Teaching Idioms,
English Idioms and Expressions

"P" through "R"

We love teaching idioms in English. If you know of more idioms and expressions that you don't see here, please let us know. Below on this page you see a partial listing of English idioms and expressions and American phrases beginning with letters "P" through "R".


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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


"P" through "R" begins here:
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Packing a punch
Origin: Sports

Having a powerful punch.
Having a lot of power or influence.

Hey, your kid brother really packs a punch. I’m still dizzy!

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Page turner
Page-turner

An interesting book or other written material that is SO interesting, you cannot wait to see what will happen next, like this one! You cannot wait to turn the page.

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Pain in the neck

Annoying.

When someone says: He’s a pain in the neck, they mean something like:
He’s annoying;
He bothers me;
He gets on my nerves; etc.

Also:
A thorn in the side.
A pain in the you know what.
A pain in the ass, or in the butt. (Not polite.)

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Painting oneself into a corner

Getting oneself into a situation that is difficult or impossible to get out of.

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Painting someone as something

When you say: He paints her as a good mother, you mean something like:
He says she’s a good mother.
He talks about her (describes her) as if she’s a good mother.

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Pants off

The following examples show how this phrase is used to emphasize a point.

When someone says: I can cook the pants off anybody, they mean: I can cook much better than anybody.

When someone says: He scared the pants off me, they mean: He really scared me.

When someone says: She wants to sue the pants off me, they mean: She wants to sue me for everything I have.

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Paper pusher

An office worker.
A government official without power.
One who does paper work at the office.

Q. Is this guy a manager or something?
A. No, he’s just a paper pusher, stuffing envelopes all day.

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Partisanship ends at waters edge.

When politicians travel to other countries, their political opponents should stop criticizing them. Politicians should stand in unity on controversial issues while abroad.

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Party favors

Interesting little things (provided by the host) that you take with you from a party, such as hats, paper plates, plastic utensils, etc.

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Pass muster

Pass the test.
Meet the requirements.

When someone says: I couldn’t pass muster, they mean something like: I didn’t qualify, or I didn’t meet the standards.

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Passing for

Being accepted as someone (or something) that one is not.

Hermann passed for a famous doctor for several years until he got sick!

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Passing resemblance

Little resemblance.

Soobie bears a passing resemblance to her mother, means: She looks a little like her mother.

Manuchehr has MORE than a passing resemblance to Lorne Greene, means: Manuchehr looks a lot like Lorne Greene.

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Passing with flying colors

Passing an exam with very high marks.
Doing very well, as in a test, presentation, etc.

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Pat on the back

Gratitude, encouragement for a job well-done, as in:
You don’t deserve a pat on the back yet. You haven’t done anything!

Related: Pat oneself on the back, as in:
You guys have done such a great job. You should pat yourselves on the back!

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Patience running thin
Patience wearing thin

Losing patience.

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Paying through the nose

Paying a huge amount for something; a very high price; etc.

Q. Hey, do you have medical insurance?
A. I wish I did. I’m paying through the nose for the medical services I receive!

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Pea brain
Pea-brain
Pea-brained

Stupid.
Someone whose brain is implied to be the size of a pea.

Whose pea-brained idea was this anyway?

Who is the pea-brained moron standing in the middle of the street in rush-hour traffic?

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Peanuts

Very little.

Q. How much are you getting paid at this job?
A. Peanuts!

Also see:
Next to nothing.

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Penny for your thoughts

This is short for I’ll give you a penny for your thoughts, which means: What’s on your mind? What are you thinking about?

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Penny pincher

Stingy.
One who doesn’t spend money easily.

Q. Should we ask your brother to help us with the gas money?
A. No, he’s such a penny pincher. He won’t give us anything.

Also:
Tight pocket.
Tight with money.

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Perception trumps facts.

This is a sarcastic expression, which implies:
Seeing is believing;
People believe what they see;
Perception is stronger than facts;
People believe their eyes without considering the facts; etc.

