||The company began to
gain ground in their effort to sell more
||The boss will talk about
the new game plan at the next office
|gang up on
||harass as a group
||The school children
tried to gang up on the boy but he ran
||fill up the gas tank
||We should gas up
tonight before we leave.
|get a break
||get a good deal
||She wanted to
get a break when she bought the car.
|get a fix on
||obtain an accurate
||We were able to
get a fix on the distant star.
HANDLE ON (SOMETHING)
to find a way to deal with a problem or difficult situation
1. I’m trying to get a handle on my job search, so I’m
updating my resume and asking my old teachers for letters of
2. Margaret’s babysitting job was difficult at first, but
she got a handle on the children after she promised to read
them a story.
HOLD OF (ONESELF)
to get control of oneself; stop being emotional
Compare to: get it/(one’s) act together; go to pieces
The expression get (a) hold of oneself emphasizes emotional
control whereas get one’s act together emphasizes mental or
1. Stop crying, Mary. Get a hold of yourself and calm down.
2. The man narrowly missed hitting another car on the
highway. Afterward, he pulled off the road to try to get
hold of himself.
HOLD OF (SOMEONE)
to contact someone or communicate with someone, usually by
1. The real estate agent couldn’t get hold of them before
the house was sold to someone else. They never answered
2. The ambulance brought the little boy to the hospital, and
the doctor got a hold of the boy’s parents before he
HOLD OF (SOMETHING)
to acquire or obtain something
The expression is used to describe something that is
somewhat difficult to acquire, perhaps because it is rare.
1. I was able to get hold of a copy of the magazine, but it
was the last one.
2. Sarah was very lucky to get a hold of an extra ticket to
|get a kick out
||lot of enjoyment out of
||I think she will get a
get a kick out of watching the show.
to make a good start on some activity or project
This expression originally meant “to be lifted onto a
horse,” and can indicate getting ahead of other people.
1. It took a long time, but you’ve finally got a leg up on
your college degree. It shouldn’t take you much longer to
2. I’m going to get a leg up on next year’s budget by
planning several months in advance.
|get a load of
||Take a look at
||Get a load of
that old car.
Synonyms: shake a leg!; step on it!
This expression can be used as a verb or as a command to
1. Get a move on! Everyone is waiting for you.
2. We asked the waiter to bring our check twenty minutes
ago. I sure wish that he would get a move on!
|get a rise out
||make him angry
||She was able to
get a rise out of him when she laughed at his new
|get a wiggle on
||You had better
get a wiggle on or you are going to be late.
|get a word in
||find the chance to say
||He could not get
a word in while talking with the manager.
WORD IN EDGEWISE
to insert a word or sentence into an otherwise one-sided
The word edgewise means to turn something to its narrowest
dimension. The expression suggests that one must put one’s
words edgewise in order to squeeze them into a conversation
where words are run together very tightly. The expression is
usually used in the negative, can’t get a word in edgewise,
meaning that one is unable to get into the conversation
because someone else is doing all the talking.
1. Elizabeth talked on and on. No one else got a chance to
tell her what he or she thought because they couldn’t get a
word in edgewise.
2. Jerry finally got a word in edgewise when Tony stopped
talking to take a drink.
||She had a hard time
trying to get across the idea.
||She really works hard at
her job in order to get ahead.
||You should get
after her to do her homework.
||He is able to
get along on very little money.
||I think we should
get along now.
|get along with
||have a good relationship
||She does not get
along with him.
||go to different places
||She sure does
get around more than most people.
|get around to
||find the time for
||The apartment manager
was finally able to get around to fixing
||I know what you are
trying to get at.
||succeed in leaving
||He was able to
get away from work early.
|get away from it
||go on a vacation
||We want to get
away from it all this summer.
|get away with
||do something bad without
being caught or punished
||The students were able
to get away with murder.
|get away with
||cheat and not get caught
||He could get
away with cheating.
||We might get
back sooner than originally planned.
|get back at
||get revenge on
||She is planning to
get back at him.
||If you get
behind in the homework you will not be able to pass
||They decided to
get behind the president.
to just barely manage, financially (sentence 1) or with
one’s work or responsibilities (sentence 2)
Synonyms: keep one’s head above water; make ends meet
1. We’re getting by now, but if we get an unexpected bill it
would bankrupt us.
