Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM


have one’s hand in the till – steal from one’s employer. The  reason he has been buying such nice new clothes is that he’s got his  hand in the till.

have one’s head in the clouds – have unrealistic dreams, lost in  thought. Even though she is a terrible actress, she thinks someday she  will be a movie star. She has got her head in the clouds.

have one’s heart set on – desire greatly. The boy had his heart 


set on getting a puppy.

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

have someone’s number – know what kind of person someone is.  He doesn’t think anyone knows, but I know he stole the material for  the book. I’ve got his number.

have something up one’s sleeve – kept secretly ready for the

right time. If the electricity goes out during the birthday party, don’t

worry. I’ve got something up my sleeve.

have the heart to – be thoughtless enough. I know there was

just a death in her family. I don’t have the heart to ask her when she is

coming back to work.

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

have two strikes against someone – be in a difficult situation  with little chance of success. He wanted the job but he can’t write and  he has difficulty speaking on the phone. He’s got two strikes against

him already.

haywire – broken, confused, awry. The plan was in place to surprise

by boss on his birthday, but it all went haywire.

heart-to-heart – intimate, honest. I needed to speak him about a

problem I was having. We had a heart-to-heart talk.

high and dry – alone, without help, stranded. After everyone left

the party, I was all alone to clean up. I was left high and dry.

high and low – every place. I can’t seem to find my keys. I’ve looked

high and low.

high-brow – intellectual, cultured person. Everyone seemed very

high-brow at the cocktail reception.

hit – a success. Her book was a hit and sold a million copies.

hit below the belt – hurt someone cruelly and unfairly. I have

been upset ever since she made that awful comment to me. It really hit

below the belt.

hit it off – enjoy one another’s company, get along. Although we

just met, we really hit it off and will probably see each other again.

hit the bottle – drink alcohol. He hits the bottle every time he

has some family trouble.

hit the ceiling – get angry. I hit the ceiling when I found out that

she broke my computer.

hit the nail on the head – arrive at the correct answer, make a

precise analysis. When you named the person who was responsible for

our losses this quarter, you really hit the nail on the head.

hit the sack – go to bed. I was so tired last night, that I hit the sack 

as soon as I got home.

hit the spot – refresh or satisfy. We sat in the sun and hadn’t had a  drink all day. That cold glass of water really hit the spot.

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

hogwash – nonsense. The idea that aliens landed in New York City

is a bunch of hogwash.

hold a grudge – not forgive someone for an insult or injury. Even  though they broke up  years ago, she still holds a grudge and will not

speak to him.

hold back – conceal, hide. He held back his feelings and acted as if

everything was alright.

hold one’s horses – wait. I can’t leave the office yet. I’m waiting

for an important phone call. Just hold your horses.

hold up – delay, postpone. Sorry I’m late. I was held up in traffic.

holy mackerel – used to express strong feeling of surprise. Holy  Mackerel! Look at that man’s motorcycle.

hook, line and sinker – without question or doubt. I told a lie to

my teacher. He bought it hook, line and sinker.

hot – stolen. He bought a great television from a guy on the street

  • for $.. The television must have been hot.

hot – in great demand. This was the hottest movie out this weekend.  . hot air – nonsense or exaggerated talk. I don’t believe a word that

man says. He is full of hot air.

hound – continually bother. She hounded me until I finally agreed to

say yes.

hush-hush – secret. The birthday party is a surprise. Please don’t

tell anyone, it’s hush-hush.

hustler – person who gets money aggressively or unethically. He

won’t work. If he needs money, he’ll hustle someone.

hyper – very energetic, anxious, unable to sit still. It is impossible to

bring that child to a restaurant. He is too hyper.

. ill at ease – I am shy. So when I go to a cocktail party I am ill at


. in a bind. In trouble no matter what you do. She committed to help

two different people at the same time. She is in a bind.

. in a jam – in trouble. He is in a jam and needs some help to get out of it.

. in a nutshell – briefly. She spoke to us for at least an hour and told

us a long story. I would have preferred that we heard it in a nutshell.

. in a pinch – okay, when nothing else is available. If you don’t have a  needle to sew something together, a safety pin will work in a pinch.

. in a rush – in a hurry. I can’t find my wallet and keys and I’m late for

a meeting. I’m in a rush.