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Perp walk
Legal

Sometimes the police take suspects to a public place (while in handcuffs and prison clothing) in order for reporters to observe, or even interview them. The practice is called perp walk and the idea is to socially humiliate a perp, or perpetrator, and to discourage other potential perpetrators.

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Pet project

A favorite project.
Not a typical, work related project.
A project that has a special meaning to a person.

Q. What is Joe’s pet project these days?
A. Oh, he’s still restoring his old 1966 Mustang.

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Petering out

Diminishing, waning.
Becoming less and less.
Running out of something.
Running short on something.
Not having enough of something.

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Picking a fight

Starting a fight, argument, quarrel, etc.

Compare to:
Picking one’s battles.

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Picking one’s battles
Choosing one’s battles

Choosing fights, arguments, issues, etc., that you know you will win.

One should be picking one’s battles wisely.

Compare to:
Picking a fight.

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Picking someone’s brain

Asking someone questions.
Getting ideas from someone.

After I picked her brain long enough, I knew what she was talking about.

Hey Joe, let me pick your brain. Do you know if we ever worked on the 747 nose section?

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Picking up on something

Getting the message, usually without talking about it.

I didn’t really want to go to the party. Fortunately my wife quickly picked up on that and came up with an excuse.

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Picking up steam

Getting better or stronger.

It’s only two months into the campaign, and his campaign is already picking up steam!

Also:
Gaining strength.
Gaining momentum.

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Picking up the pieces

Getting back, or trying to get back, to normal.

First it was the fire, then the mudslide, and now the earthquake. We’ve lost almost everything! But we’re picking up the pieces and moving on.

Also see:
Moving on.

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Picturing something

Imagining something.
Getting a mental picture of something.

Picture this: Sicily, 1932. It’s winter, there’s snow everywhere, and Sophia is waiting.

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Pissing someone off!

Making people angry. (Not polite.)

Q. Why don’t you care about Kenyata? I think he’s a nice guy.
A. I’m sure he is, but he pisses me off! As a matter of fact he pissed me off today and he also pissed me off yesterday!

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Planting evidence
Legal

Putting certain items in a place to make someone look guilty, or involved, in relation to a crime.

Q. Are you upset that your client was found guilty?
A. Of course I am. He’s innocent! He was found guilty because of planted evidence.

Related:
Being set up, or being framed.

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Play ball
Origin: Sports

To go along with what others are doing, especially if you don’t like it.

A. I hate those guys. They’re so arrogant. I don’t want to do business with them.
B. I want you to play ball with them. They can make your career soar.

Similar:
Be a team player.

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Play it by ear.

Be spontaneous.
Act without plans.
Act according to the existing conditions.
See what happens, and act accordingly.

Q. So, how are we going to do this?
A. Well, I’m going to play it by ear for a while until I see what’s really going on.

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Playing a bad hand
Gambling

Having bad luck.

Also:
Playing a losing hand.

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Playing along

Agreeing with others.
Not arguing with others.
Going along with others.
(Mostly done for the sake of keeping peace.)

Also see:
Play ball.

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Playing by the rules
Sports

Obeying the rules.
Not violating regulations even if doing so would give you better results.

Also:
Falling in line.
Staying in line.
Keeping in line.
Staying in check.
Following the rules.
Observing the rules.
Playing by the book.

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Playing hardball

Being a tough negotiator.
Not giving too many, if any, concessions.
Acting rough, aggressive, determined, etc.

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Playing Russian roulette

As an expression, playing Russian roulette means taking a huge, huge risk. Playing the real Russian roulette, however, means risking your life.

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Playing someone like a fiddle (or violin)

Using people.
Manipulating them.

Q. Do you think my girlfriend is taking advantage of me?
A. Well, I don’t know about that, but she IS playing you like a fiddle!

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Playing the heavy

Pretending to be a bad guy.
Acting as a bad guy in the movies.

He’s a nice guy but it doesn’t show because he’s always played the heavy in the movies.

