Idioms for CAT 2022 & 2023
  • Take someone/something for granted – Believe to be true, without actually so verifying. For e.g. There was a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door, so I took it for granted he was resting.
  • Turn one’s head- To be capable of. For e.g. She turns her hand to most things – painting, car maintenance, baking.
  • Take it out on someone- vent one’s anger on someone. For e.g. He’s been in a lousy temper for several days, with no one to take it out on.
  • Try one’s hand a- Attempt to do something for the first time; test one’s ability at something. For e.g. He’s never been on a pair of skis in his life, but now that he’s in Switzerland he’s decided to try his hand at it.

  • Take something on board- Understand and remember something; get one’s mind round something. For e.g. The news has been dreadful; we’ve not really had time to take it properly on board yet.

  • Take something in one’s stride- Accept something (often unpleasant) without worrying about it too much. For e.g. He still seems the same happy-go-lucky little boy, so I guess he’s managed to take the death of his pet in his stride.

  • Turn in one’s grave- Hypothetically cause serious distress, rage, disappointment, etc. to the supposed views or tastes of a person now dead. For e.g.If Mozart could hear some of the latest musical hits, I’m sure he’d be turning in his grave.

  • Turn a deaf ear- Choose not to hear; refuse to listen. For e.g. A government that consistently turns a deaf ear to the clearly articulated demands of its electors must sooner or later expect to hear a very loud protest indeed.

  • Top dog- The dominant or leading member of a group. For e.g. Now he’s top dog in this office, I expect there’ll be a few changes.

  • Tough nut- Person or problem that is difficult to deal with. For e.g. The problem of global warming is a very tough nut to crack, and no easy solutions are in sight.

  • Trial and error- Method of trying something out, solving a problem, etc. by making many attempts and learning as one progresses from any mistakes one makes along the way. For e.g.By trial and error, he has taught himself how to use a computer.

  • Tooth and Nail- Fiercely, with all one’s strength. For e.g. The committee swore to oppose tooth and nail the building of the bypass.

  • Turn a blind eye- Choose not to see. For e.g. I’ve decided to turn a blind eye to your conduct last night, but don’t let it happen again!

  • Two of a kind- Two people of the same trade, outlook, character. For e.g. I wouldn’t trust old Jones – he’s like his friend Pritchard – they’re two of a kind.                                                                                                                                                  
  • Take French leave- Go away without notice or permission. For e.g. They had the bad habit of taking French leave from hotels, leaving their bills unpaid.                                                                                                                                                   
  • Take one’s life in one’s hands- Risk death. For e.g. He hated being driven by Maria, and thought that he was taking his life in his hands every time he got into her car.                                                                                                                                                                
  • Twiddle one’s thumbs- Waste time doing nothing useful. For e.g. I’m not going to sit around here all day twiddling my thumbs – give me some work to do! See also kill time.                                                                                                                                                                      
  • Turn up trumps- Achieve an unexpected success or triumph. For e.g. For once the weather turned up trumps and we had a glorious sunny weekend.
  • Twist someone’s arm- Try to persuade someone to do something against his will. For e.g. They keep twisting my arm to revise my plans, but so far I have managed to resist them.
  • Turn up one’s nose- scorn, despise. For e.g. He turns up his nose at holidays in the Highlands – it’s always Jamaica or Mauritius or somewhere exotic for him.

  • Turn the tables- Reverse the position and gain the advantage. For e.g. We lost the opening game, but we managed to turn the tables in the second round.

  • Turn one’s stomach- Make one feel sick. For e.g. It turned my stomach every time they showed pictures of the refugee camp.
  • Take heart- Be encouraged; gain confidence. For e.g. She took heart from Andrew’s success in the exam – thinking that if he could do it, so could she.
  • Turn the tide- Change the circumstances in which one finds oneself, either to one’s advantage or disadvantage. For e.g. We were winning the game convincingly at half time, but Logan’s injury seemed to turn the tide against us, and then everything started to go wrong.
  • Twist someone round one’s little finger- Know how to manipulate someone to one’s advantage. For e.g. She’s never short of money, because she twists her father round her little finger and gets anything she asks for from him.

  • Tilt the scales/balance- give the advantage (to one side over another). For e.g. The intervention of the headmaster tilted the scales in favour of the children who had been bullied. 
  • Tighten one’s belt- Economise. For e.g. Most people expect to have to tighten their belt when they lose their jobs. 

