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Idioms with bread and butter

Idiom Explanation Example
the best thing since sliced bread a brilliant invention or something you find fantastic I finally got some wireless headphones. I can’t believe I waited so long, they’re the best thing since sliced bread!
your bread and butter a person’s main source of income Steve does some custom work, but fitting kitchens is his bread and butter.
butter someone up flattering someone before asking for a favour so that they are more likely to do what you want —I’m going to ask Alan to cover my shift tomorrow.
—Make sure you butter him up first or he will just say no.
know which side your bread is buttered (on) know when you have an advantage or a good situation —Every time Michael visits his grandma, she gives him £20.
—No wonder he visits so often, he clearly knows which side his bread is buttered!
(look) like butter wouldn’t melt appear innocent (even if this may not be the case) I heard the vase smash and when I turned around the cat was just sitting there like butter wouldn’t melt.
butterfingers a clumsy person Kathy spilled red wine all over her white dress, she’s such a butterfingers

Idioms with egg

Idiom Explanation Example
a bad egg a person who is dishonest, unreliable or of questionable character Stay away from Colin, he’s a bad egg.
a chicken and egg situation when it’s impossible to identify the beginning or root cause of an issue Is the team unproductive because the boss is mean, or is the boss mean because the team is unproductive? It’s a chicken and egg situation.
egg someone on encourage someone to do something bad, foolish or dangerous He jumped off the roof because his friends egged him on.
you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs in order to achieve something you have to make mistakes and/or experience negative effects —I fell off my skateboard again. I’m never going to be able to do this.
—Keep going! You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs.
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Exercises

Complete the sentences with the words below. Use each word once.

butter – buttering – egg – egging – eggs

  1. Nathan made a prank call, his friends were   him on.
  2. Don’t trust Jenna, she looks like   wouldn’t melt, but actually she’s a bad  .
  3. Mistakes are normal in the creative process. Remember, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few  .
  4. Pascal said that I looked nice today, but he was just   me up to ask me for a favour.

Choose the correct idiom.

  1. Trevor is a photographer. He prefers doing creative projects but they don’t pay that well, so weddings are…
  2. Is the village isolated because there is no bus stop? Or is there no bus stop because the village is isolated? It’s …
  3. The teacher knew that the students had hidden the textbooks, but when she asked them they simply stayed quiet like …
  4. Carrie has broken two glasses this week and it’s only Wednesday. She’s …
  5. —We won the match, but two of our players got injured.
    —Oh well, …
  6. —Frank is 29 and still lives at home. He pays no rent and his mum does his laundry. He’ll never move out.
    —Why would he? He knows …
  7. —You look lovely today! Is that a new outfit? And wow, are you wearing a new perfume?
    —What do you want? You sound like you’re trying to …
  8. William skipped school yesterday. He wouldn’t have done it if his friends hadn’t …
  9. Zane has a new partner and he’s completely in love. He thinks his new partner is …

Idioms with milk

Idiom Explanation Example
milk something get as much as possible out of a person or situation, often in an unfair way Tom only had a slight cold, but he really milked it and took two whole weeks off work.
There’s no use crying over spilled/spilt milk. it’s useless to be upset about something that has already happened and cannot be changed —I can’t believe Fred forgot my birthday.
—I know, but there’s no use crying over spilled milk. Try to look forward.

Idioms with tea

Idiom Explanation Example
a storm in a teacup when people are angry, outraged or upset about an issue that is unimportant —People are furious about the new iPhone update.
—It’s a storm in a teacup. They’ll get used to it.
as useful as a chocolate teapot useless —These concert tickets are about as useful as a chocolate teapot.
—Why?
—They are for yesterday! Not today!
not my cup of tea not what I like, not what I’m interested in —Do you want to come to a music festival at the weekend?
—No thanks, festivals aren’t really my cup of tea.