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Playing to someone
Playing to something
Political

Catering to a certain group.
Doing something to please a certain group.
Satisfying (or saying something to satisfy) a certain group.

When someone says: The candidate is playing to the liberals, they mean: He’s saying things that the liberal voters like to hear.

Similar:
Playing to the unions, engineers, small businesses, manufacturers, etc.

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Pleading guilty
Legal

Accepting guilt.
(This is a legal term, but it is also used in daily conversation.)

Also:
Guilty as charged.

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Pleading not guilty
Legal

Not accepting guilt.
(This is a legal term and is not used in daily conversation.)

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Pleading the Fifth
Legal

Keeping quiet.
Refusing to testify.

Q. So, tell me about your date. What did you guys do last night?
A. Oh, I don’t know. I guess I’m going to plead the Fifth! I’m not saying anything.

Also:
Taking the Fifth.

Background:
Refusing to testify under the Fifth Amendment is a legal term and has certain legal applications. However it is sometimes used in conversation as shown in the above example.

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Pocketbook issues

Financial issues, especially those at the family expense levels.

Our candidates should be addressing pocket book issues, issues that are closer to home for the average person.

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Poetic justice

Something bad happening to a person as a result of something bad that the same person has done in the same (or similar) way or manner or setting. An outcome in which virtue is rewarded and evil punished, often in an especially appropriate or ironic manner.

Example:
An attorney defends a murderer and helps him to escape conviction using a little known loophole. The same murderer (or maybe even another person) later murders the attorney (or maybe a member of his family) and is found not guilty by using the same loophole. This is what’s called “Poetic justice.”

Also see:
What goes around, comes around.

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Pointing out

Showing something or someone.
Mentioning something or someone.
Bringing something or someone to someone’s attention.

I’d like to talk about your mistakes and point them out to you.

I’d like to meet your father if he’s here tonight. Would you point him out to me?

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Poker face
Gambling

An emotionless face.
A face with no expression at all.

You can never tell from her poker face if she’s happy or sad or whatever!

Background:
This phrase comes from the world of poker. A good poker player has a “poker face,” thus keeping his or her good (or bad) hand a secret.

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Poker tells
Gambling

The subtle changes in the behavior and actions of a poker player that result from having a good or bad hand. These twitches, expressions, or mannerisms can reveal or “tell” secrets about what’s in the player’s cards and if they are bluffing, or truly have a good hand.

I love to play poker with Johnny because I know his tells!

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Politically correct

A statement, policy, idea, action, speech, etc., that won’t offend anybody or any group, is considered to be Politically correct.

An extreme case of political correctness, or maybe even a mild version of it, would be considered by some as being a powerful way of exercising censorship.

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Popping up

Appearing suddenly or unexpectedly.

I thought he was out of town, but he kept popping up in places I frequented.

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Poster girl
Poster boy
Poster child

A symbol for something.
The most, the highest, or the lowest example.

At more than $50 billion in losses, Madoff is the poster boy for stock market fraud. If you want to learn how to cheat people out of their savings, go to him!

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Pot calling the kettle black

Hypocrite.
Someone who complains about others doing certain things, although he or she is guilty of doing the same things!

Also phrased as:
Look who’s calling the kettle black!

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Potentially dangerous

Something that has the potential for being dangerous or risky at any time, even NOW.

Related:
Potentially funny, explosive, etc.

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Pounding the pavement

Walking on the street.

Looking for something, usually employment.

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Pouring cold water on something

Discouraging something.
Having a negative effect on it.
Putting an end to it, or attempting to stop it.

They haven’t poured cold water on the latest rumor yet, so I guess it’s true!

Also:
Throwing cold water on something.

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Practice what you preach.

Don’t be a hypocrite.
Follow your own teachings.
Do what you tell others to do.

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Preaching to the choir

Trying to convince those who already agree with you.

A. We need better roads and better police protection.
B. You’re preaching to the choir! I’m with you. Go talk to the other members on the council.

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Pregnant pause

A long period of silence.
A quiet moment before some information is revealed.
A period of silence designed to give importance to what is said next.
A period of silence to allow the listener to digest what has just been said.