. in a rut – always doing the same thing. My job is very boring and  uninteresting. I’m depressed and think I am in a rut.

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

. in advance – ahead of time. Let’s call the movie theatre in advance

and see if they have any tickets left.

. in black and white – in writing. The salesman said that he would  give me a  year warranty on my purchase. I told him to put it in black  and white.

. in hot water – in trouble. I am going to be in hot water when she  finds out that I dented her car.

. in nothing flat – quickly, in a short time. When he heard that I

was taking him out to dinner, he got dressed in nothing flat.

. in seventh heaven – very happy. I begin my month long vacation  tomorrow. I’m in seventh heaven.

. in someone’s shoes – in another person’s place or position. You  cannot pass judgment on someone until you’ve stepped into their shoes.

. in stitches – laughing. He is the funniest person I know. He

always keeps me in stitches.

. in the bag – certain, sure, definite. The job interview went very well  and I think I will be hired. I am confident that it’s in the bag.

. in the doghouse – in trouble. My wife and I had a big fight last

night. I’m in the doghouse.

. in the long run – in the end, as a result. If you study hard in

school, in the long run you will be successful.

. in the market for – wanting or ready to buy. We are in the 

market for a new mattress.

. in the red – losing money. Our company is in the red and may be

oing out of business.

. in the same boat – in a similar situation. He can’t pay his bills

either. He is in the same boat as you.

. iron out – work out. Even though the two men do not get along , they

are both willing to iron out their problems.

. jack up – raise prices. Last week the department store jacked up all

their prices.

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

. jack-of-all-trades – person who can do many kinds of work. My

friend is a jack-of-all-trades. He knows how to fix everything.

. jalopy – old car usually in poor condition. I finally sold my jalopy

and bought a new car.

. jam-packed – crowded, full. My new computer can do so many

different things. It’s jam-packed with features.

. the jitters – anxiety, nervousness. She knew the test was going to

be very difficult and she had the jitters all day.

. John Hancock – signature. The car salesman asked the customer to

put his John Hancock on the bottom of the contract.

. jump down someone’s throat – criticize angrily, hastily. He’s

very angry today. Every time I ask him a question he jumps down my throat. . jump the gun – start before you should. You will need more facts

before you go into business. Don’t jump the gun.

. jump to conclusions – make quick but unjustified conclusions.

Don’t jump to conclusions and assume that all well-dressed men are rich. . keep a stiff upper lip – have courage, be brave. Even though he

thought he was going to be terminated from his job, he

kept a stiff upper lip.

. keep in touch – communicate, talk or write to each other – Even  though we won’t see each other for six months, let’s try to keep in touch.

. keep on – continue. If you are not hungry, don’t keep on eating.

. keep one’s fingers crossed – wish for good luck. His mother

kept her fingers crossed so that her son would make the team.

. keep one’s head above water – be able to exist on one’s income,

pay bills. Even though she only made a meager salary, she was still able

to buy clothes, go to restaurants, and keep her head above water.

. keep one’s nose clean – After he was released from prison he

stayed out of trouble. His parents were glad that he kept his nose clean.

. keep one’s shirt on – be patient, wait. I know it’s taking me a long  time to finish my work, but keep your shirt on.

. keep something under your hat – keep something a secret. 

She was given information which was meant to be private, so she kept

it under her hat

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

. keep tabs on – watch, check. My neighbor is always looking out her

window and keeping tabs on me.

. Keep up with the Joneses – try to equal your neighbor’s lifestyle.

He works many long hours just so he can keep up with the Joneses.

. kick in the pants – rejection, criticism. Steve was always kind to

someone who was poor and unfortunate. When that person made a

lot of money, he ignored Steve. Steve got a kick in the pants.

. kick oneself – regret. I could kick myself for not buying that stock  which tripled in value.

. kick something around – discuss, think about. We didn’t know  which way to direct the company, so we kicked some ideas around.

. kick the bucket – die. The old man kicked the bucket when he was   years old.

. kid – a young person. I have two kids. They are  and  years old.

. kid around – fool, play, joke. Don’t kid around with Mary. She is

in a very bad mood.

. kiss something goodbye – see something ruined or lost. When

I saw the photo album fall off of the boat and into the water, I knew it

was lost forever and I just kissed it goodbye.

. knock it off – stop. He wouldn’t stop tickling me, so I told him to  knock it off.

