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English Idioms & Idiomatic Expressions

Alphabetical List - C 

(Idioms C page 2  :  paddle one's own canoe  →  carrot and stick)

paddle one's own canoe If you paddle your own canoe, you do what you want to do without help or interference from anyone.
He decided to paddle his own canoe and set up his own company.
can't for the life of me This expression can be used to say that it is impossible for you
to do something, no matter how hard you try.
I can't for the life of me remember the title of the book.
can't hold a candle If one person (or thing) can't hold a candle to another, they are much less competent or do not perform as well as the other.
John is very intelligent but he can't hold a candle to his brother Paul when it comes to sports.
can't make head or tail of If you can't make head or tail of something, you can't understand it at all.
Amy's message was so confusing.  I couldn't make head or tail of it!
can't make omelette
without breaking eggs
This expression means that it is impossible to make important changes without causing some unpleasant effects.
Some people will lose their jobs after the merger, but you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.
can't see the wood for the trees If someone can't see the wood for the trees, they are so concentrated on the details that they can't see the situation as a whole.
The new manager found the situation so complicated that he couldn't see the wood for the trees.
can't stand the pace If you can't stand the pace, you are unable to do things well when there is a lot of pressure.
She once worked for a famous fashion designer but she couldn't stand the pace.
cap in hand If you do something cap in hand, you ask for something in a very respectful manner.
They went to the teacher, cap in hand, and asked for more time to complete their project.
if the cap fits wear it You can say 'if the cap fits, wear it' to let someone know that the critical remark they have just heard applies to them.
"Are you referring to me?" "If the cap fits, wear it!"
put on your thinking cap If you tell someone to put their thinking cap on, you ask them to find an idea or solve a problem by thinking about it.
Now here's this week's quiz;  it's time to put your thinking caps on!
on/in the cards Something which is on the cards it very likely to happen.
A coalition between the two parties is still on the cards.
play your cards right If you play your cards right, you do all that is necessary in order to succeed or to obtain what you want.
If we play our cards right, we'll get the contract.
put/lay one's cards on the table If you put your cards on the table, you speak honestly and openly about your feelings and intentions.
It was time for me to put my cards on the table and reveal my true feelings.
carrot and stick If you use a carrot-and-stick approach, you use the promise of reward and the threat of punishment to make someone work harder.
Some parents use a carrot-and-stick approach to obtain good results from their children.
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Alphabetical Lists C:
C1 C2 C3 C4 C5 C6 C7 C8 C9 C10 C11 C12 C13 C14 C15 C16 C17
 more alphabetical lists ...