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Price of tea in China

The complete expression is actually the following question: What does that have to do with the price of tea in China? When someone asks this question, they’re saying that they’re really surprised by the listener’s comments. Effectively, they’re saying:
Why do you say that?
What are you talking about?
What does that have to do with anything?
What does that have to do with what we’re talking about?

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Pride oneself

Be proud of something.

When a company says: We pride ourselves on being number one, they mean: We’re proud of being number one.

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Prime time

The time period between 8 pm and 11 pm, used for television programming purposes. Thus, a prime-time TV show is a show that’s on approximately between 8 and 11 pm.

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Promises, promises!

Empty words, often without actual action to fulfill them.

Q. I want to have lunch with you some time, okay?
A. Promises, promises! You say that every time we meet, but we never have lunch!

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Proof is in the pudding.

This is actually short for The proof of the pudding is in the eating, which means:
You won’t know if the food has been cooked properly until you try it.

Because pudding is cooked slowly to perfection, it is also used to mean:
The results are what counts, not how you start or finish.

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Pros and cons

Positive and negative aspects of something.
Advantages and disadvantages of something.
Good points and bad points about something.

A. Here’s the proposal for the new expansion project, sir.
B. I’ll look at it later. For now, just let me know its pros and cons.

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Proverbial

Traditional.
As a proverb.
As they say in a proverb.

She was bitten by the proverbial singing bug at an early age.

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Pulling a fast one

Playing a trick on people.
Cheating people or fooling them.
Making someone believe they see one thing but quickly shifting it before they can see what you’ve done.

Q. How could you believe her story and give her money?
A. I know! She pulled a fast one on me!

Another usage for pull:

When someone says: What are you trying to pull? They mean something like:
Are you trying to trick me?
What sneaky thing are you trying to do?

Also see:
Up one’s sleeve.

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Pulling a rabbit out of a hat

Doing something surprising.
Delivering a surprising solution.

Q. I give up! Do you have any ideas?
A. No, I’ve run out of rabbits to pull out of my hat! I’m ready to give up, too.

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Pulling someone’s leg

Kidding someone.
Saying something to someone jokingly.

A. I hate it when he says these things.
B. Oh, don’t mind him. He’s just pulling your leg!

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Pulling something off

Accomplishing a task, especially a difficult one.

Q. I just found out I need your sketches by tomorrow, not next week. Can you do it?
A. Well, I don’t know if I can pull it off, but I’ll try.

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Pulling strings

Getting special help (maybe from inside,) as in:
When someone says: I had to pull a few strings to get that job, they mean something like:
I couldn’t have gotten that job without help from friends on the inside. A few important people helped me to get the job.

Manipulating, as in:
When someone says: Other people are pulling his strings, they mean something like:
They’re manipulating and controlling him. He’s their puppet.

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Pulling the plug
Origin: Medical

Canceling something.
Letting someone, or something, die.

I think it’s time to pull the plug on all these money losing projects.

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Pulling the rug from under someone

Betraying someone unexpectedly.
Anything happening in a dramatically unexpected way that negatively and significantly affects the person it happens to.

The rug was pulled from under me when I got the Employee of the Year Award and then was fired two weeks later.

She’ll pull the rug from under him one of these days and leave him hurt, surprised, and maybe even suicidal!

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Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps

Helping yourself without relying on others, in life, in business, etc.

Q. How did you manage to accomplish this? Who helped you?
A. Actually, no one. I had no choice but to pull myself up by my bootstraps.

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Pumping iron
Sports

Lifting weights.
Doing heavy exercising.

Background:
Weights used to be made exclusively of iron, hence the name.

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Pushing it
Pressing it
Pushing one’s luck
Pressing one’s luck

Assuming that one will continue to have good luck.

You’re pushing your luck by fooling around with your boss’s wife. You’ve been lucky so far, but it is too risky.

Related warning:
You’ve been lucky so far, but don’t push it!