  • Toe the line- Obey orders; conform; submit to authority. For e.g. She tried to make her children toe the line, but they didn’t listen to her. His boss has told him to toe the line or look for another job.
  • To cap it all- In addition to everything else. For e.g. First you borrow my car without asking, then you crash it, and now – to cap it all – you claim you ‘forgot’ to tell me about it.
  • Till/To kingdom come- For ever; for a long time. For e.g. I could have waited there till kingdom come as far as that doctor was concerned. 
  • To boot- Into the bargain; as well. For e.g. Not only is he a brilliant nuclear physicist, he’s also a very competent pianist to boot. 
  • Throw something/Someone out of gear- Disrupt the smooth running of something. For e.g. We had some surprise visitors last weekend, and though we enjoyed their company very much they have succeeded in throwing our entire week completely out of gear. 
  • Tit for tat- one blow or stroke or insult in retaliation for another. For e.g. It had all the hallmarks of a petty feud, each party giving tit for tat. 
  • Turn up the heat- To increase the intensity of activity, coercion, etc. For e.g. The BJP should start turning up the heat on the Congress if they want to win the next Assembly election in Chhattisgarh.
  • Time of one’s life- Very enjoyable time. For e.g. It was a lovely party and we all had the time of our life.
  • Thumbs up/down- Indication of approval/disapproval of something. For e.g. Today’s by-election results are yet another clear thumbs down for an unpopular government. 
  • Time of life- Age. For e.g. I explained that I couldn’t climb ladders at my time of life – I’m 86, after all.
  • To and fro- Back and forth between two places. For e.g. The ferry goes to and fro between the mainland and the island six days a week.
  • Too big for one’s boots- Conceited; bumptious. For e.g. I’m afraid that young man has got far too big for his boots if he thinks he can go around giving us orders to do this and that.
  • Throw the baby out with the bathwater- Destroy or dispose of the essentials as well as the trivia, incidentals, etc For e.g. The English view of the French Revolution tends to be that it was too extreme, and that they threw the baby out with the bathwater in a mad rush to get away from the monarchy. 
  • Throw light on- clarify, usually a problem, etc. For e.g. This exhibition throws some fascinating light on the artistic abilities of our prehistoric ancestors.
  • Throw in the towel/sponge- Give up; admit defeat. For e.g. Their business has never really got established, and last year’s season was a disaster. I think they’ll throw in the towel this year unless they get a really good summer. 
  • Throw someone off the scent- Divert or mislead someone. For e.g. The robbers were extremely clever, and laid various false trails. These successfully threw the police right off the scent for several days. 
  • Throw caution to the wind(s)- Behave recklessly or dangerously. For e.g. He’s a headstrong sort of man, so I expect he’ll throw caution to the winds and try to attack the enemy.
  • Throw good money after bad- spend more money in order to try and recoup funds already spent. For e.g. We’d spent thousands renovating the house before we learnt that the local authority planned to build a motorway through the grounds. We had to decide whether to challenge the authorities, or whether that would just be a matter of throwing good money after bad.
  • Those and such as those- certain select and superior individuals. For e.g. I believe there’s a big party at the Castle tonight, but it’s only for those and such as those – not for the likes of you and me!
  • Through thick and thin- Despite whatever hardships, difficulties, etc. For e.g. He was a faithful friend, and stuck by me through thick and thin.
  • Threescore (years) and ten- Term sometimes used to describe man’s ‘allotted span’ of time on earth. For e.g. Medical science nowadays ensures that more and more people live well beyond their threescore and ten. 
  • Think on one’s feet- Think quickly. For e.g. She’s a bit too slow on the uptake to make a good teacher – you have to be able to think on your feet in a job like that.
  • Think outside the box- Think laterally or unconventionally; look at the broader context of a problem, challenge, etc. For e.g. He likes routines and has a very blinkered outlook: so he’s not much good at thinking outside the box. 
  • Think highly of- Admire. For e.g. The supporters think highly of their team’s new goalkeeper.
  • Third degree- torture or severe bullying, often applied in order to force the victim to confess to or disclose something. For e.g. From the noise in the cellar, I knew they were giving John the third degree.
  • Think twice- Reconsider; have second thoughts. For e.g. The political problems in that part of the world make you think twice about going there for a holiday.
  • Thin end of the wedge- Insignificant-looking beginning of a more serious problem. For e.g. I used to do small voluntary chores for her, but that turned out to be the thin end of the wedge – now I look after her day and night. 
