S Idioms and Quizzes

S Idiom Quiz #1

letter s

Quiz 1 - Choose the correct idiom to replace the expression in the brackets. Check your score at the bottom. Click on the idiom for the definition.

1. The man stopped to (chat) before he started work.
a)   salt away
b)   see the light
c)   see the world through rose-colored glasses
d)   shoot the breeze

2. The woman hopes that her son will (begin to live a more stable life) and get married.
a)   settle down
b)   scatter around
c)   serve time
d)   snap out of it

3. We will have to go back to (the beginning) in order to solve the problem.
a)   scrape together
b)   square one
c)   sell ourself short
d)   shape up

4. The two friends never seem to (agree) on any important matter.
a)   scrounge around
b)   send anyone packing
c)   see eye to eye
d)   smell a rat

5. Our company decided to (repaint and clean up) our office before the anniversary celebration.
a)   see off
b)   simmer down
c)   smack into
d)   spruce up

Your score is: ___  out of 5

S Idiom Quiz #2

letter S

Quiz 2 - Choose the correct idiom to replace the expression in the brackets. Check your score at the bottom. Click on the idiom for the definition.

6. Our office is always (perfectly clean) when we begin work on Monday morning.
a)   spick-and-span
b)   settled down
c)   second hand
d)   a spitting image

7. We do not have a hammer but this should (do just as well) until we find one.
a)   sink or swim
b)   sell like hotcakes
c)   serve our purpose
d)   send someone packing

8. The man (said the wrong thing) when he was talking to his supervisor.
a)   sank his teeth into it
b)   sat right
c)   made a slip of the tongue
d)   shopped around

9. The couple (separated) after many years of marriage.
a)   scratched the surface
b)   split up
c)   snapped out of it
d)   split hairs

10. We bought a (used) car to use for weekend camping trips.
a)   second-hand
b)   shaped-up
c)   shelled-out
d)   second-thought

Your score is: ___  out of 5

S Idiom Quiz #3

letter S

Quiz 3 - Choose the correct idiom to replace the expression in the brackets. Check your score at the bottom. Click on the idiom for the definition.

11. My friend has (saved) a lot of money from his job.
a)   smacked into
b)   salted away
c)   shrugged off
d)   squawked about

12. The boy (did not keep his date with) the girl from his university class.
a)   stood up
b)   salted away
c)   stuck up for
d)   snapped out of

13. You will have to (go to various stores) to buy a stereo at a cheap price.
a)   stab someone in the back
b)   shop around
c)   straighten up
d)   stick it out

14. I have not (formed an opinion of) the new man in the accounting department.
a)   stayed away from
b)   struck while the iron is hot
c)   shopped around
d)   sized up

15. We are trying to (solve) the problems between our son and his wife.
a)   smooth over
b)   sit tight
c)   simmer down
d)   side with

Your score is: ___  out of 5

S Idiom Quiz #4

letter S

Quiz 4 - Choose the correct idiom to replace the expression in the brackets. Check your score at the bottom. Click on the idiom for the definition.

16. It (makes sense) that the man has no money if he goes out every night.
a)   stretches a point
b)   shoots the breeze
c)   stands to reason
d)   sells himself short

17. I went to the airport to (say goodbye to) my friend.
a)   stop by
b)   shell out
c)   side with
d)   see off

18. My friend began to (become calm) a few minutes after our argument.
a)   simmer down
b)   split hairs
c)   stand up to someone
d)   stick to his guns

19. "Let's (begin the preparations) for the New Year's party."
a)   stand on our own two feet
b)   stick it out
c)   start the ball rolling
d)   slip our mind

20. "Please (wait patiently) while I prepare the material."
a)   stick your neck out
b)   shrug off
c)   sit tight
d)   stand a chance

Your score is: ___  out of 5

S Idiom Quiz #5

letter S

Quiz 5 - Choose the correct idiom to replace the expression in the brackets. Check your score at the bottom. Click on the idiom for the definition.

21. We spent some time (chatting) before I left for the train.
a)   shooting the breeze
b)   shaping up
c)   steering clear of everyone
d)   sinking or swimming

22. "You should (think about it) before you make a final decision."
a)   splurge on it
b)   stick your neck out
c)   smell a rat
d)   sleep on it

23. The man was not able to (endure) the bad situation at his job.
a)   straighten up
b)   stick out
c)   snap out of
d)   shell out

24. We have only (started) the work that we must do.
a)   stood our ground for
b)   scrounged around for
c)   scratched the surface of
d)   slipped our mind for

25. The woman was (upset) after the car accident.
a)   a sitting target
b)   a stuffed shirt
c)   sitting pretty
d)   shook up

Your score is: ___  out of 5

S Idiom Quiz #6

letter S

Quiz 6 - Choose the correct idiom to replace the expression in the brackets. Check your score at the bottom. Click on the idiom for the definition.

26. I (defended) my boss during the meeting.
a)   stuck up for
b)   set back
c)   swamped
d)   shopped around for

27. I (do not like) the man's bad attitude towards work.
a)   show up
b)   stay away from
c)   stand in for
d)   am sick and tired of

28. The new book has been (selling very well) since it was published last month.
a)   selling like hotcakes
b)   selling itself short
c)   swamped
d)   straightened up

29. The girl is (an exact replica) of her father.
a)   a sore loser
b)   a spitting image
c)   the short end of the stick
d)   square deal

30. The man (was in jail) for robbing a bank.
a)   settled down
b)   spruced up
c)   served time
d)   shot the breeze

Your score is: ___  out of 5

S Idiom Quiz #7

letter S

Quiz 7 - Choose the correct idiom to replace the expression in the brackets. Check your score at the bottom. Click on the idiom for the definition.

31. My friend (disregarded) my advice to be more careful at work.
a)   shrugged off
b)   snapped out of
c)   splurged on
d)   straightened up

32. My friend is always (complaining about) the food in the cafeteria.
a)   salting away
b)   scraping together
c)   seeing through
d)   squawking about

33. The girl has been (avoiding) chocolate for many months.
a)   smacking into
b)   staying away from
c)   sizing up
d)   sinking her teeth into

34. We (did not find good employees) when we hired employees for the new project.
a)   splurged on something
b)   scraped the bottom of the barrel
c)   stabbed someone in the back
d)   stood to reason

35. "Who did you finally (support) in the argument?"
a)   split hairs with
b)   shoot the breeze with
c)   spruce up
d)   side with

Your score is: ___  out of 5

S Idiom Quiz #8

letter S

Quiz 8 - Choose the correct idiom to replace the expression in the brackets. Check your score at the bottom. Click on the idiom for the definition.

36. The woman finally (returned to normal) after becoming depressed about losing her job.
a)   sweated bullets
b)   set herself back
c)   snapped out of it
d)   scraped together

37. Our boss will never (do anything extra) unless it is beneficial to him.
a)   be on the safe side
b)   sell like hotcakes
c)   sink or swim
d)   stick his neck out

38. I do not like to play tennis with my friend because he is (someone who gets angry when he does not win).
a)   a sore loser
b)   a square one
c)   a snap
d)   a song and dance

39. The man's time in jail is a (family secret).
a)   snowball`s chance in hell
b)   song and dance
c)   skeleton in the closet
d)   spitting image

40. "How much did your new car (cost)?"
a)   see eye to eye
b)   stand you up
c)   start the ball rolling
d)   set you back

Your score is: ___  out of 5

S Idiom Quiz #9

letter S

Quiz 9 - Choose the correct idiom to replace the expression in the brackets. Check your score at the bottom. Click on the idiom for the definition.

41. My colleague is not a nice person and always (betrays others).
a)   stabs people in the back
b)   smooths things over
c)   slips his mind
d)   shoots the breeze

42. We managed to (gather) enough money to go on a holiday.
a)   squawk about
b)   stay away from
c)   stick up for
d)   scrape together

43. The director was (tricked) and revealed the secret information.
a)   spruced up
b)   set up
c)   set back
d)   seen off

44. (Suddenly,) we became hungry and decided to go to a restaurant.
a)   At square one,
b)   On second thought,
c)   In seventh heaven,
d)   On the spur of the moment,

45. We cannot (start to work seriously on) the project until we speak to our boss.
a)   sit idly by with
b)   sink our teeth into
c)   stick our neck out on
d)   smack into

Your score is: ___  out of 5

S Idiom Quiz #10

letter S

Quiz 10 - Choose the correct idiom to replace the expression in the brackets. Check your score at the bottom. Click on the idiom for the definition.

46. Our neighbor's are (in a good position) with their new house and money in the bank.
a)   a sore loser
b)   a stuffed shirt
c)   a snap
d)   sitting pretty

47. The woman was able to (be firm and confront) her boss during the meeting.
a)   stand up to
b)   sink her teeth into
c)   stand clear of
d)   stick up for

48. We went to the theater early in order to (make sure) about buying the tickets.
a)   be on the safe side
b)   make a slip of the tongue
c)   see eye to eye
d)   scratch the surface

49. The student gave me (many excuses) about why she was late with the report.
a)   a spitting image
b)   a swan song
c)   a snake in the grass
d)   a song and dance

50. What the man said (is unacceptable to) most members of the class.
a)   does not sit right with
b)   is snowed under with
c)   sinks or swims with
d)   sits tight with

Your score is: ___  out of 5

S Idiom Quiz #11

letter S

Quiz 11 - Choose the correct idiom to replace the expression in the brackets. Check your score at the bottom. Click on the idiom for the definition.

51. The information (was forgotten by me) and I could not remember it the next day.
a)   settled a score
b)   was spruced up
c)   had split hairs
d)   slipped my mind

52. The manager (became suspicious) and went to the police for advice.
a)   got a sob story
b)   smelled a rat
c)   straightened up
d)   stole the show

53. I heard the news (directly from those involved in it).
a)   on the safe side
b)   short and sweet
c)   straight from the horse`s mouth
d)   straight from the shoulder

54. The (final appearance) of the singer was a wonderful occasion.
a)   second thought
b)   sacred cow
c)   swan song
d)   spitting image

55. The woman (revealed the secret) about the surprise party for her boss.
a)   served time
b)   spilled the beans
c)   saved the day
d)   shot the breeze

Your score is: ___  out of 5

S Idioms

letter S

sack out

- to go to bed, to go to sleep

I sacked out as soon as I arrived home last evening.

a sacred cow

- something that is never criticized even if it sometimes deserves to be

The national park system is a sacred cow of the government and is never criticized by anyone.

sad to say

- sadly, unfortunately

Sad to say, the star player will not play today.

Sad to say, but my friend did not get the job that she wanted.

The man lost his phone and, sad to say, it was not found.

sadder but wiser

- unhappy about something but having learned something from the experience

The man was sadder but wiser after he learned that his wallet had been stolen.

saddle (someone) with (something)

- to give someone something undesirable or difficult to deal with

I try not to saddle my friend with my financial problems.

safe and sound

- to be safe or healthy

We arrived at our destination safe and sound after a long journey.

a safe bet

- something that is almost one hundred percent certain

It is a safe bet that our boss will not come to work today.

(to be on the) safe side

- to take no chances

It may rain so to be on the safe side I think that I will bring my umbrella.

safety in numbers

- to feel safe by being surrounded by a large number of people

There was safety in numbers when the students went to complain about their new teacher.

sage advice

- very good and wise advice

My friend asked me for my sage advice regarding his problems.

sail into (someone)

- to scold or criticize someone very hard, to attack someone

When I entered the office my supervisor sailed into me for being late.

sail right through (something)

- to finish something quickly and easily

I was able to sail right through the material for my final exam.

sail under false colors

- to pretend to be something that one is not

The politician was sailing under false colors when he appealed to the citizens for votes.

salt away money

- to save money

My friend has salted away much money from her new job.

salt of the earth

- basically and fundamentally good simple people

The members of our club are the salt of the earth and are fun to be with.

same as (someone or something)

- to be identical to someone or something

My sister is the same as the girl who lives down the block.

Same here!

- Me too! I agree!

"Same here," I replied when someone said that they were having problems with their Internet provider.

same old story

- something that occurs in the same way as before

It is the same old story with my friend. He borrows money but he never wants to pay it back.

same to you

- the same comment applies to you

"The same to you," the boy said when his friend said that he was stupid.

sands of time

- the accumulated tiny amounts of time (like the sand in an hourglass)

The sands of time have done much to change the woman's feelings about her sister.

save face

- to preserve one`s good reputation or dignity when something has happened to hurt it

Our boss is responsible for many problems in our company. He wants to quit before he is fired so that he can save face.

save one`s breath

- to remain silent because talking will do no good

You should save your breath and not talk to that woman because she will not believe you anyway.

save one`s neck/skin

- to save oneself from danger or trouble

The man left the scene of the fire quickly in order to save his neck.

save (something) for a rainy day

- to save something (eg. money) for the future

I plan to save some money for a rainy day.

save the day

- to bring about victory or success (when defeat is likely)

The football player saved the day for his team when he played his best game of the season.

save up for (something)

- to save money for a specific purpose

My friend is saving up for a new phone.

