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Colloquial English Idioms

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Colloquial 

English 

Idioms

FOREWORD

The aim of this book is to supply a number of colloquial English idioms classified, explained and illustrated by examples drawn mainly from modern English and American authors. It will be noticed that the term "idiom" is used here in its broader sense, embracing both idioms proper and so-called "non-idiomatic" word groups. Only colloquial phrases are included in the book; a few idioms marked "slangy" are more for recognition than actual use. W. Ball's classification of colloquial idioms (see below), though greatly changed, is partially used in this book. 

The definitions and explanations are taken mainly from the following sources: 

1. The Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current 

English, by A. S. Hornby, E. V. Gatenby, H. Wakefield,  

2. A Concise Dictionary of English Slang, by W. Freeman. 

3 A Practical Guide to Colloquial Idiom, by W. J. 

Ball. 

4. English Idioms and How to Use Them, by 

W McMordie 

5. English Idioms for Foreign Students, by A. J.Worrall. 

 

 

DIFFICULTIES AND TROUBLE 

 

A general phrase for "(to be) in difficulties or trouble" is: (to be) up against it - (to be) confronted by formidable difficulties or trouble 

"Well, old girl, "she murmured, "you're up against 

it this time, and no mistake." (K. M.) 

You were a brick to me when I was up against 

it. (J. G.) 

We are properly up against it here, Chris. We've paid out every stiver we've got. (A. C.) 

(To be) in for it (trouble) is similarly used, meaning (to be) involved in trouble. 

He grabbed the knob and pulled vigorously. It had closed. Heavens! He was in for it now, sure enough. (Th. D.) 

Quickly I got in before Brown and said they might be in for another kind of trouble. (C. S.) If you break the school windows, you'll be in for trouble. (A. H.) 

Having (getting into) trouble (difficulties) is colloquially 

expressed by these phrases: 

(to be) in a jam - (to be) in a difficulty or in an awkward 

situation 

Well, Dad, I'm in a bit of a jam again. (J. M.) Connie was all right. She'd been in plenty of jams herself. She wouldn't turn up her nose. (N. C.) He was in a bit of a jam, that was all. (N. C.) 

(to be) in a fix - in a difficulty (or dilemma) 

Then she'ld be in just the same old fix, only worse. (H. W.) 

 

His cart has stuck in the river, so that he is in a bad fix. (W. M.) 

I should like to see the fix I'd be in in this house if I started laying down that law. (L. A.) 

to be in (get into) a scrape - to be in (get into) trouble 

(difficulty) 

She perceived she was in a scrape, and tried in vain to think of a way of escape. (H. W.) If he'd get into a scrape, or break his leg. (J. G.) I'll do anything you like to help you out of the scrape if you're in one. (H. W.) 

(to be) in a hole - (to be) faced with what appears to be a disastrous difficulty, an insurmountable trouble 

You'd think to judge from the speeches of the "leaders", that the world had never been in a hole before. The world's always in a hole, only in the old days people didn't make a song about it. (J. G.) 

(to be) in the soup (cart) - (to be) in disastrously serious trouble 

What if she declared her real faith in Court,  

and left them all in the soup! (J. G.) 

"He's got himself properly in the soup, he has, " 

he said thickly. (N. C.) 

"No good crying before we're hurt, " he said,  

"the pound's still high. We're good stayers." 

"In the soup, I'm afraid." (J. G.) 

"Now we're really in the cart, " she said. (A. Chr.) 

(to be) in hot water or to get into hot water - to have (get into) trouble, especially as the result of foolish behaviour 

You'll get into hot water if you type the wrong addresses on the envelopes again. (W. B.) It often happens that a young wife is in hot water as long as her mother-in-law lives in the same house. (W. M.) 

 

The schoolmaster got into hot water with the Inspector for taking part in political meetings. (W. M.) 

(to be, get into) in deep water - undergoing difficulty or misfortune 

He looked and looked, and the longer the situation lasted the more difficult it became. The little shop-girl was getting into deep water. (Th. D.) 

(to be) in a mess - (to be) in trouble 

Uncle, you're so renowned for dropping your best pals when they're in a mess. (J. G.) ... - if ever the story breaks you're in a worse mess than ever, aren't you? (C. S.) 

to catch it - to get into trouble; to receive censure or blame 

The new boss is a terror. You'd better watch your step or you'll catch it. (W. B.) 

The sharing of difficult or adverse circumstances is commented upon by the following phrase:

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