Common Idioms - C - Calculated Risk

Idioms - C

calculated risk

- any action that could fail but has a good chance of succeeding


They company took a calculated risk when they expanded their operations in Asia.

call a spade a spade

- to speak directly


Fred always tells you what he thinks, he calls a spade a spade.

call it quits

- to stop doing something


It's already 7:30, lets call it quits for the day and go home.

call of nature


- the need to go to the bathroom


Can we find a bathroom, I feel the call of nature.

call off

- to cancel something


The baseball game was called off because of the rain.

call on


- to visit someone


I have to call on several customers when I'm in Taipei.

call on


- to ask someone to participate or contribute something


I was quiet in class so the teacher called on me to answer questions.

call someone's bluff


- to challenge someone to prove what they say is true


I didn't believe my bosses threat so I decided to call his bluff and subsequently lost my job!!

call the shots


-to make decisions, to have the final say, to be in charge


He is now calling the shots and is in control of the company.

call up


- to give someone a telephone call


She said that she would call up her boy friends on the weekend.

calm down


- to relax


Deep breathing, taking a hot bath & massage are good ways to calm down.

cancel out


- to render what went before as ineffective


The benefits of her exercise were cancelled out by her terrible eating habits.

can of worms


- a complicated situation or problem


The lawsuit opened up a can of worms for the company.

can't see the forest for the trees


- to be unable to understand the whole problem because you are looking at the small parts of it


He has no real understanding of most problems as he always fails to see the forest for the trees.

card up one's sleeve


- a plan or trick to be used as a surprise with the idea of winning a discussion or game


I think that he has a card up his sleeve and will be able to help us later.

(in) care of someone


- to send something to one person at the address of another person


I sent the parcel to her in care of her friend at the university.

carrot and stick


- the promise of reward and threat of punishment at the same time


The trade negotiators took a carrot and stick approach to the automobile talks.

(get) carried away


-to lose control or judgment due to strong feelings


I got a carried away and began to yell at her for losing my textbook.

carry on


- to continue doing what you were doing before


I'm sorry for interrupting you, please carry on with your work.

carry (something) out


- to put into action, accomplish


The move to the new headquarters was carried out with a minimum of problems.

carry over


- to save for another time

We plan to carry over the summer swimwear until next year.

carry the ball

- to take the most important or difficult part in an action or business

The vice-president was forced to carry the ball while the president was away.

carry the day

- to win or be successful

His fine performance in our company carried the day for us.

carry the torch

- to show loyalty to a cause or a person

He has been carrying the torch for the candidate for a long time.

carry through

- to put a plan into action

The company carried through with their plan to layoff 300 workers.

(a) case in point

- an example that proves something or helps to make something clear

What he just said was a case in point about what I have been saying all year.

cash cow

- a good source of money

His new business is a great cash cow. I think that he is really making a lot of money.

cash in

- to exchange something for money

We decided to cash in the coupons because we needed some money.

cash in on

- see and profit by a chance

The small town cashed in on their success with the winter Olympics.

cast the first stone

- to be the first to blame someone

He was the one to cast the first stone and now he is having a major fight with his neighbor.

cat burglar

- a burglar who enters a building by climbing a wall etc.

We lost our stereo when a cat burglar entered our apartment.

cat gets one's tongue

- can't talk

I think that the cat has got her tongue. She hasn`t said anything at all since the meeting started.


- a situation where whatever you do the outcome will be bad, a no-win situation

It was a catch-22 situation where if I went to work there would be problems but if I didn't go to work there would be more problems.

catch a cold

- to become sick with a cold

I caught a cold because of the rain and the cold weather.

catch on

- to understand, learn about

It was difficult to catch on at first but finally I was able to understand the math problem.

catch on

- to become popular

Recently ballroom dancing has begun to catch on among many people.

catch one's breath

- stop to rest and regain one's normal breathing

After running from the station it took a moment to catch my breath.

catch one's eye

- attract one's attention

I tried to catch her eye but she didn't notice me.

catch (someone) red-handed

- find someone in the middle of doing something wrong

He caught the boy red-handed when he was stealing the candy.

catch up with (someone or something)

- become even with someone (in a race or in schoolwork etc.)