2. I’m getting by the best way I know how: by working hard.
||He is able to easily
get by on his salary.
||If he doesn’t work
harder, he’s probably going to get canned.
CAUGHT/BE LEFT HOLDING THE BAG [LEAVE (SOMEONE) HOLDING THE
to make someone the scapegoat; to be blamed for something
that was not one’s fault or was only partly one’s fault
Compare to: leave (someone) in the lurch Leave someone in
the lurch is usually applied more generally to any number of
situations involving responsibility whereas leave someone
holding the bag is usually applied to a situation involving
theft in which one person is literally left holding (or
caught with) the stolen goods.
1. The other team members left, Bill was left holding the
bag, trying to explain a bad project.
2. Christine helped Tim invent a scheme to cheat people out
of their money and it went wrong. She left town and Tim got
caught holding the bag.
||We will have to
get cracking on this project.
|get down to
||You should get
down to work now.
DOWN TO BRASS TACKS/BUSINESS/ THE NITTY GRITTY
to get serious or practical about something
Compare to: (sentence 1) talk turkey; (sentence 2) get the
show on the road To get down to business means to get
serious and start. To get down to the nitty gritty means to
get to the basic issue or problem.
1. I think we’ve fooled around with this plan long enough.
It’s time to get down to brass tacks.
2. The meeting should have started fifteen minutes ago. I
have another appointment in an hour, and I wish we would get
down to business.
3. Your ideas in this report are hard to understand. Why not
take out all the useless information and get down to the
|get down to
||begin discussing the
||We should get
down to brass tacks immediately.
||He plans to get
||She did not like her job
from the get-go.
||I think that we should
|get hold of
||Please try to
get hold of a dictionary for class.
|get hold of
||She tried to get
hold of him for one month.
|get in on the
||begin at the lower level
||She was able to
get in on the ground floor of the new company.
|get in touch
||I want you to
get in touch with me next month.
|get in the swing
||become part of the
||Try to get in
the swing of things and have fun.
||I listened to the joke
twice, but I still don't get it.
IN THE NECK
to receive something unpleasant, such as criticism or
The it in the expression probably refers to a foot or fist.
The expression suggests getting kicked or hit in the neck.
1. I thought I was doing a fine job until I was fired
because the boss didn’t like my work. I sure got it in the
2. Frank thought they were the best of friends. Then one day
for no apparent reason, she stopped speaking to him. He
really got it in the neck.
|get it together
||You need to get
it together before the exam.
|get it through
||Try to get it
through your head.
||I want you to
|get mixed up
||I think that she will
get mixed up about the dates.
to escape the proper or expected punishment; to be acquitted
of a crime
1. Everyone knew the man had committed the crime, but he was
found not guilty on a technicality and never spent a day in
jail. He got off scot-free.
2. The thief had been caught too many times, but this time
he would not go scot-free. He would spend years in prison.
||She really wanted to
get off the train.
|get off the
|The new company will
get off the ground next week.
off on the wrong (or right!) foot
|get off my back
||leave me alone
||I think that you should
get off my back.
|get off one's
||You should get
off your butt.
(ONE’S) HIGH HORSE
to stop acting superior
The expression originates from the custom of high-ranking
officials traveling on horseback, while commoners walked.
The physical height of being up on the horse is equated with
being in a superior position.
1. Ted really acts like he thinks he’s the boss around here.
He’d better get off his high horse pretty soon or he’ll have
2. Who do you think you are coming in here and ordering me
around like this? Get off your high horse!
|get off the
||The new movie should
get off the ground in about a week.
||She really wanted to
get on the train.
|get on in years
||She is beginning to
get on in years.
|get on one's
||He tends to get
on his high horse at these office meetings.
|get your dander
||Try not to get
your dander up.
(ONE’S) ACT/IT TOGETHER
to get control of oneself mentally or physically; to get
Synonyms: on the ball; get a hold of (oneself)
On the ball is a more subtle way of expressing someone’s
lack of mental control than get one’s act together. Get
one’s act together emphasizes mental or physical control,
whereas get a hold of oneself emphasizes emotional control.
1. Virginia had been lazy on the job for some time. Her boss
told her she had better get her act together or she would be
looking for another job soon.
2. I don’t know where my mind is these days—I feel so
disorganized. I can’t seem to get it together.
|get one's feet
||begin her experience
||She recently managed to
get her feet wet in fashion design.
|get one's goat
||She usually knows the
way to get his goat.
|get one's own
||get people to do what
||You always try to
get your own way.
|get one's rear
||You need to get
your rear in gear.