  • Thick as thieves- very friendly; in cahoots. For e.g. They went to school together in the 1970s and they’re still as thick as thieves.
  • Thick/thin on the ground- Plentiful/rare. For e.g. Decent job opportunities have never been very thick on the ground in this area of high unemployment.
  • There’s nothing to it-  It’s not serious; there is no substance to the problem, story, etc. For e.g. They had a little argument last night, but there was nothing to it and they’re good friends again.
  • Theirs (ours, yours, etc.) not to reason why- their job is merely to obey orders, not to inquire why something has to be done. For e.g. We were ordered to jump in the river and – ours not to reason why – we did just that. 
  • There’s life in the old dog yet!- humorous comment that though a person may be old or feeble-looking, his physical or mental abilities are still active. For e.g. He spent half the day in kayaking in the lake, so there’s obviously life in the old dog yet!
  • Think no end of- Like very much. For e.g. He’d do anything for his children and obviously thinks no end of them.
  • Tempt fate/providence- Do something risky. For e.g. It was tempting fate to go out without an umbrella, and sure enough the heavens opened. 
  • Taste/dose of one’s own medicine- Receive the same treatment as one has given to other people, especially if it was unjust. For e.g. When the government in a democratic society persists in treating the electorate as an ass, sooner or later the electorate will give the government a taste of its own medicine and vote it into oblivion.
  • Tall order- Request or order which is difficult to fulfil. For e.g. I know it’s a bit of a tall order, but could you finish the job by Monday?
  • Talk turkey- Talk frankly and seriously, especially about important business. For e.g. I left the pair of them to talk turkey about the job which was on offer.
  • Talk double Dutch- Talk incomprehensibly, or in a manner inaccessible to the listener. For e.g. It was a very boring lecture for me – the lecturer seemed to be talking double Dutch most of the time. 
  • Talk oneself out of a job- Prevaricate negatively about something one is being offered. For e.g. His comments were along the lines of how difficult the assignment was going to be, and how expensive, and how long it would take – in effect, he talked himself out of the job, and we hired someone else.
  • Take the wind out of someone’s sails- Nonplus or confuse someone; render someone temporarily speechless. For e.g. He used to boast rather a lot about his skill as a squash player, so it took the wind out of his sails when you beat him so decisively. 
  • Take the rap- take the punishment. For e.g. It was a major robbery, and the police are anxious to get someone to take the rap. 
  • Take soundings- Discreetly sample people’s view of something, or assess their likely reception of an idea or proposal. For e.g. Before declaring the election, you may be sure that the government took extensive soundings about the likely public response to the announcement. 
  • Take the huff- Become sulky, peevish, grumpy, etc. For e.g. He’s very sensitive, and inclined to take the huff for the slightest thing.
  • Stand on ceremony- be formal and rather rigidly polite. For e.g. He told me to relax, make myself at home and not to stand on ceremony.
  • It stands to reason- the conclusion is obvious. For e.g. It stands to reason that you won’t be a concert pianist if you don’t practise diligently.
  • Squeaky clean- completely free of any trace of moral taint. For e.g. Governments are not expected to be squeaky clean all the time, but it is unwise for them to sink too deep into a pit of sleaze.
  • Stamping ground- favoured place where one spends much time. For e.g. On Saturday nights his favourite stamping ground is a pub called the Blue Blanket.
  • Square the circle- Perform a difficult or nearly impossible task. For e.g. He has the unenviable task of squaring the circle between organising a cost-effective conference and giving delegates a memorable and enjoyable experience.
  • Spoiling for a fight- in belligerent mood, and looking for a pretext to fight. For e.g. Keep clear of Ron if the team lose their match – he’ll be spoiling for a fight. 
  • Spin doctor- Media term, meaning a public relations adviser. For e.g. The spin doctors of New Labour seem to be winning the current propaganda battle.
  • Back to/at square one- where one started. For e.g. We seemed to be making reasonable progress with our offer for the house, but now the seller has decided he doesn’t want to move after all, so we seem to be right back at square one again. 
  • Spin a yarn- fabricate a story of uncertain veracity. For e.g. I don’t know what to think of her comments – she’s always spinning some yarn or other. 
  • Sparks fly- People argue loudly and vocally. For e.g. I knew the sparks would fly when she saw the mess. 
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