Idioms are a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words.

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65
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7answers
66k views

Which day does “next Tuesday” refer to?

At what point does next Tuesday mean the next Tuesday that will come to pass and no longer the Tuesday after the Tuesday that will come to pass? And, when does the meaning switch back?
27
votes
4answers
28k views

Why do we say “was supposed to” for “should have”?

I was supposed to do my homework, but I went out clubbing instead. On a literal interpretation, supposed to suggests that other people (or indeed, myself) might have supposed (thought, imagined, ...
28
votes
24answers
73k views

An idiom meaning someone's doing something useless and has no result at the end

In my native language, we use an idiom to warn someone that they're doing something which has no result at the end: Trying to convince him is like squashing water ... Is there any idiom in ...
48
votes
10answers
5k views

Idiom: People caring about minor stuff while something terrible is happening

Imagine a situation in which the whole place is on fire, a bomb is about to explode, everyone is running for their lives and someone is checking his looks on the mirror... pretty inappropriate for the ...
14
votes
14answers
12k views

Phrase for focusing on unimportant details

I'm looking for an idiom or saying that I could use when people are focusing too much on small details and not seeing the big picture. A couple that come to mind are "being penny-wise and pound ...
77
votes
28answers
14k views

Is there an American English equivalent of the British idiom “carrying coals to Newcastle”?

I'm an American living in the Netherlands who is learning Dutch. There's an idiom in Dutch that describes performing a needless/futile activity, "water naar de zee dragen," which literally translates ...
33
votes
5answers
2k views

Terms for collections of animals

As I watched the murder of crows sitting on the line above my house this evening, I got wondering where all of the collective nouns for animals (pod of whales, gaggle of geese, pride of lions) came ...
5
votes
5answers
2k views

Opposite of “straight talk”

What is the opposite for the straight talk idiom? How do I best call the activity when someone makes a very long preamble before he says what he wants?
14
votes
1answer
10k views

Difference between phrase and idiom

What is the difference between a phrase and an idiom?
15
votes
12answers
11k views

What's an idiom for doing something in an unnecessarily complicated way?

For an example, I'll quote C.S. Lewis' The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: One day the cat got into the dairy and twenty of them were at work moving all the milk out; no one thought of moving the cat. ...
6
votes
4answers
11k views

“Have got” — verb form and tense

In the following sentence, what is the main verb and in what tense does it occur? I have got a car. There are two possible explanations that I can think of: get as the main verb in the present ...
30
votes
10answers
74k views

“By foot” vs. “on foot”

Which one is correct? I go to school by foot. I go to school on foot. Are there instances when the expression by foot is preferred? My last question is the following: Why is the ...
34
votes
2answers
20k views

What does the phrase “Begging the question” mean?

What does the phrase "begging the question" really mean? And does it even matter if I use it correctly? Almost everyone just uses it as a synonym for "posing the question" these days.
17
votes
8answers
7k views

Is the phrase “for free” correct?

A friend claims that the phrase for free is incorrect. Should we only say at no cost instead?
21
votes
6answers
23k views

Why do we say “last night” and not “yesterday night”?

As from object, is there a rational reason for saying "last night" rather than "yesterday night", though you would say "yesterday morning" and "yesterday afternoon"?
6
votes
5answers
16k views

An idiom for deriving pleasure from another's suffering

I believe it is what the Germans call "Schadenfreude". English itself has no such equivalent word. (Although it has been adopted as a loanword.) Does an idiom exist that describes it?
12
votes
2answers
8k views

Value (in cents) of big words

I found the answer to this question interesting in that he referred to a "75 cent word". I would have called it a 50-cent word, not because I undervalued his answer but because that is how I have ...
8
votes
9answers
35k views

What is an idiom/slang for “someone who pretends to be good when they're not”?

This is not from real life, but from a movie on my local TV. A character in the movie is really bad, but when she talks with others, she pretends to be an innocent/ good woman. I want to know how to ...
5
votes
7answers
8k views

“To kill a fly with a…”?

I seem to recall that there is an expression for when you are throwing something too big at a particular challenge: "To kill a fly with a..."? Or am I way off here? Edit: maybe it's not a fly after ...
88
votes
19answers
9k views

How to say that food is hot (temperature) without the listener thinking that I mean “spicy”?

There is an excellent discussion of spicy vs. hot here: Difference between "spicy" and "hot" However, having read the previous question, I did not see any answer that tells how to ...
30
votes
4answers
30k views

How does the phrase “used to” work, grammatically?

It is common to hear people say "used to" to indicate that they did something in the past but no longer do; for example, "I used to play basketball." How would "used to," used in that context, fit ...
11
votes
5answers
1k views

Do idioms pose an exception to normal definite and indefinite article usage?

I found this phrase in my biology textbook (emphasis added): ...in relation to Earth's history, 100,000 years or even a million years is the blink of an eye. The part of the phrase in question ...
26
votes
9answers
2k views

“Saving on the parrot's chocolate is futile”

In Catalan there is an expression "ser la xocolata del lloro" that can be translated as "saving by not giving chocolate to the parrot is futile", conveying the meaning that when a household wants to ...
17
votes
6answers
40k views

Etymology of 'teaching grandma to suck eggs'?

This is such a strange idiom, all I could find with a Google search was the meaning of it, but not where it came from. When you're telling somebody something they already know well, it's sometimes ...
10
votes
7answers
178k views

“Take a rest” or “have some rest”?

