Common Idioms - P

Idioms - P

pad the bill

- add false expenses

He always pads the bill when he goes on a business trip.

pain in the neck (ass)

- an annoying thing or person, bothersome

Dealing with my neighbor is always a pain in the neck.

paint oneself into a corner

- get oneself into a bad situation that is difficult or impossible to get out of

He has painted himself into a corner now that he has begun to fight with his supervisor.

paint the town red

- go out and party and have a good time

We decided to go out and paint the town red after we all passed our exams.

palm off

- deceive someone by a trick or a lie, sell or give by tricking

He palmed off his old television set as one that was new and reliable.

pan out

- end or finish favorably, work out well

I hope that your plans to go back to school pan out well.

par for the course

- just what was expected, nothing unusual

That was par for the course. He always comes late when there is a lot of work to do.

part and parcel

- a necessary or important part, something necessary to a larger thing

The house that he bought was part and parcel of a much larger piece of land.

pass away

- die

His father passed away when he was about 96 years old.

pass muster

- pass a test or checkup, be good enough

I wrote some of the instructions of the computer manual and will send them to my partner to see if they pass muster.

pass off

- sell or give something by false claims, offer something as genuine

The man passed off the diamond watch as a real one and received much more money than it was worth

pass off

- claim to be someone one is not, pretend to be someone else

He passed himself off as a reporter and was able to get into the concert.

pass on

- give away something that you don't use anymore

She always passes on her old clothes to her younger sister.

pass on

- die

Her grandmother passed on when she was 92 years old.

pass out

- faint

Three teenage girls passed out at the rock concert.

pass the buck

- shift responsibility to others

He always tries to pass the buck if someone tries to criticize his work.

pat on the back

- praise

He gave me a pat on the back after I finished the project.

patch up

- fix

I have been trying to patch up our differences for many months now.

pay attention

- look at or listen to with full attention

He never pays attention to what his supervisor tells him.

pay dirt

- to get rich or to strike it lucky

The company hit pay dirt when they invented the new Internet equipment.

pay off

- pay in full and be free from a debt, yield good results (the risk paid off)

She finally paid off her car so she has lots of extra money to spend.


- results of one's work, a bribe

He expects to get a big pay-off from his education when he finally begins to look for a job.

pay through the nose

- pay a lot of money for something

My uncle always pays through the nose when he buys a new car.

pecking order

- the way people are ranked in relation to each other

The pecking order in his company is very difficult to understand for most of the workers.

peeping Tom

- someone who looks in people`s windows

The police arrested a peeping Tom near our apartment building last week.

penny for one`s thoughts

- Please tell me what you are thinking about.

"A penny for your thoughts," she said as she saw her boyfriend looking out of the window.

penny-wise and pound-foolish

- wise or careful in small things to the costly neglect of important things

He is penny-wise and pound-foolish and is always wasting his money on things that he doesn`t need.

people who live in glass houses should not throw stones

- do not complain about other people if you are as bad as they are

You should not criticize other people so much. Remember, people who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

pep talk

- a speech to encourage people to try harder and not give up

The coach gave his team a pep talk after they lost three games last month.

perk up

- become energetic or happy after being sad or tired

My sister began to perk up after she had a chance to rest for awhile.

peter out

- die down gradually, grow less strong

The large crowd from the football game has begun to peter out and the streets around the stadium are becoming quiet now.


- food or a drink one takes when one feels tired or weak

I stopped at the restaurant on my way home from work for a quick pick-me-up.

pick a quarrel

- start a quarrel with someone on purpose

I don`t like her because she is always trying to pick a quarrel with others.

pick on

- do or say bad things to someone

He always picked on his sister when they were children.

pick out

- choose or select

I tried to pick out a suitable necktie for my father.

pick someone`s brains

- extract ideas or information from someone for one`s own use

They are always picking his brains to get new ideas for their business.

pick up

- get, receive

I picked up my dry cleaning after I finished work yesterday.

pick up

- take on passengers, receive

The bus picked us up at about six o`clock in the morning.

pick up

- make neat and tidy

He decided to pick up his room before his friend came to visit.

pick up

- get without trying, accidentally

He picked up a lot of French when he lived in France for a year.

pick up

- catch or receive the sound of a radio etc.