. knock one dead – greatly impress, surprise. When the actor was  preparing to go on stage, I told me to knock them dead.

. knock one for a loop – surprise. I didn’t expect the movie to

have that sort of ending. It knocked me for a loop.

. knock one’s head against the wall – waste time in futile

effort to improve or change something. Teaching teenagers to drive

responsibly is like knocking my head against a wall.

. knock oneself out – make a great effort. She worked many hours  getting ready for the party and knocked herself out.

. knockout, a – a beautiful person or thing. That beauty queen

is a knockout.

. know if one is coming or going – be able to think clearly, know  what to do. There were so many students signing up at registration, I  didn’t know if I was coming or going.

. know-how – experience and knowledge. He has been building

houses for many years and has a lot of know-how.

. kosher – true, authentic. The financial statements say that your  business is making a lot of money. Are the amounts all kosher?

. land on one’s feet – come out of a bad situation successfully. She

just came off of a terrible divorce. She’s doing well now and it seems  that she landed on her feet.

. last straw, the – the last insult or injury that one can endure. His  son watched TV all day and didn’t work. When he started to gamble,  that was the last straw.

. lay out – spend or pay. Will you lay out the money for the meal and

I will pay you back tomorrow ?

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

. learn the ropes – acquire special knowledge of a job. Now that

you have started your new position with the company, it will probably

take you a few months to learn the ropes.

. leave a bad taste in one’s mouth – make a bad impression,

make or feel disgusted. I thought the salesman was obnoxious. He left 

a bad taste in my mouth.

. leave someone holding the bag – put someone in an awkward  position, leave someone else to take the blame. The children ate all of  the cookies and ran away. Peter was the only one who remained and  was left holding the bag.

. lemon – merchandise that doesn’t work. My new car has needed

repair four times since I bought it. I ended up buying a lemon.

. let bygones be bygones. – Forget differences that happened in the

past. Even though my friend and I had a big fight, I told him we should

let bygones be bygones.

. let it ride – continue without changing a situation. Don’t say

anything to him now. I don’t want to hurt his feelings. Just let it ride.

. let on – reveal, inform, tell. She let on that she knew my secret.

. let one’s hair down – be informal, relaxed. After the business

meeting when our supervisor left, we spoke about our personal lives

and let our hair down.

. let someone off the hook – excuse from a penalty or promise.  Because this was his first criminal offense, he was let off the hook.

. let the cat out of the bagtell a secret. His surprise birthday  party was cancelled because someone let the cat out of the bag.

. Let the chips fall where they may. – Act regardless of  consequences. The police were asking him about the robbery. He

knew he had to tell everything he knew and let the chips fall as they may. . like a ton of bricks – strongly, forcefully. When I was told that

my favorite uncle died, it hit him like a ton of bricks.

. live high off the hog – have many luxuries, be very comfortable.

When you see their new home, you’ll know that they live high off the hog. . live it up – pursue pleasure, have a good time. Now that school is

over, I want to live it up this weekend.

. live wire – active exciting person. People always want her at their

parties because she is a live wire.

. loaded – having lots of money. Ever since he started his new

business, he appears to be loaded.

. loaded – drunk. I can tell by the way she spoke that she was loaded.

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

. look down one’s nose at – think someone is worthless or  unimportant, show contempt. She thinks she is better than everyone

else. She always looks down her nose at others.

. look into – investigate, check. I’m going to look into the possibility

of getting a scholarship for college.

. look up – improve, getting better. Since he is putting in more hours

at work, his financial situation is looking up.

. loony bin – insane asylum. I couldn’t believe how crazy she acted

last night. She belongs in the loony bin!

. loot – money. How much loot do you need to buy that fancy car?

. lose one’s marbles – go insane, act irrationally. Anyone who

insults his boss has lost his marbles.

. lose one’s shirt – lose all one’s money. He put his lifetime savings  into the restaurant. When it failed, he lost his shirt.

. lose track of someone – lose contact, no know where someone

  1. I have lost track of him since high school and have no idea where he

lives now.

. louse up – ruin. I’ve worked on this painting for weeks, but when

my paintbrush slipped out of my hand, I loused up the painting.

. lowdown – the true story. I heard that she was married before but

didn’t know why she divorced. Give me the lowdown.

. lower the boom – stop completely, punish strictly. When the

father heard that the children were not doing their homework, he

lowered the boom.