(ONE’S) SECOND WIND
to get a second burst of energy
The expression suggests that when a person gets out of
breath (wind), he/she can get a second one in order to
continue. It can be used literally (sentence 1) or
figuratively (sentence 2).
1. The dancers had to stop for a few minutes to take a rest.
When they got their second wind, they started to dance
2. The candidate took the weekend off from campaigning
because he was mentally exhausted. He told reporters that he
would be back on the campaign trail after he got his second
|get out from
||escape from doing
||She would like to
get out from under all that work.
|get out of bed
on the wrong side
||have an awful beginning
of the day
||Did you get out
of bed on the wrong side again today?
|get out of hand
||The students often
get out of hand every Friday afternoon.
out of here
|get out of the
||She tried to get
out of the way of the oncoming traffic.
||She will have a
difficult time to get over the
||She has to get
ready for work now.
|get rid of
||He thought that she
should get rid of the car.
||They are trying to
get set for the engagement party.
GET/LEND (SOMEONE) A HAND
to help someone
The expression suggests that by giving someone a hand, one
helps that person do more work than he could do with his own
two hands. The expression is usually used in the sense of
helping someone physically (sentence 1) but it can also be
used in a financial sense (sentence 2).
1. I need some help lifting these boxes. Who can give me a
2. They gave him a hand with his rent and utility bills
while he was unemployed.
(SOMEONE’S) DANDER/HACKLES UP
to irritate or anger moderately
Synonyms: rub (someone) the wrong way; set (someone’s) teeth
on edge; get (someone’s) goat; bug
Whereas bug means to annoy harmlessly or perhaps humorously,
get one’s dander up means to irritate in earnest.
1. I don’t like that man. Perhaps it’s the way he talks to
me or the way he acts around us—he sure gets my dander up.
2. Our neighbors are extremely messy and loud. They get my
to irritate or annoy someone
Compare to: get (one’s) dander up; bug
1. I can’t believe the boss is giving Judith the day before
Christmas off, when he refused to let me take the day off.
That really gets my goat!
2. The one thing that really gets my husband’s goat is when
he finds a parking place and someone else comes along and
|get someone down
||make her unhappy
||Her job has begun to
get her down.
GET/GIVE (SOMEONE/SOMETHING) SHORT SHRIFT
to make quick work of something or to give little time to
The expression conveys a negative feeling about someone or
something. They are thought of as unworthy of much time or
1. The secretary preferred working with people directly. She
was an excellent secretary but she gave short shrift to
typing up notes and preparing reports.
2. I haven’t much time for incompetent fools like Sam. I
gave him short shrift when he came in here asking for a pay
GET/GIVE (SOMEONE) THE COLD SHOULDER
to ignore someone intentionally
Synonym: turn up (one’s) nose at (someone/something)
Whereas give someone the cold shoulder is used only with
people, turn up one’s nose can be applied to both people and
1. Margie and Steve used to be close friends, but now every
time they meet, she gives him the cold shoulder.
2. When we bought our new house, we thought everyone would
welcome us to the neighborhood. But people give us the cold
shoulder when we try to be friendly and neighborly.
GET/GIVE (SOMEONE) THE GO-AHEAD
to get or give permission to proceed
Synonym: get/give (someone) the green light
1. The kids asked their mother for permission to set up a
lemonade stand. Her lemon tree was full of lemons, so she
gave them the go-ahead.
2. Playing baseball in the middle of the work day sounds
like a great idea, but you should probably get the go-ahead
from our boss before we start.
GET/GIVE (SOMEONE) THE GREEN LIGHT
to get or give permission to proceed
Synonym: give/get (someone) the go-ahead
This expression comes from the green light on a stop light,
which indicates that cars can move forward.
1. The planning stage of the project was complete and we got
the green light to start construction.
2. The boss gave them the green light to order all the
equipment they needed.
GET/GIVE (SOMEONE) THE SACK
to be fired from one’s job
Compare to: pink slip
1. John lost his job yesterday. He got the sack.
2. Marie has two small children to support. You can’t just
give her the sack. What is she going to do for money?
3. I was sacked from my last job for showing up late every
GET/GIVE (SOMEONE) THE SHORT END OF THE STICK
to get (give someone) the unfair or less advantageous part
of a deal or arrangement
1. Martha agreed to babysit the children while Henry went
shopping. Martha had much more work to do than Henry did.
