Common Idioms - F

Idioms - F

face down

- confront boldly and win, defy

They decided to face down their competitors and were able to easily stay in business.

face the music

- accept the consequences of something

He is going to have to face the music sooner or later.

face up to

- accept something that is not easy to accept

You must face up to the fact that you are never going to have enough money to buy that car.

face value

- value or price printed on a stamp/bond/paper money etc.

He gave me the face value that was printed on the used stamps.

face value

- seeming value or truth of something

He is a nice person but you must always take at face value what he says.

facts of life

- what one should know about sex, marriage and birth

He seems to be a little too young to know about the facts of life.

fair and square

- honestly, just, straightforward

The British team won the game fair and square but still the other team complained.

fair game

- a likely object of aggressive interest

The company is fair game as a takeover target by other international companies.

fair play

- justice, equal and right action

He believes in fair play and is a wonderful person to have on our team.

fair shake

- honest treatment

She was not given a fair shake at the inquiry into her behavior.

fair-weather friend

- a person who is a friend only when one is successful

He is a fair-weather friend only and you can`t rely on him if you have a problem.

fall apart

- become to not work properly

The equipment fell apart about six months after I bought it.

fall back

- move back, go back

The runner fell back from the rest of the runners when the race was half over.

fall back on something/someone

- turn to for help when something else has failed

She had to fall back on her father`s money when her business had problems.

fall behind

- fail to keep up with work or studies or payments etc.

He fell behind with his homework at the beginning of the term and had problems throughout the year.

fall by the wayside

- give up or fail before the finish

He had a good chance of winning the competition but he fell by the wayside near the end.

fall flat

- be unsuccessful, fail

I think that my attempt at humor fell flat and now she doesn`t like me.

fall for

- begin to like very much, begin to love

He fell for the woman at the bank but he is afraid to ask her for a date.

fall from grace

- lose approval

The politician fell from grace with the public over the money scandal.


- argument, disagreement, quarrel

We had a falling-out during our holiday and we haven`t spoken since.

fall in love with

- begin to love someone

I fell in love with her the first time that I saw her at the restaurant.

fall into line

- go and stand properly in a row (like soldiers)

The students were forced to fall into line as they waited for the doors to open.

fall in with

- become associated with a bad group of people

He fell in with a bad group of friends and began to get lower marks.

fall off

- decrease

The number of tourists to visit the island has fallen off recently.

fall off the wagon

- return to the consumption of alcohol or drugs after stopping for awhile

He fell off the wagon after he stopped drinking for three years.

fall on

- meet (troubles)

The town had fallen on hard times before the new computer company moved to town and created many jobs.

fall out of use

- be no longer used

That kind of stereo system has fallen out of use over the last 20 years.

fall over oneself

- be extremely eager to do something or please someone

They fell over themselves in their effort to please their host.

fall short (of one`s expectations)

- not be as good as you expected, not succeed

The new movie fell short of everyone`s expectations and attendance is very low.

fall through

- fail, not happen

My plan to go abroad fell through when my father refused to lend me some money.

far and wide

- everywhere, in all directions

We looked far and wide for the book but could not find it.

far cry

- something very different

What he said to my friend is a far cry from what he told me over the telephone.

farm out

- have someone else do something, send away

We farmed out all of the printing to another company in order to save money.

fast buck

- money earned quickly and easily

He is always trying to make a fast buck without really trying to work very hard.

fast talker

- con artist, clever talker who convinces others easily

He is a fast talker so you should be careful not to believe everything that he says.

fat chance

- little or no possibility, almost no chance

Fat chance that he will let me use his car. He never lets me borrow anything.

(live off the) fat of the land

- have the best of everything, especially without having to work for it

He plans to move to the mountains and try and live off the fat of the land.

favorite son

- a candidate supported by his home state for President etc.

We voted for him because he is the favorite son of our state.

feather in one`s cap

- something you achieve and are proud of

Winning the new contract was a real feather in his cap.

feather one`s nest

- look after one`s own interest (while holding public office or a trusted job etc.)

