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English Idioms & Idiomatic Expressions


(idioms :   ring a bell  → clean as a whistle)

ring a bell If something rings a bell, it sounds familiar, but you don't remember the exact details.
John Bentley? The name rings a bell but I don't remember him.
chime in If you chime in, you interrupt or join a conversation, especially to repeat or agree with something.
While I was explaining to the bus driver what had happened, the other passengers chimed in and gave their version.
drum (sthg) into someone's head If you teach something to someone through constant repetition, you drum it into their head.
When we were kids at school, multiplication tables were drummed into our heads.
as fit as a fiddle A person who is as fit as a fiddle is in an excellent state of health or physical condition.
My grandfather is nearly ninety but he's as fit as a fiddle.
play second fiddle If you play second fiddle to someone, you accept to be second in importance to that person, or have a lower position.
When Charles became chairman of the family business, his brother declared that he would rather leave than play second fiddle to him.
fiddling while Rome burns If you say that someone is fiddling while Rome burns, you mean that they are doing unimportant things while there are serious matters to be dealt with.
His visit to the trade fair was "fiddling while Rome burns" according to the strikers.
jazz something up If you jazz something up, you add something to try to improve it or make it more stylish.
The dress needs a scarf or a necklace to jazz it up.
all that jazz This expression means 'all that stuff', 'other similar things', or 'everything of that kind'.
Let's get out the tinsel, the fairy lights and all that jazz to decorate the Christmas tree.
music to one's ears To say that something is music to your ears means that the information you receive makes you feel very happy.
His compliments were music to my ear.
face the music When a person has to face the music, they have to accept the unpleasant consequences of their actions.
He was caught stealing. Now he has to face the music.
strike a false note If you strike a false note, you do something wrong or inappropriate.
He struck a wrong note when he arrived at the cocktail party wearing old jeans.
strike (or hit) the right note If you strike (or hit) the right note, you do something suitable or appropriate.
He struck the right note with his future mother-in-low when he brought her a book on gardening - her favourite hobby!
(sound) like a broken record Someone who says the same thing again and again sounds like a broken record.
Dad! Stop telling me to be careful when I drive. You sound like a broken record!
go for a song If something goes for a song, it is sold at an unexpectedly low price.
tickle the ivories This is a humorous way of talking about playing the piano.
My grandfather loves playing the piano. He tickles the ivories whenever he gets the chance.
call the tune The person who calls the tune makes all the important decisions and is in control of the situation.
He shows a lot of authority but in fact it's his wife who calls the tune.
sing a different tune If someone sings a different tune, they change their opinion about something or their attitude towards something.
He had no consideration for people out of work until he lost his own job; now he's singing a different tune.
fine tuning Small changes to something to improve it or make it work better are called fine-tuning.
We are still fine tuning our new website and appreciate your patience.
blow the whistle If you report an illegal or socially-harmful activity to the authorities, and give information about those responsible for it, you blow the whistle, or you are a whistle-blower.
He refused to blow the whistle on his boss for fear of losing his job.
clean as a whistle Something as clean as a whistle is extremely clean.
This can also mean that a person's criminal record is clean.
Bob spent the afternoon washing and shining his car until it was as clean as a whistle.
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