Idioms – Part 8

Idioms: Wall

‘Germany had been unbeaten in the group stages and easily beat the Greeks in the quarter-final but they finally hit the wall in the semi-final when they came up against an inspired Italian side’. In this sense, the team reached the point where they were physically or mentally unable to make further progress. Marathon runners often hit the wall after 35 or so kilometres of the 42-kilometre race.

If you come up against a brick wall or run into a brick wall, you reach a point in a process where you encounter problems that seem impossible to solve, as in ‘We’ve been trying to find a way round the planning regulations but I’m afraid we’ve come up against a brick wall‘.

If a business goes to the wall, it fails or goes bankrupt, as in ‘No-one was surprised when the company finally went to the wall‘, but if you go up the wall, you get very angry, as in ‘He went up the wall when he heard how much he would have to pay for the damage to his neighbour’s car’. If something drives you up the wall, it annoys you intensely, as in ‘Can you turn that music down? It’s driving me up the wall!’

If someone does not listen or react when you say something to them, you can say that it is like talking to a brick wall, as in ‘I’ve tried to discuss it with him but it’s like talking to a brick wall‘.

The expression these four walls is used to talk about the room that you are in, as in ‘This is strictly confidential. It mustn’t go beyond these four walls‘.


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Idioms: Way

‘They went out of their way to make us welcome’. If you go out of your way to do something, you make an extra effort, even though it is not easy or convenient to do so. If things have come a long way, they have made a lot of progress or improved greatly over a period of time, as in ‘Aircraft safety has come a long way since the 1950s’. This expression is normally only used in the perfect tenses.

If you have a way with someone or something, you have a special connection or relationship, as in ‘Ruperthas a way with words. I always enjoy listening to his talks’ or ‘She has a way with animals. They always seem to like her’. When people do something in a big way, they do it a lot or think it is important, as in ‘Paul was into sailing in a big way. He spent every weekend out on the water’.

The expression in no way, shape or form is used to emphasize that something is not true or possible, as in ‘This government is in no way, shape or form responsible for the mess that we find ourselves in’.

To emphasize that something is definitely true, the expression no two ways about it can be used, as in ‘Let’s face it. The government is responsible, no two ways about it‘. The expression it’s always the way can be used to say that something always happens in a way that is annoying, as in ‘It’s always the way, isn’t it? You forget your umbrella and it starts raining’.

Idioms: Weight

‘We are very fortunate at this football club to have a manager who is worth his weight in gold‘. This means that the person in question is extremely useful or valuable. The same idiom can be applied to inanimate objects too, as in ‘To a translator, a good dictionary can be worth its weight in gold‘.

If you pull your weight, you do your fair share of work or your fair share of a particular task. The expression is more commonly used in the negative, as in ‘He simply wasn’t pulling his weight, so he had to go’. If something carries weight, it has a lot of influence, as in ‘Her opinions carry considerable weight with the president’, and if you throw your weight behind something, you use your reputation or influence to support a person or ideas, as in ‘The prime minister is throwing his full weight behind the proposals’.

If you throw your weight around, however, you use your authority or influence in an unreasonable or unpleasant way, as in ‘As soon as he took over the department, he started throwing his weight around‘ or ‘I wish you’d stop throwing your weight around all the time’.

 A weight off your mind is something that you no longer have to worry about, as in ‘After several weeks of worry, the verdict is a huge weight off my mind‘. If you take the weight off your feet, you sit down and have a rest, as in ‘Come on in and take the weight off your feet. I’ll make you a cup of coffee’.



Idioms: Wits

The plural noun wits is defined as ‘your ability to think quickly and make sensible decisions’. If you are at your wits end, you are so worried and tired because of your problems that you cannot think of any more ways of solving them, as in ‘Supporters of the badger cull say farmers are already at their wits end as more and more cattle are diagnosed with bovine tuberculosis’.

If you keep your wits about you, you remain alert to any dangers that might befall you, as in ‘Remember tokeep your wits about you at all times in a city as dangerous as this one’. If you scare or frighten the wits out of someone or scare or frighten someone out of their wits, you make them extremely frightened, as in ‘We were stuck down in the cellar and then all the lights went out. I was scared out of my wits‘.

If you pit your wits against someone, you use all of your intelligence to try to defeat that person, as in ‘Last week’s champion is going to pit her wits against a new challenger in the latest edition of the quiz programme’. A battle of wits is a contest in which a superior strategy and superior mental strength will decide the outcome, as in ‘The race for the title has turned into a battle of wits between two equally determined contestants’.

If you live off or by your wits, you are very poor but you manage to get all the things you need by being very clever, as in ‘A lot of kids are thrown onto the streets where they have to live off their wits‘.


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