The mayor has been feathering his nest for many years and is now very rich.

fed up with

- disgusted or bored with someone or something

I think that he is getting fed up with the constant demands of his boss.

feed someone a line

- deceive

He was feeding me a line about his plans to open a new restaurant downtown.

feel like a million dollars

- feel wonderful

I feel like a million dollars today so I think that I will go for a walk.

feel out

- talk or act carefully with someone and find out what he thinks

I will try and feel out my boss this weekend and see what he thinks of my chance of promotion.

feel sorry for

- pity

I feel sorry for him after losing his job.

feel up to (do something)

- feel able (healthy enough or rested enough) to do something

I don`t feel up to going to the game.

feet on the ground

- sensible ideas

He is a good family man and always has his feet on the ground.

few and far between

- not many, rare, few and scattered

The gas stations were few and far between on the highway through the mountains.

fiddle around

- tinker, do something in an unplanned way

I tried fiddling around with the computer printer for awhile but it still won`t work.


- equally, evenly

We divided the cost of the trip fifty-fifty.

fight tooth and nail

- fight fiercely or with all one`s might

He is fighting tooth and nail to get a transfer to another department.

figure on

- depend on, be sure about

You can figure on about 30 people coming to the party next week.

figure out

- try to understand or solve

He finally figured out how to use the new video recorder.

fill (someone) in

- tell someone the details

I will fill you in later about our plans for the weekend.

fill (something) in

- write words needed in blanks

Please fill in this form and give it to the receptionist.

fill one`s shoes

- substitute satisfactorily for

Although he is a good supervisor he is unable to fill the shoes of those who came before him.

fill out

- write down the facts that are asked for (in a report etc.)

We were asked to fill out the forms before we could have an interview for the job.

fill the bill

- be suitable for what is required

I think that the new equipment should fill the bill for us.

find fault with

- criticize

He is always finding fault with everything that I do.

find out

- learn, discover

She is angry at me because she found out that I quit the night class.

(go over with a) fine-toothed comb

- very carefully

We went over the apartment with a fine-toothed comb but couldn`t find her watch.

finger in the pie

- part ownership or responsibility

He has his finger in the pie of all the small companies in the area.

first come, first served

- the person who comes will have his turn first

"First come, first served" she called as she put the food on the table.


- directly

I learned the news from him firsthand.


- new, shown for the first time

There are a lot of first-run movies that I haven`t had time to see yet.

fish for

- try to get or to find out (something) by hinting at it

She is always fishing for compliments when I see her at work.

fish out of water

- someone who does not fit in

He was like a fish out of water at the expensive restaurant.

(be) fishy

- strange and suspicious

Something is fishy with his excuse. Why did he take the day before the holiday off work?

fit as a fiddle

- in good athletic condition or health

Her grandfather is 92 years old but he is as fit as a fiddle.

fit like a glove

- fit perfectly

The new pair of jeans that he bought fit like a glove.

fit to be tied

- very angry or upset

He was fit to be tied when he heard that I was going to take a month off work in the summer.

fix someone up with someone

- help someone get a date by arranging a meeting for the two

I tried to fix my sister up with a date with my friend but she refused me.

fizzle out

- fail after a good start, end in failure

The party began to fizzle out about midnight when many people went home.

flare up

- become suddenly angry, begin again suddenly

The fighting flared up again after the United Nations soldiers left the town.

flash in the pan

- something that makes a showy start and then fails

His sports career was a flash in the pan. Recently I haven`t heard of him at all.

flat broke

- have no money

I have been flat broke since I stopped working last month.


- without hiding anything, plainly, openly

I told her flat-out that I would not go with her to the party.

flea in one`s ear

- an annoying hint, an idea or answer that is not welcome

I put a flea in his ear regarding the proposal deadline that he had missed.

flea market

- a place where antiques or secondhand things are sold

We went to a flea market last Saturday to try and buy some dishes.

flesh and blood

- a close relative

She is my own flesh and blood so of course I felt terrible when she got into trouble.

flip one`s lid

- become very excited, lose one`s temper

He really flipped his lid when I told him about the huge telephone bill.

flip out

- go insane, go out of one`s mind, become very angry

She flipped out when she heard that I had sold her car.

fly by the seat of one`s pants

- do a job instinctively rather than by using concrete information

I had to fly by the seat of my pants when the supervisor left me alone for a week.

flying high

- very happy, joyful

She has been flying high since she heard that she had won a new car.

fly in the ointment

- a small thing that spoils enjoyment

The problem with the music was a fly in the ointment at the party.

fly off the handle

- become angry

He really flew off the handle when he saw the bill for the meal.


