Idioms in English,
English Idioms and Expressions

"H" through "I"

Below on this page you see a partial listing of English idioms and expressions and American phrases beginning with letters "H" and "I".


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"H" through "I" begins here:
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Hair trigger
Hair-trigger

A very sensitive or easily started thing.

A hair-trigger apparatus sets itself off easily.
A person with hair-trigger temper gets angry very easily.
A hair-trigger political situation refers to an explosive political atmosphere.

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Hairpin turn

A very sharp turn.
A 180-degree turn.
A complete change.

Starting in 2005, life took a hairpin turn for me and my situation changed completely.

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Half a chance

A chance.
An opportunity.
Time for something to work.

Give him half a chance. Take it easy on him.

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Half-assed

This phrase is not a polite thing to say, but it means:
Sloppy.
Incomplete.
Incompetent.
Not done with professionalism.

A half-assed job is an incomplete or poorly done job, especially by someone lazy, or if they are not taking time to do things properly.

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Hand holding
Hand-holding

Lacking objectivity, as in:
There’s been a lot of hand holding around here. They’re letting their friendship affect their decisions.

Providing support, as in:
This is her first time away from home. She may need some hand holding.

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Hand me down
Hand-me-down

Used items, especially clothing.

Q. Hey, that’s a nice jacket. Is it new?
A. No. It’s a hand-me-down from my brother.

Also: Second-hand.

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Hand over fist
Hand-over-fist
Hand-over-foot

Fast.
Quickly.

Before the recession, everybody was making money hand over foot.

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Handing it to someone

When someone says: I’ve got to hand it to you, they mean something like:
I really have to give you credit.
You did a good job, and I admire you for it.
I appreciate the great job that you’ve done.

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Handing over

Delivering or surrendering someone or something to someone else.

Q. What did you do with the shoplifter?
A. We handed him over to the police.
Q. Are we going to do the bridge project now that we’re done with the research?
A. No. They used us to do the calculations, but then they handed the project over to our competitor!

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Handling with kid gloves
Treating with kid gloves

Handling carefully.
Treating with respect.
Handling in a gentle manner.
Trying not to disturb the original idea.

Listen. A lady will be coming here today. She represents the board of directors and should be handled with kid gloves!

Sometimes the term white gloves is used, which is a reference to performing a white-glove inspection of equipment in sensitive areas, or any inspection where dust would show on a white glove.

Girls and boys, these machines are optical equipment. Give them the white-glove treatment.

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Hands on experience

Actual experience.

He’s a good manager. He has had plenty of hands-on experience.

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Hanged for a sheep as a lamb

This is short for Might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb, which means:

If you’re going to get in trouble for stealing a small amount anyway, you might as well risk it and steal bigger things because the punishment is the same.

If you’re going to do something, do it fully. Don’t hold back. Go for the best.

Compare to:
In for a penny, in for a pound.

Background:
This expression has its roots in theft, and the penalty for it, in the old days. It basically says, if you’re going to be hanged for stealing a lamb, you might as well risk it and steal a sheep, for which you’ll also be hanged!

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Hanged, drawn, and quartered

Gone through a lot of tough times and hardship.

Compare to:
Through the wringer.

Background:
This refers to a method of execution that was practiced in England and some other European countries. Mainly it was carried out against men convicted of treason, and consisted of hanging the convicted person until nearly dead, then dragging him to another place, and then cutting him into pieces while he was still alive.

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Hanging (up) one’s hat

Settling down. Residing somewhere.

I decided to hang up my hat in San Diego a long time ago.

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Hanging by a thread
Hanging on by a thread

Not being in a strong (or stable) position.
When something is barely holding together.
Being in a situation where you rely on uncertain circumstances.

The union bosses are hanging (on) by a thread and could lose (or fail, or get destroyed, etc.) very easily at any moment.

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Hanging in there

Not giving up or losing hope.
Continuing to do what one is doing.

Q. Hi, how are you? How is life treating you?
A. Well, I’m hanging in there.

When someone says: Hang in there, Eduardo, they mean: Eduardo, keep it up. Don’t give up.

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Hanging on someone’s coattail
Riding (on) someone’s coattail

Getting a free ride to success.
Trying to benefit from associating with someone else who is at the top, or rising quickly to the top.

Q. Have you noticed how the new manager’s coattail is getting longer?
A. Sure. Ever since he married the chairman’s daughter, everybody’s trying to hang on to it!

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Hanging on someone’s every word

Listening with intensity.
Listening to, or watching, someone carefully.

When you say They’re hanging on his every word, you mean: They’re taking his words and actions very seriously, or: They’re intently thinking about everything he says, or does.

Similar:
Hanging on someone’s every move.

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Hanging out to dry

Letting someone take the blame.
Leaving someone on his (or her) own.
Abandoning someone who is in need of help.

Note:
As this is done by people who know each other, the person who’s left behind feels betrayed.

Q. Why are you so upset with me?
A. You left me hanging out to dry. You didn’t even TRY to help.

Also:
Leaving someone behind.

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Hanging up one’s gloves
Origin: Sports

Retiring.
Quitting.
Giving up.

Also:
Hanging up one’s fiddle (or one’s sword).

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Happy as a pig in mud

Very happy.

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Happy camper

A happy person.
A person who is fun to be with.
A person who is in a joyful state of mind.

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Hard dog to keep on the porch

Difficult to control.
Someone who has his (or her) own agenda.

A. I hear you’re having difficulty with Mike.
B. Yes! He’s a hard dog to keep on the porch.

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Hard to swallow
Hard pill to swallow

Unbelievable.
Difficult to accept.

You’re telling me a fantastic story! It’s a hard pill to swallow. I can’t believe your explanation.

