Popular Expressions Used in the U.S.
odds and ends: extra, unnecessary stuff; unimportant things.
They had a bunch of odds and ends they didn’t need inside their house, so they decided to have a garage sale.
off and on: to be in a relationship that constantly starts and stops; to start and end a romance over and over again.
Rebecca and Steve have been off and on again for years.
off one’s chest: to admit something to another person; to speak the truth in order to feel better.
After Billy accidentally shot another hunter last fall and lied about the incident to the police, he was glad to get it off his chest later when he confessed his guilt to his priest.
off one’s back: to eliminate a problem; to get rid of a responsibility. (this is often used with the verb "get.")
He has some financial problems, and debt collectors call him al the time.
He’d like to get the debt off his back.
He like to get the debt collectors off his back.
off the beaten track: to go to a place where few people go; to do something that is uncommon.
It’s a challenge to go off the beaten track when going on a long bike ride.
off the cuff: spontaneous; something said or done without thinking about it first.
A few off-the-cuff remarks about his boss cost him his job.
off the record: not to be reported; some information that is not for the public to hear about .
Senator Dean made some comments off the record, but the reporter he spoke to published the senator’s words anyway, and now he’s in big trouble.
off the top of one’s head: quickly; without preparation; to have information instantly available.
A: I’m going to ask Ashley out. Do you know her phone number?
B: No, not off the top of my head. I’ll have to find it on my cell phone.
off the wall: unusual; odd; strange.
Our neighbor is an artist. He’s a little off the wall, but everyone likes him.
of one’s own free will: to make an independent decision; to decide without external pressure.
Our cat left our house of his own free will and he never came back.
on a first-name basis: to be friendly with someone; to go from a formal to an informal relationship; to know someone who is famous and have the privilege of using that person’s first name.
Are you on a first-name basis with your boss? How about your teacher?
on a par with: about equal to.
His work is on a par with that of most architects.
The food we had at that restaurant last night was on a par with some of the best restaurants in New York.
"Par" is a word used in golf.
on a shoestring: to live or do something on a very small amount of money.
He lives his life on a shoestring.
on borrowed time: to live beyond what is expected; to get really sick, almost die, recover, and then learn to appreciate one’s life.
After surviving brain cancer and a close brush with death, he feels like he’s living his life on borrowed time.
once and for all: finally
I’m telling you kids–once and for all–to stop fighting.
once in a blue moon: a rare occurrence; something that doesn’t happen very often.
Now that they’ve moved away to the east coast, Don and Barb’s children visit them in Minnesota only once in a blue moon.
once in a lifetime: an opportunity that happens only once in a person’s life.
The chance to travel to the moon or orbit the earth would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
(Notice that this expression is often used as an adjective. In that case, you hyphenate the expression before the noun)
on one condition: it’s okay to do something only if a condition is met.
You can borrow my axe on one condition: it has to be sharpened and cleaned before you return it.
one by one: one at a time; one after another.
One by one, the ducks followed the little girl as if she were their mother.
one fell swoop: quickly; all at the same time; suddenly.
In one fell swoop, Mike brought the axe down on the log and split it in two.
one good turn deserves another: a person does something good for someone and then the favor is returned.
Ted mowed Graciella’s lawn, and to show her appreciation, she ironed his pants for him. One good turn deserves another.
|one man’s meat is another man’s poison: what’s good for one person might not be good for someone else.
one of these days: some day in the distant future.
One of these days, Kara is going to take a trip to Europe.
(a) one-track mind: to think only about one thing all the time.
A friend of mind is obsessed with girls. He has a one-track mind.
one way or another: something will happen regardless of the obstacles.
One way or another, she’s determined to get back in shape.
on one’s best behavior: to behave as well as possible. (This is usually used for children, but it can also be used for adults.)
Tommy is on his best behavior today after his mother punished him for hitting another boy yesterday.
on one’s head: to bear responsibility for something.
If he doesn’t figure out how to fix some of the problems his company is having, it’s going to be on his head.
on one’s mind: thinking about something; to have serious thoughts.
