Browse Tag: idiomatic expressions

Idiomatic expressions – Line

Written by Nigina Dustova

This is the third part of our series on idiomatic expressions.  The first part is about idioms containing the word back and the second part is about idioms containing the word ground. In this post, we are going to learn about some idioms about line.

Line is a quite a common word in many idiomatic expressions. It has a range of
If you drop someone a line, you write them a letter.
The bottom line refers to accounts where you see the profit or loss at the bottom.
The dotted line is the line on which you sign your name for a contract or bill.
If you draw a line under something on a piece of paper you separate it from what comes before. If you draw a line under an experience, it means it is finished and you don’t want to hear any more about it.
If you toe the line, you conform. In politics you often have to toe the party
line – support what the party believes. People who rock the boat are said to step
out of line. If something is different from other similar things, it can be brought
into line with the others.
If your job is on the line, you are at risk of losing it. If someone is on the
line, they are on the telephone.


Susan says she’s happy with Martin but reading between the lines, something’s
not quite right. They never seem to go out together.

This is Sarah Williams. Can I speak to Amanda Price, please?
Hold the line, please. I’ll just see if she’s free.

Right. Have a good journey. Good luck with the new job and everything.
Thanks. I’ll drop you a line to let you know how I’m getting on.

I agree. Let’s move the meeting to the 24th and involve the other departments.
Good. I’m pleased we’re thinking along similar lines.

Exercises: Use the following idiomatic expressions in the sentences below:
a. in line for
b. the bottom line
c. on the dotted line
d. drew a line under
e. out of line

1. Make sure you read the contract in detail before you sign __________.

2. If you step ________ in this company, they get rid of you. You don’t get a second chance.

3. When John’s divorce came through, he ________ that episode of his life.

4. Helen’s doing very well at work. In fact, I think she’s __________ promotion.

5. I know you don’t want to learn English but ___________ is, if you want to
get a better job here, you need to speak a foreign language.

c; 2. e; 3. d; 4. a; 5. b;

Idiomatic expressions – Ground

Written by Nigina Dustova

The ground is one of the most basic things we know. It is not surprising then if ground rules are basic rules. In a similar way, if you have a good grounding in a subject, you know the basics.
Hundreds of years ago, everyone had to hunt animals to stay alive. If you wanted to know if there were any large animals around, you put your ear to the ground and listened. Today if you keep your ear to the ground you are trying to be aware of any ideas or rumors which are around.
Flying is a more modern idea. A plane literally gets off the ground. This can be applied to a new project in business.


1. Paul’s good with people; he’s patient; he’s organized. Personally, I think social
work will suit him down to the ground.
2. Another boring meeting! They’re a waste of time. We always cover the same old ground.
3. I knew I hadn’t stolen anything in the shop, so I just stood my ground and eventually they believed me. They had mixed me up with someone else!
4. The best advice my grandmother ever gave me was to keep my feet on the ground even if my head was in the clouds!

Exercises: Use these idiomatic expressions in the sentences below:
a. ground rules
b. on dangerous ground
c. a bit thin on the ground
d. keep your ear to the ground
e. a good grounding
1. – Excuse me, I’m thinking of changing my PC for an Apple Mac. Have you got any
second-hand ones?
Sorry, we haven’t. Second-hand Macs are __________ at the moment.

2. – We’ve got to do something to reduce our costs.
– Well, if you start talking about cutting staff, you’re ___________.

3. – Thanks for letting me stay with you. You’re doing me a big favor.
– That’s OK, but there are one or two ___________ : no smoking, shoes off at the front door and everyone does their own washing up.

4. – You’re doing a computer course, aren’t you?
– Yes, it’s nothing special but it gives you __________ in the basics.

5. You want to move to the Personnel Department, don’t you? I’ve heard there might
be a job there soon so ____________.

c; 2. b; 3. a; 4. e; 5. d;

Idiomatic expressions – Back

Written by Nigina Dustova

An idiomatic expression is a phrase or a fixed expression that has a figurative, or sometimes literal, meaning. An idiomatic expression’s figurative meaning is different from the literal meaning. In this post, we are going to learn idiomatic expressions which use the word back.


Your back is often associated with hard work. If you put your back into something, you work very hard at it.
If you pat someone on the back, you are congratulating them.
If someone is on your back all the time, they may be checking up on you.
You want them to get off your back and leave you alone.
If you have your back to the wall, literally, you are about to be killed by a firing
squad. Metaphorically, it means you are in a desperate situation.
If you want to say that someone knows very little about something, you can say:
What James knows about finance could be written on the back of a postage stamp.


1. – Listen Ben, when are you going to get out of the house and start looking for a job?
– I’m trying my best. Now would you get off my back and give me a break!
2. – I rang the police when I saw something strange going on across the road and they caught a couple of burglars red-handed!
– You certainly deserve a pat on the back!
3. If you want to criticize me, tell me to my face. If there’s one thing I hate it’s people who talk behind my back.
4. – I’ll never be able to clear the garden by Friday. It’s impossible.
– You will if you put your back into it. You don’t know what hard work is.

Exercises: Use the following idiomatic expressions with back in the sentences below:
a. backs to the wall
b. in the back of beyond
c. like the back of my hand
d. like water off a duck’s back
e. take a back seat
1. My parents moved away from the city when they retired. Now they live ________, about two hours drive away.
2. If I want to pass my exams, I think my boyfriend will have to __________ for a few weeks.
3. I get criticized a lot at work but it’s part of the job. I’m used to it now. It’s _________.
4. A lot of export companies have their __________ at the moment. Interest rates must come down even further if things are to get any better.
5. I’ve been to Dublin lots of times. I know the place _____________.

1. b; miles from anywhere. 2. e; be less important. 3. d; it doesn’t affect me. 4. a; in a very difficult situation 5. c; in a very difficult situation