They’ve lost their jobs, and now taxes are being raised, too. This is hard for them to swallow.

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Hat in hand

Hoping for (or expecting) a favor, sympathy, charity, etc.

I turned him down at first, but when I realized that nobody else wanted to buy my house, I went back to him, hat in hand, hoping that he would still be interested.

Background:
The origin has to do with the fact that people begging for money usually collect the donations using their hat.

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Have another thing coming

This is about:
Being mistaken.
Finding out very soon how wrong one is.

Also:
Have got another thing coming.

When someone says: If you think this is it, then you’ve got another thing coming, they mean something like: You’re quite mistaken if you think that this is the end!

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Have it coming

Deserving something.
(This has a negative connotation.)

When someone says: She had it coming, they mean something like:
She deserved it, or
It was her own fault, or
She should have expected it, or
She shouldn’t be complaining, etc.

Compare to:
Serves one right!

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Have one’s cake and eat it, too

When you say: You can’t have your cake and eat it, too, you mean something like:
You can’t do both;
It’s either this or that;
You can’t have it both ways;
You can’t always have everything; etc.

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Having a ball

Having a good time.
Being in a joyful mood.

Q. Did you go to the company party last night?
A. Oh, yes. It was great. We had a ball.

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Having a beef with someone

Having a problem, disagreement, or argument with someone.

Q. Do you have a beef with me? (Or: Have you got some beef with me?)
A. No, sir. I just have a question!

Beef also means something of value, or substance, as in:
Hey, Joe! I’ve been going over your proposal, but I don’t see anything of value in it. Where’s the beef?

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Having a bone to pick

Wanting to clarify something.
Having an issue or wanting to raise an issue with someone over something they did or said that is upsetting to you or confusing to you.

Q. Why did you start arguing with him? He was just standing there.
A. I had a bone to pick with him. He owed me money from before.

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Having a chip on one’s shoulder

Being in a fighting mood.
Looking for a fight, or wanting to be challenged.

When someone says: He has a chip on his shoulder, they mean something like:
He thinks he’s better than anybody;
He’d love to be challenged and get into a fight.

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Having a cow

Being very upset, angry, agitated, etc., about something.

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Having a lot on one’s plate

Having a lot to do.
Having a lot of things to deal with.

Q. Sergio, do you think you can also handle the hotel reservations for us?
A. I have a lot on my plate right now. I don’t think I can take on any new responsibilities!

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Having a mouth

Being vulgar.
Talking to people in a rude way.

She has a mouth on her, means: She talks to people in a rude way.

Similar:
Back-talking.
Talking back.

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Having a nose for something

Being good at something.
Understanding something, or knowing a lot about it.

I’m going to ask my brother to help me to buy a painting. He has a good nose for these things.

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Having a problem with

Not liking (or accepting) someone or something.

When someone says: Do you have a problem with that? they mean: Don’t you like it?

Note:
Depending on the way it is said, this simple question may sound like a threat!

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Having a say (in something)

Being involved (in something).
Being in a position of authority (about it).
Being allowed to say something (about it).

Opposite:
Having no say (in something).

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Having a sense of humor

Being funny.
Appreciating something humorous.
Understanding comical words or situations.

When someone says: Olga has a sense of humor, they mean:
She’s funny, or She understands my jokes, or She appreciates the comical things in life.

When someone says: Katrina doesn’t have a sense of humor, they mean:
Katrina takes things too seriously.

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Having a smooth ride

Nothing going wrong.
Everything going as planned.

Q. How was the meeting?
A. Oh, we had a smooth ride. (Or: It was a smooth ride.)

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Having a tailwind

Having help.
Having assistance.

When someone says: He arrived with a tailwind, they mean something like:
He had some help getting here, or He had help before he even got here.

Compare to:
Facing headwind.

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Having a take on something

Having an opinion.
Having a different perspective.

Q. Our new principal is really good! What do you think?
A. I have a different take on her decisions than you do.

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Having a voice
Not having a voice

Having a way of communicating with others.
Having a way of telling others about one’s activities or ideas.

I don’t have a voice, means something like:
I have no weight.
It’s like I’m invisible.
When I talk, people ignore what I say.
People don’t know about me or my ideas.
I have no way of telling people how I feel.

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Having a way with things

Having a special talent to do certain things.
Having a unique way of dealing with certain things.

A. Kids love your wife and they always behave around her!
B. I know. She has a way with kids.

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Having all (of) one’s ducks in a row

Being very organized.
Having one’s facts, paperwork, etc., in order.

I have all (of) my ducks in a row, finally, and can proceed with the case.

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Having an agenda

Having something other than the obvious in mind.
Doing things for reasons other than what is announced.

A. I don’t know why Fred is suddenly interested in helping the poor!
B. He has a personal agenda. It’s not as if he is suddenly a caring man!

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Having an axe to grind

Having a grudge.
Being unhappy or upset with someone or about something.

He has an axe to grind with his ex wife.

Also see:
Holding a grudge.

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Having an earful
Getting an earful

Having a lot to hear. (Positive.)
Getting lectured about something. (Negative.)

Used in a positive way:
There were great speakers at the meeting today! We sure got an earful.

Used in a negative way:
A. Bob, you marked up the papers wrong! You were supposed to use a red pen!
B. I know! I know! I’ve already gotten an earful about it from three other people!

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Having an edge

Having an advantage.

You should be more careful because she has an important edge over you.

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Having baggage
Coming with baggage

Having emotional problems.
Having kids or other dependents.
Having some negative characteristics.
Having a lot of problems in the past that you don’t want to deal with.
Having been in a lot of troublesome relationships with the opposite sex

Q. So, are you going to marry this guy you’ve been dating?
A. I’d love to, but it’s not simple and I have to think about it. He has a lot of baggage!

