to be all ears
Meaning: to be listening carefully
Use: Billy was all ears when I was telling him about the new school principal.
cost an arm and a leg
Meaning: be very expensive
Use: I love my new camera, but it cost me an arm and a leg – I spent all my lai see.
give your right arm
Meaning: you want something very much
Use: It’s so hot, I would give my right arm for a vanilla ice cream.
break a leg
Meaning: good luck, especially said to people in theatre\
Use: You must be so excited for the first night of your play! Break a leg!
you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours
Meaning: to tell someone if they help you, you will help them
Use: If you want me to help out at the school fair, I need you to sell flags with me next weekend. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.
turn your back on someone/something
Meaning: stop being involved in something
Use: Jessica turned her back on Eric after she learned that he had been spreading gossip about her at school.
give (someone) a hand
Use: Uncle Tom came over from Macau to give my parents a hand with their new shop.
have your head in the clouds
Meaning: always daydreaming, and/or not paying attention to what’s going on around you
Use: Ben has his head in the clouds most of the time: the other day, I saw him walk into a lamppost because he just wasn’t paying attention.
pick someone’s brain
Meaning: ask for information on a particular subject from someone who knows more about it than you do
Use: Helen wants to pick your brain on things to do in Cambodia, where she’s hoping to go at Christmas.
by the skin of your teeth
Meaning: barely, only just; often used to talk about escapes or meeting deadlines
Use: I passed the history mock exam, but only by the skin of my teeth.
Meaning: physical effort
Use: We’ve got a lot to do if we want the school hall to be ready for the fair, but if we all put in some elbow grease, we can do it.
it’s no skin off my nose
Meaning: it makes no difference to me
Use: I don’t mind if you go to the concert tomorrow. It’s no skin off my nose; I don’t even like the singer.
turn your nose up at something
Meaning: to not like something because you think it’s not good enough for you
Use: Russell turned his nose up at the restaurant, but it serves the best dan dan mian in Hong Kong.
put your foot in your mouth
Meaning: say or do something that you shouldn’t have, especially something that embarrasses another person
Use: I really put my foot in my mouth when I asked my sister if her boyfriend was coming to dinner – he had just dumped her!
tongue in cheek
Meaning: meant in a joking way
Use: Hilda said she is a big fan of C. Y. Leung, but seeing as she was at Occupy Central for a month, I think that was tongue in cheek.
get something off your chest
Meaning: to talk about something that has been worrying you, or making you feel guilty for a long time
Use: Danni was obviously stressed about something, so I told her to get it off her chest. I think she was relieved to share her secret.
keep your chin up
Meaning: said to encourage someone to be cheerful and brave in a difficult situation
Use: I know you’re worried about the election results, but keep your chin up, and think positive.
go in one ear and out the other
Meaning: easily forgotten
Use: I try to understand what’s going on in my history classes, but all those dates just go in one ear and out the other
see eye to eye
Meaning: agree with someone
Use: Susan and Boris don’t see eye to eye on a lot of issues, but they both agree Russia is the best place for a holiday.
keep your eyes peeled
Meaning: watch very carefully
Use: I’m trying to find a copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Keep your eyes peeled when we go to the library!
to have your feet on the ground
Meaning: to be practical and sensible
Use: Kenny is quite well known after selling his app to Google, but the teenager has got his feet on the ground: he says he’ll use part of the money for his university tuition and give the rest to his parents.
drag your feet
Meaning: do something slowly because you don’t want to do it
Use: Gina promised to do the PowerPoint for our project, but she is dragging her feet so much, Ellen might have to take over.