30 Idiomatic Expressions About Action and Behavior

An idiom is an expression consisting of a combination of words that has a figurative meaning. The figurative meaning is understood by a common use of the expression that is separate from the literal meaning or definition of the words of which it is made.

Add fuel to the fire

Adding fuel to the flames means doing or saying something that makes a difficult situation even worse.
While john was on the witness stand in court, it seemed that his testimony was only adding fuel to the fire.

I’m All ears

Saying that you are all ears means that you are listening very attentively.
“Of course I’m listening… I’m all ears!”

Binge drinking

Heavy drinking where large quantities of alcohol are consumed in a short space of time, often among young people in rowdy groups.
Binge drinking has always been a major problem in colleges, especially during parties.

Bite hand that feeds you

Biting the hand that feeds you implies that you are insulting or expressing negative behavior towards someone who you are dependent on.
“Why would you say bad things about the person who gives you a job? Bite the hand that feeds you isn’t a good idea.”

Butter somebody up

To butter someone up means to flatter them or be very nice to them in hopes of fulfilling a motive.
Sally wanted that raise so bad, she spent most of her time buttering up the boss.

Burn the candle at both ends

Burning the candle at both ends means to exhaust yourself by going to sleep late and waking up early.
Jim looks exhausted, I can tell he’s been burning the candle at both ends lately.”

Cheap shot

A cruel, unfair or unwarranted comment or verbal attack is called a cheap shot.
Referring to Larry as an ‘unqualified speaker’ was really a cheap shot.

Come out of woodwork

When things, or people, come out of the woodwork, they appear or emerge unexpectedly, as if from nowhere, and usually in large numbers.
As soon as we added the swimming pool, our children had ‘friends’ coming out of the woodwork!

Dig one’s own grave

A person who digs their own grave does something which causes their own downfall.
If you drop out of college now, with such high unemployment, you’ll be digging your own grave.

Drop names

When you drop names, you mention the names of famous people you know or have met in order to impress others.
There goes Jack dropping names again. People will get tired of listening to him!

Ego trip

If you do something primarily to draw attention to yourself and feel important or superior to others, you are on an ego trip.
His speech about creating an association to help the underprivileged was one long ego trip.

Excuse my French

This expression is used as an apology for using crude or offensive language.
Excuse my French, but that guy was a complete asshole.

Fish for compliments

When someone is obviously waiting for you to say something nice, they are fishing for compliments.
Do you see how she keeps flashing her new engagement ring… she’s just fishing for compliments

Give a run for money

If you give someone a run for their money, you present strong competition in circumstances where the other person expects to win easily.
We didn’t win the match but we gave the other team a run for their money.

Give the run-around

If someone gives you the run-around, they deliberately give you confusing information or evasive answers.

I’m trying to contact the manager, but every time I call the firm I’m given the run-around.

Go through motions

If someone goes through the motions, they do something because they have to, but without enthusiasm.

After working that same job for 25 years, he hated it but was just used to going through the motions.

Going /taking it too far

If you go too far, you do something that is considered extreme or unacceptable.

Stealing is bad enough, but stealing from a poor person is really taking it too far!

Go off on a tangent

If someone goes off on a tangent, they change the subject completely in the middle of a speech or conversation.

Sometimes when he’s teaching, he goes off on a tangent and starts talking about his dog!

Go with the flow

Going with the flow means to generally go along with whatever happens.

When John asked Mary to marry her, he knew that he was just go with the flow for the wedding arrangements.

Have the nerve

If you do something rude, presumptuous or inappropriate; without any embarrassment or shyness, it is said that you have the nerve to do it.

“I cant believe she had the nerve to blame that disaster on my son.”

Have a crack at it

If you have a crack at something, you try something that you’ve never done before.

“I had a crack at poker once, but it wasn’t really my type of game.”

Hit below the belt/ low blow

Doing something considered unfair, or making a cruel remark can be referred to as a low blow.

Politicians sometimes use personal information to hit their rivals below the belt.

Hold the fort down

When you hold the fort, you look after a place or a business in the absence of the person who is normally in charge.

Rosie, could you please hold the fort down while I go to the post office?

Hold one’s own

If you can hold your own, you are well able to defend yourself when under attack.

We should ask Jane to represent us; she can hold her own in any argument.

Jump off the deep end

One who jumps off the deep end is a person who has expressed mental instability.

David seemed fine last week, but after what he did yesterday, I think he’s jumped off the deep end.

keep me posted

If someone asks you to keep them posted, they want you to keep them informed about a situation.

Our agent promised to keep us posted on developments in the negotiations.

Laugh it off

When you laugh about something that has upset or hurt you, to make it seem less important or to try to show that you do not care, you laugh it off.

She overheard her colleague’s critical remark, but she laughed it off.

Let it ride

When you decide to do nothing about a particular situation and allow it to remain as it is, you let it ride.

Bill didn’t like the way his wife spoke to the operator, but he let it ride because he didn’t want another quarrel.

Make an ass of yourself/stick your foot in your mouth

If you behave so stupidly that you appear ridiculous, you make an ass of yourself.

Tom made an ass of himself by singing a love song outside Laura’s door!

Make a mountain out of a molehill

If someone makes a mountain out of a molehill, they make a small, unimportant problem seem much more serious than it is.

Stop making mountains out of molehills! Its not really a big deal and you’re blowing it way out of proportion.

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