The woman has been saving up for a holiday all year.

saved by the bell

- to be rescued from a difficult situation by something that brings the situation to a sudden end

I was saved by the bell and do not have to give my presentation until tomorrow.

saving grace

- a redeeming quality - especially a quality that compensates for one's shortcomings

The man's saving grace was his musical ability. His personality was terrible.

Say Idioms

say a mouthful

- to say something of great importance or meaning or length

"You certainly said a mouthful," I said when my friend began to tell me about his complaint.

say grace

- to say a prayer of thanks before or after a meal

The bride's father wanted to say grace before the wedding banquet.

say I do

- to get married (during a wedding ceremony it is common to say "I do" when you agree to marry your partner)

The man was very happy to say "I do," at the wedding ceremony.

say one`s piece

- to express one's opinion

The man said his piece at the meeting and then sat down.

The woman does not want to fight with her sister but she plans to say her piece about the problem.

I need to say my piece to my friend and then forget about it.

say (something) in a roundabout way

- to say something indirectly

I said what I wanted to say in a roundabout way in order to make my point.

say (something) to (someone's) face

- to say something (often unpleasant) directly to someone

My supervisor always complains about me but she never says anything to my face.

say (something) under one's breath

- to say something so softly that almost nobody can hear it

The woman said something under her breath but I could not understand it.

say the word

- to give a sign, to show a wish

"Just say the word and I will come and meet you at the airport."

say uncle

- to surrender, to give in

The little boy was forced to say uncle and do what the older boy wanted.

scale (something) down

- to make something smaller

The government decided to scale down the plans for the sports stadium.

scare (someone) out of his or her wits

- to frighten someone very much

The dog scared the little boy out of his wits.

scare (someone) silly

- to frighten someone very much

The mouse scared the girl silly.

scare (someone) stiff

- to scare someone severely

The little boy was scared stiff after he watched the horror movie.

scare the (living) daylights out of (someone)

- to frighten someone very much

Falling off the bicycle scared the daylights out of the little girl.

The movie scared the living daylights out of me.

scare the pants off (someone)

- to frighten someone very badly

The big dog scared the pants off the little boy.

scare up (somebody or something) or scare (somebody or something) up

- to find someone or something, to gather something with some effort

We were able to scare up some sleeping bags so that we could go camping.

scared silly/stiff

- to be frightened very much

I was scared stiff during the horror movie.

scatter (something) around

- to carelessly put something in different places

My papers are always scattered around my house and I am never able to find them.

school of hard knocks

- the ordinary experiences of life

The man learned about life in the school of hard knocks.

school of thought

- a particular philosophy

There are many schools of thought about how the government should proceed with its new transportation plan.

score an own goal

- to earn a point for the opposing team by scoring in your own net, to unintentionally harm your own interests

Our team scored an own goal and we lost the game.

The man scored an own goal when he quit his job with no plans for doing something else.

score points with (someone)

- to gain the favor of someone

The salesman always worked extra hours in order to score points with his boss.

scout around for (someone or something)

- to search or look for someone or something

The company is scouting around for a new warehouse for their products.

scrape the bottom of the barrel

- to take whatever is left after the best has been taken

The company is scraping the bottom of the barrel to look for new employees.

scrape (something) together or scrape together (something)

- to gather small amounts of money or something (usually with some difficulty) for some purpose

We were able to scrape together enough money to go on a holiday.

scrape (something) up or scrape up (something)

- to find or gather something with some effort

My friend scraped up some money and came to visit me during the summer.

scratch around for (something)

- to look for something

The woman was scratching around for some money to buy some food.

scratch (someone`s) back

- to do something for someone in the hope that they will do something for you

"You scratch my back and I`ll scratch yours," the customer said when we talked about the new sales contract.

scratch the surface (of something)

- to only begin to do or learn something

My friend likes to listen to classical music but she is only beginning to scratch the surface of what is available.

scream bloody murder

- to complain bitterly about something

The woman screamed bloody murder when someone took her parking place.

screw around

- to loaf about, to pass time without doing anything

I screwed around all morning and did not get anything done.

screw up (someone or something) or screw (someone or something) up

- to cause trouble for someone or something, to make a mess of something

My travel agent screwed up my travel schedule and I missed my flight.

screw up one's courage

- to build up one's courage for something

I screwed up my courage and asked my supervisor to transfer me to a different department.

scrimp and save

- to be very thrifty, to save money for something

I have been scrimping and saving in order to buy a new computer.

scroll up/down

- to move up or down through the text on a computer screen

I scrolled down to read the rest of the online story.

scrounge around for (something)

- to look/search in many places for something

We did not have enough wood for the fence so we had to scrounge around to find some more.

seamy side of life

- the most unpleasant or roughest aspect of life

The policeman learned much about the seamy side of life during his many years of work.

search high and low for (someone or something)

- to look absolutely everywhere for someone or something

I have been searching high and low for my address book.

The business is searching high and low for good employees.

The young couple are searching high and low for a new apartment.

Search me!

- I don`t know., How should I know?

"Search me," my friend said when I asked him what had happened to his car.

search one`s soul

- to study and think about one`s reasons and actions to see if one has been fair and honest

I have been searching my soul to see if I could have prevented the car crash.

second a motion

- to formally agree with a proposal in a meeting

I seconded the motion to start one hour early every morning during the summer.

second-guess (someone)

- to try to guess what someone else intends to do or would have done in a situation

You should never try to second-guess the actions of the firefighters in a dangerous situation.

second hand

- not new, used by someone else

We went to a second-hand bookstore to look for the books.

second nature to (someone)

- to be easy and natural for someone

Playing a musical instrument is second nature to my friend.


- to be not of the best quality

The performance of the school choir was second-rate.

a second thought

- a thought that one has after thinking about something again

I gave it a second thought and decided not to quit the class.

second to none

- to be better than everything else

The performance by the opera singer was second to none.

second wind

- energy that is regained after being tired

After we got our second wind we continued our hike up the mountain.

security against (something)

- something that keeps something safe, protection against something

The money in the bank is my security against losing my job in the future.

security blanket

- something that one holds onto for reassurance or comfort (like a child and a blanket)

The boy uses his computer as a security blanket so that he does not have to meet new people.

See Idioms

see a man about a dog

- to leave for some unspecified purpose (often to go to the restroom)

I drank several cups of coffee and I soon had to stop my car to see a man about a dog.

see about (something)

- to check into something

I am going to see about getting the book before next week.

see double

- to see two of everything instead of one

I began to see double after I hit my head on the edge of the fence.

see eye to eye (with someone)

- to agree with someone

I do not always see eye to eye with my friend.

see fit to (do something)

- to decide to do something

I hope that my company sees fit to spend more time training its employees.

see no objection to (something)

- to not have any objection to something

I see no objection to my friend coming to the meeting with me.

see one`s way clear to (do something)

- to feel able to do something

"When you see your way clear to begin the job could you please come and tell me."

see red

- to become angry

My friend saw red last night when I told him about the broken DVD player.

see service

- to do military duty in an actual war

The man saw service in the war.

see (someone or something) as (something)

- to consider someone to be something

My friend sees me as an expert in financial matters although I am not.

see (someone) home

- to accompany someone home

I saw my cousin home after her visit last evening.

see (someone) off or see off (someone)

- to go with someone to their point of departure

I went to the airport to see my mother off.

see (someone) out or see out (someone)

- to go with someone out of a room or house

I went to the door to see our guests out.

see (someone) to (somewhere)

- to escort someone to a place safely

I saw my friend to the door when he decided to go home.

see (something) out or see out (something)

- to finish something, to not quit doing something

I decided to stay with my company in order to see out the restructuring process.

see (something) through

- to do something until it is completed

I want to stay and see the building project through.

see stars

- to think that one is seeing stars as a result of being hit on the head

When I was hit by the opposing player I fell to the ground and began to see stars.

see the color of (someone's) money

- to verify that someone has (enough) money

I did not give my friend a ticket for the game until I saw the color of his money.

see the handwriting on the wall

- to know that something is certain to happen

We saw the handwriting on the wall and we knew that our company was going to go bankrupt.

see the last of (someone or something)

- to see someone or something for the last time

I was very happy to see the last of my friend.

see the light

- to realize that one has been wrong

I finally saw the light and began to work in the same manner as everyone else.

see the light at the end of the tunnel

- to foresee an end to something such as a problem or a task

I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and I knew that I would finish the work soon.

see the light of day

- to be born, to begin

I do not believe that his plans to build a new house will ever see the light of day.

see the sights

- to see the important things in a place

We stopped for three days in the city so that we could see the sights.

see the world through rose-colored glasses

- to see only the good things about something, to be too optimistic

She is unrealistic and always sees the world through rose-colored glasses.

see things

- to imagine that one sees something that is not there

The boy is always daydreaming and imagines that he is seeing things.

see things/everything through rose-colored glasses

- to see only the good things about something, to be too optimistic

The girl is very nice although she always sees everything through rose-colored glasses.

see through (someone or something)

- to understand someone`s true character or motivation, to understand the real reason for something

I could see through the supervisor's attempt to fire the woman from her job.

see to it (that something is done)

- to take the responsibility to do something, to make sure that something is done

"Will you please see to it that the garbage is taken out in the morning."

see to (someone or something)

- to take care of someone or something

I will see to renting a car tomorrow.

see which way the wind is blowing

- to determine what is the most suitable thing to do

I want to see which way the wind is blowing before I decide to quit my job.

seeing is believing

- one must believe something that one sees

Seeing is believing and I did not believe the size of the house until I actually saw it.

seeing (someone)

- to be dating someone on a regular basis

The woman was not seeing anyone when she met the man at the party.

seize an opportunity

- to take advantage of an opportunity

I seized the opportunity to take the extra class when I heard about it.

seize upon (something)

- to take hold of something and make an issue of it

The media seized upon the mistake of the politician.

Sell Idioms

sell like hotcakes

- to sell quickly, to sell rapidly

The tickets for the concert were selling like hotcakes when I called this morning.

sell out (someone or something) or sell (someone or something) out

- to be disloyal, to betray someone or something

The man does not want to sell out his moral values.

sell (someone) a bill of goods

- to deceive someone, to get someone to believe something that is not true

I believe that the salesman sold me a bill of goods and the product does not have much value.

sell (someone) on (something - a plan or idea)

- to convince someone that something is good or beneficial

I could not sell my friend on the idea to buy a new computer.

sell (someone) short

- to underestimate someone

My friend is selling himself short when he thinks that he will not be able to find a good job.

sell (something) out or sell out (something)

- to sell all of something

They sold out the concert in every city that it went to.

sell (something) for a song

- to sell something very cheaply

They sold the furniture for a song.

sell (something) off or sell off (something)

- to sell much or all of something

The computer company decided to sell off some of their real estate business.

sell (something) on credit

- to sell something now and let the purchaser pay for it later

The store sold the stereo system on credit.

seller's market

- a situation where there are more buyers of a product/service than sellers so the sellers have an advantage

It was a seller's market for houses and the houses were increasing in value.

Send Idioms

send away for (something)

- to write a letter asking for something

I sent away for some information but it has not arrived yet.

send (someone) about his or her business

- to send someone away (in an unfriendly manner)

I sent the man about his business when he interrupted my work last evening.

send (someone) off or send off (someone)

- to participate in saying good-bye to someone who is leaving

We went to the airport to send off the company president.

send (someone) packing

- to tell someone to leave, to dismiss someone

The company sent the man packing because of his bad work performance.

send (someone) to the showers

- to send a player out of the game and off the field/court etc.

The coach decided to send the player to the showers after his poor performance in the game.

send (someone) up or send up (someone)

- to sentence someone to prison

The judge sent the man up for seven years for robbing a bank.

send (something) C.O.D.