. make a bundle – make a lot of money. She made a bundle selling  donuts to the construction workers.

. make a dent in – make progress. I have got a lot of work to do, but

I made a dent in it last night.

. make a federal case out of – overreact, take strong measures for

a minor problem. I’m sorry for spilling some water on your desk, but  you don’t have to make a federal case out of it.

. make a go of – succeed, produce good results. Although this new  business is risky, I’m going to try to make a go of it.

. make a hit – be successful. People loved my new brownies and

wanted the recipe. I guess I made a hit.

. make a killing – gain a large amount of money at one time. She

made a killing in the stock market last year.

. make a monkey out of someone – cause to look foolish. The  lawyer was shrewd and made a monkey out of his opponent’s client.

. make a mountain out of a molehill make a big problem out of a  small one. It wasn’t difficult, it was easy. Don’t make a mountain out

of a molehill.

. make ends meet – balance one’s budget, meet one’s payments. His

expenses are so high, that even though he makes a lot of money, his

family has difficulty making ends meet.

. make fun of – ridicule It’s not nice to make fun of other people.

. make it up to someone – compensate for an unfulfilled promise.

I am so sorry that we have to cancel our plans tonight, but I will try to

make it up to you.

. make of something – interpret, figure out, think of. What do you  make of his decision to drop out of college?

. make one’s hair stand on end – frighten, horrify. The extreme  poverty in that country would make your hair stand on end.

. make one’s mouth water – look or smell very good, make one

want to eat or drink something one sees or smells – The smell of garlic

outside the restaurant made my mouth water.

. make one’s own way – rely on one’s own abilities. She had no help

from anyone. She had to make her own way.

. make out – do, progress, succeed. How are you making out with

your new responsibilities at the office?

. make sense – be comprehensible. What’s the word in English that’s

spelled yrkszwa…it doesn’t make sense.

. make sure – see about something yourself, check. We are leaving on

our vacation, and I want to make sure that you locked all the doors. . make the best of – accept a bad situation and do as well as possible

under the circumstances. Even though our heating system broke, let’s

light a fire in the fireplace and make the best of it.

. make up one’s mind – decide. She hasn’t made up her mind as to

what university she will be attending.

. make waves – upset the status quo, create a disturbance. He likes to  avoid controversy and usually doesn’t make waves.

. man-to-man – frank, direct. Don’t discuss the problem with me.

Go to your boss’s office and talk about it man-to-man.

. mean business – be serious. He told his son that he had to finish all

of his homework before he went out to play and he meant business.

. mess – disorderly, cluttered condition; bad or confused situation.

There were clothes and food all over his apartment and it was a mess.

. miss a trick – take advantage of every situation. As soon as her boss  left the building , she began to make personal calls. She doesn’t miss a trick.

. miss out on – lose an opportunity, miss a worthwhile event. It is too  bad you couldn’t make it to the reunion because you missed out on a  good time.

. miss the boat – lose an opportunity. It’s too bad he didn’t buy gold  when it was cheap. Now, it is very expensive and he really missed the boat.

. mobbed – crowded. The shopping mall was mobbed the day before  Christmas.

. mooch – borrow, beg , get without paying. She says that she doesn’t  smoke, but she is always mooching cigarettes from her friends.

. mouthful – a true and impressive statement. You said a mouthful  when you admitted that she was the smartest girl in her class.

. mudslinging – making malicious remarks to damage someone’s  reputation. There is a lot of mudslinging going on in politics today.

. mum’s the word – don’t talk about what was said. I don’t want you

to say anything about our discussion. Mum’s the word.

. murder – a difficult or painful ordeal. Getting her master’s degree  while she worked full-time was murder.

. nag, a – a persistently urging person. He complains that his wife is  always nagging him to do things around the house.

. name someone after – give the child the name of an admired  person. My son is named after my grandfather.

. nest egg – extra money saved. They have a small nest egg saved up

for their vacation.

. nightcap, a – last drink one has before leaving or prior to sleeping.

She ordered some brandy as a nightcap.

. nincompoop – a stupid person, a fool. He doesn’t know how to act  well around other people. He’s a nincompoop!

. nip in the bud – prevent at the start. When she saw that her little

boy was snacking between meals, she decided to nip it in the bud.