We couldn`t pick up the radio station when we were travelling through the mountains.

pick up

- take to the police station, arrest someone

The police picked up the man because they thought he had been drinking.

pick up

- pick up something that has fallen on the floor etc.

Could you please pick up my pen from the floor.

pick up

- start again after interruption, go on

It was getting late so we decided to stop work for the evening and pick up where we left off the next day..

pick up a trail/scent

- recognize the trail of a hunted person or animal

The tracking dogs were able to pick up the trail of the criminal easily.

pick up speed

- increase the speed of

The car picked up speed as it began to go down the hill.

pick up the tab

- pay the bill for someone else

He picked up the tab for the dinner at the restaurant.

piece of cake

- easy

That job was a piece of cake. It was the easiest thing I ever did.


- sitting or being carried on the back and shoulders

The man was carrying his child around the room piggyback style.

piggy bank

- a small bank (sometimes in the shape of a pig) for saving coins

Her daughter put all of her spare money into her piggy bank.

pig in a poke

- something accepted or bought without looking at it carefully

The stereo system he bought was a pig in a poke. He has no idea if it will work well.

pile up

- accumulate, put things on top of each other

He piled up the magazines on top of the small table.

pinch pennies

- be careful with money, be thrifty

He has been pinching pennies for months in order to save money for his vacation.

pin down

- keep someone from moving, make someone stay in a place or position

The wrestler won the match after he pinned his opponent down for almost a minute.

pin down

- make someone tell the truth or make a commitment

I couldn`t pin him down as to exactly when he would pay back the money that he owed me.

pink slip

- dismissal notice from a job

He received his pink slip yesterday and no longer has a job.

pipe dream

- an unrealistic plan

He always has a lot of pipe dreams about what he wants to do in the future.

pipe up

- speak louder

We asked the speaker to pipe up so that we could hear him.


- a small, unimportant person

He called his friend a pip-squeak which made him very angry.

piss off

- bother or annoy someone, make someone angry

My supervisor pissed me off when he asked me to work late again last night.

pitch a tent

- put up a tent

We pitched the tent in a nice field beside a stream.

pitch in

- give help or money for something

They pitched in and helped him finish the job quickly.

play ball with someone

- cooperate fairly with someone

If you agree to play ball with the new manager things should go well for you.

play by ear

- play a musical instrument by remembering the tune and not by reading the music

Although she can`t read music at all she can play by ear and is a great musician.

play cat and mouse with someone

- tease or fool someone by pretending to let him go free and then catching him again

The boxer was playing cat and mouse with his opponent although he could have won easily.

play down

- give less emphasis or make something seem less important

The politician played down the polls that showed that he was becoming less popular.

played out

- tired out, worn out, exhausted

I was totally played out last night so I went to bed early.

play footsie

- touch the feet of a member of the opposite sex under the table while flirting

The couple in the restaurant were playing footsie under the table during their dinner.

play footsie

- engage in any kind of collaboration or flirtation especially in a political situation

The opposition party was playing footsie with the government in order to have their opinions heard.

play (someone) for something

- treat someone as something, act toward someone as something

He was trying to play me for a fool but I could easily see what he was trying to do.

play hooky

- stay away from school or work without permission

When he was a student he often played hooky and didn`t go to school.

play into someone`s hands

- do something that gives someone else an advantage

If you walk out of the meeting in anger you will only be playing into his hands.

play it by ear

- decide on something according to the situation

Let`s play it by ear and decide what to do after we see the movie.

play off

- match opposing persons, forces or interests for one`s own gain

Nobody likes the supervisor because he is always trying to play off one group of workers against another.

play off

- settle a score between two teams or contestants by more play

We went to the game last night as our team had to play off against the other team.

play on/upon (something)

- cause an effect on, influence

They played on his feelings of loneliness to get him to come and buy them dinner every night.

play on words

- a humorous use of a word to suggest a different meaning

There are many cases of using a play on words in the newspaper headlines.

play one`s cards right

- take advantage of your opportunities

If you play your cards right you will probably get a promotion soon.

play second fiddle to someone

- be second in importance to someone

He has been playing second fiddle to his boss for years and has finally decided to quit.

play the field

- date many different people, avoid steady dates with the same person

After my sister stopped seeing her boyfriend she decided to play the field until she met someone nice.

