English Idioms

Part I: Select the best word or phrase to complete each sentence. In some cases, more than one answer is possible.

1. "They got what they wanted, but had to pay through the nose." That's for sure, It ....."

  1. was a bargain
  2. was very costly
  3. was on sale

2. Gosh! I'm all thumbs. I'm so ..... I'll never be able to untangle this shoelace.

  1. nervous
  2. clumsy
  3. excited

3. If you insist on pulling his leg every time you see him, he'll never .....

  1. believe what you say
  2. let you touch his leg
  3. invite you to his house again

4. "What would you like to do tonight?" "I'm not sure. Let's have dinner, then play it by ear and ....."

  1. stay home
  2. see what happens
  3. watch TV

5. Everyone was getting in her hair. She just couldn't get anything done because nobody would.....

  1. leave her alone
  2. help her
  3. stop bothering her

6.  He finally got off her back when she told him to ..... or else she would call the police.

  1. stop annoying her
  2. stop hurting her
  3. stop threatening her

7. You don't have to jump down my throat! I don't ..... every time you do something wrong.

  1. upset you
  2. contradict you
  3. become angry with you

8. Come on Ted! Shake a leg or else you'll .....

  1. miss your plane
  2. be there early
  3. not be late

9. He's always shooting off his mouth about something, but ..... what he says.

  1. he's always quiet about
  2. nobody believes
  3. everybody likes

10. It was just a tongue-in-cheek remark. She wasn't really .....

  1. serious
  2. joking
  3. angry

11. By sticking your neck out for Jack you ..... Everyone knows he can't be trusted.

  1. don't have to worry
  2. are taking a great risk
  3. might get in the way

12. ..... they didn't have a leg to stand on.

  1. When all the facts were known,
  2. When they got tired,
  3. When they were caught spying,

Part II: Complete the sentences in the following three dialogues with idioms from the list below. Make changes in grammar and wording where needed.

  1. get in someone's hair
  2. jump down someone's throat
  3. tongue-in-cheek
  4. play it by ear
  5. shake a leg
  6. not have a leg to stand on
  7. shoot off one's mouth
  8. pay through the nose
  9. pull someone's leg
  10. stick out one's neck
  11. all thumbs
  12. get off someone's back

Dialogue 1

John:  Don't tell me you meant all those bad things you said about Joe!

Roger:  Of course not! I was just (kidding you). You know I wasn't serious.

John:  I thought it might be a (not very serious) remark, but I wasn't sure.

Roger:  Well, you know Joe. He's always (loudly proclaiming to one and all) about how hard he has to work. I guess I was upset when I heard him telling everybody to (stop bothering him), since I work just as hard!

Dialogue 2

Susan:  I'm not going to (place myself at risk) for you any longer. With all those lies you told, I won't (have any defense) if I try to convince them to believe you.

Lois:  Well, why don't you (make something up as you go along) when they ask if you had any knowledge of what I did?

Susan:  Sure and then they'll (become very angry with me) when they find out that I tried to keep the truth from them. I know that if I try to cover up for you I'll (pay a very high price).

Dialogue 3

Peter:  Hey Paul. You'd better (hurry up). I'm not going to wait for you any  longer!

Paul:  Just wait a minute! Can't you see that I'm not dressed yet? These buttons on my shirt are really hard to do up and I'm (very clumsy at what I'm doing)! I'm so nervous I can't think straight!

Peter:  I'm sorry. I didn't mean to (annoy you and make you angry) about getting ready. It's just that we're already late and the girls will think we aren't coming.


Part III: Fill in the blanks below, then find an circle the missing words in the puzzle given to you by your instructor. Be sure to look horizontally, vertically, and diagonally.

  1. bother someone: get in someone's .....
  2. become angry with someone: jump down someone's .....
  3. not serious: .....-in-cheek
  4. improvise as one goes along: play it by .....
  5. hurry: ..... a leg
  6. to have no good defense for one's opinions or actions: not have a ..... to stand on
  7. stop bothering someone: get off someone's .....
  8. clumsy: all .....
  9. take a risk: stick out one's .....
  10. fool someone: ..... someone's leg
  11. pay too high a price: pay through the .....
  12. express one's own opinions loudly: shoot off one's .....