- to send merchandise to someone who will pay for it when it is delivered

The company sent the computer printer C.O.D.

send up a trial balloon

- to suggest something and see how people react to it

The company sent up a trial balloon to see how people would react to their new product.

separate but equal

- to be segregated but of equal value or quality

The teaching staff and the administration were separate but equal regarding school decisions.

separate the men from the boys

- to separate competent people from less competent people

Some people say that joining the military is a good way to separate the men from the boys.

serve as a guinea pig

- to allow some kind of test to be performed on someone

The students served as a guinea pig for the school board's plan to change the school curriculum.

serve notice on (someone)

- to formally announce something to someone

We served notice on the apartment manager that we would leave our apartment at the end of the month.

serve (someone`s) purpose

- to be useful to someone for a certain need

The small screwdriver should serve my purpose until I find the correct size.

serve (someone) right

- to get the punishment or results that one deserves

My friend never studies at all so it serves him right to fail his exam.

serve time

- to spend time in jail

The man served time when he was young but now he is a good citizen.

Set Idioms

set a date

- to decide on a date for a wedding

After thinking about marriage for a long time, the couple decided to set a date.

set a precedent

- to establish a pattern, to set a policy that must be followed in future cases

The legal case set a precedent that will be followed for many years in the future.

set a trap

- to prepare a trap to catch an animal or a person who is doing something wrong or illegal

The conservation officers set a trap to try and catch the bear.

set about to (do something or go somewhere)

- to begin or start something, to prepare to go somewhere

We set about to prepare for our move to a bigger building.

set back (someone or something) or set (someone or something) back

- to cause someone or something to get behind schedule, to slow down someone or something

The heavy rain set back the efforts of the farmers to plant their crops.

set eyes on (someone or something)

- to see someone or something for the first time

I do not know if my friend is here or not. I have not set eyes on her since yesterday.

set fire to (something)

- to make something burn

The workers set fire to the building by accident.

set foot (somewhere)

- to step or go somewhere

I have never set foot in that restaurant and I never will in the future.

set forth (something)

- to explain something exactly or clearly

The manager carefully set forth the terms of the rental contract.

set forth (somewhere)

- to start to go somewhere, to begin a trip

We set forth on our holiday at 7:00 this morning.

set great store on (someone or something)

- to like or value someone or something

Our company sets great store on their ability to attract good people.

set in

- to begin and probably continue (used for a weather or mental condition)

The rain has set in and it looks like it will not stop.

A mild depression has set in for my neighbor

set in one's ways

- to be inflexible

My grandfather is set in his ways and he will not change his habits.

set one`s heart on (something)

- to want something very much

I set my heart on a nice holiday this winter although I have no money.

set one`s mind at rest

- to free oneself from worry, to stop worrying

I told my father the reason that we cannot come in order to set his mind at rest.

set one's sights on (something)

- to select something as one's goal

The local politician has set his sights on being elected to a higher office.

set one's teeth on edge

- to be unpleasant and to cause an uncomfortable feeling

The idea that we would have to move our office immediately set my teeth on edge.

set out (somewhere)

- to leave on a journey

Marco Polo set out for China many years ago.

set out to (do something)

- to decide and begin to try to do something, to attempt to do something

My friend set out to learn Spanish when he went to Mexico.

set sail

- to start sailing, to begin a sea voyage

The three women set sail for Hawaii in a small sailboat.

set (someone) back or set back (someone)

- to cost someone

"How much did your new suit set you back?"

set (someone) back on his or her heels

- to surprise/shock/overwhelm someone

The announcement by the principal set the teachers back on their heels.

set (someone or something) free

- to release someone or something

The conservation officers went to the mountains and set the bear free.

set (someone or something) loose

- to set someone or something free, to release someone or something that you are holding

The wildlife department decided to set the bear loose.

set (someone or something) straight

- to explain something to someone

The police officer set the woman straight about the driving laws.

set (someone's) teeth on edge

- to irritate someone

The constant noise from the stereo next door set my teeth on edge.

set (someone) up in business or set up (someone) in business

- to help establish someone in business

My father helped to set my sister's husband up in business.

set (something) aside for (someone or something)

- to save or reserve something for a special purpose

We set some money aside for our next holiday.

set (something) off or set off (something)

- to decorate something through contrast, to balance something by difference

We painted the door red in order to set off the light colors of the walls.

set (something) off or set off (something)

- to cause something to explode

The fire set off a large explosion on the ship.

set (something) right

- to correct something, to make something more fair

The man made an effort to set things right between himself and his brother.

set (something) to music

- to write a piece of music that is related to some written material

The poem is very famous and has been set to music many times.

The play was very popular and is now being set to music.

The composer has worked hard to set many great stories to music.

set the pace

- to establish the speed or pace or standard of something

The manager of the factory sets the pace for his employees.

The woman often sets the pace for sales in her department.

The fastest runner set the pace for the other runners during the marathon.

set the stage for (something)

- to prepare for something

The win by our team set the stage for the final championship game next month.

set the table

- to place plates/glasses/napkins on the table before a meal

I set the table while my mother was cooking dinner.

set the world on fire

- to do something outstanding, to do something that makes one famous

The author has not been able to set the world on fire with his writing but he is trying very hard.

set tongues wagging

- to cause people to start gossiping

The actions of the supervisor set tongues wagging in our office.

set type

- to arrange type for printing

The small printing company worked all night to set type for the local paper.

set up (someone) or set (someone) up

- to put someone in a position to be manipulated or cheated

I do not believe that I lost the money honestly. I believe that someone set me up.

set up (something) or set (something) up

- to establish something, to provide the money for something

The newspaper company provided the money to set up the travel magazine.

The company set up a new department to test new products.

set up (something) or set (something) up

- to make something ready to use by putting the parts together

After we set up the gas barbecue we were able to cook dinner.

set up shop (somewhere)

- to open a business

The fire alarm company decided to set up shop in our city.

set upon (someone or something)

- to attack someone or something violently

The three young boys set upon the man on the city bus.

Settle Idioms

settle a score with (someone)

- to retaliate against someone for a past wrong

My boss is trying to settle a score with someone for something that happened several years ago.

settle down

- to calm down

The baby finally settled down and began to sleep.

settle down

- to begin to live a quiet and stable life (often used after getting married or getting a job)

My friend settled down and started a family after he finished university.

settle for (something)

- to be satisfied with less than you want, to agree to accept something as a second choice

I settled for less than I wanted but I am happy with my new contract at work.

settle on (something)

- to decide on something

We settled on the fish dinner at the restaurant.

settle (one's) affairs

- to deal with one's business matters, to manage one's affairs

It was very difficult for my friend to settle his affairs after his illness.

settle (something) out of court

- to settle a disagreement without having to go through a court of justice

The company was able to settle their lawsuit out of court.

settle up with (someone)

- to pay someone what one owes them

I settled up with my friend before he left to work overseas.


- an arrangement, the details of a situation

My uncle has a very nice setup at his office.

seventh heaven

- a state of intense delight

The singer has been in seventh heaven since she won the music award.

sever ties with (someone or something)

- to end a relationship or agreement with someone or something

Our company decided to sever ties with the small advertising company.

The large company will sever ties with the athlete.

The young man is trying to sever ties with his bad friends.

sew (something) up or sew up (something)

- to complete or secure something

The candidate for the nomination sewed up his victory last week.

shack up with (someone)

- to live with someone without marrying him or her

When my sister was younger she shacked up with her boyfriend for two years.

shades of (someone or something)

- a reminder of someone or something

The festival contained shades of the large festivals of many years ago.

shadow of oneself/itself

- someone or something that is not as strong or healthy as before

The professional boxer was a shadow of his former self.

Shake Idioms

shake a leg

- to go fast, to hurry

"Please try and shake a leg. We are already late for the concert."

shake (hands) on (something)

- to shake the hand of someone as a sign of agreement about something

I shook hands on the agreement with my boss.

shake hands with (someone)

- to shake the hand of someone to greet them

I shook hands with my neighbor when I first met him.

shake in one's boots

- to be afraid, to shake from fear

The little boy was shaking in his boots when the large dog approached him.

shake off an illness or shake an illness off

- to become well or healthy again

My friend is unable to shake off her illness and cannot come to the party.

shake off (someone or something) or shake (someone or something) off

- to get rid of someone or something that is bothering you

I was able to shake off my cold after a weekend of resting in bed.

shake (someone) down or shake down (someone)

- to get money by threatening someone

The gangsters shook the shop owner down to get some money.

shake up (someone) or shake (someone) up

- to shock or upset someone

The change in policies shook up many people in the company.

shake up (something)

- to reorganize something

The president decided to shake up the company in order to bring new energy into the organization.

shaken up

- to be bothered or disturbed

I was shaken up after I heard about the fire at our apartment building.

shape up

- to improve one's behavior or performance or physical shape

The man has begun to shape up and is doing his job much better.

shape up or ship out

- to either improve one's performance or leave

The new employee was told to shape up or ship out when his performance was not equal to the other members of the staff.

share and share alike

- to have or get equal shares of something

We share and share alike when we are on a camping trip.

share (someone's) pain

- to understand and sympathize with someone's pain or discomfort

I tried hard to share my friend's pain after his father died.

share (someone's) sorrow

- to grieve as someone else grieves

The neighbors shared the man's sorrow after he lost his house in a fire.

a sharp tongue

- a way of talking or speaking to others that is unkind or bad or critical

The woman has a sharp tongue and she says very unkind things to other people.

shed crocodile tears

- to pretend that one is crying

The man pretended to apologize for his actions but he was only shedding crocodile tears.

shed light on (something)

- to make something clearer or easier to understand

The speech helped to shed light on the political scandal.

shelf life

- the length of time that something (usually food) is useful and can be kept on a shelf in a shop

Fresh fruit has a very short shelf life.

The medicine has a shelf life of about two years.

Some cans of food have a long shelf life.

shell out money

- to pay money

I shelled out much money for the new stereo.

shine up to (someone)

- to try to please someone, to try to make friends with someone

The man is always shining up to his boss in the hopes of getting an increase in salary.

shipping and handling

- the costs of handling a product and transporting it

The cost of shipping and handling for some goods that are bought over the Internet are very high.

ships that pass in the night

- people who meet briefly by chance but are unlikely to meet again

We were like two ships that pass in the night and I do not think that I will ever see that person again.

shirk one's duty

- to neglect one's job or task

The guard was shirking his duty when he spent much of the evening playing cards.

the shoe is on the other foot

- the opposite is true, someone's place or situation is changed into someone else's place or situation

My friend always has problems at school but now the shoe is on the other foot and I am the one who is having problems.

a shoo-in

- someone or something that is expected to win, a sure winner

The university president is a shoo-in to win another term in office.

shook up

- to be upset, to be worried

Our secretary was shook up after the accident and has not been back to work since.

Shoot Idioms

shoot fish in a barrel

- something that is like shooting fish in a barrel is something that is very very easy

The contest was like shooting fish in a barrel. It was very easy to win a prize.

shoot for (something)

- to attempt to do something, to aim toward a goal

I was shooting for the local spelling championship before I could advance to a higher level.

shoot from the hip

- to speak directly and frankly, to fire a gun that is at one's side

The man often shoots from the hip and gets into trouble over what he says.

shoot one's mouth off

- to boast or talk too much

The boy was shooting his mouth off about his sports ability.

shoot one`s wad

- to spend all of one`s money, to say everything that is on one`s mind

My friend shot his wad at a casino during his vacation.

shoot oneself in the foot

- to make a mistake or a stupid decision that makes a situation worse

The man shot himself in the foot when he refused to work extra to help his boss with the new project.

shoot out (something)

- to stick or throw something outward

The man shot out his foot from under the table and made his friend fall down.

shoot straight

- to act fairly, to deal honestly with others

The salesman always shoots straight when he is dealing with his customers.

shoot the breeze/bull

- to talk idly

I met my friend at the supermarket and we decided to shoot the breeze for a few minutes.

shoot the works

- to spare no expense or effort to do something

They are planning to shoot the works with the victory celebration for the Olympic athletes.

shoot up

- to grow quickly

The boy seemed to shoot up quickly during the summer.

shoot up

- to rise suddenly

The flames shot up over the top of the building.

shoot up (drugs)

- to take drugs by injecting them

We saw someone shooting up heroin in the alley.

shoot up (someone or something)

- to shoot at someone or something recklessly

In many western movies the outlaws come into town and shoot up everything.

shop around for (something)

- to go to various places to look for something for a cheap price

I shopped around for a month before I bought a new phone.

We had to shop around to find a good bicycle repair shop.

The student is shopping around for a new laptop for school.

shore (something) up or shore up (something)

- to add support to something which is weak

It was necessary to shore up the house after the mud slide.

short and sweet

- brief and pleasant

My visit with my parents was short and sweet.

the short end (of the stick)

- unfair or unequal treatment

The man always gets the short end of the stick when he is at work.

Our company got the short end of the stick in the negotiations.