play up

- call attention to, emphasize

During the job interview he played up his experience as an experienced computer operator.

play up to someone

- flatter or please someone to try and gain some advantage

He is always playing up to his boss so he can leave work early.

play with fire

- invite danger or trouble

You are playing with fire if you get involved with those people.

plow into

- attack vigorously

We plowed into the food as soon as the waiter brought it to our table.

plow into

- crash into with force

The truck plowed into the group of people waiting for the bus.

pluck up

- make oneself have courage

He plucked up his courage and went and asked the woman for a date.

point out

- explain, call attention to

She was very kind when she pointed out the mistakes that I had made.

pointed remark

- a remark clearly aimed at a particular person or thing

He made a pointed remark during the meeting that was clearly designed to get my attention.

poke fun at

- joke about, laugh at, tease

She is always poking fun at the way her husband plays golf.

polish off

- finish completely, finish doing something quickly

We polished off the work early and went to the beach for the day.

polish the apple

- try to win favor by flattering someone

The teacher doesn`t like students who are always trying to polish the apple with her.

pony up

- pay

It is time to pony up and pay for the equipment that he bought.

pooped out

- worn out, exhausted

We spent all day painting the house and were pooped out by the time we got home.

pop the question

- ask someone to marry you

He finally popped the question to her after they had been going out together for two years.

pop up

- appear suddenly or unexpectedly

I hadn`t seen my friend for almost a year but suddenly he popped up for a visit last week.

pot calling the kettle black

- a person who is criticizing someone else is as guilty as the person he criticizes

I was joking to her about why she was afraid to look for another job but she said it was like the pot calling the kettle black as I also never tried to change jobs.

pound the pavement

- look for a job

He has been pounding the pavement for a few months now but still has not found a job.

pour it on thick

- flatter greatly

He has been pouring it on thick but she still doesn`t like him.

pour oil on troubled waters

- calm down a quarrel, say something to lessen anger and bring peace to a situation

They tried to pour oil on troubled waters after they noticed the argument among the students.

pour out

- tell everything about something

She poured out her heart to her mother when she returned home from work.

pour out

- come out in great number or quantity, stream out

After the football game thousands of fans poured out of the stadium.

press (push) one`s luck

- depend too much on luck, expect to continue to be lucky

He is pushing his luck if he thinks that he will continue to make a lot of money on the stock market.

pressed for time

- have barely enough time

He was pressed for time so I didn`t have a chance to speak to him.

prey on (upon)

- catch for food, kill and eat

Cats usually prey on mice and small birds if they can catch them.

prey on (upon)

- cheat, rob

Criminals usually prey on people who are living in poor areas.

promise the moon

- mentally alert, ready to do something

Before the elections the politicians were promising everyone the moon but when they were elected they began to talk differently.

psyched up

- mentally alert, ready to do something

The team was psyched up for the game but they lost anyway.

psych out

- find out the real motives of (someone)

I tried to psych out the salesman to see what he really wanted to sell the car for.

pull a fast one

- cheat, deceive

They pulled a fast one on him when they sold him the used car.

pull (something) off

- accomplish something remarkable

He really is lucky in being able to pull off the new business merger with no problems.

pull one`s socks up

- make a greater effort

You had better begin to pull your socks up or you will not be able to continue working here.

pull one`s weight

- do one`s fair share of the work

If everyone pulls their weight we can quickly finish and go home.

pull someone`s leg

- trick or fool someone playfully

Her grandfather is always pulling her leg when he comes to visit.

pull out of a hat

- get as if by magic, invent, imagine

I didn`t think that he was going to be able to find a dictionary but he suddenly pulled one out of a hat and gave it to me.

pull over

- drive to the side of the road and stop

The police pulled over the man because he had been drinking.

pull rank

- assert one`s superior position or authority on a person of lower rank in order to get a privilege or favor

The navy officer pulled rank on the other officers and was able to stay in the best hotel during the trip.

pull strings

- secretly use influence and power

He was able to pull some strings and get his son a job for the summer.

pull the plug

- expose someone`s secret activities

The company decided to pull the plug on the salesman and tell everyone about his illegal sales methods.

pull the plug

- quit a job

He suddenly decided to pull the plug and is no longer here.