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Having catching up to do

When you say: They have a lot of catching up to do, you mean something like:
They’re behind in their work.
They haven’t seen each other for a long time and will have a lot to talk about.

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Having company

Not being alone.

When you say: We have company, you could mean something like:
We’re not alone.
Someone’s here.
We have guests.
The police are listening!

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Having currency

Being effective.
Having monetary value.
Having value or importance.

Q. Do you think we should bring Soraya with us?
A. Yes. Having her presence is like having currency.

Also see:
Carrying weight.

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Having dibs on something

Having an option on something.

I have dibs on that, means something like:
It’s mine.
I get to use it.
I have an option on that.
I will have first choice because I told everybody that I wanted it.

Also see:
First dibs.

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Having empathy

Having understanding.
Feeling and understanding other people’s pain.

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Having guts

Having courage.
Not being afraid.

When someone says: Toshiro has guts, they mean something like:
He’s brave.
He takes risks.
He speaks out.
He’s not afraid.
He says what’s on his mind.

Also:
Being gutsy.

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Having in store

Having in possession.
Having something planned or prepared for the future. (Could be negative or positive.)

A. I wonder what the economy has in store for us this year, raises or lay offs!
B. I’ll tell you in a few months.

Related:
What’s in store for us?

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Having issues

Having problems with something or someone.

Q. Is there something going on between your teams?
A. They have some issues with us, but we’re working to resolve everything soon.

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Having legs

Having credibility to stand on its own.

If a story has legs, it means that it’s supported by facts and will probably be talked about for a long time.

Q. So, do you think the Madoff story has legs?
A. Well, it sure looks like it. Too many people have been affected.

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Having long teeth

When someone says: This (discussion) has got long teeth, they mean: The discussion has gone on for a long time, much longer than it should have.

Compare to :
Having teeth.

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Having no idea

Having NO knowledge (on the subject of conversation).

Q. What will you do now?
A. I have no idea. I really don’t know.
Q. How does this work?
A. I have no idea. I don’t know anything about it. I don’t understand it.

Also:
Beats me.
Search me.
You got me.
I don’t know.
That’s beyond me.
I don’t have a clue.
I’m drawing a blank.
It’s beyond comprehension.
Your guess is as good as mine.

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Having none of it

Not taking it or accepting it.

A. Simon says if you apologize, she’ll talk to you again.
B. Apologize to Simon? I’ll have none of that. I refuse to apologize to him.

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Having one’s fingers crossed
Keeping one’s fingers crossed

Warding off evil. (A superstitious belief.)
Hoping for something to happen or not to happen. (Wishful thinking.)

I just had an interview. I had my fingers crossed most of the time throughout the interview.

Note:
Some school kids believe crossing their fingers behind their back while making a verbal promise means that they don’t have to honor their promise!

Also:
Crossed fingers.
Crossing one’s fingers.

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Having one’s work cut out

Someone having plenty of difficult work to do.

A. The director has his work cut out for him.
B. He sure has. He has all of these different and complex problems to address.

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Having second thoughts

Having doubts, as in:
I know that I said I would go on the trip with you guys, but now I’m having second thoughts about it. Sorry, I won’t be going!

Compare to:
Second thought.
On second thought.

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Having someone do something

Making, telling, ordering, arranging for, or asking someone to do something.

I’ll have my secretary call you.
Please have your brother come to my office.

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Having someone’s back

Watching someone’s back for support.
Protecting the area where one cannot see.
Supporting or protecting someone in any way.
Defending someone if someone else says something negative about them, especially if they’re not there to defend themselves.

A. Hey, Joe, I don’t know if I should do this?!
B. Go ahead. I have your back. I will help you, if necessary.

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Having something to say for oneself

Offering an excuse or explanation.

When you say: What do you have to say for yourself? you mean:
What’s your explanation?
What do you have to say in your own defense?

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Having teeth

Having power and authority.

The new civilian government has a lot of good ideas but, without the support of the military, it has no teeth to actually be able to do anything.

Compare to:
Lacking teeth.
Having long teeth.

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Having the last word

Making the final decision, as in:
Q. Are you going to buy that dream car of yours?
A. I can dream as much as I want but, as you know, my wife will have the last word!

Saying the last statement that is uttered in an argument, as in:
Whenever we argue, Suzie always has to have the last word!

Compare to:
Last word.

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Head butting
Butting heads

Power struggle.
Hitting someone’s head with one’s forehead.
Disagreeing with someone intensely about how something should be done or how things should be run.

Q. Why is there blood all over your shirt?
A. I head-butted Abraham. It turns out that his head is a lot harder than mine!

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Head on a platter

When someone says: I want Larry’s head on a platter, they mean something like:
I hate Larry;
I want him to fail;
I wish someone would hurt him, etc.

Note:
This saying could also be used jokingly!

Background:
This is a reference to John the Baptist being beheaded. His head was then brought to the king on a platter!

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Head over heels
Head-over-heels

Crazy or wild about something, usually in reference to being in love.

I’m head-over-heels in love with you, baby!

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Head start
Head-start

An advantage (over others) at the beginning of a task.

We’re so confident in our team that we’ll give you a five-minute head-start. Go ahead. We’ll wait five minute before we get going.

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Heads will roll.
Heads are going to roll.

People will get in trouble.
Someone will pay for this.
Employees will lose their job.
Players will get cut from the team.
Someone will take responsibility for this.

If the team keeps losing, heads will roll.
If we don’t get a new contract, heads are going to roll.