The little boy always thinks that he gets the short end of the stick.

short for (something)

- something that is a shortened form of a word or phrase

The woman's nickname is short for her full name.

short of (something)

- to not have enough of something

We are short of sugar so I will buy some when I am at the store.

short on (something)

- to be lacking in something

The man is short on patience and is often angry.

short shrift

- rude treatment

The woman received short shrift from her supervisor when she asked for a holiday.

a shot in the arm

- something inspiring or encouraging, a boost of energy

My job search got a shot in the arm when the company president called me for an interview.

a shot in the dark

- an attempt at something without much hope or chance of succeeding

The attempt to find the small boy was a shot in the dark.

shot through with (something)

- containing something

The drink was shot through with some chemicals which I did not know.

shotgun wedding

- a forced wedding

The young couple were forced into a shotgun wedding by the girl's father.

shoulder the blame

- to accept that you are responsible for a problem or for something that is bad

The company manager must shoulder the blame for the problems in his department.

The coach will shoulder the blame for the team's poor performance this season.

shoulder to shoulder

- side by side, with a shared purpose

The firefighters worked shoulder to shoulder to help prevent the house from burning.

shove off

- to start, to leave

"I think that it is time for us to shove off. It is almost midnight."

shove one's way (somewhere)

- to make a path through a crowd by pushing

We shoved our way into the department store for the big sale.

shove (something) down (someone`s) throat

- to force someone to do or agree to something that they do not like or do not want to do

I do not like my supervisor because he is always trying to shove his ideas down my throat.

Show Idioms


- to present something interesting to a class (in elementary school)

The little boy took a starfish from the ocean to his school for show-and-tell.

show good faith

- to demonstrate good intentions or good will

The man did not show good faith when he asked for extra money after he left his company.

a show of hands

- a display of raised hands in a group to vote on something

The teacher asked for a show of hands to see who wanted to do a presentation.

show off

- to try to attract attention, to display something

My friend likes to show off his new clothes.


- a person who brags a lot

The girl is a show-off and is always trying to impress other people.

show one`s cards/hand

- to disclose one`s plans

The buyer will not show us his cards so we do not know what he wants.

show one`s (true) colors

- to show what one is really like or is thinking

My friend is showing his true colors when he refuses to help me when I need help.

show one's teeth

- to show one's anger or strength in order to warn someone not to argue or fight with you

Our supervisor showed his teeth when I began to argue with him about my job.

show signs of (something)

- to show hints or indications of something

Finally, the baby is beginning to show signs of going to sleep.

The economy is showing signs of weakness.

Sadly, the man showed no signs of life after the accident.

show (someone) the door

- to ask someone to go away

When the man started yelling in the restaurant the manager quickly showed him the door.

show (someone) the ropes

- to tell or show someone how to do something

The experienced carpenter made a great effort to show the new trainee the ropes.

show (someone) to his or her seat

- to direct someone to a place to sit

The usher showed the man to his seat.

show (someone) up or show up (someone)

- to do better than another person while others can see you

The girl always shows her friend up by doing all of her schoolwork quickly.

show (something) to good advantage

- to make something look good, to make something stand out

The new paint helped to show the house to good advantage.

show up

- to appear, to arrive, to be present

"What time did your friend show up for the party?"

show up

- to become easy to see

After we cleaned the vase the design began to show up.

shrug (something) off or shrug off (something)

- to not be bothered or hurt by something, to disregard something

The girl says mean things but we always shrug off her comments.

Shut Idioms

shut off

- to be apart, to be separated from someone or something

The small town is shut off from the other small towns in the valley.

shut out (a team)

- to prevent the opposition team from scoring during a game

Our national soccer team shut out the other team last night.

shut (something) off or shut off (something)

- to make something like water or electricity stop

We always shut off the gas when we leave the house.

shut (something) up or shut up (something)

- to close the doors and windows of a building for a period of time

We decided to shut up our cottage for the winter.

shut the door on (someone)

- to close the door to keep someone out

The teacher always shuts the door on students who come late for her class.

shut the door on (something)

- to terminate/exclude/obstruct something

The bad behavior of the employees shut the door on any future parties at the company.

shut up

- to stop talking

"Please shut up and let someone else speak."

shut up (someone or something) or shut (someone or something) up

- to confine someone or something

We always shut up our dog in the house when the postal worker comes.

Shut your mouth!

- Please be quiet and close your mouth!

"Shut your mouth," the woman said to the man talking loudly in the library.

shuttle from place to place

- to move from place to place

The athletes shuttled from place to place during the sports event.

The volunteer drivers shuttled the athletes from place to place during the sports event.

shy away from (someone or something)

- to avoid someone or something

My friend shies away from giving me advice about my eating habits.

Our manager does not shy away from the difficult problems in our company.

The man does not shy away from saying stupid things.

sick and tired of (someone or something)

- to dislike someone or something, to be annoyed with someone or something

I am sick and tired of my friend's complaining.

sick in bed

- to remain in bed while you are sick

My father was sick in bed for three days last week.

sick of (someone or something)

- to be bored with someone or something, to dislike someone or something

I think that the clerk is sick of working late every day.

side against (someone)

- to choose sides against someone

My friend always sides against me when I am involved in an argument with someone.

side with (someone)

- to favor or support someone's position in a dispute

The mother always sides with her daughter when the daughter has an argument.

a sight for sore eyes

- a welcome sight

The man was a sight for sore eyes when he returned to work after a long holiday.

sight unseen

- before seeing a thing or a person

My friend bought the car sight unseen and now he is having trouble with it.

sign on the dotted line

- to place one's signature on a contract or other important paper

The sales manager gave me the contract and asked me to sign on the dotted line.

sign on with (someone)

- to sign an agreement to work with or for someone

My cousin has signed on with one of the largest companies in the world.

sign one's own death warrant

- to do something knowingly that will probably result in severe trouble

Our secretary signed her own death warrant when she came to work late three times last week.

sign (something) over

- to give something legally to someone by signing one`s name

The man signed over his car to his son on his 21st birthday.

sign up for (something)

- to promise to do something by signing one`s name, to join something

My friend recently decided to sign up for tennis lessons.

signal to (someone) to do (something)

- to give someone an instruction by using a signal

I signaled to our coach to take me out of the game.

signed, sealed and delivered

- formally and officially signed

The contract to buy the house was signed, sealed and delivered when I delivered it to the real estate agent.

the silence is deafening

- the silence is so great that one becomes uncomfortable, the silence is so great that it suggests the disapproval of something

The silence was deafening at the meeting when nobody stood up to challenge the speaker for his extreme remarks.

silence is golden

- sometimes it is better to say nothing

The man believes that silence is golden and he is very careful what he says.

silly season

- the time of the year (late summer) when there is no important news and news reporters focus on unimportant things

It was the end of summer and it was now the silly season for the news media.

simmer down

- to become calm or quiet

He was very angry after the meeting but now he has begun to simmer down.

since time immemorial

- since a very long time ago

Since time immemorial, people have been coming to the hot springs to bathe in the water.

sing (someone's) praises

- to praise someone highly and enthusiastically

My supervisor always sings my praises when he introduces me to someone.

sing a different tune

- to contradict one's previous ideas, to change one's attitude

Usually, the man does not care if he disturbs his neighbors at midnight but now that he must get up early in the morning he is singing a different tune.

sink in

- to penetrate, to become understood

It will take time for the comments of our boss to sink in.

sink into despair

- to grieve or to become depressed

The woman sank into despair when she learned that she had lost her job.

sink one`s teeth into (something)

- to begin to work seriously on a project or problem

The problem is difficult and is very hard to sink your teeth into.

sink or swim

- to fail or succeed by one's own efforts

My cousin will have to sink or swim when he begins his new job.

Sit Idioms

sit around (somewhere)

- to sit somewhere and relax and do nothing

I spent the morning sitting around my apartment.

sit at (someone's) feet

- to admire someone greatly, to be taught by someone

I would love to sit at the feet of the famous painter.

sit back

- to be located a distance away from a street

The large mansion sits back three hundred meters from the street.

sit back

- to relax or rest, to take a break

We decided to sit back for the day and not do anything.

sit back and let (something) happen

- to relax and not interfere in something

I did not want to sit back and let things happen so I began to make some phone calls about my situation.

sit bolt upright

- to sit up straight

I sat bolt upright when I heard the news about my cousin.

sit idly by

- to sit and watch something while others work, to ignore a situation that calls for help

The man sat idly by while the others worked hard.

a sit-in

- a political demonstration where students or workers refuse to leave their classroom or job site

The students had a sit-in to demand lower tuition fees.

sit in for (someone)

- to take someone else's place in some activity

I asked my friend to sit in for me at my volunteer job at the community center.

sit in on (something)

- to attend or participate in a meeting or similar gathering

Our boss sat in on our meeting so that he could learn what was happening.

sit on (something)

- to be a member of a jury or board

The former politician sits on the board of many corporations.

sit on its hands

- an audience refuses to applaud

The audience sat on its hands after the terrible performance by the singer.

sit on one's hands

- to do nothing, to fail to help

The manager sat on her hands and refused to do anything about the complaints that she had received.

sit on (something)

- to hold someone or something back, to delay something

I am going to sit on my job application until I am sure that I want to apply for the new job.

sit on the fence

- to not support any side in a dispute, to not decide something, to not support something

Most of the politicians are sitting on the fence about the new subway proposal.

sit on the sidelines

- to be in a situation in which you are not actively involved in something

The young player was forced to sit on the sidelines during the game.

sit pretty

- to be in a favorable situation

My uncle is sitting pretty with his new job and high salary.

sit right

- to be unacceptable (usually used in the negative or as a question)

The idea seemed good at first but now it does not sit right with the other members of the staff.

sit (something) out or sit out (something)

- to not participate in something, to wait until something is over

I am planning to sit the meeting out as I am very tired today.

sit through (something)

- to stay until the end of something or to endure something

I had to sit through a very boring lecture yesterday.

The children were able to sit through the movie without becoming bored.

sit tight

- to wait patiently for something

"Please sit tight while I go and get the school principal."

"The couple will sit tight before they try and buy a house."

"The students need to sit tight and wait for the exam results."

sit up and take notice

- to become alert and pay attention

The loud bang made everybody sit up and take notice.

sit up with (someone)

- to stay with someone (a sick person) during the night

My mother had to sit up all night because my younger sister was very sick.

sit well with (someone)

- to please someone

My decision to leave early for the weekend did not sit well with the other members of the staff.

a sitting duck

- a non-moving target that is easily hit by a hunter

The hunter shot the sitting duck easily.

a sitting duck

- an unsuspecting person who is easily fooled - as if he or she were waiting to be attacked

The woman was a sitting duck for the thief when she sat on the bench next to her purse.

sitting on top of the world

- to be in a very good position or to be in an advantageous position, to be feeling very good or happy

I was sitting on top of the world after I heard about the new job offer.

a sitting target

- someone who is in a position that can be easily attacked

The manager was a sitting target for criticism by the staff.

six feet under

- dead (buried six feet under the ground in a grave)

The criminal is a bad person and if he does not change, he will soon be six feet under.

six of one or half-a-dozen of the other

- to be the same, to have no difference between two things

It was six of one or half-a-dozen of the other if we should take the train or the airplane. They both arrived at the same time and cost the same.

at sixes and sevens

- to be in confusion or disagreement

Everybody has been at sixes and sevens since they opened the new school.

sixth sense

- a power to know or feel things other than by sight/hearing/smell/taste/touch

My friend seems to have a sixth sense and he knows many things that nobody else knows.

the size of it

- the way something is

"That`s about the size of it," I said as I told my friend about the accident.

size up (someone or something)

- to try to form an opinion of someone, to assess a situation

It took me some time to size up the candidate before deciding to offer him a job.

skate on thin ice

- to risk danger or disapproval about something

My friend is skating on thin ice and he may be fired from his job.

skeleton in one`s closet

- a secret that someone does not want to talk about

The politician has a skeleton in his closet that he does not want to talk about.

skid row

- a poor area of a city where many people have no money or job or good housing

The skid row area of our city is a place where few tourists want to go.

skin and bones

- very skinny

The cat which we found in the empty house was skin and bones.


