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ace in the hole: something you can rely on; a back-up plan.

The toy company is losing a lot of money, but their ace in the hole is a new game for children ages 8 and up.

(The first part of this sentence uses the present continuous tense.)


add fuel to the fire: make a bad situation worse.

When the man in the car behind him got too close, Tony slammed on his brakes, causing an accident. Then Tony got out of the car and smashed the man’s headlights, which just added fuel to the fire.


add insult to injury: make someone feel worse than he or she already does.

Samantha’s sprained ankle meant that she couldn’t walk on it for a few days. Adding insult to injury, she was unable to go to her waitress job during the busiest week of the year.


people talking

ahead of (one’s) time: a person whose ideas are beyond what is popular at the present.

His designs for a flying rocket chair show how far ahead of his time he is.

What does the word “ahead” mean?

man flying through the air

all for the best: a situation that might not seem good at first, but it is actually okay.

Getting fired from his desk job was all for the best because he hated doing paperwork.

man at desk

all of the above: this is a reference to multiple choice tests in which the answers are A, B, C, or D. Sometimes the answer is not one choice but all four choices.

A: Should we go to a restaurant, go out to a nightclub, or go to Jim’s party.

B: How about all of the above? We’ll stay out all night!

girl taking a test

all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy: a person who always works and never takes a break to do other things becomes dull and boring.

What does the word “dull” mean?

man using laptop

an eye for an eye: revenge; If you do something bad which hurts me, I’ll do something to hurt you back.

Elias is a firm believer in “an eye for an eye,” so don’t mess with him.


an apple a day keeps the doctor away: if you eat an apple every day, or if you take care of yourself by eating right, you won’t get sick and have to see the doctor.


asleep at the wheel / switch: falling asleep while driving or while working.

Because she fell asleep at the wheel, she lost control of her car and got into a big accident.

woman driving car

at your earliest convenience: do something when you have the opportunity. This is a very polite way of asking someone to do something soon.

woman reading

at one time or another: at some time during your life; something is inevitable.

Most people around the world have a chance to go to school at one time or another.


at the drop of a hat: to do something suddenly, usually at the request of someone else.

Matt answers his supervisor’s calls at the drop of a hat.

business man

at this stage of the game: at this time in a person’s life; a period of time.

He’d like to become a professional golfer, but at this stage of the game it might be difficult to go pro.

He’d like… = He would like


avoid (something) like the plague: not to do something; to dislike something with intensity.

Jill’s kids avoid broccoli like the plague.

What does the word “avoid” mean?


AWOL (absent without leave): to leave one’s position without permission. Popularly used for the military but also for any responsibility that a person walks away from.

As a soldier, Theodore got tired of killing other people, so he went AWOL.