. nitpick – look for very minor errors or problems. Every time she

reads one of his reports, she is always nitpicking on the most

minor points.

. nitty-gritty – the essence or important part. We’ve been

discussing your problem for an hour, but we finally got down to the


. nitwit – idiot. He messes up everything in our department and is

such a nitwit.

. no bed of roses – uncomfortable, unhappy situation. Their

marriage is no bed of roses. They seem to always be fighting.

. no dice – no, certainly not. I like living in this area. When my

children wanted to move, I said ‘no dice’.

. no picnic – not pleasant. He works very hard at the factory. He says

it is no picnic.

. nobody’s fool – smart competent person. She’s very smart. She’s

nobody’s fool.

. not on your life – definitely not, no way. There is not a chance I

am going to drive  hours to go to that party…not on your life.

. not so hot – not very good. She boasted about her pumpkin pie,

but I thought it was not so hot.

. nothing to sneeze at – something not trivial, to be taken

seriously. They offered him a lot of money to take this new position.

He was going to give it a lot of thought because it was nothing to 

sneeze at.

. nuts about – in love with, enthusiastic about. I’m nuts about our

new neighbors.

. odds and ends – miscellaneous items. I have some odds and ends  around my house that I would like to sell.

. off and on – occasionally. We are not very good friends anymore. I

see him off and on.

. off base – inaccurate. If you think I paid one thousand dollars for

this coat, you are way off base.

. off color – in bad taste, rude, dirty. He told an off-color joke at the  party that embarrassed my wife.

. off one’s rocker – crazy. He is off of his rocker if he thinks I’m

going to help him decorate for the party.

. off the hook – out of something , freed from an embarrassing  situation. I don’t want to have dinner with him. Let’s tell him that we

will be out of town so that we will get off the hook.

. off the record – privately, unofficially, not for public

announcement. I need to tell you about one of my accounts, but it

needs to be off the record.

. off the top of one’s head – from memory, spontaneously. Off 

the top of my head, I think her last name begins with an ‘M’.

. old flame – former boyfriend or girlfriend. She bumped into an old  flame at the shopping mall.

. on a shoestring – with very little money. We are trying to

decorate our home on a shoestring.

. on easy street – having a pleasant, secure life. Ever since his

mother won the lottery, they have been on easy street.

. on guard – careful, wary. It is a very important meeting and we must  think before we speak. We must be on guard.

. on one’s last leg – at the end of one’s strength of usefulness. My

car is over ten years old and it’s on its last leg.

. on one’s shoulders – one’s responsibility. The president has a lot

of problems on his shoulders.

. on pins and needles – nervous, excited. When I found out that

the movie star was coming to the party, I was on pins and needles.

. on shaky ground – unstable. The buyers aren’t sure if they really  want to buy the car. I think the sale is on shaky ground.

. on the ball – paying attention and doing things well. She always

gets her paperwork submitted on time. She is always on the ball.

. on the blink – not working. The ice is melting in our freezer. I

think it is on the blink.

. on the edge of one’s seat – in nervous suspense. I have wanted

to see this movie ever since I read the book. Now that it is about to  start, I am on the edge of my seat.

. on the fritz – not working correctly, out of order. The ice is

melting in our freezer. I think it is on the fritz.

. on the go – busy running around. I won’t be home all day. I have

many errands to run and will be on the go.

. on the house – provided free by a bar or restaurant. Since I am

good friends with the owner of the restaurant, dinner was on the house.

. on the level- honest. They are not telling you the whole story.

They are not on the level.

. on the q.t. – secretly. I was just told that I will be promoted to vice- president but nobody knows about it yet. Please don’t tell anyone and

keep it on the q.t.

. on the rocks – breaking up, ruined. The couple is always fighting

and I wasn’t surprised to hear that their marriage is on the rocks.

. on the same wavelengthcommunicating , thinking similarly.

They didn’t understand each other. They were not on the same 


. on the spot – in a difficult or embarrassing situation. I was put on 

the spot and expected to make a toast at the anniversary party.

. on the wagon – abstaining from liquor. He used to drink a lot of

beer and wine, but now he is on the wagon.

. on the warpath – very angry, looking for trouble. When Mary saw  John with another woman, Mary went on the warpath.

. once in a blue moon – occasionally. He doesn’t watch television  often. Only once in a blue moon.

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM

Best idioms for ielts students IELTS EXAM



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