- unreliable (business)

That new company is a real fly-by-night operation.

foam at the mouth

- be very angry (like a mad dog)

He was foaming at the mouth when I told him that I had had an accident with his car.

follow in one`s footsteps (tracks)

- follow someone`s example, follow someone exactly

He is following in his father`s footsteps and has decided to work for a bank.

follow suit

- do as someone else has done, follow someone`s example, play a card of the same color and kind that another has put down

He followed suit and began to leave work early on Friday just as his boss was doing.

follow through

- continue or finish an action that one has started

He said that he would help me paint my house but he has never followed through with his offer.

follow up

- make (one action) more successful by doing something more

He followed up his phone call in the morning with a visit in the afternoon.

foot in the door

- an opening or opportunity

I finally got a foot in the door when they accepted my application.

food for thought

- something worth thinking about

I don`t really agree with his proposal but at least it is food for thought.

fool around

- spend time playing rather than working, waste time

If he would spend less time fooling around he would be able to get some work done.

foot the bill

- pay

The company will foot the bill for his move to Chicago.

for all

- in spite of, even with

For all the time that he spends studying his marks are still very low.

for all one is worth

- as hard as one can

I will try for all I am worth to help you get the job at the supermarket.

for all the world

- for anything, for any price

For all the world I do not know what he is trying to tell me with the notes that he writes.

for a song

- for very little money

He was able to buy his new car for a song.

for better or worse

- depending on how one looks at the matter, with good or bad effects

For better or worse he has decided to quit his job and go to live in Brazil.

force one`s hand

- make someone do something sooner than planned

I forced his hand and he told me what he planned to do about the new contract for our company.

for certain

- without doubt, certainly, surely

It is for certain that he will not be playing in the game tonight.

for crying out loud

- used to show that you are surprised or angry

For crying out loud please turn your radio down a little.

for dear life

- as though afraid of losing one`s life

The mountain climber held on to the rock for dear life as he waited for someone to rescue him.

forever and a day

- forever, always

It took forever and a day to get the book that we ordered from the bookstore.

for good

- permanently

He has decided to move to Los Angeles for good.

for keeps

- for always, forever

He told the boy that he could have the baseball bat for keeps.

fork out

- pay, pay out

I had to fork out a lot of money to fix my car.

fork over

- hand over, give

The robber told me to fork over my money or he was going to shoot me.

for love or money

- by any means

We were unable to get him to agree to the proposal for love or money.

for once

- one time

For once he listened to what I said. Usually he ignores me.

for sure

- without doubt, certainly, surely

I will go to the movie with you for sure next week.

for that matter

- about that, with regard to that

I don`t want to go shopping with you and for that matter I don`t want to go anywhere with you.

for the asking

- by asking, on request

You can get a free ticket to the concert for the asking from the front office.

for the birds

- uninteresting, something you don`t like

Doing the cleaning all day is really for the birds.

for the time being

- for now, for awhile

We really need a new car but for the time being we`ll have to continue using the old one.

for the world

- under any conditions

I would not want to sell my car for the world.

foul up

- ruin or spoil by stupid mistake, go wrong

There was a problem with our tickets so our plans were all fouled up.

frame of mind (good or bad)

- one`s mental state

He made sure his boss was in a good frame of mind before he asked him for the time off.

freak/freak out

- become angry or lose control of oneself

I freaked out when I discovered that my reservations had not been made.

free and easy

- informal

He has a free and easy attitude about his work.

free hand

- great freedom to do something

We had a free hand in designing the new sport`s program for the university.