I think it's too late to catch up with the rest of the class now.

caught short

- not having enough of something when you need it (usually money)

I was caught short last week and couldn't pay the weekly food bill.

cave in

- to weaken and be forced to give up

The company finally caved in to the union's demand for more money.

chalk up

- to record something

The basketball team chalked up 3 wins last week.

change horses in midstream

- make new plans or choose a new leader in the middle of an important activity

They decided to change horses in midstream and that is probably why they lost the election.

change of heart

- change the way one feels about something

She had a change of heart and decided to let her child go to the circus.

change (one's) mind

- change one`s decision

He changed his mind and said that he would not go to the movie tonight.

change (one's) tune

- make a change in one's story, statement or opinions

He has begun to change his tune recently and is beginning to agree that we need to do things a little differently.

(in) charge of something

- be responsible for an activity or group of people

He is in charge of selling tickets for the school dance.

cheat on (someone)

- be unfaithful to someone

He recently began cheating on his wife which was the main cause of their divorce.

chew the fat


- to talk or chat


I haven't seen you for a while, let's for for a coffee and chew the fat.

chew out (someone)


- scold roughly


The teacher chewed out the student for talking in class.

chicken feed


- a small amount of money


What he sold his car for was chicken feed compared to the amount of money that he has in the bank.

chicken out


- stop doing something because of fear


He chickened out of jumping into the lake from the high diving board.

chickens come home to roost


- words or acts come back to cause trouble for a person


Her chickens have finally come home to roost and she must now take responsibility for what she has done.

chip in


- contribute or pay jointly


We all chipped in and bought our father a present.

chip off the old block


- person who looks or acts like one of his parents


His son is a chip off the old block and acts exactly like his father.

(when the) chips are down


- the time when one faces the greatest obstacles


When the chips were down he went to his father for advice and received his encouragement.

clam up


- to stop talking


She clammed up as soon as her boyfriend entered the room.

clean bill of health


- the assurance that an animal or person is healthy


The astronaut was given a clean bill of health before he began training.

clean slate


- having no errors, past acts that are all good

He started off with a clean slate and has never caused any problems for the company.

clear the air

- calm down and remove a misunderstanding

We had a big argument so I think it is time to clear the air.

clear up

- solve or explain (a problem etc.)

They finally cleared up the problem that I was having with my salary at work.


- sports event or movie where the outcome is uncertain until the very end

The playoff game was a cliffhanger and one of the most enjoyable games of the year.

climb the wall

- be so bored that you become anxious and frustrated

She began to climb the wall after only a few days at her new job.

clip someone`s wings

- limit one`s activities or possibilities

They decided to clip his wings and took away his expense account.

close call/shave

- an accident almost happens (but doesn`t happen)

I had a close call this morning when the truck almost hit me.

close ranks

- come together for fighting, unite and work together

They decided to close ranks and stop arguing among themselves

close to home

- near to someone`s personal feelings, wishes or interests

What I said about her work habits must have hit close to home as she seemed to become very quiet suddenly.

coast is clear

- no danger is in sight, no one can see you

When the coast was clear we decided to enter the building.

cold spell or cold snap

- a sudden short period of cold weather (usually in winter)

The cold snap lasted for five days.

cold turkey

- stop using drugs (heroin etc.) abruptly and without medical aid

Although she was able to stop using drugs cold turkey she was very sick for awhile.

come across

- find something or meet someone by chance

I came across an interesting story in the newspaper the other day.

Come again.