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Hearing someone out

Listening to someone’s side of the story.
Listening to ALL of what someone has to say.

When someone says: Hear me out, they could mean any of the following:
Let me finish.
Listen to what I have to say.
Let me tell you my side of the story.

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Heart being in the right place

Being a good person.
Having good intentions.

Q. What do you think of your noisy neighbor?
A. I don’t know him well, but I think his heart is in the right place. I don’t think he realizes how much the sound escapes from his walls.

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Heart-to-heart

Frank.
Private.
Honest.
Intimate.
A conversation that has the above characteristics.

Q. Can we talk about something personal but very important?
A. Sure. Let’s have a heart-to-heart!

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Heavens to Betsy!

This is an exclamation of shock or surprise.

Oh my god!
Good heavens!
Oh, my goodness!

Also:
Heavens to Murgatroyd!

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Heavy handed
Heavy-handed

Tough.
Someone who uses more force than necessary to persuade others.

Also:
Strong-armed.

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He’d sooner talk to them than fight.

He prefers to talk to them first, not fight.

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Heebie-jeebies

A creepy, strange feeling.

Thinking about it gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Also:
The creeps.
Creepy crawlies.

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Hell bent
Hell-bent

Determined.

She’s hell-bent on firing me. Her mind is made up. I’m telling you, she’s very serious about it.

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Hell breaking loose
All hell breaking loose

Nothing working.
Complete state of confusion happening.

Q. Do you think the government is doing okay?
A. I guess so. But if something goes wrong, all hell’s going to break loose!

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Hell, no!

No! (With emphasis, but impolite.)

Also:
No chance.
Not in your life.
Not a chance in hell.

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Here’s the thing!

Let me explain.
Here’s the story.
Here’s something you should know.

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Hill of beans

Not worth much.
Of little or no value.

Q. How much is it? Is it valuable?
A. No, it doesn’t amount to a hill of beans!

Also:
It won’t amount to anything.
It isn’t worth sh-t. (Not very polite.)
It isn’t worth a rat’s ass. (Not very polite.)

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Hindsight is 20-20.

It’s easy to complain after the fact.
If you knew then what you know now, your choice would be clear.
It’s easy to make the right decision AFTER things have happened.

A. If I hadn’t sold my ocean-view house last year, I’d be a millionaire today!
B. Yes, hindsight is twenty-twenty!

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Hit and run
Sports

A play in baseball.

Compare to:
Hit-and-run.

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Hit it!
Hit me!

When someone says: Hit me, or hit it, they could mean any of the following:
Do it.
Start it.
I’m ready.
Tell me about it.
Pour me a drink.
Deal me another card.

Also:
Bring it on.
Sock it to me.
Let me have it.

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Hit the ground running

This is about being ready, especially for a new task.

We need the new management team to hit the ground running if we want to reach our financial goals.

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Hit-and-run
Legal

A hit-and-run is when you hit someone in a vehicle (have a car accident with them), but you don’t stop to help them, to identify yourself, or to exchange insurance information. A hit-and-run accident results in a more serious punishment than if you stop, because it is actually a crime.

Compare to:
Hit and run.

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Hitting a brick wall

Running into resistance.

When someone says: I’m hitting a brick wall here, they mean something like:
I can’t go forward with this plan. My progress is being blocked.

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Hitting rock bottom

Reaching the lowest point possible.

The economy is bad, but we haven’t hit rock bottom yet. It will get even worse than this.
Some people don’t come to their senses about alcohol until they hit rock bottom. I was one of them!

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Hitting the nail on the head

Being correct about something.
Doing or saying the right thing about something.
Perfectly understanding a situation and expressing it in words to someone else.

Q. So, am I right or not?
A. You’re right. You hit the nail on the head.

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Hitting the right note

Talking about the right issue.
Doing or saying the thing that gets the right response.

A. The president’s approval ratings went up when he concentrated on creating new jobs.
B. I know. He hit the right note with that one.

Also:
Strike a chord.

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Hitting the skids

Losing control.
Getting in trouble.
Losing value or dignity.

They were in Spain before their marriage hit the skids.
Our company hit the skids when we lost our biggest client.

Similar:
On the skids.
On the way down.

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Hold that thought!

Just a minute.
Don’t forget what you were saying.

Hold that thought while I order some food.

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Holding a grudge

Not being able to forgive someone for something they’ve said or done.
Staying angry with someone, maybe even with the thought of taking revenge, long after an incident has passed.

Also see:
Having an axe to grind.

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Holding at bay
Keeping at bay

Keeping something negative away.
Keeping something volatile under control.
Keeping something harmful at a safe distance.

Pesticides are keeping the mosquito infestation at bay for now, but we need to find a long-term, permanent solution for this problem.

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Holding down a job

Keeping a job.
Being successful at having and keeping a job.

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Holding (down) the fort

Taking care of things in the absence of someone, and making sure everything’s okay.

Q. What did the prisoner tell you, detective?
A. He said not to worry, that he asked his son to hold down the fort while he was in jail!

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Holding one’s breath

Stopping everything.
Waiting in anticipation.

I know there’s going to be tax benefits for first-time home buyers, but I’m not holding my breath. I’m buying now because the government often goes back on its word.

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Holding one’s cards close
Gambling

Keeping one’s ideas, plans, feelings, etc., a secret.

Q. Why is Dimitri acting so secretive these days?
A. He likes to hold his cards close. I guess he doesn’t trust us any more.

Also see:
Close to the vest.

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Holding one’s nose

Trying to ignore the fact that one is doing something unpleasant or wrong.

When someone says: Hold your nose, but do it, they mean something like:
Do it even if you don’t like it. Force yourself to do it even if you don’t like the smell.