- accept food and housing at someone else`s expense

He was angry at his brother because he was always freeloading and never worried about finding a job.

freeze out

- keep from a share in something by unfriendly or dishonest treatment

They froze him out of the profits that they made on the sale of land.

from hand to hand

- from one person to another and another

The plate of food went from hand to hand until finally it was all finished.

from A to Z

- know everything about something

He knows about cars from A to Z.

from the bottom of one`s heart

- with great feeling, sincerely

I thanked him from the bottom of my heart for helping my daughter when she was sick.

from the heart

- sincerely, honestly

He gave her some flowers with a message straight from his heart.

from now on

- from this moment forward

From now on I will study Italian every day.

from scratch

- from the very beginning

He decided to build the house from scratch.

from time to time

- occasionally

We go to that restaurant from time to time.

from way back

- since a long time ago, for a long time

I know him from way back. In fact we went to elementary school together.


- complete, having everything that is needed to be something

She became a full-fledged nurse before she went to Saudi Arabia to work for a year.

full of beans

- in high spirits, energetic

She seems to be full of beans today. She must be excited about something.

fun and games

- a very difficult task (used ironically)

It was all fun and games today when I wrote my two final exams.

funny bone

- the place at the back of the elbow that tingles when hit

I hit my funny bone and it still hurts a little.

Idiom Quizzes - F

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

1. The number of visitors to that museum has begun to (decrease) recently.

(a) face the music (b) fall apart (c) fill the bill (d) fall off

2. He recently lost his job so it is easy to (feel pity for) his family.

(a) feel sorry for (b) fall back on (c) fight tooth and nail for (d) fill the bill for

3. The used car that he bought began to (stop working properly) after only three months.

(a) foot the bill (b) fly off the handle (c) fall apart (d) fall out of use

4. I find it a little difficult to (understand) what he really wants to say.

(a) figure out (b) face up to (c) fall behind (d) find fault with

5. If he doesn`t study hard he will (fail to keep up with) the other students.

(a) face up to (b) face down (c) fall behind (d) farm out

6. I saw him at the meeting but he was (totally out of place) among the more experienced negotiators.

(a) like a fish out of water (b) fair and square (c) firsthand (d) for the birds

7. Her boss is always (criticizing) her bad work habits.

(a) facing up to (b) finding fault with (c) feeling sorry for (d) figuring out

8. We decided to build a new house (from the beginning) after the fire destroyed our old one.

(a) fit as a fiddle (b) for love or money (c) from scratch (d) free and easy

9. He was in a very good (mood) so I told him about the accident with his car.

(a) flash in the pan (b) frame of mind (c) fat chance (d) fly-by-night

10. You can borrow my copy of the book (for now) but I will need it back by next week.

(a) firsthand (b) for good (c) for the time being (d) for all the world

11. He must (accept the consequences for) his bad behavior.

(a) fall back on (b) face the music for (c) fall over (d) feel sorry for

12. His father is going to (pay) for his trip to Europe.

(a) free and easy (b) foot in the door (c) fight tooth and nail (d) foot the bill

13. Could you please (tell us) about the new contract.

(a) fill us in (b) fill the bill (c) fly off the handle (d) fall out of use

14. His success on the exam is a great (achievement).

(a) fish out of water (b) flash in the pan (c) fly in the ointment (d) feather in his cap

15. She must begin to (accept) her father's death.

(a) face up to (b) follow up (c) find fault with (d) fall through

16. We learned about the train accident (directly).

(a) for love or money (b) for the time being (c) firsthand (d) for crying out loud

17. His boss (became very angry) when he heard about the problem.

(a) flew off the handle (b) from A to Z (c) faced the music (d) fell behind

18. She has been (tired of) her job for a long time.

(a) falling off (b) fed up with (c) falling short of (d) figuring out

19. She (became crazy) when she received the letter.

(a) followed suit (b) fizzled out (c) fought tooth and nail (d) flipped her lid

20. Our plans for the family reunion (were abandoned).

(a) fell through (b) figured out (c) fell out of use (d) fell off the wagon

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