Colloquial English Idioms

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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.


4. English Idioms and How to Use Them, by

W McMordie

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


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


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


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.)

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