Idioms with jam

Idiom Explanation Example
be in a jam find yourself in a difficult situation Can you help me? I’m in a bit of a jam. I’ve locked myself out of the house.

Complete the sentences with the words below. Use each word once.

jam – milk – tea – teacup – teapot

  1. We’re talking about one tiny change that only affects a handful of people, all this outrage is nothing more than a storm in a  .
  2. I have to go and help Rob, he’s got himself into a bit of a  .
  3. The press love a political scandal, they will   this story as much as they can.
  4. Lots of people enjoy the beach but it’s just not my cup of  .
  5. Well, having a car in this traffic is about as useful as a chocolate  .

Choose the correct idiom.

  1. —How’s it going?
    —Not great. I forgot about my tax return and now I owe a lot of money. I’m …
  2. —I love the theatre.
    —I’m not that keen. It’s just …
  3. —The postman left a note saying that our parcel is with a neighbour, but it doesn’t say which one.
    —Well, that’s …
  4. —Joe sprained his wrist last week. He says he can’t do anything at all and he’s treating me like his personal butler.
    —It sounds like he’s …
  5. —I can’t believe I lost my favourite earrings.
    —I know it’s sad, but you have to move on, …
  6. —I’m concerned that the rest of the office isn’t happy about the new shorter lunch break.
    —Don’t worry about it, it will blow over soon. It’s nothing more than …

Idioms with apple

Idiom Explanation Example
it’s apples and oranges it’s pointless to compare two fundamentally different or opposing things You can’t compare Max’s job with Emma’s; he’s a footballer and she’s a brain surgeon, it’s apples and oranges.
the apple of my eye favourite or most beloved person Silvia’s little grandson is the apple of her eye, they spend every day together.
the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree children grow up to be similar to their parents —Clara is studying medicine, she wants to be a doctor like her mum.
—Well, you know what they say. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!
a bad apple a person with questionable character whose behaviour has a negative effect on others I was a bad apple at school. I played tricks on the teachers and made my friends help me.

Idioms with other fruit

Idiom Explanation Example
go bananas become extremely angry or excited Alice will go bananas when she opens her birthday present. She’s been asking for a bike for months.
cherry pick the practice of only selecting the very best items from what is available You have to look at all the facts instead of just cherry picking those that support your ideas.
sour grapes having a negative attitude towards something because it can’t be obtained, similar to being a sore loser Paula said that she didn’t really want the job anyway, but I think that’s just sour grapes because they gave it to Jeff.

Complete the sentences with the words below. Use each word once.

apple – bananas – cherry – grapes – oranges

  1. I borrowed my mum’s car and crashed it. She’s going to go   when she finds out.
  2. Alfie is an only child, he’s the   of his dad’s eye.
  3. I hate working with Dan, he just   picks his tasks and I have to do all the difficult and boring stuff.
  4. I don’t know which is better; one is a rock star and one is a country music singer, it’s apples and  .
  5. Ben says that he’s not coming to watch the final. I think it’s sour   because his team didn’t qualify.

Choose the correct idiom.

  1. The politician ignored all of the difficult questions and only answered when it suited him. Typical …
  2. Daisy is always getting into trouble, she’s a bad influence on the rest of the group. She’s …
  3. I forgot to water Maria’s plants while she was away and they all died. When she came back she …
  4. Remy has started guitar lessons, he’s got a real talent for it, just like his dad.
  5. Walter loves his cat Whiskers so much. She’s …
  6. The Jamesons were rejected from the country club. They said that they were never that interested anyway, but it’s just …
  7. —I prefer Paris to Berlin.
    —They have totally different vibes, you can’t compare them. It’s …

Idioms with potato

Idiom Explanation Example
a couch potato a lazy person I enjoy being a couch potato on Sundays.
small potatoes (always plural) something that is unimportant or insignificant when compared to something else In comparison to your news, my new job is small potatoes!
hot potato a controversial topic The new power plant is a hot potato in the press.
the meat and potatoes the basic, most essential part of something The meat and potatoes of this job is customer service.

