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English Idioms & Idiomatic Expressions


Intelligence - Understanding

(Idioms page 4 : not miss a trick  → sharp as a tack)

not miss a trick If a person never misses a trick, they are very alert and aware of everything that is happening around them.
The old lady next door will know if Bill is there or not - she never misses a trick!
not playing with a full deck (of cards) Someone who is not playing with a full deck (of cards) lacks intelligence or does not have full mental abilities.
Old Mrs.Whitehead was not playing with a full deck when she bought that fancy lawnmower!
not the brightest bulb in the box

not the sharpest knife in the drawer

not the sharpest tool in the shed

‘Sharp’ and ‘bright’ both mean ‘clever’ or ‘intelligent’.
These are a few of the expressions used to say that someone is not very intelligent. There are many others.

Max has failed the exam for the third time!
He's obviously not the brightest bulb in the box!


Nobody was surprised when Johnny misunderstood the message.
We all know he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer!
muddy the waters If you muddy the waters, you make something less clear by giving confusing information.
I had difficulty understanding, and Alan's explanation just muddied the waters!
no-brainer A decision or choice that requires little or no thought, because the best option is so obvious, is called a no-brainer.
The choice was between a cash refund or having the amount credited to my account - it was a no-brainer.  I took the cash!
out of your depth If you are out of your depth, you are unable to understand a subject or deal with a situation because it is too difficult for you.
The level of the class was too high for me, so very quickly I felt out of my depth.
out to lunch To say that someone is out to lunch means that they seem to be either unaware of what's going on around them, or unable to understand what is happening.
He's hopeless as a leader - considererd as 'out to lunch' by the group.
penny drops When a person has difficulty understanding or realizing something, and then the penny drops, they finally understand.
The teasing continued for some time until the penny dropped and the boy realized it was a joke!
put two and two together A person who can put two and two together is capable of reaching the right conclusion based on the information they have.
Forget your explanation.  She won't believe you.  She can put two and two together!
quick off the mark If someone is quick off the mark, they are quick to react to an event or take advantage of an opportunity.
You've got to be quick off the mark when stores announce special offers.
quick/slow on the uptake Someone who is quick or slow on the uptake is quick or slow to understand what is meant.
Please explain the problem in simple words - I'm a bit slow on the uptake!
rocket science If you say 'it's not rocket science' or 'no need to be a rocket scientist', you are emphasizing that something presents no major difficulty.
Bob will explain how it works.  Don't worry - it's not rocket science!
sharp cookie Someone who is not easily fooled or deceived is a sharp cookie.
You can't fool my grandmother.  She's a sharp cookie!
sharp as a tack A person who is as sharp as a tack is able to think quickly and learn very fast.
You won't have to explain it to him twice.  He's as sharp as a tack.
   
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