English Idioms & Idiomatic Expressions
|ring a bell||If something rings
a bell, it sounds familiar, but you don't
remember the exact details.
John Bentley? The name rings a bell but I don't remember him.
|chime in||If you
chime in, you interrupt or join a
conversation, especially to repeat or agree with
While I was explaining to the bus driver what had happened, the other passengers chimed in and gave their version.
|drum (sthg) into someone's head||If you teach
something to someone through constant
drum it into their head.
When we were kids at school, multiplication tables were drummed into our heads.
|as fit as a fiddle||A person who is
as fit as a fiddle is in an excellent
state of health or physical condition.
My grandfather is nearly ninety but he's as fit as a fiddle.
|play second fiddle||If you play
second fiddle to someone, you accept to
be second in importance to that person, or
have a lower position.
When Charles became chairman of the family business, his brother declared that he would rather leave than play second fiddle to him.
|fiddling while Rome burns||If you say that
someone is fiddling while Rome burns,
you mean that they are doing unimportant
things while there are serious matters to be
His visit to the trade fair was "fiddling while Rome burns" according to the strikers.
|jazz something up||If you jazz something up, you
add something to try to improve it or make
it more stylish.
The dress needs a scarf or a necklace to jazz it up.
|all that jazz||This expression
means 'all that stuff', 'other similar
things', or 'everything of that kind'.
Let's get out the tinsel, the fairy lights and all that jazz to decorate the Christmas tree.
|music to one's ears||To
say that something is
music to your ears means that the
information you receive makes you feel very
His compliments were music to my ear.
|face the music||When
a person has to
face the music, they have to accept
the unpleasant consequences of their
He was caught stealing. Now he has to face the music.
|strike a false note||If you strike a
false note, you do something wrong or
He struck a wrong note when he arrived at the cocktail party wearing old jeans.
|strike (or hit) the right note||If you strike
(or hit) the right note, you do
something suitable or appropriate.
He struck the right note with his future mother-in-low when he brought her a book on gardening - her favourite hobby!
|(sound) like a broken record||Someone who says
the same thing again and again sounds
like a broken record.
Dad! Stop telling me to be careful when I drive. You sound like a broken record!
|go for a song||If something goes for a song, it is sold at an unexpectedly low price.|
|tickle the ivories||This is a humorous
way of talking about playing the piano.
My grandfather loves playing the piano. He tickles the ivories whenever he gets the chance.
|call the tune||The person who
calls the tune makes all the important
decisions and is in control of the
He shows a lot of authority but in fact it's his wife who calls the tune.
|sing a different tune||If someone
sings a different tune, they change
their opinion about something or their
attitude towards something.
He had no consideration for people out of work until he lost his own job; now he's singing a different tune.
|fine tuning||Small changes to
something to improve it or make it work
better are called fine-tuning.
We are still fine tuning our new website and appreciate your patience.
|blow the whistle||If
you report an illegal or socially-harmful
activity to the authorities, and give
information about those responsible for it,
blow the whistle, or you are a
He refused to blow the whistle on his boss for fear of losing his job.
|clean as a whistle||Something as
clean as a whistle is extremely clean.
This can also mean that a person's criminal record is clean.
Bob spent the afternoon washing and shining his car until it was as clean as a whistle.
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