Idioms with fish

Idiom Explanation Example
a different kettle of fish something totally different or unrelated to the topic at hand —I’m a native speaker, teaching English should be easy for me.
—Speaking a language is one thing but teaching it is a different kettle of fish.
like shooting fish in a barrel very easy Once the other team went down to ten players, we won easily. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.

Other campfire idioms

Idiom Explanation Example
how the sausage gets made the unpleasant, behind-the-scenes process that creates a product, service or situation People buy fast fashion, but they ignore the realities. No one wants to know how the sausage gets made.
age like a fine wine improve with age My grandma is 82 and she looks fantastic, she’s ageing like a fine wine!
meat in the room a person or group of people who are present just to give the impression that a space is full or an event is well-attended —You’ve invited so many people to the wedding, I don’t know half of them.
—We just need meat in the room.

Complete the sentences with the words below. Use each word once.

fish – potato – potatoes – meat – sausage – wine

  1. Compared to buying a whole new laptop, the cost of replacing the battery is small  .
  2. Frank looks amazing for 70. He’s ageing like a fine  !
  3. Don’t mention the wedding at dinner, it’s a bit of a hot   in our family.
  4. We had to do some questionable things to make this happen. Trust me, you don’t want to know how the   gets made.
  5. They paid actors to attend the event just to have some   in the room.
  6. I’ve always worked with adults, working with children is a different kettle of  .

Choose the correct idioms.

  1. That company will hire anyone, they don’t care about qualifications. They are just looking for …
  2. Jenny is so lazy, she never does anything. She’s a real …
  3. Katherine, I haven’t seen you for years! You look amazing, you’re …
  4. We won the match 10-0. It was …
  5. Callum lost his job last week and he’s being evicted from his house. Compared to his problems, mine are just …
  6. Everyone loves next-day delivery, but the conditions for the warehouse workers are terrible. No one talks about …
  7. Lending a friend £10 is one thing, but lending £10,000 is …
  8. For the trade union, a cost-of-living pay rise is really the …
  9. The reporters are definitely going to ask about this topic at the press conference, it’s a political …

Idioms with vegetables

Idiom Explanation Example
dangle a carrot (in front of someone) encourage or persuade someone by offering an incentive or a reward All you have to do is dangle a carrot and he will accept the job.
a carrot top a person with red hair The baby is so cute, she’s a carrot top like her mum.
cool as a cucumber be calm and collected The situation was stressful, but Laura was cool as a cucumber.
be full of beans have a lot of energy The children are always full of beans on Christmas morning.
spill the beans reveal a secret We wanted to share our big news ourselves, but Nadia had already spilled the beans.
a bean counter a person whose job involves accounting My job isn’t that interesting, I’m just a bean counter in the planning department.
tomato, tomato
(pronounced: to-may-to, to-mah-to)
what difference does it make?
(only used in spoken language)
—Shall we use the green plates or the blue ones?
—Tomato, tomato.

Complete the sentences with the words below. Use each word once.

carrot – cucumber – bean – beans x2

  1. You said you had some exciting news? Come on, spill the  .
  2. I was freaking out, but luckily Jess was cool as a   about the whole thing.
  3. You’re energetic this morning! Why are you so full of  ?
  4. They’re going to have to dangle a pretty big   to get Margot to come back to the firm.
  5. We were excited about this project, but the   counters said that it would be too expensive.

Choose the correct idiom.

  1. I have red hair, my nickname at school was …
  2. —Should I transfer the money to you or your partner?
    —It’s a joint account, …
  3. Tom is an accountant. He’s a …
  4. So the secret is out already? Who …
  5. Ben never gets stressed. Whatever the situation, he’s always …
  6. I slept for 12 hours last night so this morning I’m …
  7. If we want this candidate to accept our offer, we have to …