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Holding one’s own

Being able to handle things by oneself.

Q. Are you going with your kid brother to the meeting?
A. There’s no need. He can hold his own.

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Holding someone’s feet to the fire
Keeping someone’s feet to the fire
Putting someone’s feet to the fire

Putting someone under pressure.
Forcing, or trying to force, someone to do something.
Holding someone accountable for what they’ve done, or what they need to do to rectify a bad situation.

A. He’s not coming to my wedding.
B. I know him. You’ll have to hold his feet to the fire before he changes his mind.

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Holding the bag

Being tricked.

When someone says: I was left holding the bag, they mean something like:
They tricked me and left me to take the blame for something I didn’t do.

Compare to:
Taking the blame.
Hanging out to dry.

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Hole in one
Origin: Sports

A major success.
A success that’s achieved on the first attempt.

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Holier-than-thou attitude

Thinking of oneself as being (morally) better than others.

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Home advantage
Sports

The advantage of being, or playing, at one’s home, or home town, or home state, where you are familiar with the surroundings.

Also:
Home-field advantage.
Home-court advantage.
Home-game advantage.
Home-diamond advantage.

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Home schooling

Children being taught at home instead of going to a public school.

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Home stretch
Origin: Sports

Last part of something.
Final stage in a series of stages.
Final leg of a racetrack before the finish line.

On home stretch, could mean:
Going home;
Almost finished;
Getting close to your destination; etc.

Q. Are we on home stretch yet?
A. No, we still have a few things to do.

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Hook, line, and sinker
Origin: Sports

Completely.
The whole thing.

When someone says: We bought it hook, line, and sinker, they mean something like:
We believed the whole (false) story.

This expression is used with such verbs as buy, accept, fall for, etc. It has to do with being deceived.

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Hope floats.

Hope doesn’t go away.
Something good will happen.
Having hope gets you through a tough situation.

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Horse trader

A smart dealer.
A dishonest person.
A crook or con artist.

There’s always a lot of horse trading going on in there.

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Horsing around

Joking around.
Fooling around.
Playing around in a rough way.

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Hot button (issue)

A touchy, sensitive, or controversial issue or subject.

Oil has become as much of a hot-button political issue as health care.

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Hot headed

Crazy, irrational, headstrong, easily angered.

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Hot off the press
Fresh off the press

Just printed.
Just reported.
Just announced.

Q. Is that an old story?
A. No, it’s hot-off-the-press! I just heard it on the radio.

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Hot potato

Too hot to handle.
A controversial issue.
A risky thing to handle.
Something nobody wants to touch, handle, or get involved with.
Something you want to pass off quickly to someone else.

Q. Why do they call it a “hot potato”?
A. Try holding a hot potato in your hands, and then you’ll know!

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Hot-dogging

Showing off.
Showing a lot of excitement.

Q. Why are they dancing in the end zone?
A. They’re hot-dogging it after the touch down. I guess they’re happy.

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House of cards

Something that looks solid but is flimsy.
An unstable situation, or structure, or company that may look to be stable.

Q. Will you invest in this company?
A. No, it’s not very stable. It’s a house of cards and can fail very easily.

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How are things on your end?

How are things with you?
How are things in your area?

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How come?

Why?

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How do you like them apples?

A humorous or sarcastic way of saying:
How do you like that?
How do you feel about that?

Also see:
How does that grab you?

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How do you plead?
Origin: Legal

A legal term, which can mean any of these:
Did you do it?
Well, what do you say?
Are you guilty or innocent?

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How does that grab you?

This is a humorous or sarcastic way of saying:
How do you like that?
How do you feel about that?

Also see:
How do you like them apples?

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How will that play out?

How will it work?
What will happen?
How will it unfold?

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Humoring someone

Making someone happy.
Agreeing with someone to make up for something you did wrong.
Doing something for someone just because they asked, even if you think it’s silly.

A. He was absolutely wrong, but he wants ME to apologize!
B. Never mind if you’re right. Just humor him. He’s our guest.

You say you have a good reason for being late? Well, humor me! Tell me your reason.

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I already have a mother!

Leave me alone.
Don’t tell me what to do.

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I appreciate it.

Thank you for what you did.
I understand what you did, and I thank you.
I can understand what you went through to do it, and I thank you for it.

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I beg to differ!

I disagree.
I’m sorry, but you’re wrong.

A. I think health insurance should be provided by the government.
B. Oh, I beg to differ!

Compare to:
On the contrary.

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I can’t overemphasize this.

It’s very important.
I can’t emphasize it enough.
I can’t emphasize it any more than this.

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I can’t stand it any more.

I can’t do it any more.
I can’t handle it any more.
I can’t tolerate it any more.
I can’t put up with it any more.

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I can’t thank you enough.

Thank you very much!
No amount of thanks would be enough.

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I could eat a horse.

I’m very hungry.

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I could use some help here.

I need some help.

Similar:
The food could use some salt.
They could use some guidance.

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I couldn’t agree with you more!

I agree with you completely.
I could not agree with you more than I do.

However:
When someone says: I can’t agree with you ANY more, it means they DON’T agree with you! They’ve stopped agreeing with you.

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I couldn’t be happier.

I’m very happy.
I’m as happy as possible.

Similar:
Couldn’t be colder;
Couldn’t be less helpful;
Couldn’t be more helpful; etc.

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I couldn’t care less.

I don’t care.
I don’t care at all.
I’m not interested.

Compare to:
Who cares?

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I couldn’t have said it better myself!

I agree with you completely.
I would have said the same thing.

Also:
I couldn’t agree with you more.
I couldn’t have said it any better.

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I couldn’t help laughing.