- only on the surface, having no deep or honest meaning

Although beauty may be only skin-deep many people care about it very much.

by the skin of one`s teeth

- barely

We arrived on time for the train by the skin of our teeth.

no skin off one`s nose

- of no concern or trouble or interest to someone

It is no skin off my nose whether or not she comes to the party.

skin (someone) alive

- to scold someone angrily, to spank or beat someone

The woman told her son that if he was late for dinner she would skin him alive.

skip bail

- to run away and not come to trial and therefore give up the money (bail) that you have paid the court to guarantee that you appear

The man skipped bail and went to another city before he was arrested again.

skip it

- to forget about something

"Skip it," I said when my friend forgot to bring me the phone number many times.

skip out on (someone or something)

- to sneak away from someone or some event

I decided to skip out on the meeting and go to a movie.

skip rope

- to jump over a rope that is held by two people and which goes over your head and under your feet

The children spent the morning skipping rope.

skirt an issue/question

- to avoid a topic/question/issue

My boss will skirt the issue if I try to discuss my salary.

The athlete will skirt the question if you ask about next year's plans.

My friend always skirts the issue if we talk about money.

sky is the limit

- there is no limit to the success that can be achieved or the money that can be spent or made

The sky is the limit for my friend and his new job.

slack off

- to reduce something gradually, to become less active, to become lazy

Recently, I have begun to slack off in my effort to find a new job.

slam dunk

- a sure thing, a dramatic forceful dunk shot in basketball

It is a slam dunk that I will pass my examination.

a slap in the face

- an insult

Not getting a promotion was a slap in the face for the sales manager.

slap (someone or something) down or slap down (someone or something)

- to rebuke or reject someone or something

My boss slapped my proposal down soon after the meeting started.

slap (something) together or slap together (something)

- to make something in a hurry and without care

We slapped together a picnic table for the company picnic.

slash prices

- to reduce prices significantly

The store is slashing prices on the new computers.

Business is bad so the company must slash prices to sell more products.

The car company will slash prices on some of their cars.

(one's) slate is clean

- someone has a record that shows no bad behavior or other problems from the past

The man's slate is clean and he is doing very well with his life.

slated for (something)

- to be scheduled for something

The building is slated for demolition at the end of the year.

a slave to (someone or something)

- someone who is under the control of someone or something

My mother is a slave to her desire to watch soap operas on television.

not sleep a wink

- to not get any sleep (used in the negative)

I did not sleep a wink last night.

sleep in

- to oversleep, to sleep late in the morning

I was very tired so I decided to sleep in this morning.

sleep like a baby

- to sleep very soundly

I slept like a baby last night.

sleep like a log

- to sleep very soundly

I slept like a log last night.

sleep on (something)

- to think about something, to consider something, to decide something later

"I will sleep on the proposal tonight and I will give you an answer tomorrow."

sleep (something) off or sleep off (something)

- to sleep while the effects of liquor or drugs go away

We spent the evening in a nightclub and I had to spend much of the next day sleeping it off.

sleep through (something)

- to sleep while something else is happening, to sleep the entire night without waking

I slept through the loud noise last night.

The young man often sleeps through his alarm clock when it rings.

The baby could sleep through the night almost since the time that she was born.

sleep with (someone)

- to share a bed with someone

The little girl always sleeps with her mother when they go on a holiday.

sleight of hand

- a skill in performing magic or card tricks or similar things - sometimes used to cheat at cards, the skill or attempt to hide the truth about something in order to deceive someone

The card player tried to use sleight of hand to win the card game.

The magician used sleight of hand to do some amazing tricks.

The local government is using sleight of hand with the numbers to try and trick the citizens about the financial situation.

The company is losing money but the managers are using sleight of hand to make the company look successful.

slice of the cake

- a share of something

The city tax office wants a slice of the cake in our new business.

The business is doing well and the workers want a slice of the cake.

Everybody is working hard so everyone should get a slice of the cake.

slip away

- to go away or escape quietly or secretly

I slipped away after my class to get something to eat.

slip in

- to enter a place quietly or quickly

The class had already started but the boy was able to slip in quietly.

I need to slip in to the meeting and speak to my boss.

a slip of the tongue

- something that is said at the wrong time and is not what you want to say

The clerk's comment to the customer was a slip of the tongue.

slip off

- to go away or escape quietly or secretly

I slipped off after the lecture and went home.

slip one`s mind

- to be forgotten

"I am very sorry that I did not meet you last night but our appointment slipped my mind."

slip out

- to go away, to leave quietly or secretly

I slipped out for a few minutes to buy some milk.

Our teacher slipped out of the classroom for a few minutes today.

slip out

- to allow a piece of (secret) information to be revealed

It slipped out that the government is planning to close the large downtown hospital.

slip through (someone's) fingers

- to get away from someone

My friend had a very good opportunity but it slipped through his fingers because of his lack of action.

slip up

- to make a mistake

I slipped up when I said that I would not go to the meeting next week.

slog away at (something)

- to work hard at something for a long time

I plan to slog away at my science project all next week.

I have been slogging away at my report for many hours and I am very tired.

The girl will spend the evening slogging away at her mathematics homework.

slow as molasses in January

- very slow

The little girl is as slow as molasses in January and she never gets her work done on time.

slow down

- to go more slowly than usual, to cause something to reduce speed

You should slow down when you are driving on a wet road.

a slow-down

- a type of work action where you do not come to a complete stop like you do during a work strike

The workers had a slow-down at the post office last year.

slow going

- a situation in which progress is slow

It was slow going as I studied for my mathematics test.

The road is very bad so it is slow going.

The project is very difficult so it is slow going.

slow on the draw

- to be slow in drawing a gun or in doing something

The man is slow on the draw and never takes advantage of opportunities.

slow on the uptake

- to be slow to figure something out

The new employee is slow on the uptake and we must explain everything to him at least two times.

slow up

- to become slow or slower

The traffic slowed up because the bridge was closed.

slower and slower

- to become slow and then become even slower

The speed of the train was becoming slower and slower as it reached the city.

slowly but surely

- slowly and deliberately

Slowly but surely, we are preparing for our holiday next month.

sly as a fox

- to be smart and clever

The storeowner is as sly as a fox and you can never make a good deal with him.

smack dab in the middle

- right in the middle

There was a small hole smack dab in the middle of the plastic swimming pool.

smack into (someone or something)

- to collide or hit someone or something

The car smacked into the car in front of it.

small fry

- someone or something of little importance, young children

The police are trying to catch the major criminals in the gang. They are not interested in the small fry.

small hours (of the night/morning)

- the hours immediately after midnight

My father likes to read the newspaper in the small hours of the night.

small print

- the part of a document that you cannot easily notice because of the small size of the print but which often contains very important information

I always read the small print before I sign a sales contract.

small talk

- informal conversation

There was much small talk at the party before the guests could eat.


- small, on a small scale

The man is a small-time criminal and is often involved in some kind of trouble.

smarty pants

- a person who is annoying because they always have an answer or seem to know everything

The boy is a smarty pants and he acts like he knows everything.

smash hit

- a very successful performance/song/play/movie

The movie was a smash hit.

smear campaign (against someone)

- a campaign (of rumors) aimed at damaging someone's reputation

There was a smear campaign against the mayor of the city.

smell a rat

- to become suspicious

I do not know what my colleague is doing but something seems strange. I think that I smell a rat.

smile and the world smiles with you, (cry and you cry alone)

- people like to be around people who are happy

Smile and the world smiles with you is true and people who are smiling and happy attract other happy people.

The young man had some very bad luck and is not happy at all. However, he needs to remember to smile and the world smiles with you and cry and you cry alone. Otherwise, he will make his situation worse.

smile on (someone or something)

- to be favorable to someone or something

The weather is smiling on the farmers in our area.

smoke and mirrors

- deception and confusion

The accounting department used a system of smoke and mirrors to hide their illegal activities.

smoke (someone or something) out or smoke out (someone or something)

- to force someone or something out with smoke

We smoked the rats out of their nests with the smoke.

smoke (something) out or smoke out (something)

- to find out the facts about something

We finally were able to smoke out the reason why our boss left the company.

smooth (something) over or smooth over (something)

- to make something better or more pleasant

We tried to smooth over the problems between our supervisor and the sales staff.

smooth sailing

- something is going very well and is having no problems

After we left the city, it was smooth sailing until we got to our destination.

The woman has much job experience. It should be smooth sailing when she applies for the job.

Learning the new computer software was difficult but now it is smooth sailing when we use it.

snail`s pace

- an extremely slow speed

The cars on the highway are moving at a snail`s pace.

The story in the movie seemed to develop at a snail's pace.

Our hope to get a building permit from the city is moving at a snail's pace.

snake in the grass

- an enemy who pretends to be a friend

"You should be careful of that woman. Although she seems very nice she is like a snake in the grass."

a snap

- an easy task

The exam was a snap and I am sure that I did very well.

snap at (someone)

- to speak sharply or angrily to someone

Our supervisor often snaps at the people who he works with.

snap decision

- a decision that is taken quickly and often in response to an urgent situation

The woman made a snap decision to go home and visit her sick mother.

snap out of (something)

- to return to a normal state

The man finally snapped out of his depression and was able to return to work.

snap (something) up or snap up (something)

- to take/buy/accept something eagerly

The concert tickets were snapped up in three hours.

(not to be) sneezed at

- to be worth having, (not) to be considered unimportant (used in the negative)

The new computer system is not to be sneezed at.

"Do you think that the new offer is nothing to sneeze at?"

sniff out (someone or something) or sniff (someone or something) out

- to locate someone or something

The police dog worked hard to sniff out the bank robber.

a snow job

- insincere or exaggerated talk designed to gain the favor of someone

His presentation at the meeting was a snow job.

a snow job

- technical vocabulary that makes you seem like an expert in a field

The salesman tried to give us a snow job when he talked about the new machine.

snow (someone) under

- to give so much work or something that it cannot be dealt with

The extra homework snowed me under during the last week.

(not a) snowball`s chance in hell

- no chance at all (used in the negative or interrogative or conditional)

We do not have a snowball`s chance in hell of winning the game tomorrow.

"Do you really think that you have a snowball's chance in hell to win the championship?"

If I thought that I had a snowball's chance in hell to get the job I would apply for it.

So Idioms

a so-and-so

- a person that you do not like

I do not like that so-and-so. His personality really bothers me.

so far

- until now

So far, no one has entered the speech contest at the television station.

so far, so good

- until now things have gone well

"So far, so good," she replied when we asked her how her new job was going.

so help me

- I promise, I swear

"So help me, if you do not pay me back my money I will phone your company."

so long

- goodbye

"So long, I will see you next week."

so mad that one could scream

- very mad

I was so mad that I could scream when the travel agent made a mistake with my airline ticket.

so much

- a large quantity of something

There was so much rain in the spring that our garden did not grow well.

so much for (someone or something)

- that is the last that you will see of someone or something

So much for going on a holiday this summer. I do not have any money.

so much the better

- all to the better

"So much the better, if extra people help us then we can get the work done quickly."

so quiet you can hear a pin drop

- very quiet

It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop when the woman stood up to speak about her cancer operation.


- not good and not bad

I was feeling so-so and decided not to go to a movie tonight.

so soon

- early, before the regular time

I did not expect the dinner to end so soon. It was still very early.

so still you can hear a pin drop

- very quiet

The room was so still you could hear a pin drop.

so to speak

- as one might or could say, this is one way to say something

We had a good time at the restaurant, so to speak, although the service was not very good.

soak (something) up or soak up (something)

- to take something into oneself like a sponge absorbs water

My friend was able to soak up much knowledge when he went to the film seminar.

soaked to the skin

- one's clothing is wet right through to the skin

We were soaked to the skin when we got home from the picnic.

sob story

- a story that makes one feel pity or sorrow

My sister told me a sob story about how she had lost her job.

sock it to (someone)

- to do everything that one is capable of doing

The president socked it to the audience during his speech at the convention.

sock (something) away or sock away (something)

- to store something in a safe place, to save something

I have been socking money away for my holidays.

soft spot for (someone or something)

- a feeling of affection toward a person or thing

My mother has a soft spot for the elderly lady in her apartment building.

soften up (someone) or soften (someone) up

- to weaken one's opposition

The boxer tried hard to soften up his opponent.

soil one's diapers

- a baby fills his or her diapers

The baby soiled his diapers on the airplane trip.

sold out

- a product or ticket is completely sold from a store or event

All of the new phones are sold out at the moment.

It is the most important game of the year so of course it is sold out.

The concert was sold out before we could buy a ticket.

soldier on

- to continue to do something even if it may be difficult

Everybody in our group is very tired but we must finish the project today so we will have to soldier on.

There is no electricity in our office but we will soldier on and continue working.