Rick is worried about losing his job. He’s also concerned about his parents’ health. He has a lot on his mind right now.
on one’s own time: to do some activity when not at work.
It’s okay for a police officer to have a beer on his own time but not when he’s on duty.
on duty: time during which someone is working, usually used with police officers, emergency workers, soldiers, doctors, and people with dangerous jobs.
on one’s toes: ready; alert
A police officer has to be on his toes at all times. When there’s an emergency situation, preparedness is essential.
on pins and needles: worried; nervous.
He’s been on pins and needles all day as his stock investments continue to lose their value.
on the bandwagon: to join in support after others have already joined. (This expression is often used in politics. Some politicians support an issue only after they know it’s popular.
It’s time for the politicians in our state to jump on the bandwagon and support legislation that addresses climate change.
Click on the pic to see what a bandwagon looks like.
on the button: accurate; correct; in the exact location.
Your answer to the question is right on the button.
on the dot: right on time
Jose has to be at work at 11:00 on the dot or else he’ll lose his job.
on the double: work faster; do something more quickly.
The coach told his players that they needed to get into position quickly.
"Come on, you guys. Get in position. On the double!"
on the edge: an activity or lifestyle that is very different or risky when compared to the average; dangerous.
He likes to live his life on the edge.
on the horizon: in the near future
Better days are just on the horizon.
horizon: area where the sky meets the land or the water.
on the house: free; the restaurant or bar pays the bill for the customer.
The waitress told us that the drinks were on the house because we’re such good customers.
on the lookout: to be watchful; ready to react; respond.
The park ranger told visitors to the park that they would have to be on the lookout for bears.
on the market: for sale; available to purchase.
The house down the street is on the market for $129,000.
on the right track: going in the right direction; doing something the correct way.
Many Democrats believe that the United States is finally on the right track after eights years of Republican rule.
on the sidelines: not playing; not participating in some activity.
Blake had to sit on the sidelines for the rest of the game after getting hurt in a tackle.
on the spur of the moment: quickly and without forethought; no planning.
Mark and Kelly decided to have a party on the spur of the moment, so they invited all their neighbors over.
on the tip of my tongue: something that is almost remembered; a feeling of frustration when information in almost recalled.
Oh, what’s her name? It’s right on the tip of my tongue!
on top of the world: a good feeling; to be very successful.
With the new position of vice-president and his own office, he feels like he’s on top of the world.
order someone around: tell other people what to do.
Carol’s supervisor likes to order his employees around because it makes him feel powerful.
(an) ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: take care of yourself and you won’t have to seek medical treatment from a doctor.
Jeremy’s doctor told him he’d better stop smoking and start exercising or else he’ll have physical problems later in life.
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," said the doctor.
out of here: I’m leaving; goodbye (This expression can be used when a person is leaving a place, or it can be used in anger.)
I’m out of here! Have a nice weekend.
out of line: inappropriate behavior.
He got out of line with a customer on the phone and later he had to apologize for what he said.
out of sight, out of mind: if you can’t see it, it’s not a problem.
Many people don’t worry too much about pollution if they can’t see it. If it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind.
out of the frying pan and into the fire: going from one bad situation to another situation that’s worse.
An airplane made an emergency landing in the ocean and the passengers had to get into lifeboats. As he was getting ready to jump from the plane, one passenger said, "Out of the frying pan and into the fire."
out the window: something that is thrown away; something discarded.
Buying a new car is like throwing money out the window because new cars lose their value so quickly.
out of this world: very good; amazing; fantastic.
The food at this restaurant is out of this world!
out of whack: not working properly; not straight.
The steering on this old car is a little out of whack.
over my dead body: absolutely not (this expression means "no," but it’s very, very strong.)
Chet’s daughter told him she wanted to marry the young man she’s been dating the last few months, and he told her she could marry him over his dead body.
over the hill: over the age of 40; someone who is no longer young.
Tony feels like he’s over the hill, but he might feel better about himself if he lost a little weight.