I laughed.
I kept laughing.
I couldn’t stop myself from laughing.

Similar usage:
I can’t help crying, means: I’m crying.
I couldn’t help talking, means: I kept talking.

Another usage:
When someone says: I can’t help but think about the situation, they mean: I keep thinking about it.

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I digress.

Sorry, I went off course.
I got distracted and started talking about something else.

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I have my own share of problems.

I have problems, too, you know!

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I have your number.

You can’t fool me.
I know all about you.
I know how you think.
I know what you want.
I know what you’re after.
I know what you’re thinking about.

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I rest my case.
Legal

I’m finished arguing.
I’m not arguing any more.
I’ve said all I’m going to say about it. I have nothing more to add.

Also it is sometimes used to conclude that the speaker is right.

A. Where were you when the robbery took place?
B. I don’t remember.
A. You don’t remember? Well, I rest my case. (Which means something like: As you can see, I was right.)

Compare to:
Case closed.

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I wasn’t born yesterday.

I’m not naive.
I know how it is.
You can’t fool me.
I know what’s going on.

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I won’t touch that.

I won’t get involved with that.
I won’t talk about that subject.

Q. Do you want to work on this case?
A. No, it’s about a very controversial issue. I won’t touch it.
Q. How about this other case from yesterday?
A. That’s even worse. I wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.

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I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I’m not sorry about it.
I would do the same again.
I’m glad it happened the way it did.
I wouldn’t change it, no matter what.

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I wouldn’t do it for all the tea in China.

I won’t do it.
I will never do it.
No matter what is offered to me, I won’t do it.

Also:
I wouldn’t do it for anything.
I wouldn’t do it for the world.

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I wouldn’t do it.

Don’t do it.
You shouldn’t do it.
If I were you, I wouldn’t do it.
I don’t recommend that you do it.
If you’re asking me, then don’t do it.

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I’d kill him with a dull axe!

I really hate him.
I want him to suffer.

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I’ll be damned if ...

The following examples show when someone wants to strongly, and rudely, object to doing (or having done) something:

I’ll be damned if I go there, means something like:
I definitely won’t go there!

I’ll be damned if I knew, means something like:
I really didn’t know!

Similar:
Hell if I do it!
Damned if I do it!

A semi-humorous response would be something like:
You may very well be damned, but you still have to do it!

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I’ll shake the dust from this town fast.

I’ll forget about it quickly.

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I’ll take that as a "No."

I’ll understand that your answer is No.
Then your answer is No. Is that right?

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I’m afraid ...

An expression of concern.

When someone says: I’m afraid so, they mean something like:
I’m sorry, but that’s true;
I’m sorry to say that what you’re saying is true.

I’m afraid it’s going to explode, means something like:
I’m sorry to say that it’s going to explode.
I have a bad feeling that it’s going to explode.

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I’m done.

I give up.
I’m leaving.
I’m finished.

Also, related and humorous:
Stick a fork in me! I’m done.

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I’ve had it up to here!

This is used (usually while motioning to one’s eyes or over their head) to show one’s frustration with someone or something.

When someone says: I’ve had it up to here with them, they mean something like:
I’m sick of them;
I’m tired of them;
I’m fed up with them;
I don’t want to deal (or work) with them anymore; etc.

Also:
I’ve had it up to my eyeballs.
I’m up to my eyeballs in this mess.

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I’ve stepped on better things than him!

He’s a low-life.
He’s a scumbag.
He has a very low personality.

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Ice water in one’s veins

This has to do with:
Being cold.
Having no emotions.
Being very coldhearted.

Q. If you need money that much, why don’t you ask for an advance?
A. You don’t know my boss. He has ice water in his veins!

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Identifying oneself

Introducing oneself.
Making one’s identity known to others.

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Identifying with someone

Being similar to them and/or understanding them or their situation.

The reason our candidate lost is that most people could not identify with him.

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If I had a dollar for every pen I’ve lost, I’d be a rich man!

I’ve lost a lot of pens in my life!

Similar:
If I had a dollar for every idea I’ve had, ...
If I had a penny for every song I’ve written, ...
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been rejected by an ugly woman, etc.

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If I may say so

This is a nice way of expressing your opinion, even if no one is asking for it. It sounds as if you’re asking someone’s permission to do so (although you’re not, because you’re doing it anyway) and it makes your unsolicited advice or opinion sound less offensive.

When someone says: If I may say so, it’s getting late, they mean something like:
May I say something? It’s getting late.
Forgive me for saying this, but it’s getting late.
I know you don’t care how I feel about it, but I think it’s getting late!

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If I told you once, I told you twice!

I’ve told you many times!
If I told you once, I told you twice. I don’t want you to drive my car!

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If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen!

If you can’t handle it, then don’t do it.
If you can’t handle the stress, then don’t take on a tough job.

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If you will

If you are willing.
If you feel that way.
If that’s how you want to look at it.

This expression can be used to allow the listener to play a role in accepting the speaker’s choice of words or to imagine what the speaker is trying to convey.

Think of her as your friend, if you will.
I was feeling very sick, afraid of dying if you will, so I stayed home.

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Ill will

Bad feelings.
Feelings of hostility.
Privately wishing someone misfortune.

The initial secrecy by her husband toward her created some of the ill will between them.

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In a blink
In the blink of an eye

Quickly.
Very fast.

In this dry weather you can lose your house to a fire in the blink of an eye.

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In the hole

Financially in trouble, or in debt, as in:
I’m always in the hole, which is why I can’t go on a vacation.

Loss of money, as in:
Because of this deal I’m $500 in the hole.

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In a nutshell

Summing things up.
Summarizing something.