She got the short end of the stick.
2. Look out for your interests and speak up if you think
you’re getting an unfair deal. Don’t let them give you the
short end of the stick.
GET/GIVE (SOMEONE) THE THIRD DEGREE
to be questioned in great detail
1. My parents didn’t believe that I’d spent the evening at
the library. They gave me the third degree, questioning me
about when I had arrived and left and what I’d done while I
2. When it was revealed that the candidate had been arrested
some years before, he got the third degree from the
newspaper reporters. He had to answer question after
GET/HAVE (SOMETHING) DOWN PAT
to do something repeatedly until one knows how to do it
without a mistake; to perfect an activity
1. Lynn worked on her dance routine until she could
practically do it in her sleep. She had it down pat.
2. Practice saying your speech again and again. I want to be
sure you get it down pat.
(SOMETHING) OFF (ONE’S) CHEST
to disclose or talk about something that is bothering or
The idiom suggests that a bothersome concern weighs down
one’s chest or heart and that talking about it relieves the
1. I’ve had something on my mind all day that I just have to
tell you. I will feel better when I get it off my chest.
2. You look very troubled about something. Why don’t you
talk about it and get it off your chest?
(SOMETHING) ON THE NOSE
to do or understand something perfectly
1. That’s the right answer! You really got it on the nose.
2. Joannie’s argument made perfect sense to me—she really
hit it on the nose.
||complete the difficult
||He wants to get
the difficult assignment over with first.
(SOMETHING) THROUGH (ONE’S) HEAD
to understand something that is difficult, especially
because it is a shock, unwanted, or unexpected
Compare to: get the message
The expression is usually used in a negative sense to
describe how difficult it is to understand or accept
1. How many times do I have to tell you, I’m not going back
to college? When will you get it through your head that I
want to go to work instead?
2. Tom couldn’t seem to get it through his head that his
company was letting him go after so many years of faithful
||is excited and angry
||If he gets going
he will never stop complaining.
|get the ax
||She thought that he
would get the ax from the company this
|get the ball
||It is time to
get the ball rolling.
|get the better
||gain an advantage over
||Try to get the
better of your opponent.
|get the feel of
||become accustom to
||Try to get the
feel of this new car.
GET/GIVE THE GO-AHEAD
to receive or grant permission to proceed
Synonym: get/give (someone) the green light
1. The planning stage of the project was complete and we got
the go-ahead to start construction.
2. The staff got the go-ahead from their boss to organize a
birthday party for their colleague.
|get the goods on
||find out information
||She is trying to
get the goods on her boss.
to understand something that is only hinted at, perhaps
because it is unpleasant
Compare to: get (something) through (one’s) head
1. You can stop hinting that you don’t want my company. I
get the message, and I won’t bother you again.
2. Jacqueline never answered the many letters the young man
sent to her. She wondered when he would get the message that
she wasn’t interested in hearing from him.
|get the sack
||She thought that he
would get the sack from the company this
|get the worst of
||suffer most because of
||She will probably
get the worst of the flu.
|get this over
||be finished with this
||Let's get this
THIS SHOW ON THE ROAD
to get started
Compare to: get down to business
1. We’ve been waiting for hours, and I’m ready to get
started. Let’s get the show on the road.
2. I can’t wait any longer. If we don’t get the show on the
road, I’m going to have to schedule this meeting for another
||She really needs to
get through this class.
|get through to
||be understood by
||He talked a lot but
could not get through to her.
||have the opportunity to
||She did not get
to see him last week.
|get to first
||He wanted to meet the
boss but could not get to first base.
THE BOTTOM OF (SOMETHING)
to understand something completely by sorting through all
the facts or information
The expression suggests the idea of a container (a
situation) full of information or facts. Only the few facts
on top are clear and they may not make much sense. When one
finally gets to the bottom of the container (the situation),
one will have gone through all the information and have a
thorough understanding of how all the facts fit together.
1. The detective had all the facts, but he couldn’t piece
them together yet. He wasn’t certain what had happened, but
he knew he would eventually get to the bottom of it.
2. Mark’s parents could tell he was getting into some kind
of trouble. They confronted him and said they wanted to get
to the bottom of the situation.
to speak or write concisely and directly
Antonyms: beat around the bush; hem and haw
1. That fellow never wastes your time talking about
unimportant things. He immediately gets to the point.