pull the rug out from under

- spoil someone`s plans, withdraw support

He pulled the rug out from under our plans to open a branch office in New York.

pull the wool over someone`s eyes

- deceive or fool someone

Don`t let him pull the wool over your eyes with his excuses.

pull through

- recover from an illness or misfortune

It looked like he was going to die from cancer but in the end he pulled through and is now doing very well.

pull up stakes

- move to another location

They decided to pull up stakes and move to London.

push (someone) around

- make someone do what you want

He is always pushing around his salesmen and saleswomen.

push off

- start, leave

The boat pushed off from the dock and started out to sea.

push the panic button

- become very frightened or excited at a time of danger or worry

At first he thought that his wallet had been stolen but before he pushed the panic button and told everyone he looked around again and found it.

put a damper on

- discourage, spoil a person`s fun

The death of the president put a damper on the anniversary celebrations.

put across

- explain clearly, make oneself understood

He spends a lot of effort trying to put across clearly what he wants to say.

put all one`s eggs in one basket

- place all one`s efforts, interests or hopes in a single person or thing

You should not put all your eggs in one basket and invest all of your money in the stock market.

put away

- put an animal to death, kill

We had to have our dog put away because he tried to bite the small girl next door.

put down

- stop by force, crush

The government easily put down the rebellion by the militants.

put down

- write a record of something, write down

He was asked by his company to put down his request for a transfer in writing.

put down

- criticize, make someone look bad

He is always putting down his girlfriend in front of his friends.

put in

- plant flowers

We decided to put in some roses in our garden last year.

put in

- stop at a port on a journey by water

The ship put in at several ports during the cruise.

put in

- add to what has already been said

Suddenly he put in that he was tired and wanted to go home.

put in for something

- apply for something

I put in for a transfer to another department of our company but it was refused.

put in (time)

- spend time

He has put in a lot of time fixing up his house and now it looks beautiful.

put in one`s two cents

- give one`s opinion

She always wants to put in her two cents when she has a chance.

put off

- postpone

The game was put off because of the rain.

put off

- discourage, cause a bad feeling

He put me off with his complaints about the hotel room that I had reserved for him.

put on

- dress in and wear clothes

Please put on your jacket before you go out.

put on

- fool or joke with someone, tease, pretend

I think that he is putting me on. I don`t believe that he will move to Rome.

put on

- produce or arrange a play etc.

My sister helped to put on the school play.

put on one`s thinking cap

- think hard and long about something

I will put on my thinking cap and try and decide what to do about finding a new job.

put on the map

- make a place well known

The Woodstock rock concert really put the town of Woodstock on the map.

put on weight

- gain weight

He has put on a lot of weight since he stopped going to the gym.

put one`s cards on the table

- be frank, tell everything

I put my cards on the table and told him everything about the plans for next year.

put one`s finger on something

- locate precisely, remember exactly

I was unable to put my finger on the exact date of his arrival.

put one`s foot down

- object strongly, take firm action

He put his foot down and didn`t allow any more money to be spent on company entertainment.

put one`s foot in one`s mouth

- say something that is the wrong thing to say in a situation

He really put his foot in his mouth when he told her about the surprise party.

put one`s own house in order

- organize one`s own private affairs

He should put his own house in order before he tells others what to do.

put our heads together

- confer, discuss

We put our heads together and finally thought of a new name for the football team.

put out

- make a flame or light stop burning, extinguish

The man put out his cigarette on the theater carpet.

put out

- produce, make

The company decided to put out a newsletter to give news to the employees.

(be) put out

- be inconvenienced or irritated

She was a little put out that you didn`t call her when you were in town.

put (someone) out

- inconvenience, bother,

She shouldn`t put herself out so much when people come and visit her.

put someone in his or her place

- scold someone for rude or bad behavior

She was very angry and really put him in his place over the rude remark.

put someone in the picture

- tell someone what the situation is

They have finally decided to put me in the picture about the new work procedures.

put (something or someone) out of one`s head (mind)

- try not to think about something

He has been trying to put his girlfriend out of his mind since they decided to stop seeing each other.

put (something) over on someone

- fool, trick

He was trying to put something over on his boss when he said that he was sick and couldn`t come to work.

put (something) past someone (negative)