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Pushing someone’s buttons
Pressing someone’s buttons

Making someone angry by touching on a subject that bothers them. (Could be intentional or unintentional.)

Q. Why can’t the two of you get along?
A. I don’t know! Somehow he always manages to push my buttons. I don’t like that.

Compare to:
Get one’s goat.

Also means turning someone on sexually.

Q. You like her, don’t you?
A. Yes I do. She knows how to push my buttons, and I like that.

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Pushing the ball down the road

Continuing the work.
Going on with what you’re doing.

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Pushing the limits

Attempting to exceed the existing limits.
Trying to do things beyond normal (or usual, or familiar, or acceptable) standards.

Mud wrestling on TV was once considered pushing the limits, but now it is commonplace.

Also:
Pushing the envelope.

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Put it to bed.
Put it to rest.

Settle it.
Finish it.
Let it go.
Forget about it.

She is putting the rumors to rest by announcing her engagement.

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Put the pedal to the metal

Rush.
Speed it up.

When someone says: Put the pedal to the metal, they mean: Faster, hurry up, etc.

Compare to:
Burning rubber.

Background:
This is a reference to the fact that, in order to accelerate quickly in a car, you have to push the gas pedal down, maybe all the way down to the metal floor.

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Put up or shut up!

Do something about the situation, or shut up about it!
Offer an explanation (or solution, or alternative, etc.,) or stop complaining about it!

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Put your best foot forward.

Do your best.

A. I have enough material to start a TV show, but I don’t know if I’ll be good at it.
B. Just do it. I know you, and I know that if you put your best foot forward, you will succeed.

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Put your house in order!
Get your house in order!

Organize your affairs.
Take care of your problems.

The following is a sarcastic way of using this expression and is usually reserved for people who have problems of their own but keep advising others:

Get your own house in order before you lecture me, okay?!

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Put your money where your mouth is.
Origin: Gambling

Let’s bet on it.
You want to bet?
Show me some proof.
You better be sure about what you’re saying.

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Put your thinking cap on.

Brainstorm.
Use your head.
Start to think (about the issue) seriously.

Okay, let’s put our thinking cap on, and come up with a solution.

Also:
Put on your thinking cap.

Similarly, we can say things such as:
Put your running shoes on, which means: Start running and exercising.

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Putting a gun to someone’s head

Forcing someone to do something.

You didn’t have to leave your wife. Nobody was putting a gun to your head!

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Putting all of the cards on the table
Gambling

Not holding back.
Not hiding anything.
Speaking your mind or saying what you mean.

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Putting all of the chips on the table
Gambling

Raising the stakes.
Betting all you have.

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Putting all of your eggs in one basket

Putting yourself at risk.
Relying on only one source.

I know you like this company, but you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket! It’s too risky. You should also invest in some other companies, and maybe even in real estate.

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Putting it on the money
Gambling

Taking a safe step.
Betting on a sure thing.

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Putting on airs

Acting pretentious.
Feeling or acting important, superior, etc.

Q. Who’s that woman? I’ve heard her talk. She sounds like she’s ultra-wealthy.
A. Oh, I know her. She’s a regular housewife, like us. She’s just putting on airs.

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Putting one over on someone

Tricking someone.
Cheating (or taking advantage of) people.

A. She’s trying to put one over on you.
B. I know, but she can’t fool me. She should know better!

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Putting one’s finger on something

Identifying something.
Identifying the reason for something.

Q. Is something bothering you?
A. Well, I know there’s something wrong with the design, I just can’t put my finger on it.

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Putting skin in the game

Investing your own capital.

When you put (or have) skin in the game, it means you invest some of your own capital into the operation that you are conducting.

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Putting someone down

Humiliating people, calling them names, and making them look (and feel) unimportant, especially in front of other people.

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Putting someone on

Deceiving someone.
Joking with someone.

Are you putting me on? means something like:
Are you serious?
You’re joking, right?
Are you kidding me?
You must be kidding me!

