English Idioms A - Z - Idiomatic Expressions


The Cambridge dictionary defines an idiom as a group of words in a fixed order that have a particular meaning that is different from the meanings of each word understood on its own: For example
To "have bitten off more than you can chew" is an idiom that means you have tried to do something which is too difficult for you.We have offered you a list of commonly used idioms from A to Z.

Idioms C - Idiomatic expressions beginning with C

Play Audio :

  • Cake

Have your cake and eat it (BrE, informal)
(often used with “can’t”) enjoy the advantages of two things that cannot exist together
I’ll have no money at all left after this holiday. But you’re having a great time, aren’t you? You can’t have your cake and eat it!

  1. Call

call smb’s bluff
give smb the chance to do what they are threatening to do, because you believe they will not or cannot do it
Next time she offers her resignation, they’ll call her bluff and accept it.
Call it quits
decide to end an argument, disagreement, etc. at a point when both sides are equal
I know I upset you but you said some nasty things to me too. Can’t we just call it quits and try to forget it?
Call a spade a spade
Speak openly and directly about sth unpleasant
I believe in calling a spade a spade. When a patient’s going to die, I say so. Most people prefer to know the truth.

  1. Care

Not have a care in the world; without a care in the world
Not have any worry or anxiety at all
Sam looked as if he didn’t have a care in the world.

  1. Careful

You can’t be too careful
Used to warn smb that they should be careful to avoid danger or problems
Don’t stay out in the sun for too long – you can’t be too careful.

  1. Carried

Be/get carried away
Be/get very excited or lose control of your feelings
I got carried away and started shouting at the television.

  1. Carrot

The carrot and/or (the) stick
Rewards offered to smb to persuade them to do smth or try harder, and /or punishment threatened if they do not
She favoured a carrot-and-stick approach to teaching.

  1. Cart

Put the cart before the horse
put or do things in the wrong order
Don’t plan the menu before you’ve decided how many people to invite – it would be like putting the cart before the horse.

  1. Castles

(build) castles in the air
(have) plans, hopes, etc.which are unlikely to become reality
They talked about moving to Australia, but they knew they were really only building castles in the air.

  1. Cat

(play) cat and mouse (with smb) (informal)
(keep) smb in a state of uncertainty, being sometimes kind, sometimes cruel
He thought that the police were playing cat and mouse with him, just waiting for an opportunity to trap him.
(has the) cat got your, his etc. tongue? (informal)
Why don’t you say anything?
What’s the matter – cat got your tongue?

  1. Catch

Catch smb red-handed
Find smb while they are doing smth wrong, committing a crime, etc.
The thief was caught red-handed and she was emptying the till.

  1. Catch-22

catch-22; a catch-22 situation (informal)
A difficult situation from which there is no escape because you need to do one thing before doing a second, and you cannot do the second thing before doing the first
I can’t get a job because I haven’t got anywhere to live, but I can’t afford a place to live until I get a job – it’s a catch-22 situation.

  1. Chalk

(like) chalk and cheese (also as different as chalk and cheese), BrE, informal
Very different
It’s hard to imagine that Mark and John are brothers – they’re like chalk and cheese.

  1. Change

Change your mind
Change your decision or opinion
He was intending to go to the party but now he’s changed his mind and decided to stay in.

  1. Chest

Get smth off your chest (informal)
Say smth that you have wanted to say for a long time and feel better because you have done this
If something is worrying you, get it off your chest.

  1. Child

Child’s play
A very easy job or task
Mending a lamp was child’s play for an experienced electrician like him.

  1. Chip

A chip off the old block (informal)
A person who is very like one of his/her parents in appearance or character
Young Tom’s a chip off the old block, isn’t he? He looks exactly like his Dad!
Have (got) a chip on your shoulder (informal)
Be sensitive about smth that happened in the past and easily offended if it is mentioned, because you think you were treated unfairly
He’s got a chip on his shoulder about not having been to university.

  1. Chucking

It’s chucking it down
It is raining heavily
They had to cancel the barbeque, as it started chucking it down.

