Popular Expressions Used in the U.S.
face the music: face reality; to understand the consequences of one’s actions.
My boss was caught stealing money from our company. Now he’s going to have to face the music for what he did.
face to face: to talk to a person directly and in person.
We need to meet face to face to discuss this situation. We can’t do it over the phone.
fall over backwards: to make a great effort to do something, usually used when trying to help someone.
Every day he falls over backwards trying to please his customers.
fall between the cracks: to become lose or overlooked in a large system.
Many kids who fall between the cracks in school eventually drop out.
fall off the wagon: to drink alcohol once again after stopping; to have an alcohol or drug problem that one returns to.
Mark stayed sober for three years before he fell off the wagon.
famous last words: a prediction which turns out to be incorrect; a bad guess.
"I don’t need to wear a helmet when I skate."
Those were Todd’s famous last words spoken just before he fell off his skateboard, resulting in a serious head injury.
fate worse than death: a bad situation (usually this expression is used as an exaggeration. )
Margaret’s eight-year-old daughter thinks that having to eat asparagus at dinner is a fate worse than death.
feast or famine: to have a lot or nothing; either very successful or suddenly unsuccessful.
You never know what kind of money you’ll make when working on commission. It’s either feast or famine.
a feather in one’s cap: a great accomplishment. (This expression comes from Native American culture)
Being able to provide food and clothing to the needy in his community is a real feather in his cap.
feel it in one’s bones: to believe something is true; to trust in one’s own beliefs and ideas very strongly.
We were meant to be together. I can feel it in my bones.
a few bricks shy of a load: this expression is used to describe someone who is really dumb.
She’s a few bricks shy of a load.
fight fire with fire: to solve a problem with a similar problem; to address a strong issue with equal strength.
If we want to get rid of the criminals in our neighborhood, we’re going to have to fight fire with fire.
fight tooth and nail: to fight very hard for something you believe in.
People in our community are going to fight tooth and nail to keep the local school open. It might close if it doesn’t get more financial support.
figment of one’s imagination: something that a person imagines to be true.
The monster hiding under his bed turned out to be a figment of his imagination.
fine and dandy: good; sometimes this expression is used sarcastically.
Oh, this is just fine and dandy! My PC just crashed again.
first come, first served: the person or people who are the first to arrive benefit by being early, usually used for shopping and eating.
There’s a big sale at Herman’s Department store tomorrow, but you better go early. Supplies are limited, so it’s first come, first served.
a fish out of water: to feel out of place. (A fish is supposed to be in the water. When it is out of water for too long, it dies)
When Kevin first went away to college, he felt like a fish out of water because he didn’t know anyone. Gradually, he made friends and felt more comfortable.
flat as a pancake: very flat
We saw a squirrel today that was run over by a car. It was as flat as a pancake.
a fly in the ointment: a problem; a small problem in contrast to everything else being okay.
The new building is all set to open, but there’s a fly in the ointment; the air conditioning for the building isn’t working yet.
follow in one’s footsteps: to do as a parent does in the future; to follow someone, a family member or mentor, in a career.
Ashok is bound to follow in his father’s footsteps as a leader in his community.
a fool and his money are soon parted: a foolish person can be easily tricked into spending money on something stupid.
He paid someone five dollars to catch fish from a bucket, but there’s only one small minnow in there. A fool and his money are soon parted.
footloose and fancy-free: to be carefree; not to have responsibilities; to be free from any romantic relationships.
After his divorce, he felt footloose and fancy-free, so he started going out to a lot of nightclubs.
a foot in the door: to get started in a career; an entry-level position.
Valerie finally got her foot in the door as a fashion designer.
for all intents and purposes: in reality; actually; for every situation that applies here. (this is a popular expression, but it’s very hard to use among people who learn English as a second language.)
They’ve been living together for seven years, so for all intents and purposes they’re practically married even though they don’t have the legal documents for a marriage.
for better or worse: to enter into a situation knowing the outcome could be good or bad; this is often used in wedding vows.
She promised to love her husband and be true to him, for better or worse, when they got married. He died after a long ten-year illness, but she always stayed by his side.
for crying out loud: this expression has many meanings. Some people say it when they’re angry; some say it when they’re happily surprised; some people say it when they’re unhappy.
Oh, for crying out loud! I haven’t seen these old pictures in years!
for goodness sake: This is an expression of surprise, excitement, concern, anger. The meaning can change depending on the situation. This is a popular expression among older people in the U.S.
Oh, for goodness sake. This cucumber isn’t any good. It’s rotten!
for the heck of it: said when doing something without a good reason; to do something without a purpose.
A: Why did she dye her hair purple?
B: She said she just did it for the heck of it.
from the bottom of one’s heart: usually said as an expression of gratitude and thanks.
From the bottom of my heart, I’d like to thank everyone who voted for me.
from the cradle to the grave: from the beginning of a person’s life to the end of it.
Some countries provide health care for their citizens from the cradle to the grave.
full speed ahead: do what you want to do; nothing is stopping you from doing what you want to do.
Now that they have enough money to do their cancer research, it’s full speed ahead.