2. People seem to get to the point much more quickly when
they write e-mail compared to a traditional letter.
|get under one's
||He is beginning to
get under her skin.
||get out of bed
||She decided to
get up early.
1. I’ve been so tired lately. I don’t have any energy. I’ve
lost my get up and go.
2. This breakfast cereal claims that it gives you enough get
up and go to last you until lunchtime.
3. Contrary to popular belief, moderate exercise stimulates
a person to have more get up and go. It doesn’t fatigue the
ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE BED
to be in a bad mood from the beginning of the day
Originally this phrase was “got up left foot forward” and
dates back to the ancient Romans. In their time, the left
side of anything was seen as sinister or unlucky, and Romans
believed it was bad luck to put the left foot down first
when getting out of bed. The idea that left is bad continued
for centuries and eventually the word left was replaced with
1. Don’t be upset that Peggy got angry with you; she’ll cool
off soon. She always has a short temper when she gets up on
the wrong side of the bed.
2. I’m sorry I yelled at you. I must have gotten up on the
wrong side of the bed.
|get up the nerve
||get enough courage
||She was finally able to
get up the nerve to talk to her boss.
coming to one
||get what she deserves
||She is going to
get what's coming to her.
|get wind of
||get knowledge of
||He tried to get
wind of the new business plan.
|get wise to
||This week he was able to
get wise to the office gossip.
|get with it
||do what is required
||You need to get
with it if you want to keep your job.
|get with it
||If you don't get
with it, we will never finish this work.
the ability to speak easily and well
The expression is used humorously or with admiration. It
suggests that being able to speak (gab) is a welcome trait
(gift). The word gab is probably an Old English variation of
the Scottish word ‘gob,’ which means ‘mouth’ or ‘beak.’
1. We always enjoy listening to Uncle Charlie’s stories. He
really knows how to tell good ones—he’s got the gift of gab.
2. I’m not much of a talker. I wasn’t blessed with the gift
of gab. Compare to: talk a blue streak
Similar to: cry uncle; knuckle under
1. The workers refused to give in and accept the unfair
contract, so the strike continued.
2. The parents tried to resist their children’s pleas for
sweets, but the kids were so cute that the parents were
forced to give in.
|give it another
||We have to go back and
give it another shot.
(ONE’S) RIGHT (BODY PART) FOR/TO DO (SOMETHING)
to want something very much
The expression suggests that one wants something so much
that one is willing to give an essential part of one’s body
1. I want that car so badly. I’d give my right arm for that
2. Veronica wants so badly to spend her vacation on the
beach, she said she’d give her right leg to go to Hawaii.
(SOMEONE) A HARD TIME
to be difficult with someone; to give someone unnecessary
1. Patricia had not done a good job on the report, and she
thought her boss would just ask her to redo it. Instead,
gave her a hard time and wouldn’t stop talking about it. He
gave her a hard time about the report.
2. The students gave the new teacher a hard time on his
first day. They dropped their books, passed notes while he
was talking, and were generally uncooperative.
(SOMEONE) A PIECE OF (ONE’S) MIND
to confront someone who has behaved badly
Synonyms: read (someone) the riot act; chew (someone) out;
rake (someone) over the coals; speak (one’s) piece
1. Joan was upset with Bill and she told him just what she
thought of him. She really gave him a piece of her mind.
2. I can’t believe that they let their dog loose in my
garden. I’m going over there right now to tell them that if
I find that dog in my yard again, I’ll call the police. I’m
going to give them a piece of my mind!
(SOMEONE) A RING
to call someone on the telephone
Refers to the ringing of a telephone when it receives a
1. When Sally arrived, she found a telephone in the airport
and gave her mother a ring.
2. I’ll be home by the phone all morning. Give me a ring
when you get a chance.
(SOMEONE) A SNOW JOB
to give someone a description of something or someone that
is unrealistically attractive and positive
Synonyms: sales pitch; con job; song and dance; pull the
wool over (someone’s) eyes
1. The English teacher was trying to find students to help
with the publication of the school newspaper. She gave us a
snow job about how much fun it would be and how little work
it was—in fact, it was very hard work.
2. Richard tried to get Marsha to go out with his friend
Don. Richard told Marsha that Don was good-looking, had a
great personality and was rich. Richard gave Marsha a snow
job, because Don turned out to be none of those things.