- please repeat, please say that again

Come again. I didn`t hear you the first time.

come alive

- brighten up and become active

She finally came alive and began to enjoy the party.

come along

- make progress, thrive

The work on our new house is coming along very well at the moment.

come a long way

- make great progress

He has come a long way and has learned many things about his new company.

come back

- return to the place you are now

She came back from her holidays last week.

come back

- return to one`s memory

I can`t remember clearly the events of last year but slowly everything is coming back to me.

come back

- become popular again

Recently bell-bottom pants have come back into fashion.

come between

- disrupt the relationship between (two people)

His constant interfering finally came between his brother and his wife.

come by

- get, obtain, acquire

She came by a lot of money recently and is now enjoying her life.

come clean

- tell the truth

The president of the company was forced to come clean and tell what really happened to the business.

(a) come-down

- a lowering in status, income, influence or energy

Her new job was a real come-down from her last one so she was not very happy.

come down hard on

- scold or punish severely

The police have been coming down very hard on drunk drivers recently.

come down to earth

- stop imagining or dreaming, think and behave as usual

He has finally come down to earth and is preparing seriously to look for a job.

come down with

- become sick with or catch a cold etc.

Her mother came down with a cold so was unable to attend the dinner.

come from

- be a native of a place

Several of the students in the class come from Mexico.

come full circle

- completely opposite from one`s starting point

They have come full circle since the new president started at the university.

come hell or high water

- no matter what happens

Come hell or high water I plan to go to the concert next week.

come in handy

- prove to be useful

I think that the small hammer will come in handy to fix the desk.

come into

- receive, get possession of

They came into a lot of money which they donated to charity.

come into fashion

- become fashionable

She says that although bell-bottom pants have come into fashion again she will never wear them.

come into one`s own

- become to perform or work well because of good circumstances

He has really come into his own as a basketball player since he changed positions.

come off

- be successful

The party came off without any problems so everyone was very happy.

come on strong

- overwhelm with excessively strong language or personality

He came on too strong during the job interview and was unable to get the job.

come out with

- say, make known

The child has recently come out with many strange and funny expressions.

come to

- begin or learn to do or feel something

At first I disliked her a lot but recently I have come to accept her.

come to

- regain consciousness

She came to a couple of hours after the accident.

come to blows

- begin to fight

They almost came to blows when they were trying to fix the car.

come to grief

- have a bad accident or disappointment

He has recently come to much grief because of his son`s problems with the police.

come to grips with

- struggle (successfully) with an idea or problem

She has finally been able to come to grips with her husband`s drinking.

come to light

- be discovered, become known

It has recently come to light that the company has lost millions of dollars.

come to nothing

- end in failure

All his efforts to help his sister find a job came to nothing.

come to one`s senses

- begin to think clearly or act sensibly

He finally came to his senses and decided to buy a cheaper car rather than borrow a lot of money for an expensive one.

come to pass

- to happen, occur

It came to pass that the company was never able to recover from their financial problems.

come to terms

- reach an agreement

We came to terms with the bank and were able to buy the house.

come to the point

- be direct

His speech was interesting but he never really came to the point.

come up with

- produce or find a thought, idea or answer

Please try to come up with a name for the new magazine.

conk out

- fall asleep quickly with great fatigue

As soon as we returned from the hike I conked out in front of the TV.

cook one`s goose

- ruin one`s chances

She really cooked her own goose and has no chance of getting the new job.

cook up

- invent, plan and put something together

I don`t know what kind of plan she is cooking up now but it should be quite interesting.

cool as a cucumber

- very calm and brave, not worried or anxious

She was as cool as a cucumber when her canoe turned over in the river.

cop a plea

- plead guilty to a crime in order to get a lesser penalty

He was forced to cop a plea when the evidence against him became too strong to dispute.

cop out

- avoid doing something that you were planning to do

He copped out from our plan to go to to the beach for the day.