Our business is not doing well but we will soldier on and try and make it successful.

solid as a rock

- very solid or dependable

The small bank in our city is as solid as a rock and is a very stabe organization.

somebody up there loves/hates me

- an unseen power in heaven has been favorable/unfavorable to you

"Somebody up there loves me," the man said when he found the money on the side of the road.

something about (someone or something)

- something strange/special/curious about someone or something

There is something about the woman that is very strange.

something else

- to be so good as to be beyond description, to be something entirely different

The movie was something else. It was the best movie that I have seen in many years.

something else again

- to be something that is very different

Working all day on Saturday is okay but working all day on Sunday is something else again.

something has got to give

- the current situation cannot continue

The student is not eating well and is not sleeping much. Soon, something has got to give.

The business owner is fighting with his partner. This is causing problems for the business. The situation is not good and something has got to give.

something of the sort

- something of the kind just mentioned

I do not know exactly what the man said but it was about his job or something of the sort.

something or other

- something that you do not know exactly what it is

My friend said something or other about his car but I am not sure what he said.

Our boss went to the shop to buy something or other.

Our friend was talking about something or other but we could not hear him.

something to that effect

- something similar to what was just said

The apartment manager said that we could not bring a bicycle into the apartment lobby or something to that effect.

something's up

- something is happening

I do not know what the children are doing but I think that something's up.

somewhere in the neighborhood of (an amount of money or something)

- approximately a particular measurement or amount

There were somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty people at the meeting.

son of a bitch

- a horrible person, a difficult task

I wish that that son of a bitch would stop using my camera without asking me.

son of a gun

- something difficult and unpleasant

"This is a son of a gun. I cannot fix it at all."

son of a sea biscuit

- an expression that is used as a polite replacement for son of a bitch

"Son of a sea biscuit," the man said when he hit his hand with a hammer.

a song and dance

- an excuse

My friend gave me a song and dance about being busy but I did not believe him.

sooner or later

- eventually

"Sooner or later you must give me my money so you should do it now."

sore loser

- a person who becomes angry or irritated when he or she loses

The man is a sore loser when he does not win a game.

Many of the fans are sore losers and were not happy after the game.

My friend is a sore loser and he is not fun to play any kind of game with.

sort of (something)

- to be almost something, to be similar to something, to be not quite something

"Did you finish cleaning the kitchen?"

"I sort of finished, but not really."

sort out (something) or sort (something) out

- to clear up some confusion, to straighten out something

Our accountant is working hard to sort out the money problems.

sound as if

- to seem as if something were so from what has been said

It sounds as if my friend is planning to look for a new job.

sound like a broken record

- to say the same thing over and over again

The boy's mother sounds like a broken record when she tells him to clean his room.

sound like (something)

- to seem like something

It sounds like the stores are going to close early on Saturday because of the holiday.

sound off about (something)

- to tell what one knows or thinks in a loud voice

My friend often sounds off about why he does not like his job.

sound (someone) out or sound out (someone)

- to try to find out how a person feels about something by asking him or her questions

The man is sounding out his wife to see if she wants to move to a new house.

soup (something) up or soup up (something)

- to change and add something to make something more powerful or faster (usually a car)

My friend souped up his car when he was a teenager.

sow one's wild oats

- to do wild and foolish things in one's youth

The man sowed his wild oats when he was a young man.

spaced out

- to be confused or incoherent, to resemble someone who is using drugs, to be daydreaming

The boy was totally spaced out when the teacher asked him a question about his homework.

spare no effort

- to do everything that you can to achieve something

The company must spare no effort to discover the cause of the computer problem.

The government spared no effort to rescue the workers who were trapped in the mine.

The school spares no effort to protect the safety of the students.

spare (someone) from (something)

- to exempt someone from having to listen to or express something

I wish that our teacher would spare us from her speeches about her difficult childhood.

Speak Idioms

speak for itself/themselves

- to not need explaining

The actions of the men speak for themselves and there is no point talking about it.

speak for (something)

- to make a request for something, to ask for something

I spoke for the comfortable chair as soon as I entered the room.

speak highly of (someone or something)

- to say good things about someone or something

Everybody speaks highly of the new principal of our school.

speak ill of (someone)

- to say something bad about someone

I wish that my friend would not speak ill of the other people in our class.

speak of the devil (and he appears)

- to appear just when someone is talking about you

"Speak of the devil and he appears," I said as our colleague who we were talking about walked in the door.

speak off the cuff

- to speak in public without preparation

My father plans to speak off the cuff at his retirement party tonight.

speak one`s mind

- to say openly what one thinks

I think that it is time for me to speak my mind and talk about my complaints about our company.

speak one`s piece

- to express one's opinion

The man spoke his piece at the meeting and then sat down.

The woman does not want to fight with her sister but she plans to speak her piece about the problem.

I need to speak my piece to my friend and then forget about it.

speak out about (something)

- to speak in favor of or in support of something, to talk freely and without fear about something

My boss spoke out about the lack of computers.

speak out of turn

- to say something at the wrong time, to say something that you should not say

The student spoke out of turn when the teacher was asking the class questions.

speak the same language (as someone)

- to have similar ideas or tastes or opinions as someone else

I think that I speak the same language as the new supervisor in our company.

speak up

- to speak in a loud or clear voice, to speak without fear or hesitation

I asked our teacher to speak up because I could not hear him.

speak up for (someone or something)

- to speak in favor of someone or something

The politician is always willing to speak up for the poorest people in the city.

speak with a forked tongue

- to tell lies

The man speaks with a forked tongue and nobody trusts him.

spell (something) out or spell out (something)

- to explain something in very simple words, to explain something very clearly

I spelled out the conditions for renting the house very clearly.

spell trouble

- to signify future trouble, to mean trouble

The problems that we are having with our furnace spell trouble for the coming cold season.

spick-and-span or spic-and-span

- very clean, very neat

The house was spick-and-span when we returned from our holiday.

spill over

- to fill a container and then go over the edge, to begin in one area and then affect other areas

The water is beginning to spill over the dam.

The war is beginning to spill over into other countries.

The man often lets his work spill over into his private life.

spill the beans

- to tell a secret

My friend promised not to spill the beans about my plans to get married.

spin a yarn

- to tell a tale or story

I like my new neighbor because he always likes to spin a yarn.

spin one's wheels

- to be in motion but to make no progress

I was spinning my wheels all week but I did not get much done.

spin (something) off or spin off (something)

- to create something as a by-product of something else

The company plans to spin off some new products from their original invention.

spirit of the law

- something as it is meant to be and not as it is stated exactly, what the people who made the law wanted to achieve

The judge tried to follow the spirit of the law and not only as it was written.

spit up (something) or spit (something) up

- to throw something up, to vomit something

The dog spit up the button that he had swallowed.

spitting image of (someone)

- the exact resemblance to someone

My cousin is the spitting image of his father.

split hairs

- to disagree or argue about something that is not important, to make unnecessary distinctions about something

The manager makes many good points but he has a tendency to split hairs and waste our time.

split one's sides (with laughter)

- to laugh so hard that one's sides almost split

I split my sides with laughter when the woman began to tell jokes.

split (some people) up or split up (some people)

- to separate two or more people from one another

The teacher had to split the two boys up because they were fighting.

split (something) fifty-fifty

- to divide something into two equal parts

I decided to split the prize fifty-fifty with my friend.

split the difference

- to settle a money disagreement by dividing the difference into two amounts

We had to pay extra money for the rental car so we decided to split the difference and each pay half.

a split ticket

- a voting ticket with candidates from more than one political party

My friend usually votes for a split ticket when he votes and never votes for only one political party.

split up

- to end a relationship

The girl and her boyfriend decided to split up after being together for seven years.

splurge on (something)

- to spend a lot of money on something

The boy splurged on a beautiful present for his girlfriend.

spoken for

- to be taken or reserved

All of the tickets to the concert are spoken for.

sponge off (someone)

- to get money or food from others without working or paying for it

The boy is always trying to sponge off his friends.

The young man will not get a job and will only sponge off his family.

I wish that my friend would stop always trying to sponge off me.

spook (someone)

- to startle or surprise someone

The loud thunder and lightning spooked the horse.

spoon-feed (someone)

- to make something very easy for someone

He is a very strict teacher and never likes to spoon-feed his students.

sporting chance

- a reasonably good chance

The man does not have a sporting chance of winning the competition.

spotlight (someone or something)

- to put special focus or attention on a person or a thing

The computer problem helped to spotlight our need to buy a new computer.

spout off about (someone or something)

- to talk too much about someone or something

The woman is always spouting off about her problems.

spread like wildfire

- to spread very rapidly, to quickly affect and become known by many people

The panic over the bad drinking water spread like wildfire through the city.

The bad news spread like wildfire throughout the company.

spread oneself too thin

- to try to do too many things at one time

The woman is spreading herself too thin and is not accomplishing anything.

The business owner needs to be careful that he does not spread himself too thin.

My friend always spreads himself too thin in order to make everyone happy.

no spring chicken

- a young person (used with a negative)

My aunt is no spring chicken. She is almost 96-years old.

spring for (something)

- to buy something, to pay for something

I will spring for a new camera before I go on my vacation.

spring (something) on (someone)

- to suddenly tell or ask someone something when he or she does not expect it, to suddenly surprise someone with something

I wish that my friend would not suddenly spring his crazy ideas on me.

Our teacher may spring a test on us today.

spring to mind

- to come quickly to your mind, to appear suddenly in your mind, to be remembered

Nothing sprang to mind when the teacher asked me for an example of today's topic.

I asked my friend what springs to mind when he thinks about the new topic.

spring up

- to suddenly come to exist

Many new restaurants are beginning to spring up in the downtown area.

spruce (someone or something) up or spruce up (someone or something)

- to improve the appearance of someone or something, to tidy up or renew someone or something

We spruced up the community center for the holidays.

(on the) spur of the moment

- suddenly

We decided to go to Hong Kong on the spur of the moment.

Square Idioms

square accounts with (someone)

- to settle one's financial accounts with someone, to get even with someone

I went to the store to square accounts with the manager.

square away (something) or square (something) away

- to put something away, to put something in order, to take care of something

"Have you squared away your plans for your holidays yet?"

a square deal

- a fair and honest transaction

I always receive a square deal when I do business with the local shops in my area.

a square meal

- a nourishing or filling meal

We ate our first square meal in many days when we visited my grandparents.

square off

- to get ready for an argument or fight

The two candidates squared off to debate the important issues of the election.

square one

- the beginning

We had to go back to square one and start the project over.

a square peg in a round hole

- a person who does not fit into a job or position

My friend was like a square peg in a round hole when he tried to do the job of an accountant.

square things up with (someone)

- to pay someone what one owes him or her

I squared things up with my friend and gave him the money that I owed him.

square up to (someone or something)

- to face someone or something bravely

The young man was forced to square up to the mistake that he had made.

square with (something)

- to agree or match with something

The numbers that I have do not square with the numbers that my boss has.

The woman's excuse does not square with her friend's excuse.

The actions of the new company president do not square with his previous promises.

squawk about (something)

- to complain about something

People are always squawking about the bad service in the new restaurant.

squeak by (someone or something)

- to succeed in doing something by a very small margin/amount

I was able to squeak by and submit my scholarship application before the deadline.

The young man was able to squeak by and pass his exams.

Our team squeaked by and won the tournament.

squirrel (something) away or squirrel away (something)

- to hide or store something

We tried to squirrel away some money for our holiday.

stab (someone) in the back

- to betray someone

I dislike that man because he tried to stab me in the back.

stack the cards/deck for or against (someone or something)

- to arrange things unfairly for or against someone or something

The company is stacking the cards against some small sellers because of their strict standards.

stack up (something) or stack (something) up

- to make a stack of things

I stacked up the magazines to give to the flea market.

stake a claim to (something)

- to make a claim for something

Everybody in our class tried to stake a claim to the free cell phones.

stall off (someone or something) or stall (someone or something) off

- to put off or delay someone or something

I believe that I will be able to stall off the meeting for several hours.

stamp out (something) or stamp (something) out

- to destroy something completely, to make something disappear

The government is trying to stamp out smoking among teenagers.

one's stamping ground

- a place where a person spends much of his or her time

My cousin went back to his old stamping ground which he remembered as a teenager.

Stand Idioms

(cannot) stand (someone or something)

- to be unable to tolerate someone or something, to dislike someone or something (usually used in the negative)

My friend cannot stand the other people in her class.

stand a chance of (doing something)

- to have a possibility of doing something

Our team stands a chance of winning the championship this year.

stand adjourned

- to be dismissed or to end (used for a meeting)

"This meeting now stands adjourned."

stand behind (someone or something)

- to endorse or support someone or something

The company will always stand behind their products.

stand by

- to be near, to be waiting to do something when you are needed

There is a doctor standing by in case there is a medical emergency.

stand by (someone)

- to follow or keep one`s promise to someone, to be loyal to or support someone

The woman always stands by her husband when he has a problem.

stand clear of (something)

- to keep away from something

"Please stand clear of the door while we are moving the piano."

stand corrected

- to admit that you are wrong

I had to stand corrected when I made a mistake about the train time.