A. I’m in a hurry. Please put it in a nutshell for me.
B. In a nutshell, I’m late because my car broke down!

Related:
Tell me (or give it to me) in a nutshell.

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In a pickle

In a mess.
In extremely bad shape.
In a tough situation that may not be easy to get out of.

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In a roundabout way

In an indirect way.

Q. Did Lalainia tell you how she will vote?
A. Well, she said it in a roundabout way. So, I’m not really sure what she’ll do!

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In chief

The top person.
The top person in each field.

Editor-in-chief;
Financier-in-chief;
Commander-in-chief; etc.

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In deep sh-t

This expression (which is not polite) means:
In trouble.
Under pressure.
In a messy situation that’s not easy to get out of.

Q. Have you seen the test results?
A. Yes. We’re in deep sh-t!

Also see:
In hot water.

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In effect

Effectively, or for all practical purposes, as in:
She is my wife. In effect, she is my boss!

Enforced, or observed, as in:
The cell phone law is in effect in San Diego. So, they’d better not catch you using your cell phone while driving!

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In for a penny, in for a pound

This is about making investment decisions. It basically says: If you’re taking a risk, you might as well go all the way; don’t stop halfway.

Compare to:
Hanged for a sheep as a lamb.

Background:
The original English saying is: If you owe a penny, you might as well owe a pound. (Because the punishment for both is the same.)

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In for the long haul
In it for the long haul

Will not back out.
Deeply committed and involved.
Will stay with the project until it’s completed.
Involved in something that will take a long time to finalize.

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In hindsight

When one looks back.

When someone says: In hindsight, we didn’t do it right, they mean something like:
Now that I think about it, I realize we really screwed up!
If I knew then what I know now, I would have done it differently!

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In hot water

In trouble.
Under pressure.

Political scandals have landed several public figures in hot water.

Also see:
In deep sh-t. (Not a polite thing to say.)

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In its entirety

In its complete form.

If you just wait a minute, I’ll tell you the story in its entirety.

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In knots (over something)

Confused, twisted, worried, troubled, etc., because of something.

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In light of

Considering.

In light of your numerous mistakes, I’m reconsidering the extent of your future participation in our activities!

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In one piece

Alive.
Okay.

Q. We just want to know if our son is in one piece. Will you let us know?
A. Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson. We’ll let you know as soon as we hear anything new.

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In one’s element

In an enjoyable environment.
In an area someone has expertise in.
In familiar or comfortable surroundings.

Q. Are you a comedian first, or an actor?
A. I’m really a comedian. Of course, I can act, but I’m not in my element when I do so.

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In one’s hair

Annoying one.
Not leaving one alone.

Q. Why are you always mad at my brother?
A. He’s constantly in my hair. (Or: He constantly gets in my hair.) He doesn’t leave me alone!

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In one’s heart of hearts

Deep down in one’s heart.
Something you know in your heart, but you don’t necessarily talk about.

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In one’s own right

Because of one’s own ability, skills, accomplishments, etc.

When someone says: Zoobinshid deserves praise in his own right, they mean: We must give him credit for what he’s accomplished himself, and on his own.

Similar:
I know that Jane Fonda is Henry Fonda’s daughter, but she’s a great actor in her own right.

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In one’s shell

Quiet.
Not open.
Keeping to oneself.

He’s a powerful speaker but, as soon as someone wants him to talk about his feelings, he goes into his shell. Can you believe that?

Also:
Clamming up.
Staying in one’s shell.

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In police custody
Legal

In jail.
Under arrest.

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In short

Briefly.
Without going into details.

Q. So, how was your trip?
A. In short, I’m lucky to be alive!

Similar:
Long story short.
To make a long story short.

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In someone’s corner
Origin: Sports

Protective of someone.
Supportive of someone.
In agreement with someone.
Defending someone or their ideas.
Willing to fight for someone else or their honor, beliefs, ideas, etc.

Q. Is Masako in our corner?
A. Yes. She said that she agrees with us!

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In the hot seat
On the hot seat

Being faced with questions that one doesn’t want to answer.
Being held accountable for something that one has said or done.

Faced with questions about his personal indiscretions, the senator is finding himself in the hot seat.

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In the interest of justice
Legal

For justice.
If justice is to be served.

When someone says: In the interest of justice, he should be imprisoned, it means:
If you want justice, he should go to jail;
If justice is to be done, he should go to jail.

Based on the new DNA evidence, we must put him in jail in the interest of justice.

Similar:
For the sake of justice.

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In the long run
In the short run

Considering the distant, or near, future.

Providing education for our children will benefit us in the long run. In the short run, however, it will obviously hurt us because of its cost.

Also see:
Long term.
Short term.

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In the moment

Under the influence of what’s happening at the moment.

When someone says: I’m in the moment, they mean something like:
I’m focusing on what’s going on right now; no past regrets, or future worries.

When someone says: I was caught up in the moment, or: I was acting in the heat of the moment, they mean something like:
I did what I don’t usually do;
I didn’t know what I was doing;
I was affected by what was happening at the time; etc.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

In the public eye

In public.
In public view.
In front of every body.
Where it will be public knowledge.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

In the red

Being in debt.
Owing money.
Losing money.

Our company has been operating in the red for the last five years.

Opposite:
In the black.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

In the tank

Ruined.
In bad shape.

The economy as a whole is in the tank and commercial real estate is, of course, no exception.

Also:
Tanked. Tanking.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

In the tank for someone

On someone’s side.

The news media were accused of being in the tank for the new candidate from Michigan.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

In the toilet

In very bad shape, physically, mentally, financially, or otherwise.

Our company is in the toilet, which is why we’re filing for bankruptcy.

