.

by far

- greatly, by a great margin

He is by far the smartest person in the company.

by fits and starts

- irregularly, with many stops and starts

By fits and starts the company was finally able to begin business.

by hook or by crook

- in any way necessary

She says that she will go to Italy this year by hook or by crook.

by the way

- incidentally

By the way, could you please bring your computer tomorrow.

by the skin of one's teeth

- by a very small margin, barely

I made the application date for the job by the skin of my teeth.

by the sweat of one's brow

- by hard work

He managed to make enough money to buy the farm by the sweat of his brow.

Idiom Quizzes - B

Type in the correct idiom then check your answer in the answer box

1. Ray is going to go to cram school to his Japanese.

(a) bank on (b) brush up on (c) better off (d) bring to mind

2. I wish she would say exactly what she means rather than .

(a) biting off more than he can chew (b) breaking the news (c) bringing the house down (d) beating around the bush

3. Diane is a good employee, she is always to do a good job.

(a) brings up the rear (b) barks up the wrong tree (c) burns his bridges behind him (d) bends over backwards

4. He refused my proposal so I will have to .

(a) go back to the drawing board (b) bury the hatchet (c) by the skin of my teeth (d) bring to mind

5. She her boyfriend after a big fight last week.

(a) bailed out (b) beat around the bush (c) broke down (d) broke up with

6. The clothes in that store are a little .

(a) behind the times (b) brand new (c) broke (d) better off

7. He is always spending his money drinking so he is always .

(a) backed out (b) banked on (c) broke (d) behind the times

8. She is since she sold her car.

(a) blown over (b) beating around the bush (c) backing out (d) better off

9. It is time to her about the company`s plans to move.

(a) burn the candle at both ends to (b) break the news to (c) bend over backwards to (d) burn the midnight oil to

10. I think that I when I said I`d help with the party.

(a) bit off more than I can chew (b) broke the bank (c) brought to mind (d) had a brush with the law

11. You can always him to lend you the money.

(a) blow over (b) back out (c) bank on (d) bring to mind

13. The camera that I lost on holidays was .

(a) back to the drawing board (b) beside herself (c) better off (d) brand new

14. The old farm houseduring the electrical storm.

(a) burnt down (b) brought up (c) broke fresh ground (d) beat around the bush


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