I am sorry. I made a mistake. I stand corrected.

I stand corrected, the meeting will be on Tuesday, not Wednesday.

stand for (something)

- to signify or mean something

I do not know what the letters stand for so I cannot write the full name of the company.

stand for (something)

- to speak in favor of something, to show that one supports something

All of the candidates stand for a platform of law and order.

(not) stand for (something)

- to not allow something to happen, to not permit something, to not tolerate something

Our teacher will not stand for students coming to his class late.

stand in awe of (someone or something)

- to look upon someone or something with wonder, to feel respect for someone or something

Everybody stands in awe of the football coach.

stand in for (someone)

- to be a substitute for someone

The new actor stood in for the famous actor who was sick.

stand in (someone's) way

- to be a barrier to someone's desires or intentions

The woman did not want anyone to stand in her way of getting a promotion.

stand off from (someone or something)

- to stay at a distance from someone or something, to stay apart from someone or something

The girl always stands off from the other students in her class.

stand off (someone or something)

- to keep someone or something from winning

We were able to stand off the other team and win the tournament.

stand on ceremony

- to be formal

"You do not need to stand on ceremony. You can relax."

stand on one`s own two feet

- to be independent

My friend learned to stand on his own two feet when he was very young.

stand one`s ground

- to maintain and defend one`s position

Our supervisor stood his ground over his decision to fire the employee.

stand out

- to be more noticeable than those around you

The man likes to wear clothes that let him stand out from the crowd.

stand over (someone or something)

- to watch someone or something closely, to keep checking someone or something all the time

The father stood over his son to make sure that he was studying for his final exams.

stand pat

- to not change, to be satisfied with things

We should stand pat and not do anything to cause problems with the negotiations.

stand (someone) in good stead with (someone or something)

- to be an advantage to someone

Working hard will stand you in good stead with your company.

stand still for (something)

- to tolerate or endure something, to not move for something

The little boy refused to stand still for his medical examination.

stand the test of time

- to be popular for a long period of time, to work well for a long period of time

The old movie can stand the test of time and continues to be very popular.

The computer system in the school is very old but it works very well. It has stood the test of time and we will continue to use it.

The new song is very good. Hopefully, it will stand the test of time and be popular in the future.

stand to reason

- to make sense, to be logical

It stands to reason that the new employee will work hard if his effort is rewarded.

stand up

- to be strong enough to use for a long time

The new carpet should stand up for a long time.

stand up (someone) or stand (someone) up

- to fail to keep an appointment or date with someone (usually used for a date with a boyfriend or girlfriend)

The boy stood up the girl last Saturday and now she will not talk to him.

stand up and be counted

- to be willing to say what one thinks in public

The union members wanted to stand up and be counted before management took away their benefits.

stand up for (someone or something)

- to defend against attack, to fight for someone or something

The citizens of the town were ready to stand up for their rights.

stand up to (someone)

- to be brave in confronting someone

The man stood up to his boss during the meeting.

a standing joke

- something that regularly and over time causes amusement when it is mentioned

It was a standing joke around our office that our boss was a very bad golfer.

stark raving mad

- to be completely crazy

The woman who lives next door is stark raving mad.

stars in one`s eyes

- to have an appearance or feeling of very great happiness

The woman had stars in her eyes when she saw the beautiful ring that her boyfriend gave her.

start from scratch

- to start again from the beginning

I lost all of my notes so I had to start from scratch with the project.

I accidentally deleted the email so now I have to start from scratch.

We need to start from scratch and begin making the cake again.

start from square one

- to start from the very beginning

We will have to start from square one with our plans for the new project.

start in as (something)

- to begin a career as something

The man started in as a mailroom clerk but soon he had more important jobs in the company.

start off on the wrong foot with (someone or something)

- to make a bad start to a relationship with a person or organization

I started off on the wrong foot with my boss and now we do not have a good relationship.

The man started off on the wrong foot with his company and he has many problems now.

start off with a clean slate

- to begin something fresh

I started off with a clean slate when I began the new project in our company.

start out as (something)

- to start one's career as something

The president of our company started out as a mailroom clerk when he was young.

start over with a clean slate

- to ignore the past and start over again

The young man broke the law several times but he was able to start over with a clean slate when the judge decided that he would probably not do anything bad in the future.

start the ball rolling

- to begin to do something

My uncle started the ball rolling on his plans to build a new house.

start up (something) or start (something) up

- to begin operating something, to begin to play or do something

My uncle started up a small business when he was 20-years old.

stay away from (someone or something)

- to avoid someone or something, to stay at a distance from someone or something

My uncle is staying away from salty foods these days.

stay in

- to remain at home, to not go out

We plan to stay in this evening.

stay in touch with (someone)

- to talk or write to someone, to maintain contact with someone

I want to stay in touch with my friends from high school.

stay put

- to stay in one place, to not leave

We decided to stay put for our holidays rather than go away.

stay up

- to not go to bed, to remain awake

My friend likes to stay up late every night.

steal a base

- to sneak from one base to another in baseball

The player was easily able to steal a base during the baseball game.

steal a march on (someone)

- to get an advantage over someone without being noticed

I was able to steal a march on my colleague when he was away on vacation.

steal (someone's) heart

- to cause someone to fall in love with you

The woman stole the heart of the man who she was working with.

steal (someone`s) thunder

- to do or say something that another person had planned to do or say

My colleague stole my thunder when he announced that he was leaving the company before I will.

steal the show

- to do so well in a performance that you get most of the attention

The young musician stole the show at the music festival.

steal the spotlight

- to do so well in a performance that you get most of the attention

The singer always steals the spotlight when she sings.

steamed up

- to be angry

I was steamed up over the fact that my friend lost the keys to my apartment.

steaming mad

- to be very angry

The woman was steaming mad when the customer service representative was rude to her on the telephone.

steer clear of (someone or something)

- to avoid someone or something

I have been steering clear of my friend since our fight.

stem from

- to originate from, to be caused by

The accident stems from the bad condition of the machine.

Step Idioms


- gradually

My grandfather is learning how to use a computer step-by-step.

step down from (a job/position)

- to leave an important job or position

My father recently stepped down from his job as president of his company.

step in

- to become involved or concerned with something, to enter a place for a brief time

The teacher had to step in and stop the fight between the two children.

step into (someone's) shoes

- to take over a job or other role from someone

I will have to step into my supervisor's shoes while he is away on vacation.

step into the breach

- to move into a space or vacancy

The woman stepped into the breach and helped the other teachers while several people were sick.

step on it

- to go faster, to hurry

"Please step on it," the man yelled as the taxi took him to the airport.

step on (someone`s) toes

- to do something that interferes with or offends someone else

The man is careful that he does not step on anybody's toes at his company.

step on the gas

- to go faster, to hurry

I had to step on the gas in order to get to work on time.

step out

- to leave home or work for a short time

I stepped out of the office to buy a newspaper.

step out of line

- to misbehave, to do something offensive or wrong

When the children step out of line their teacher becomes very angry.

step right up

- to move forward toward someone or something

The clerk told me to step right up when I was waiting to order some food.

step up (something)

- to make something go faster, to increase something

Recently, we stepped up our effort to hire some new computer programmers for our company.

step up (to something)

- to rise to a higher or more important position, to be promoted

My boss stepped up to the position of manager after the old manager was fired.

step up to the plate

- to accept a challenge, to prepare to do a task, to move near homeplate in baseball in order to prepare to hit the ball when it is thrown/pitched

My friend stepped up to the plate and helped us complete the project.

The batter stepped up to the plate and waited for the pitch.

stew in one`s own juice

- to suffer from something that one has caused to happen to himself or herself

The man is stewing in his own juice after he got into trouble for being late.

Stick Idioms

stick around

- to stay or wait nearby for something

We decided to stick around after the game and talk.

stick by/with (someone or something)

- to support someone or something

The woman always sticks by her friends when they are in trouble.

I stuck with my friend during his troubles.

a stick-in-the-mud

- a person who is old-fashioned or does not want to join with others and do something

The girl is a stick-in-the-mud and will never join in any of the activities at a party.

stick it to (someone)

- to cheat someone, to take unfair advantage of someone

The car salesman tried to stick it to the customer.

stick one`s neck out (for someone or something)

- to do something for another person that could cause you yourself problems

My uncle decided to stick his neck out and help me find a job in his company.

The woman needs to take more risks and stick her neck out more often in order to advance in her career.

My friend will never stick his neck out to help other people.

stick out like a sore thumb

- to be obvious and visible

The woman sticks out like a sore thumb when she wears her red hat.

stick (someone) with (something)

- to leave someone with an unpleasant task

My friend always sticks me with paying the bill when we go to a restaurant.

stick (something) out or stick out (something)

- to endure or continue something

My friend does not like her new job but she plans to stick it out until she saves somes money.

stick (something) up or stick up (something)

- to attach something to a wall or post

I plan to stick the poster up on our kitchen wall.

stick to a story

- to remain faithful to the facts of a story

The two boys stuck to their story about how they found the money.

stick to one`s guns

- to defend an action or opinion despite an unfavorable reaction

Our boss is sticking to his guns on his decision to fire the store manager.

stick to one's ribs

- to last a long time and give one strength (used for food)

The food at the restaurant is wonderful and it sticks to our ribs.

stick to (something)

- to never change or abandon something, to keep something

The man tried to stick to his opinions during the discussion.

stick to the facts

- to remain faithful to the facts about something

"Please stick to the facts when you tell the story to the police."

stick together

- to remain together as a group

The children like to stick together when they go to the beach.

stick up

- to point up

The boy's hair was sticking up in the back.

stick up (someone or something) or stick (someone or something) up

- to rob someone or something with a gun or other weapon

A man with a gun tried to stick up the small store.

stick up for (someone or something)

- to defend or help or support someone

My boss always sticks up for the younger workers at our company.

stick with (something)

- to continue doing something, to not quit something

The boy has been able to stick with his trumpet lessons since he was a child.

sticky fingers

- fingers that steal things that one sees and wants

The young boy has sticky fingers. You must watch him all the time.

stink to high heaven

- to smell very bad

The kitchen garbage was stinking to high heaven in the hot sun.

stir (someone or something) up or stir up (someone or something)

- to make someone angry or excited, to cause trouble

The man`s angry words stirred up the crowd and made everybody angry.

stir up a hornet`s nest

- to make many people angry or dislike something, to provoke your critics

The man stirred up a hornet`s nest when he began to complain about the bonus system at his company.

stock up on (something)

- to gather a supply of something

We are trying to stock up on food before the holiday.


- having no money

I was stone-broke after I came back from my holiday.

stone's throw away from (something)

- to be very close to something

The new store is a stone's throw away from the large supermarket.

stoop to (doing something)

- to do something that is beneath one

I do not plan to stoop to asking my friend for money.

Stop Idioms


- stopping and going repeatedly

The traffic is always stop-and-go during the morning rush hour.

stop at nothing (to do something)

- to do everything possible to accomplish something

My friend will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

stop by (somewhere)

- to visit or pass by somewhere

"Why don`t you stop by my house on your way home?"

stop dead

- to stop very quickly or with great force

The man stopped dead when he saw the bear in the middle of the road.

stop in one`s tracks

- to stop very quickly or with great force

The horse was forced to stop in its tracks at the electric fence.

stop, look, and listen

- to be careful at street corners to stop and then look and listen for other cars

We taught the children to stop, look, and listen when they cross the street.

stop off (somewhere)

- to stop at a place for a short time while going somewhere

We decided to stop off at the fish store before we went home.

stop over (somewhere)

- to stay at a place overnight or for a short time while on a trip

The airplane had to stop over in Alaska because one of the passengers had a heart attack.

stop short of (doing something)

- to not go as far as to do something

We stopped short of asking the secretary to leave although she continued to make mistakes with her work.

a storm is brewing

- there is going to be trouble

A storm is brewing between the two government departments over the tax issue.

to storm out of (a place)

- to leave a place in an angry and dramatic manner

The child became angry and stormed out of the room.

The young woman had an argument with her friend and stormed out of the restaurant.

The man stormed out of the meeting.

the straight and narrow

- a good and honest and moral path through life, following the rules

The man kept to the straight and narrow and was respected by everybody around him.