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Putting someone out to pasture

Retiring someone.
Forcing someone to stop working, usually due to age.

A. I think it’s time for me to retire.
B. Why so soon? You can still work!
A. Yes, but if I don’t do it they will. I’ll be put out to pasture.

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Putting the blinders on
Having the blinders on

Not seeing the whole thing.
Being unaware of your surroundings.
Not considering all contributing factors.
Deliberately not acknowledging something.

Q. How can Mrs. Smith not see that her daughter is using drugs?
A. She has put her blinders on. She doesn’t want to see the truth!

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Putting the cart before the horse

Doing things in the opposite order.
Reversing the proven or accepted order of doing things.

Also:
Putting the cart before the donkey.

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Putting things into perspective
Keeping things in perspective

Remembering what is important.
Looking at things in proper context.
Putting things in their proper place compared to other things.

You see the cute little umbrella, I see the big storm coming. Yes, it’s beautiful but, when you put it into perspective against the storm, it won’t look cute anymore!

Compare to:
Seeing the big picture.

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Putting to sleep
Medical

Making someone sleep, or knock them unconscious, by using drugs.
Killing an animal by injection. (Of course it’s nicer to say: Putting to sleep.)

Q. What should we do with my cat?
A. She’s in too much pain. I’m sorry, but we have to put her to sleep. There’s nothing else we can do for her.

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Putting up a fight

Fighting.
Resisting something.

If you say: He didn’t put up much of a fight, it means something like:
He didn’t resist.
He didn’t really fight.
He didn’t show any confidence.

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Putting up with

Tolerating something or someone.

Q. How do you like working in the desert?
A. Well, I’m putting up with it.

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Putting your foot down

Being determined.
Being firm in your decision.
Not changing your mind or backing down.

When someone says: I’m putting my foot down, they mean something like: I’ve made my decision and I’m not changing it.

Similar:
It’s my way or the highway.

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

Putting your foot in your mouth

Saying the wrong thing.
Getting yourself in trouble because of a misguided statement.

Q. Wasn’t it insensitive of your candidate to make a racial joke on the radio?
A. It sure was. He really put his foot in his mouth this time.

Compare to:
Shooting yourself in the foot.

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Quick study

A quick learner.

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

Racing against time

Having little time.
Rushing to meet a deadline.
Trying to do something as quickly as possible.

Similar:
Beating the clock.
Racing against the clock.

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

Rain check

A promise to do something in the future. An example is when you get a rain check to be able to purchase an item (which is presently not available) in a store at the current sales price.

I’m sorry I can’t go to the movies with you tonight. Can I take (or get) a rain check?

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

Raining cats and dogs

Raining very hard.

Also:
Pouring, or pouring buckets.

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

Raining on someone’s parade

Ruining someone’s good time.
Spoiling something for someone.

Q. Do you want to come to the party with us?
A. No, go on without me! I feel depressed, and I don’t want to rain on your parade.

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

Raising a point

Bringing attention to something.

Also:
Raising an issue.
Raising a question.

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

Raising eyebrows

Surprising people. (Not a negative thing.)
Making others uncomfortable. (Negative.)

The new regulations are certain to raise a few eyebrows.

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

Raising the bar
Origin: Sports

Using higher standards.
Making it more difficult to do something by adding to the requirements.

I’m not happy with the performance of our new recruits. I think we should raise the bar a few notches the next time we hire someone.

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

Raising the stakes
Gambling

Increasing the risks.

When you say: The stakes are high, it means: This is a very risky situation!

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

Rallying cry (cries)
Origin: Military

Cries of support and cheer.

Something to organize people around a common cause.

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

Rank-and-file

Majority of a group.
Lower-level personnel.
Ordinary members of a group, not the leaders.

A. All Wall Street people got big year-end bonuses. B. Not really. The top guys did, but the rank-and-file didn’t get any!

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

Rather than

Instead of.

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

Rattling someone’s cage

Irritating someone.
Making them angry.

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

Raw deal

A bad deal.
An unfair deal.