- be surprised by what someone does

I wouldn`t put it past him to try and sell the main part of the company and leave the rest.

put the bite on someone

- ask for money or favors

He is always trying to put the bite on his friends to collect money for charity.

put the cart before the horse

- do things in the wrong order

I think that he is putting the cart before the horse by talking about fixing up the house before he even buys it.

put the screws to someone

- try to force someone to do or say what you want

The police were putting the screws to the criminal to try and get some information.

put through the wringer

- cause a lot of stress

He really put his wife through the wringer when he asked her for a divorce.

put two and two together

- understand or figure something out after learning the facts

I finally put two and two together and realized that she was his boyfriend.

put up

- provide money or something needed

The telephone company put up most of the money for the new stadium.

put up a good fight

- try hard

They put up a good fight but were unable to win the tournament.

put up a good front

- pretend to be happy, fool people about one`s status

He always puts up a good front but actually he is very unhappy.

put up at a hotel etc.

- stay at a hotel or someone`s home

We decided to put up at a hotel and continue our trip the next day.

put up or shut up

- prove something or stop saying it, bet money on what one says or stop saying it

The politician was forced to put up or shut up over the plans to build a new convention center.

put up to

- persuade or get someone to do something

His friend put him up to cheating on the examination.

put up with

- patiently accept, endure

He makes a great effort to put up with his wife`s complaints.

put words in one`s mouth

- say something for someone else

Her husband is always putting words in her mouth which makes her a little angry.

quite a few

- many

He has quite a few videos at home.

Idiom Quizzes - P

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

1. He never takes responsibility for his problems and always tries to (blame someone else).

(a) pad the bill (b) pick up the tab (c) play with fire (d) pass the buck

2. Everybody (helped) to make the party a big success.

(a) passed the buck (b) pitched in (c) popped the question (d) put in their two cents

3. She`s always asking stupid questions and is a real (bother) sometimes.

(a) put down (b) piece of cake (c) pat on the back (d) pain in the neck

4. The game was (postponed) because of the bad weather.

(a) passed out (b) pointed out (c) put off (d) piled up

5. He deserves a (lot of praise) for his volunteer work.

(a) pain in the neck (b) pointed remark (c) pat on the back (d) play on words

6. He had a cup of coffee in order to (increase his energy) for the afternoon meeting.

(a) perk up (b) pound the pavement (c) pull something off (d) put the cart before the horse

7. The test was (very easy) and I`m sure I did well.

(a) a put down (b) a pan out (c) a pink slip (d) a piece of cake

8. He has no job so he must (economize) for the next few months.

(a) pass the buck (b) pinch pennies (c) play ball with someone (d) put his finger on something

9. They decided to (sell everything) and move to a different city.

(a) patch up (b) pay through the nose (c) pull up stakes (d) put their cards on the table

10. She has a very difficult personality and it is difficult to (endure) her.

(a) put up with (b) play second fiddle to (c) play up to (d) pull the rug out from under

11. We don`t use that company because they always (add on extra charges) that we must pay.

(a) put the cart before the horse (b) pull up stakes (c) pin someone down (d) pad the bill

12. I tried to (explain) that their proposal was not legal.

(a) pass the buck (b) point out (c) put on (d) pull strings

13. The rain and cold weather (lessened the enjoyment of) the celebrations.

(a) picked out (b) pitched in (c) ponied up (d) put a damper on

14. His new job did not (work out well) so he returned to his old one.

(a) pan out (b) put up a good front (c) pay through the nose (d) pick up the tab

15. They (cheated) at the hotel and left without paying their bill.

(a)passed away (b) passed the buck (c) pulled a fast one (d) picked their brains

16. They (stayed home) from school and went to the game center.

(a) painted the town red (b) played hooky (c) picked up the tab (d) played ball with someone

17. His boss (paid for everything) at the restaurant.

(a) played it by ear (b) put in for something (c) played second fiddle to someone (d) picked up the tab

18. He (was frank and honest) when he told us about the bankruptcy.

(a) passed the buck (b) put his cards on the table (c) picked our brains (d) played on words