- someone who copies another person`s work or their actions

The little boy was accused of being a copycat by the other children.

cough up

- give unwillingly

He finally coughed up enough money to pay for the accident.

count on

- depend on

You can never count on him to do anything right.

count one`s chickens before they`re hatched

- assume that something will be successful before it is certain

Don`t count your chickens before they`re hatched. You`re spending your money and you don`t even have a job yet.

count out

- leave something out of a plan, exclude

Please count me out of your plans to go skiing for the weekend.

cover one`s tracks

- hide or not say where one has been or what one has done

He was trying to cover his tracks but it was easy to see where he had recently been.

cover up

- hide something wrong or bad

They tried to cover up the facts regarding the illegal election campaign funds.

cozy up to (someone)

- try to be friendly to someone

I don`t know what he wants but recently he has been trying to cozy up to me.

crack a joke

- tell a joke

He was a lot of fun at the party because he was always cracking jokes.

crack a smile

- let a smile show on one`s face

He never cracked a smile during the whole meeting.

crack down on

- enforce laws or rules strictly

The school principal decided to crack down on people running in the halls.

crack of dawn

- daybreak, early in the morning

We got up at the crack of dawn to go fishing.


- an eccentric person with ideas that don't make sense to others

He is a total crackpot and you never know what he will do next.

crack the whip

- try to make someone work hard or obey you by threatening them

We had to crack the whip in order to get the job finished by the weekend.

(buy something) on credit

-to pay for something without cash

He decided to buy the stereo with his credit card.

crack up

- to burst into laughter, or to get very angry

I cracked up when he started talking about the incident with the taxi driver. He cracked up when he found out I had been seeing his girlfriend while he was away on holidays.

cramp one's style

-to make one feel uncomfortable or restricted

Having a girl as a friend when I go on the chase cramps my style.

crash the gate

- enter without a ticket, paying or with no invitation

Many people couldn't get a ticket for the sold out concert so they decided to crash the gate.

cream of the crop

- the top choice, the best

When a company hires new employees they always look for the cream of the crop.

(the) creeps

- a strong feeling of fear or disgust

I get the creeps every time I see a black cat.

creep up on

- to sneak up on someone, almost as if by surprise

The thief crept up on the elderly women at the supermarket...Or, my bills just keep creeping up on me!

crocodile tears

-to show false tears or emotions to gain favor, or a show of sorrow that is not really felt

He said that he was very sorry but it didn't seem genuine. His tears were just crocodile tears.

crop up

-to appear or happen unexpectedly

I will pay you the money I owe you early next week unless something crops up that empties my wallet.

cross a bridge before one comes to it

- think and worry about future events or problems before they happen

Don't worry about any problems we may have living together. We can cross that bridge if & when we come to it.

cross one's heart and hope to die

- promise that what you are saying is true

I promise that I will never cheat on you again ..."I love only you baby", cross my heart and hope to die.

cross one's mind

-to think of, occur to someone

It just crossed my mind that I would be better off financially if I gave up drugs!

cross (something) out

-to get rid of by drawing a line through something

Please cross out that amount and put in the correct amount.

cross to bear/carry

-the price one has to pay, or something you must do or continue with even though you are suffering

Teaching English in Taiwan against my will is the cross I have to bear.

cry out for

- to badly need something , to be lacking

The new room that he built cries out for a new set of furniture.

cry over spilt milk

- to complain about something that has already happened

there's no use crying over spilt milk. What's done is done. You can never change the past.

cry uncle

- admit defeat or that one has lost

He finally had to cry uncle when the other wrestler pinned him to the mat.

cry wolf

- a false alarm motivated to fool others, or to warn of danger that is not there

He has been crying wolf for years about various things and now nobody believes him.