A. I hear you got a raw deal from your boss!
B. Yeah, I got him a business where he made thousands of dollars, but he only bought me dinner!

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

Reaching across the aisle
Political

Offering help to (and asking help from) your opponents. (Mostly a political expression.)

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

Reaching for the stars
Reaching for the moon

Being ambitious.
Wanting to do or achieve great things.

A. I remember how Madonna said early on that she wanted to rule the world!
B. I know! She’s been reaching for the stars ever since the beginning.

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

Reaching out

Trying to communicate, help, etc.

You must reach out to the people, and help them with their problems.

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

Reading between the lines

Reading the hidden or subtle meaning.
Searching for the message behind the message.

If you read between the lines, you’ll know that I’m really trying to make it work.

When someone says: Inger says she hates you, but you have to read between the lines, they mean something like: If you pay attention to her actions, you’ll see that she actually loves you!

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

Reading someone

Understanding someone, mostly based on intuition or being able to pick up on subtle mannerisms and clues to what someone is thinking or feeling.

When someone says: I can’t read Mr. Hashimoto, they mean something like:
I don’t understand his way of thinking.
I don’t know (I can’t tell) what he’s thinking about.

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

Real estate
Real property
Legal

A piece of property, such as a building or land, that is not moveable.

Opposite:
Personal property, such as a car or furniture, which is moveable.

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

Red eye

A late-night flight.
An overnight flight.

Used with “catch” or “take”, it has to do with taking a late-night flight.

Q. When did you get back?
A. This morning. On the way back, I took a red eye!

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

Red tape

Unnecessary paperwork forced upon people who have to do official business.

Q. Couldn’t we become just a little bit more efficient?
A. No, not as long as we have to deal with all of this red tape. It’s too much paperwork.

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

Red-headed step-son, step-child, or step-daughter

A person or a group that nobody likes or who is mistreated by others.

Background:
Step-children are usually not treated as well as the biological children of both parents. On the other hand, red-headed children who are born into a family where the parents aren’t red-headed, are a rarity, and it makes some people suspicious. Now, add these two features together, and you can see how some closed-minded people would react. Presently the term is applied to any person or group who is not being treated fairly by others.

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

Register with someone

If you say: It didn’t register with him, you mean something like:
He didn’t notice it.
He didn’t recognize it.
He didn’t understand it.

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

Reinventing the wheel

Wasting one’s time.
Wasting time, trying to do things that have been tried before.

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

Rhetorical question

This is a statement to stress a point, but it is in the form of a question, to which an answer is not expected.

Example:
A. Why am I so stupid?
B. Well, there are no easy answers!
A. Oh shut up! That was a rhetorical question.

Other examples:
Why are some people so mean?
Why does it have to rain so much?
What’s the matter with the economy?

Compare to:
Figure of speech.

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

Right off the bat
Origin: Sports

Quickly.
Right away.

Right off the bat, they didn’t like each other.

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

Right on

Amen.
Exactly.
Very good.
As you say.

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

Right on the money

Accurate.
Absolutely right.
My dear friend, your estimate was right-on-the-money!

Related:
Putting it on the money, which means: Betting on a sure thing!

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

Right up one’s alley

In one’s field.
Something that one knows everything about.

Q. Can you help me with the scheduling projections?
A. No, talk to Tien. Scheduling is right up his alley.

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

Ripping someone off

Stealing from someone.
Cheating someone out of their money or belongings.

Q. What did Madoff really do?
A. He ripped everybody off.

Related:
A scheme to rip people off is called a rip-off.

Q. What did Madoff really do?
A. He conducted the biggest rip-off in history.

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

Ripping the scab off

Opening old wounds.

When someone says: Why rip the scab off the old wounds now, they mean something like: Why do you want to talk about old problems again?

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

Rise and shine!

Do something.
Don’t waste your time.
Get up and do something.
Wake up or get out of bed.

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

Rising to the occasion

Meeting a challenging situation.
Doing what is required to succeed.
Being able to do what’s necessary to handle the situation at hand.