(SOMEONE) A/SOME SONG AND DANCE
to give someone an overly dramatic or unbelievable excuse
Synonyms: pull the wool over (someone’s) eyes; cock and bull
story; snow job
1. Don’t give me a song and dance about how difficult it was
for you to get this work done on time—I know you’ve been
2. We went to collect the rent from Paul, but he gave us
some song and dance about not having the money right now.
(SOMEONE) A TASTE OF (HIS/HER) OWN MEDICINE
to treat someone the same way they treat others (especially
when they are strict, unfair, or unkind)
Similar to: fix (someone’s) wagon; tit for tat
1. She has treated everyone very unfairly. I wish that
someone would give her a taste of her own medicine.
2. He always criticizes his colleagues for making careless
mistakes. So after he accidentally started a fire in the
office, they were really able to give him a taste of his own
(SOMEONE/SOMETHING) A WIDE BERTH
to allow a lot of space between oneself and someone or
something else when passing
The expression probably originates from the 18th-century
meaning of berth: sufficient sea-room for one ship to pass
1. The children never walked on the south side of the road
because they would have had to walk right past a frightening
guard dog. They gave that dog a wide berth.
2. They couldn’t tell if the driver was ready to back the
truck up or whether he even saw them in his rear-view
mirror. Just to be safe, they gave the truck a wide berth
when they crossed the street behind it.
(SOMEONE) THE COLD SHOULDER
to be unfriendly to somebody
1. Audrey tried to make up with Josh after their fight, but
Josh didn’t respond. He gave her the cold shoulder.
2. Beatrice was forced to find a new photography club when
the members of her old club gave her the cold shoulder. They
wouldn’t talk to her at all.
(SOMEONE) THE SHIRT OFF (ONE’S) BACK
to give (figuratively) someone all one’s possessions; to be
The expression suggests that one would give someone all
one’s money and possessions down even to the shirt one is
1. The young woman’s parents had denied themselves luxuries
and vacations to provide for her. They had given her the
shirts off their backs to give her a good life.
2. I know I can always depend on my friend Henry. I can call
him whenever I need help.
AGAINST THE GRAIN
to be contrary to someone’s nature
The expression originates from the idea that sawing wood
against the grain (the natural direction of wood growth) is
1. I’ll get you out of trouble this one time, but don’t ask
me to do it again. It goes against the grain for me to help
you when you should take responsibility for your own
2. Terry noticed that the cashier in the store had given him
too much change, and he went back immediately to return it.
It would have gone against the grain for Terry to keep the
AROUND IN CIRCLES
to be confused or lost; to make no progress
1. The directions to Arthur’s house were so muddled and
confused, he had us lost and going around in circles.
2. The instructions for how to put the toy together were not
explained clearly at all. Mary went around in circles trying
to figure them out.
BANANAS [DRIVE (SOMEONE) BANANAS]
to go crazy; to no longer be able to cope with a situation.
To drive someone bananas means to annoy or irritate someone.
Synonyms: at the end of (one’s) rope; at (one’s) wits’ end
1. I’ll go bananas if I have to sit for a whole evening and
listen to that man talk on and on about his coin collection.
It’s boring to everyone but him.
2. The woman told her husband that the children were driving
her bananas. He would have to look after them for the
evening while she went out to a movie with some friends.
to run out of money completely; to become penniless
Compare to: flat broke
1. You can go broke buying Christmas presents for your
children with today’s high prices!
2. The drugstore on the corner is going out of business next
week. The owner went broke.
to risk everything
1. The gambler was down to his last hundred dollars. He
decided to go for broke, and he put the last of his money on
one hand of cards.
2. Jan went for broke and invested all her money in the
playwright’s new play. If it was a success, she would be
rich. If it was a flop, she would be penniless.
|go for it
||Lets go for it.
to malfunction; to break down
Similar to: at the end of (one’s) rope; go bananas; at
(one’s) wits’ end; go to pieces.
Go haywire is generally applied to machines, whereas go
bananas is more humorous and is restricted to people.
1. The robot worked fine until it tried to maneuver around
the corner and went haywire. Its arms started to spin
around, its head fell off, and it started shooting sparks
out of its control panel.
2. When the man heard that his doctor’s appointment was
cancelled, he went haywire. He shouted that he would never
go to the doctor again, and left.
to travel some path or do some activity by oneself, often
something dangerous or risky
1. I tried to go it alone on completing the project, but I
just couldn’t do it. I had to get someone to help me.
