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 English Idioms and Idiomatic Expressions 


Idioms relating to authority and power   
from:  'big fish in a small pond'   to:  'with a heavy hand'

  • big fish in a small pond
    • This term refers to an important or highly-ranked person in a small group or organisation.
      "He could get a job with a big company but he enjoys being a big fish in a small pond."

  • bring to heel
    • If you force someone to behave in a disciplined manner, you bring them to heel.
      "The boy had always behaved badly, but the new headmaster managed to bring him to heel."

  • bulldoze (someone) into doing something
    • A person who is bulldozed into doing something is forced to do it, especially by being bullied or intimidated.
      "The immigrants we bulldozed into accepting the work."

  • call the shots / call the tune
    • The person who calls the shots  or the tune is the one who makes all the important decisions and is in control of the situation
      "He shows a lot of authority but in fact it's his wife who calls the shots."

  • carry weight
    • If a person or organisation carries weight, they are influential or important.
      "I'm glad she's on our side - her opinion carries a lot of weight."

  • too many chiefs, not enough Indians
    • This expression refers to a situation where there are too many people giving instructions and not enough people doing the work.
      "The business wasn't successful. There were too many chiefs and not enough Indians."

  • corridors of power
    • This term refers to the higher levels of government or administration where important decisions are made.
      "The matter is the subject of much discussion in the corridors of power at the present time."

  • crack the whip
    • If you crack the whip, you use your authority to make someone obey you or work more efficiently, usually by threatening them.
      "Every so often I'll crack the whip to make sure we meet the deadline."

  • dance to someone's tune
    • If you dance to someone's tune, you do whatever that person tells you to do.
      "He is the company's major shareholder so the management has to dance to his tune."

  • draw a line in the sand
    • If you draw a line in the sand, you establish a limit beyond which a certain situation or activity will not be accepted.
      "That's it! We're going to draw a line in the sand and make this our final proposal."

  • force someone's hand
    • If you force someone's hand, you make them do something unwillingly or sooner than planned.
      "The interviewer forced Brad's hand and made him reveal his relocation plans."

  • friends in high places
    • If you know important or influential people in business or government, you have friends in high places.
      "He wouldn't have succeeded without help from friends in high places."

  • get/have by the short hairs (or: by the short and curlies)
    • If  you get or have someone by the short hairs, you put them in a difficult situation from which they cannot escape, so you have complete control over them.
      "They are in no position to refuse; we've got them by the short hairs!"

  • with a heavy hand
    • Dealing with or treating people with a heavy hand means acting with discipline and severity, with little or no sensitivity.
      "He ran the juvenile delinquent centre with a heavy hand."

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