A. You can rely on my brother. When necessary, he’s always there to help.
B. I know what you mean. He always rises to the occasion.

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

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

Borrowing money from one source to pay another debt.
Taking care of one problem but worsening another problem.
Using money that has been set aside for a specific purpose for another purpose.

When someone is robbing Peter to pay Paul, he probably doesn’t have any money of his own. He could even be using other people’s money to pay his own debts.

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

Robbing the cradle

Dating or marrying a much younger person.

He’s robbing the cradle, and he should be ashamed of himself. She’s half his age!

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

Robbing the grave

Dating or marrying a much older person.

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

Rocking the boat

Causing trouble.
Disturbing the balance or stability.
Causing problems in a risky situation.

When someone says: We don’t want to rock the boat just yet, they mean something like: If we cause any problems now, the situation may get out of control, and we might get in trouble, too.

Also:
Making waves.
Stirring things up.

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

Role model

A person one admires.
A person one wants to be like.
A person who’s a good example for others.

Q. Are you happy with the way that some of our celebrities behave?
A. No. I really think that we need better role models for our kids.

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

Roll in the hay

Sexual intercourse.

Q. Do you think they’ve had a roll in the hay?
A. I don’t know, but they sure are spending a lot of time together!

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

Rollercoaster (situation)
Roller coaster (situation)

A wild ride.
An unpredictable situation.
Repeated up-and-down conditions.

It’s a rollercoaster economy. One day, the market is up; the next day, it’s down. One day the market is up again; the next day, it’s still up! Very unpredictable.

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

Rolling over in one’s grave
Turning in one’s grave
Turning over in one’s grave

Expression of disapproval (by someone who’s dead).

When someone says: Akira’s father would turn over in his grave to see him act this way, they mean something like: Akira’s father would be really upset if he were alive and saw this.

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

Rolling the dice
Gambling

Taking risks.
Taking a chance.

Well, we’ll just roll the dice on this one, and see how far we can go!

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

Rubbing someone the wrong way

Annoying them.
Upsetting them.
Saying or doing the wrong thing to them.

Q. Why are they so upset with me?
A. Talk to them. Find out if you said something that rubbed them the wrong way.

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

Ruling out

Excluding.
Not considering.
Eliminating (from a list).

They ruled him out as a suspect. They no longer think he did it.

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

Run of the mill
Run-of-the-mill

Ordinary.
Common.
Nothing special.

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

Run-in

Quarrel.
Argument.

When someone says: I’ve had run-ins with the law, they mean something like:
I’ve had problems with the police.
I have police records. (Not a good thing!)

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

Running a red light

Not stopping at a red light.
Driving through the intersection at a red light.

Women are less likely than men to run a red light!

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

Running for a position

Campaigning to become the holder of a position.

Q. Is it true that the former school principal is running for mayor?
A. Yes, but he’s not campaigning hard enough. It looks more like he’s walking rather than running!

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

Running for one’s life

Saving oneself.

Q. Have you seen Sally’s husband?
A. Yes. He was looking for you, and he was really mad. You’d better run for your life!

Similar:
Saving one’s (own) skin.

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

Running in circles

Getting nowhere.
Wasting one’s time and effort.
Saying (or doing) the same things over and over again.

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

Running on empty

Driving when the fuel tank is almost empty.
Trying without resources (or money) and not giving up.

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

Running on fumes

Almost out of power.
A car that’s going to stop any second because it’s out of gas.
A person with no energy left, but who continues in spite of exhaustion.

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

Running out of something

Using up (finishing) the supply of something.
When you say: We’re running out of time, you mean: We don’t have much time left.
When you say: We’re running out of options, you mean: We don’t have any more choices.

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

Running someone down

Finding someone after a lengthy search.

The fugitive was doing okay for a while until the police ran him down.

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

Running something into the ground

Destroying something.
Making something fail.

It was my mismanagement that ran this company into the ground. I hope you’ll forgive me.

Also:
Driving something into the ground.

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