English Idioms & Idiomatic Expressions
Alphabetical List - C
|paddle one's own canoe||If you paddle your own canoe,
you do what you want to do without help or
interference from anyone.
He decided to paddle his own canoe and set up his own company.
|can't for the life of me||This expression can
be used to say that it is impossible for you
to do something, no matter how hard you try.
I can't for the life of me remember the title of the book.
|can't hold a candle||If one person (or
thing) can't hold a candle to
another, they are much less competent or do
not perform as well as the other.
John is very intelligent but he can't hold a candle to his brother Paul when it comes to sports.
|can't make head or tail of||If you can't make head or tail of
something, you can't understand it at all.
Amy's message was so confusing. I couldn't make head or tail of it!
can't make omelette
without breaking eggs
means that it is impossible to make
important changes without causing some
Some people will lose their jobs after the merger, but you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.
|can't see the wood for the trees||If someone
can't see the wood for the trees, they
are so concentrated on the details that they
can't see the situation as a whole.
The new manager found the situation so complicated that he couldn't see the wood for the trees.
|can't stand the pace||If
you can't stand the pace, you are
unable to do things well when there is a lot
She once worked for a famous fashion designer but she couldn't stand the pace.
|cap in hand||If you do something
cap in hand, you ask for something in a
very respectful manner.
They went to the teacher, cap in hand, and asked for more time to complete their project.
|if the cap fits wear it||You can say 'if
the cap fits, wear it' to let someone
know that the critical remark they have just
heard applies to them.
"Are you referring to me?" "If the cap fits, wear it!"
|put on your thinking cap||If you tell someone
to put their thinking cap on, you
ask them to find an idea or solve a problem
by thinking about it.
Now here's this week's quiz; it's time to put your thinking caps on!
|on/in the cards||Something which is
on the cards it very likely to
A coalition between the two parties is still on the cards.
|play your cards right||If you play
your cards right, you do all that is
necessary in order to succeed or to obtain
what you want.
If we play our cards right, we'll get the contract.
|put/lay one's cards on the table||If you put your
cards on the table, you speak honestly
and openly about your feelings and
It was time for me to put my cards on the table and reveal my true feelings.
|carrot and stick||If you use a
carrot-and-stick approach, you use the
promise of reward and the threat of
punishment to make someone work harder.
Some parents use a carrot-and-stick approach to obtain good results from their children.
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