The boy was always in trouble and could not keep to the straight and narrow.

straight from the horse`s mouth

- directly from the person involved

I heard about my friend`s wedding straight from the horse`s mouth.

straight from the shoulder

- a direct and honest way of speaking

My friend always speaks straight from the shoulder.

straight out

- directly and in a way that hides nothing, plainly

The man was told straight out that his work was not satisfactory.

straighten out (someone or something) or straighten (someone or something) out

- to cause someone's bad behavior to improve, to organize or fix something that is in confusion or disorder

I went to the bank to straighten out the problem with my credit card.

straighten (something) up or straighten up (something)

- to put something in order, to clean and make something neat

We had to straighten up the house before inviting my parents for dinner.

stranger than fiction

- sometimes real events are stranger than events in your imagination

My friend's story is hard to believe. It is stranger than fiction.

Nobody expected the woman to survive her acccident. Her recovery is stranger than fiction.

The newspaper article is stranger than fiction. It is hard to believe.

a stranger to (someone or something or somewhere)

- someone who is new and unknown to a person/place/thing

The man is a stranger to computers and does not know anything about them.

strapped for cash

- to have little or no money available for something

I am strapped for cash so I will not be able to go away this summer.

a straw in the wind

- a small sign of what may happen in the future

When the company began to reduce expenses it was a straw in the wind as to what would happen in the future.

straw that breaks the camel`s back

- a small problem which follows other problems and which makes you lose patience and be unable to continue as before

When the receptionist lost the key to the office for the third time it was the straw that broke the camel`s back and we decided to fire her.

stretch one's imagination

- to think about things that you have not thought about before, to think about things in a new way

The movie was very interesting and it stretched our imagination.

Our teacher always stretches our imagination.

stretch one's legs

- to walk around after sitting down or lying down for a period of time

We stopped to stretch our legs after driving for several hours.

stretch the point

- to interpret a point very flexibly, to exaggerate something

It is stretching the point to think that the new company policy will let us take a two-hour lunch break.

stretch the truth

- to exaggerate

I stretched the truth a little when I told my friend about my job experience.

strictly on the level

- honest, dependable, open and fair

The salespeople that I deal with are always strictly on the level.

strictly on the up-and-up

- honest, fair and straight

I only plan to do business with my friend if everything is strictly on the up-and-up.

Strike Idioms

strike a balance (between two or more things)

- to find a satisfactory compromise between two extremes

My father works hard to strike a balance between his family and his job.

strike a bargain

- to make an agreement about something

I was able to strike a bargain with my neighbor to buy his car.

strike a chord with (someone)

- to remind someone of something, to be familiar to someone, to evoke a reaction/response/emotion

The song on the radio struck a chord with me and reminded me of my university days.

The name does not strike a chord with me.

strike a happy medium

- to find a compromise position

The manager always tries to strike a happy medium between being professional and being friendly to the staff.

strike a match

- to light a match

I struck a match and tried to start the fire.

strike a pose

- to position oneself in a certain posture or pose

The model was asked to strike a pose for the photographer.

strike a sour note

- to signify something unpleasant

The statements of the speaker struck a sour note with many members of the audience.

strike it rich

- to suddenly become rich or successful

The man struck it rich when he got a job at the computer company and was able to buy some stock very cheap.

strike out

- in baseball a player is "out" after three strikes

The baseball player did not strike out at all during the game.

strike out

- to fail

We struck out in our attempt to build a new cafeteria in our building.

strike out at (someone or something)

- to hit at or attack someone or something

The boy struck out at his friend in the playground.

strike (someone) as funny

- to seem funny to someone

The comments of my teacher often strike me as funny.

strike (someone) as (something)

- to affect someone a certain way

It strikes me as a little silly that the man is planning to buy a new motorcycle.

strike (someone's) fancy

- to appeal to someone

It did not strike my fancy to go to a restaurant last evening.

strike the right note

- to do something suitable or pleasing

I believe that my presentation struck the right note at the meeting last night.

strike up a conversation with (someone)

- to start a conversation with someone

I decided not to strike up a conversation with the man at the bus station.

strike up a friendship with (someone)

- to become friends with someone

My neighbor finds it easy to strike up a friendship with new people.

strike while the iron is hot

- to take advantage of an opportunity

I wanted to strike while the iron was hot so I quickly applied for the job.

string along with (someone)

- to accompany someone

I decided to string along with my friends when they went to the movie.

string (someone) along or string along (someone)

- to deceive or fool someone

The man tried to string me along with a story about his sick mother.

string (something) out or string out (something)

- to extend something over a great distance or over a long period of time

The football games were strung out over a period of four weeks.

strings attached

- special conditions or restrictions

My friend was able to borrow the money for the furniture with no strings attached.

There were several strings attached to the offer.

a stroke of luck

- a bit of luck

It was a stroke of luck that I was able to get a plane reservation to visit my family.

struggle to the death

- a bitter struggle either to success or failure

The lion and the tiger were engaged in a struggle to the death.

stuck in a rut

- to be in an established way of living that never changes (although you may want it to change)

My neighbor is stuck in a rut and would like to change jobs.

stuck in traffic

- to be caught in a traffic jam

We were stuck in traffic for about one hour this morning.

stuck on (someone)

- to be very much in love with someone, to be crazy about someone

My niece has been stuck on the boy next door for several years now.

stuck on (something)

- to be locked into an idea or cause or purpose

The man is stuck on the idea of going to a hot place for his vacation.

stuck up

- to act as if other people are not as good as you are, to be conceited

We do not like the woman because she is stuck up and thinks that she is better than the rest of us.

stuck with (someone or something)

- to be burdened with someone or something

When my sister went to the doctor I was stuck with looking after her dog.

stuff and nonsense

- nonsense

The ideas of the professor are all stuff and nonsense.

stuff the ballot box

- to put false ballots into a ballot box during an election

The man was arrested because he was stuffing the ballot box during the election.

a stuffed shirt

- a person who is too rigid or too formal

The man is a stuffed shirt and I never feel comfortable when I talk with him.

stumble across/into (someone)

- to meet someone accidentally

I stumbled into my friend when I was shopping yesterday.

stumble across/upon (someone or something)

- to find someone or something by accident or in an unplanned manner

I stumbled across a very nice restaurant last weekend.

I stumbled across a good carpenter yesterday.

stumble into (somewhere)

- to enter a place by stumbling

I stumbled into my bedroom and went to bed.

stumbling block

- something that prevents or obstructs progress

The salary issue was a stumbling block in the negotiations between the company and the union.

subject to (something)

- depending on something, likely to have something

The purchase of the house was subject to several conditions.

subject to (something)

- open or exposed to some unfortunate or undesirable thing

The new school policy was subject to much criticism.

The airport passengers were subject to a second search by the security staff.

subscribe to (something)

- to regularly receive a magazine or something similar, to give support or consent to something

I subscribe to several magazines but I do not have time to read them.

I do not subscribe to our teacher's ideas about many topics.

such and such

- someone or something whose name has been forgotten

My friend is always trying to borrow such and such from me but I always say no.

such as

- of a particular kind, for example

I need various tools such as a hammer and a saw in order to complete the job.

such as it is

- in the less-than-perfect condition in which one finds something

I received the old car such as it is but it is not worth very much.

suck (someone) in or suck in (someone)

- to deceive someone

The man always sucks me in with his long and strange stories.

sucker list

- a list of people who can be easily persuaded to buy something

The salesman used a sucker list to try and sell his new product.

sugar daddy

- a rich older man who gives money to a younger woman for her companionship

The woman went on a winter holiday with her sugar daddy.

sugarcoat (something)

- to make something that is unpleasant seem more pleasant, to coat something with sugar

The government tried to sugarcoat the new policy but nobody was happy with it.

suggestive of (something)

- to be reminiscent of something

The movie was suggestive of a time that disappeared many years ago.

suit oneself

- to do something one's own way to please oneself

I was able to do everything to suit myself while I stayed with my uncle.

suit (someone) to a T

- to be very appropriate for someone

My new job suits me to a T.

sum and substance

- a summary, the gist of something

The sum and substance of what the speaker said was very interesting.

sum (something) up or sum up (something)

- to put something into a few words, to summarize something

The speaker summed up his presentation and asked the audience for questions.

sunny-side up

- eggs that are fried on one side only

We asked for our eggs to be fried sunny-side up at the restaurant.

supply and demand

- the availability of something compared to the need or demand for something

The supply and demand for used sporting equipment is always very tight.

supposed to do (something)

- to be expected or intend to do something

I was supposed to meet my friend but I forgot.

a sure thing

- something that is sure to happen, something about which there is no doubt

My promotion to manager is a sure thing according to the company president.

Sure thing.

- of course, certainly

"Sure thing, I will be happy to help you move next Saturday."

survival of the fittest

- the idea that the most able or fit will survive

It is the survival of the fittest in the jungle.

susceptable to (something)

- to be easily persuaded, to be easily influenced, to likely to become sick

The young boy is very susceptable to the influence of the older boys around him.

The girl is susceptable to often getting a sore throat.

swallow one`s pride

- to bring one`s pride under control, to become humble

I had to swallow my pride and ask my father for some money.

swallow (something) hook, line, and sinker

- to believe something completely when someone is trying to deceive you

I swallowed the story hook, line, and sinker about how my friend lost his car keys.

swamped with (something)

- to be overwhelmed with something

"I am swamped with work and cannot meet you tonight."

swan song

- a final appearance

The manager was a big hit during his swan song at the company last week.

swear by (something)

- to have complete confidence in something, to be sure of something

My father swears by the walk that he takes every morning.

swear off (something)

- to decide to give up something that you are in the habit of using

My friend plans to swear off tobacco.

swear on a stack of Bibles

- to promise solemnly that what one is about to say is true

The man swore on a stack of Bibles that he did not take any money from the cash register.

swear on (something)

- to use something as the reason or authority that what you are saying is the truth

The accused criminal was asked to swear on a religious text at the trial to make sure that he was telling the truth.

swear (someone) in or swear in (someone)

- to have a person promise to do his or her duty as a member of an organization or in a formal position

The new mayor of the city was sworn in at a large ceremony last evening.

sweat bullets/blood

- to be nervous, to be very worried

I was sweating bullets during the job interview.

sweat (something) out or sweat out (something)

- to wait anxiously for something, to worry about something

I spent the day sweating out whether or not I would get the job.

sweep out of (somewhere)

- to leave somewhere in a dramatic way

The actress swept out of the room when her performance finished.

sweep (someone) off his or her feet

- to overwhelm someone (with love etc.), to knock someone down

The woman was swept off her feet when she met the young man at the party.

The large wave swept the man off his feet at the seashore.

sweep (something) under the rug/carpet

- to hide dirt by brushing it under a rug or carpet, to try to hide a problem or keep a problem secret instead of dealing with it

The company has several problems which they are trying to sweep under the carpet.

The woman never deals with her problems. She always sweeps them under the carpet.

sweep through (somewhere)

- to move through a place quickly and with much energy

The actress always sweeps through the room when she arrives for a meeting.

sweet and sour

- a combination of sweet and sour tastes (found in many Chinese dishes)

The dish had a sweet and sour taste that was very delicious.

sweet nothings

- affectionate but unimportant words that you say to someone you love

The boy in the movie whispered sweet nothings to his girlfriend.

sweet on (someone)

- to be in love with someone, to be very fond of someone

The boy was sweet on the girl next door when he was a child.

sweeten the deal

- to offer something during a negotiation that is attractive to the other side

We sweetened the deal during the negotiations in order to win the new contract.

sweet-talk (someone)

- to praise or flatter someone to get what you want

The little girl tried to sweet-talk her mother into buying her a present.

sweetie pie

- darling, sweetheart

The young man always calls his girlfriend sweetie pie.

swelled head

- a feeling that one is more important than one really is

The man has a swelled head since he got the new position in his company.

swift and sure

- fast and certain

I made a complaint to the bank manager and I knew that the answer would come back swift and sure.

swim against the current

- to do the opposite of what most people are doing

My friend likes to swim against the current and not do what others are doing.

swim against the tide

- to do the opposite of what most people are doing

Our company often swims against the tide in the way that they market products.

swing into action

- to quickly begin doing something

We must swing into action and finish the project.

The members of the football team swung into action and cleaned the room after the party.

swing (something)

- to make something happen

I do not know if I can swing buying an expensive present for my girlfriend.

switch gears

- to suddenly change what you are doing

The sports announcer suddenly switched gears and began to talk about something else.

The company will have to switch gears soon as it is not doing well now.

switched on

- to be in tune with the latest fads or ideas or fashions

My aunt is switched on and knows everything about many recent movies.