Which one of the these is the correct, or can I use both? take a rest have some rest Or is there any better way to say that?
20
votes
11answers
112k views

“The point is moot”

I was recently called out for using the phrase "the point is moot" incorrectly. My intent was to indicate that I felt that the point wasn't really worth debating or discussing. I was then shown that ...
37
votes
10answers
10k views

“To shoot out of cannon into sparrows”

In Russian we have idiom/saying "To shoot out of cannon into sparrows" (literal translation) which is used to convey an idea of applying too drastic measures to small problems. I believe there should ...
12
votes
4answers
9k views

Difference between “due to” and “thanks to”

When should "due to" be preferred over "thanks to", and vice versa? When can they be used interchangeably?
5
votes
13answers
15k views

Is there an idiom for people who boast too much?

I am looking for idioms or informal/slang/colloquial expression for some people that make you think that they are able of building a skyscraper, constructing a spaceship, playing the piano better than ...
13
votes
3answers
110k views

What does “I'm game” mean and what's its correct usage?

As it is clear from the question title, What does "I'm game" mean and what's its correct usage?
11
votes
6answers
27k views

How did the phrase “are you nuts” come about?

What is the connection between "nut" and the character? How was the phrase "are you nuts?" used at first?
11
votes
2answers
6k views

What is the origin of the phrase “you've got another thing/think coming”?

What is the origin of the phrase "you've got another thing coming"? And — perhaps more importantly — is it more correct than the alternative "you've got another think coming"?
11
votes
6answers
55k views

“Good night” or “good evening”?

If it's 7:30pm, which of these phrases is correct, Good night or Good evening?
1
vote
4answers
10k views

Is “forth and back” more proper than “back and forth”?

I think the term "back and forth" gets thrown around a lot without much thought. From Dictionary.com: forth    [fawrth, fohrth] adverb 1. onward or outward in place or space; forward: to ...
19
votes
5answers
4k views

Etymology of “nick” in, in the nick of time?

We have the nick meaning prison, as in "he served time in the nick", then we have the verb to nick, meaning to steal; but if the police catch you red-handed, then "you've been nicked". And if you led ...
10
votes
7answers
2k views

What's a good phrase for “refining a process which is hopelessly broken”?

I'm looking for a turn of phrase to describe a situation where the powers that be wish to continue making small improvements to a process which, due to deep-rooted flaws, will never be close to ...
10
votes
6answers
6k views

An idiom to describe someone who thinks he/she is wiser than others

Is there an idiom in English to describe someone who thinks he/she is smarter/wiser than everyone else? In Polish, we have an idiom, which literally translated, would sound like: He/she has eaten ...
10
votes
3answers
2k views

Use of “them” as an article, not a pronoun

I've seen a lot of times the pronoun them used like an article. For example, in the title of the Delta Rhythm Boys Them bones, or in the first sentence of "Money for nothing": Now look at them yo-...
6
votes
2answers
999 views

Name for a type of idiom with two things joined (like “raining cats and dogs”, “bread and butter”)

I had heard, a number of years ago, that there is a name for an type of idiomatic expression in which two things are joined to refer to one thing. An example of this would be “raining cats and dogs”. ...
17
votes
20answers
17k views

Are there other idioms like “a stone's throw away” that both describe an activity and act as a measurement?

If something is quite close by, it could be described as being a stone's throw away; even closer might be a hop, skip and a jump. I'm interested in these "units" of measurement based on human action. ...
16
votes
5answers
222k views

“Thank you very much” vs. “Thank you so much”

Some people used to say: Thank you very much. Where others say: Thank you so much. Could anybody please explain what differences there may be between those, whether of correctness or ...
17
votes
4answers
32k views

Origin of the idiom “go south”

What's the origin of the idiom go south? Why is it go south only? Why not go southwest or go east? Are the direction-related idioms go south, go north, go east, and go west correlated? Example, go ...
14
votes
7answers
63k views

What does “if you will” mean?

A TV program says, they started this accounting gimmick, if you will, and they... What does "if you will" mean? Is it a short form of "if you will [a certain verb]"?
10
votes
3answers
54k views

Difference between phrase, idiom and expression [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What is the difference between an expression and a phrase? Difference between “phrase” and “idiom” What is the difference between a phrase, an ...
18
votes
6answers
60k views

Is “my bad” a correct English phrase?

I have seen many people use the phrase "my bad" in Internet forums. What does it exactly imply and is it a proper English phrase?
16
votes
3answers
24k views

Grammar parsing for “if need be”

I have the following question. There is an idiom 'if need be'. The meaning is clear, but I can't comprehend it from a grammatical point of view. How should I parse it? 'if [smth] needs to be'? Why not ...
14
votes
4answers
21k views

Which is correct: “home in” or “hone in”?

I've heard people say "Home in on something", but I've also heard others say "Hone in on something". Which is the correct expression, and what is the etymology of these?
50
votes
20answers
7k views

Alternative expression for “xyz Nazi”

I'm not a native English speaker, but I do understand and personally appreciate the use of the term "xyz Nazi" to say that someone is a bit dogmatic about their point of view, without necessarily ...
24
votes
15answers
12k views

Idioms that mean making decision between two good options

I am looking for expressions that mean "to decide between two good options." For example, you have to choose between getting a car that you like or a super car that's very expensive but you are not ...
18
votes
3answers
88k views

What does the phrase “half seven” mean?

I've heard the British term "half seven" (or "half nine," "half five", etc) used to tell time. I can't remember though if it means 6:30 or 7:30 (i.e. half an hour before seven, or half past seven)? I'...