19. His grandfather (died) last April.

(a) passed away (b) panned out (c) pitched in (d) put down

20. He has been working hard to (solve) the problems with his family.

(a) put on (b) pile up (c) pony up (d) patch up

21. He was able to (use his father`s influence) in order to get the job.

(a) pass the buck (b) pinch pennies (c) pull strings (d) pop the question

22. I think that he was (lying to you) about his marriage.

(a) pulling your socks up (b) putting you on (c) putting your house in order (d) putting you through the wringer

23. He (fainted) at the festival because of the heat.

(a) put his foot down (b) perked up (c) pounded the pavement (d) passed out

24. He received a (letter) yesterday telling him he no longer has a job.

(a) pat on the back (b) pink slip (c) pointed remark (d) piece of cake

25. I don`t like to (inconvenience her) so I always visit after dinner.

(a) pull a fast one (b) pull the wool over her eyes (c) put her out (d) put up at a hotel

26. I finally (figured out) that the woman was his wife.

(a) put two and two together (b) put up a good front (c) put my cards on the table (d) poured it on thick

27. You are (inviting danger) if you criticize him at the meeting.

(a) putting the screws to someone (b) passing the buck (c) playing with fire (d) pinning someone down

28. I want to read the newspapers so that they don`t (accumulate).

(a) pile up (b) pick up the tab (c) pitch in (d) pony up

29. I (asked her to marry me) three weeks ago.

(a) pounded the pavement (b) popped the question (c) put my foot down (d) played second fiddle to her

30. Her husband is always (critizing her) in front of his friends.

(a) paying her off (b) playing second fiddle to her (c) putting her down (d) pulling his weight

31. Let`s (decide) after we see how many people come to the party.

(a) pay attention (b) play it by ear (c) pin them down (d) play our cards right

32. We had to (give them a lot of money) for the new car.

(a) play up to someone (b) pad the bill (c) pay through the nose (d) pick up the tab

33. They were (only joking with you) about the lost dog.

(a) pulling your leg (b) playing ball with someone (c) pulling your weight (d) putting you out

34. I am never permitted to (give my opinion) which is very frustrating.

(a) pay through the nose (b) put in my two cents (c) pin someone down (d) play ball with someone

35. He has been (looking for a job) all year.

(a) painting the town red (b) playing his cards right (c) pounding the pavement (d) pouring it on thick

36. They finally (objected strongly) and refused to let their son go out for the evening.

(a) played up to someone (b) put their foot down (c) pulled their weight (d) put a damper on

37. She really (flattered her) during the meeting.

(a) picked up the tab (b) poured it on thick (c) picked her brains (d) played it by ear

38. They tried to (deceive her) by saying that they had gone to a movie that afternoon.

(a) pull the wool over her eyes (b) put the cart before the horse (c) pound the pavement (d) play into her hands

39. She received some bad news but is (pretending to be happy).

(a) putting it through the wringer (b) putting up a good front (c) popping the question (d) pulling something off

40. The secretary has been (flattering) her boss recently.

(a) pushing around (b) playing up to (c) putting a damper on (d) pulling the rug out from under

41. We were able to (successfully do) the concert.

(a) pull off (b) put up with (c) put in for (d) put a damper on

42. We (conferred) and decided to go to Paris instead of London.

(a) put our heads together (b) put someone on (c) pulled strings (d) pounded the pavement

43. He (spoiled) our plans to go to Hawaii for the seminar.

(a) pulled the rug out from under (b) picked our brains about (c) picked a quarrel about (d) played with fire about

44. I have been trying to (make him clearly tell us) about his plans.

(a) pick his brains (b) play ball with him (c) pin him down (d) put him in the picture

45. Could you please go to the store and (get) some milk.

(a) put up with (b) pick up (c) put on (d) pile up

46. Please (listen) to what your mother is saying.

(a) pick up (b) perk up (c) pay attention (d) play it by ear

47. He (said the wrong thing) last night at the party.

(a) popped the question (b) pulled the rug out from someone (c) painted the town red (d) put his foot in his mouth

48. It is very difficult to (fool her).

(a) pay through the nose (b) play her cards right (c) pull her socks up (d) put something over on her

49. I have not been able to (precisely locate) the cause of the problem.

(a) pull your leg about (b) put my finger on (c) put our heads together about (d) put two and two together about

50. He is inconsiderate and is always (bossing people around).

(a) pushing people around (b) putting up a good front (c) playing up to someone (d) passing the buck

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