Also:
In the basement.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

In touch

Involved in communication.
Maintaining contact with someone.
Having an understanding of the situation.

When someone says: I’m in touch with Freddy, they mean:
We call each other, we sometimes meet, etc.

When someone says: I’m in touch with our community, they mean something like:
I know how people feel, what their problems are, etc.

When someone says: Keep (or stay) in touch, they mean:
Don’t stop communicating with me!

Compare to:
Up-to-date.
Up-to-speed.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

In tow

Together.
Pulled behind.
Under protection.

My sister came here with her kids in tow.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

In tune with

In agreement with.

I’m definitely in tune with my wife’s feelings. I can tell when she’s had a bad day before she even says anything.

Also:
In harmony.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

In witness protection
In the Witness Protection Program
Legal

Hiding or living in an undisclosed location, with the help of the government, and with a new identity.

Similar:
In protective custody.
Under police protection.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Inflated ego

Feeling of self-importance.
Having too much self confidence, excessively bragging about one’s accomplishments, being conceited.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Ins and outs

Details.
Specifics.
Characteristics.

Q. Are you new here?
A. Yes. I’ve just started working, and I don’t know the ins and outs of the system yet.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Inside the box
Inside-the-box

This has to do with:
Old ways.
Traditional ways.

Doing things, or thinking, within the usual and commonly accepted ways.

When someone says: I want you to stop thinking inside-the-box, they mean something like: I want you to become more creative, and think of new alternatives.

Compare to:
Outside-the-box.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

In-your-face (attitude)

When someone says: She has an in-your-face attitude, they mean something like:
She is uncompromising.
She always wants to fight.
She doesn’t want to give up anything.
She’s unafraid of what you might say or do.

Also:
All-up-in-your-face attitude.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

IOU

This is an abbreviation for:
I Owe yoU.

A note promising to pay someone something.

Hey, Joe, all you have to do is give him an IOU, and you’ll owe him for the rest of your life!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.
It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.
It ain’t over until the fat lady sings.

Wait until it’s finished.
It’s not finished until I tell you.
It’s not finished until it’s completely finished.

A. The game is almost over. I guess we’ve lost again.
B. No! Let’s wait. It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It didn’t cross my mind.
It never crossed my mind.

I didn’t think of it.

Q. Didn’t you think about calling her and telling her that she was in danger?
A. No, sir, that thought didn’t cross my mind!

Also see:
It never occurred to me.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It goes without saying.

It is accepted.
It is understood.
Everyone knows it.
There’s no need to say it.

Also:
It is needless to say.

A. It goes without saying that college graduates make more money than us.
B. Why do you say it then?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It got me thinking.

It made me think.
It made me start to think.

Similar:
It got me working means: It made me work.
It got me running means: It made me run.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It has its blessings.

There are certain good things about it.

A. One thing good about smoking is that people don’t get too close to you during breaks.
B. Sure. Smoking has its blessings!

Similarly:
It has its problems.
It has its disadvantages.
It has its ups and downs.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It jives.

It makes sense.

Q. You don’t believe me?
A. There’s something wrong with your story. It just doesn’t jive!

Also:
It (all) adds up.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It leaves much to be desired.

It’s very bad.
It’s very unsatisfactory.
Your son’s behavior leaves much to be desired. Actually, it reminds me of yours!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It never occurred to me.

I never thought of that.
It never occurred to me that my own friends would desert me!

Also see:
It didn’t cross my mind.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It pays to do something.

It’s worth doing it.

Q. Do I really have to follow these rules?
A. Yes, it pays to follow them if you want to get ahead in this company.
Q. Does it pay to go to college?
A. Of course it does. If you don’t, you might end up like me!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It spells something.

It signals something.
It’s a sign of something.

A. Our teenage sons are home by themselves this weekend while we’re here on a trip.
B. Two teenagers, an empty house, and parents on a trip. That spells trouble!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It sucks.

It’s bad.
I hate it.

Q. Don’t you hate it when you have a flat tire on a rainy day?
A. Yes! It sucks!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It takes two to tango.

It takes two people to do it.
Two people are needed to do this task.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It won’t do.
That won’t do.

It won’t work.
It isn’t enough.
It isn’t the right one.
It isn’t good enough.
It isn’t good for this job.

A. I’m sorry I didn’t call you, but I’ll come in tomorrow and work overtime.
B. No, that won’t do. You’re fired!

Also:
It won’t cut it.
It will never do.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It’s a lot of dough.

It’s a lot of money, or it costs a lot of money.

Similarly:
It’s a lot of glue, ice cream, coffee, etc.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It’s a mouthful.

It’s difficult to say.
It’s difficult to pronounce.

Also, the word mouthful used with say means “a profound statement” as in:
For his age, he said a mouthful.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It’s a tie.
It’s a draw.
Sports

In a sporting event, when someone says: It’s a tie, or it’s a draw, they mean: The two sides have equal scores.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It’s a wash.
Call it a wash.

When someone says: It’s a wash, or Call it a wash, they mean something like:
You’re even.
You’re back where you started.
You’ve gained as much as you’ve lost.
You didn’t really gain anything, and you didn’t really lose anything.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It’s all Greek to me.

It’s unfamiliar to me.
I don’t understand it.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It’s the “X” that counts.

The answer is “X.”
“X” is the important thing.
It’s the “X” that makes a difference.

Examples:
It’s the “spirit” that counts.
It’s the “money” that counts.
It’s the “winning” that counts.
It’s the “end result” that counts.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It’s a wrap.
Origin: Movie industry

We’re done.
It is finished.

It’s a wrap, we can go home now.

Also:
Wrap it up, means something like: Stop what you’re working on, put everything away, and get ready to go home.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


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