(not one's) cup of tea

- something one enjoys, special interest

It's not really my cup of tea, so I think I wont be watching the ice skating tonight.

curiosity killed the cat

-being too interested in other peoples affairs could get you into serious trouble

Don't keep asking so many questions. Remember curiosity killed the cat.

curry favor

-to do something to help a party in order to get friendship or future help

He has been working hard to curry favor with the other members of the committee, so they will vote his way.

cut across

- cross or go through something instead of going around

We decided to cut across the field because we were in a hurry to get to school.

cut and dried

-an outcome has already been decided, prearranged

According to media reports the coming war with Iraq looks to be cut and dried.

cut back

-to use less of

I was continually getting sick, so I had to cut back on my smoking.

cut both ways

- serve both sides in the interest of fair play

Friendship & relationships are not one sided, they cut both ways.

cut corners

-to economize or do with less to reach a desired outcome

We will have to cut corners in order to save money for our house.

cut down on

- use less of something

Recently he has cut down on his drinking in order to start his new health program.

cut down to size

- prove that someone is not as good as he thinks

I was able to cut him down to size when I criticized what he said at the meeting.

cut (someone) off

- stop someone from saying something, disconnect someone on the phone

I tried to tell him about the accident but he cut me off before I had a chance.

cut off one's nose to spite one's face

- make things worse for oneself because of pride or anger or a seemingly hopeless situation

He was depressed because he was poor, so he went to the pub every night to drown his sorrows.

cut out

- to eliminate, to get rid of

The children were fooling around, co the angry teacher told them to cut it out.

cut the mustard

-to reach an acceptable standard

He doesn't cut the mustard and will never be able to work here.

Idiom Quizzes - C

Choose an idiom at the bottom to replace the expression in the brackets below:

1. His father must (eliminate) fat from his diet because of his health.

(a) cancel out (b) calm down (c) cut out (d) carry over

2. Let`s (stop work) for today and come back tomorrow.

(a) chip in (b) clear the air (c) call it quits (d) come across

3. I would like to buy a new car so I have begun to (economize) on my daily expenses.

(a) come clean (b) count on (c) cut out (d) cut corners

4. You can (be sure of) her helping you with the cleaning.

(a) cross out (b) count on (c) come up with (d) clear the air with

5. I had (an accident - almost but not really) this morning when my car almost hit a fence.

(a) a cave in (b) a change of heart (c) a close call (d) clean slate

6. Working in an office is definitely (unsuitable for him).

(a) In care of him (b) not his cup of tea (c) on credit (d) cut out

7. It finally (occurred to me) that I had met him before at a party.

(a) crossed my mind (b) cleared the decks (c) came clean (d) crosses out

8. He is (responsible for) buying equipment in his company.

(a) creeping up on (b) in care of (c) caught short (d) in charge of

9. I was (unable to pay) when I went to the store so I went home to get some more money.

(a) cut out (b) crossed my mind (c) caught short (d) on credit

10. She was very angry when she heard the news but now she has begun to (quiet down).

(a) have the cheek to do something (b) calm down (c) cut corners (d) call it quits

11. The government minister was finally forced to (tell the truth) about the illegal funds.

(a) call the shots (b) chew the fat (c) clear the decks (d) come clean

12. Everybody in the class (contributed money) to buy the food for the party.

(a) came to the point (b) cut out (c) called their bluff (d) chipped in

13. She (thought of) a good idea for the sales convention.

(a) caught up with (b) cut down to size (c) came up with (d) climbed up the wall

14. The tennis match (was canceled) because of the rain.

(a) came clean (b) was called off (c) came to the point (d) crossed out

15. She has really (advanced) with her typing skills.

(a) come a long way (b) cut down on (c) come to the point (d) carried through

16. He is (making the decisions) for the new project.

(a) coming clean (b) calling the shots (c) cut out (d) calling up

17. He has begun to (use less) salt because of his health.

(a) cash in on (b) carry out (c) cut down on (d) chew the fat on

18. I stopped to (rest for awhile) after climbing the stairs.

(a) clear the air (b) catch my breath (c) come a long way (d) come clean

19. It was difficult to go to work during the (cold period).

(a) cut corners (b) call off (c) cold spell (d) close call

20. They must talk in order to (remove their misunderstanding).

(a) clear the decks (b) come a long way (c) cross their mind (d) clear the air

21. Whenever (he faces a great obstacle) he works hard to overcome his problems.

(a) the chips are down (b) he calls it quits (c) he clears the air (d) he cuts the mustard

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