2. The mountain climber said his route up the mountain is
too dangerous for anyone but the most experienced person, so
he won’t take anyone with him. He is going it alone.
to do or say something in haste or without adequate planning
The expression probably originates from the idea of a gun
misfiring when it is only half-cocked (as opposed to fully
cocked), and therefore not fully ready to be fired.
1. I know your daughter is late, but before you go off
half-cocked, give her a chance to tell you her side of the
2. Dick thought up a scheme to get rich quick, but he didn’t
put much planning into it. He went off halfcocked, got into
financial trouble, and made a fool of himself.
THE DEEP END
to become deeply involved with someone or something before
one is ready; to go crazy
The expression suggests the idea of plunging into the deep
end of a swimming pool and being in over one’s head.
1. Peter went off the deep end when he met Marilyn. After
just two months, they are already engaged to be married.
2. Sometimes it’s easy to get overly excited about something
new and different and go off the deep end.
ON A LIMB
to take a risk
Synonym: stick (one’s) neck out
The expression suggests that going out on a tree branch that
might break is risky. The expression, however, is not used
to describe physical risk.
1. You have embarrassed and disappointed me several times
before. Don’t ask me to go out on a limb for you again.
2. They went out on a limb and lent him the money he asked
for even though he was a poor risk. They could have lost all
WITH A BANG
to be extremely successful
Antonym: go over like a lead balloon
1. The author’s latest book was more popular than he
expected. In fact, it went over with a bang.
2. The fast-food restaurant’s new chicken sandwich went over
with a bang. Everyone was asking for it.
to go to excess; to do too much
1. You have to be careful when decorating cakes. It’s easy
to go overboard and put on too much icing, too many
decorations and too many colors.
2. Don’t go overboard on these new, modern styles. If you
spend all your clothing allowance on them, you may be sorry
when the fashion changes.
LIKE A LEAD BALLOON
to be completely unsuccessful, contrary to expectations; to
1. The car company introduced a new model that was supposed
to be amazing, but it went over like a lead balloon. Nobody
wanted to buy it.
2. That actor has been in several great movies, but his
latest film will probably go over like a lead balloon. It’s
|go public with
||sell shares to the
||The company is expected
to go public with their stock next week.
|go through with
||proceed as planned with
||We have to go
through with the purchase of the new building.
|good for you
||okay with you
||Is that good for
||became interested in
||I got into
gardening in high school.
to fall apart physically or emotionally; to lose one’s
The expression often describes uncontrollable crying.
1. Roger thought he was no longer in love with Amanda, but
when he saw her again he went to pieces. He sat down and
2. I think you’re going to need some new shoes soon. Those
shoes you are wearing now are going to pieces.
to fall into disrepair; to deteriorate from lack of
Synonym: go to the dogs
Go to seed originates in the idea that the fruit on plants
‘goes to seed’ if it is not picked when ripe.
1. The house has really fallen into disrepair. It’s too bad
they let it go to seed like that.
2. George really neglects his appearance nowadays. He has
let himself go to pot.
to fall into disrepair; to deteriorate
Synonyms: go to pot/seed
1. This restaurant used to be so fashionable and classy, but
it has gone to the dogs since it changed management.
2. This neighborhood is going to the dogs—the homeowners
aren’t keeping their houses or their yards in good repair.
It’s a shame.
To do something with maximum enthusiasm; to splurge
Synonyms: pull out all the stops; go whole hog; whole nine
Go to town connotes more elegance than go whole hog or (go
the) whole nine yards.
1. When they bought an old house, they added a new bathroom,
a modern kitchen, a sun porch and two new bedrooms. They
really went to town fixing up their house.
2. Since Alice was paying for her own wedding, she decided
to spare no expense. She really wanted to go to town on her
|got that right
||You got that
on the wrong side of the bed
to disappear; to be ruined
The expression suggests the idea of being burned. It is
usually used figuratively to describe work (sentence 1) or
plans (sentence 3) but it can be used literally (sentence
1. Judy had planned carefully and put in a lot of time
building her career. Then she made one foolish mistake, and
saw all her hard work go up in smoke.
2. The family managed to escape from the burning house. As
they stood outside in the cold, they watched their house go
up in smoke.
3. Larry expected to finish college and start a small
company of his own, but all his plans went up in smoke when
he lost his scholarship.
to spare nothing; to do something with maximum enthusiasm
Synonyms: pull out all the stops; go to town; whole nine
The expression does not convey the same sense of elegance as
go to town does.
1. The company went whole hog on the luncheon. They included
both soup and salad on the menu, a choice of three main
dishes and several desserts, and they paid for all the
2. When it comes to outfitting my car, I believe in going
whole hog. I always get cruise control, extra padded seats,
stereo, all the little luxuries.
WITH THE FLOW
to take a relaxed attitude towards life
Similar to: like water off a duck’s back; roll with the
punches; take (something) in stride
1. Life has its ups and downs. You shouldn’t spend your time
worrying. Just go with the flow.
2. I wish I could learn to go with the flow more. Whenever I
have a problem at school, I get all stressed out.
a time when something is at its best
1. The 1930s were the golden age of radio, when everyone
gathered around in the evenings to listen. After television
took over, radio became secondary.
2. The golden age of American literature began at the turn
of the 20th century. The expression is usually used to refer
to the past.
a person who is basically good or sound, but who may be
slightly peculiar or idiosyncratic
1. Sometimes Tim seems a little strange, but he really is a
2. George knew that Stuart was too cautious to drink very
much, so George asked him to be a good egg and drive him
an expletive that means “This is ridiculous!” or “I’ve had
Synonyms: for crying out loud!; for goodness’ sake!; for
This expression carries no literal meaning of its own, but
it expresses a strong degree of exasperation.
1. Good grief! All you do is complain.
2. The children were jumping around, chasing after each
other, and running around their mother until she couldn’t
stand it anymore. She lost her temper and yelled, “Good
grief! I wish you would behave yourselves!”
a person who helps someone in trouble without thought of
The expression has its origins in a story from the New
Testament in which a man from Samaria helped someone who had
been robbed by thieves.
1. Be a good Samaritan and volunteer some of your free time
to help out at the hospital.
2. Sometimes you have to resist the urge to be a good
Samaritan and think about your own safety. You can’t pick up
a strange hitchhiker in your car.
|grades on a
||computes grades based on
||Yeah, I heard she
grades on a curve.
GRASP AT STRAWS
to act in desperation with little hope of success
The expression suggests that whereas grasping a rope might
succeed in saving one’s life, grasping at straws (grass) is
a desperate and probably useless attempt to hold on.
1. Henry tried everything he could think of to change
Martha’s mind, even tried things that he knew wouldn’t work.
He knew he was grasping at straws.
2. The thief told the judge one excuse after another. It was
obvious that he was desperate and grasping at straws.
an effortless time or job; a life of luxury
1. Scott got himself a job where he won’t have to work very
hard. He’s really riding the gravy train.
2. They made some very wise and profitable investments, and
now they can retire and live off the interest. They’re on
the gravy train.
brain tissue and, by extension, intelligence
The expression refers to brain tissue, and suggests that
one’s intelligence is in direct proportion to size of one’s
1. Anyone can see that his idea won’t work. Doesn’t he have
any gray matter upstairs?
2. When it comes to gray matter, David got more than his
fair share. He is clearly the smartest student in the class.
GREEN AROUND THE GILLS
sick to one’s stomach; nauseated
1. The sight of blood always makes me green around the
gills. I always get sick to my stomach.
2. How can you eat uncooked meat? Doesn’t that make you
green around the gills?
natural ability to grow plants
The expression suggests that success with growing plants is
a result of having a thumb that is the color of healthy
1. Amy really has a green thumb. Everything she plants in
her garden grows so well.
2. You must have quite a green thumb. Your flowers are
always so beautiful and healthy-looking.
The expression originates from the literary depiction of
death as a hooded grim figure carrying a scythe (a farm tool
made with a long, curved blade attached at an angle to a
long handle). He uses the scythe to ‘reap’ people.
1. We’ll all die in the end. You can’t cheat the grim
2. Their grandmother was a very superstitious person and
relied heavily on her intuition. She was convinced that she
was about to die because she felt the grim reaper breathing
down her neck.
GRIN AND BEAR IT
to accept or endure a bad situation
Compare to: bite the bullet
Grin and bear it literally means to smile and endure
1. Steve doesn’t particularly like his job, but he’s going
to have to grin and bear it until he can find a new one.
2. I’ve had more than I can take from that idiot. I’m not
going to grin and bear it for one more minute.