  1. Clean

Come clean (about smth) (informal)
Tell the truth about smth, especially after lying or keeping it secret
He finally came clean and confessed.
Make a clean breast of smth
Admit fully smth that you have done wrong
He decided to make a clean breast of it and tell the police.

  1. Clip

Clip smb’s wings
Limit smb’s freedom or power
The new law was seen as an attempt to clip the wings of the trade unions.

  1. Clock

Around/round the clock
For twenty-four hours without stopping
The police watched the house round the clock but no one went in or came out.

  1. Clockwork

Go/run like clockwork
(of arrangements etc.) happen according to plan, without any difficulty or trouble
The sports day went like clockwork, with every race starting and finishing on time.

  1. Closet

Come out of the closet
Admit smth openly that you kept secret before, especially because of shame or embarrassment
Homosexuals in public life are now coming out of the closet.

  1. Cloud

On cloud nine (old-fashioned, informal)
Extremely happy
She’s been on cloud nine ever since she heard the news.

  1. Clue

Not have a clue (informal)
Not know (anything about) sth
“Who’s that woman over there? I’m afraid I don’t have a clue”.

  1. Coin

To coin a phrase
Used for introducing an expression that you have invented or to apologize for using a well-known idiom or phrase instead of an original one
Oh well, no news is good news, to coin a phrase.

  1. Cold

Get/have cold feet (informal)
No longer want to continue what you intended or have started to do because you’re nervous or afraid
Do you still want to do this parachute jump or are you getting cold feet?
In cold blood
Deliberately and calmly, without showing any pity
The innocent victims were shot in cold blood.

  1. Come

come off it (spoken)
used to show that you do not believe smb/smth or that you disagree with smb
“I can’t afford a holiday this year”. “Come off it, you’ve got plenty of money!”

Come what may
Whatever may happen
My mother taught us to always tell the truth, come what may.

  1. Common

Have (got) smth in common (with smb/smth)
Have the same interests, characteristics or experience as smb
Come and meet my sister. I’m sure you two have got a lot in common.

  1. Company

Keep smb company
Spend time with smb so that they are not alone
I’ve promised to keep my sister company while her husband is away.

  1. Cook

Cook smb’s goose (informal)
Ruin smb’s plans or chances for success
He thought that the police would never find him but when he saw the officer coming towards him he realized that his goose was finally cooked.

  1. Cool

(as) cool as a cucumber (informal)
(of people) very calm, especially when the opposite might be expected, for example on a hot day or in a difficult situation
Everyone was rushing round trying to get things ready, and he just sat there, cool as a cucumber.

  1. Corner

Out of the corner of your eye
At the edge of your vision; indirectly
I just caught sight of him out of the corner of my eye, so I couldn’t say exactly what he looked like.

  1. Couch

A couch potato (informal, disapproving)
A person who spends a lot of time sitting and watching television
His mother always warned him he’d turn into a couch potato if he watched too much TV.

  1. Cover

Under cover
pretending to be smb else in order to do smth secretly
a police officer working under cover
under a structure that gives protection from the weather
We’d better get under cover or we’ll get very wet in this rain.

  1. Crack

The crack of dawn (informal)
Very early in the morning
We’ll have to get up at the crack of dawn to be there by 9pm.

  1. Cradle

From the cradle to the grave
From birth to death; throughout your whole life
The new ministry was formed to look after citizens’ social welfare from the cradle to the grave.

  1. Cream

The cream of the crop
The best people or things in a particular group
Only the cream of the crop of the year’s movies are nominated for an award.

  1. Crocodile

Crocodile tears
an insincere show of sadness
They never visited her when she was ill, but they came to her funeral and wept a few crocodile tears.

  1. Cropper

Come a cropper (BrE, informal)
fall (to the ground)
Pete came a cropper on his motorbike and ended up in a hospital.
fail badly, usually when you are expected to do well
She’s so confident she’ll pass her exams without doing any work, but I’ve got a feeling she’s going to come a real cropper.

  1. Cross

Cross a bridge when you come to it; cross your bridges when you come to them
Deal with a problem only when it happens and not worry about it before then
“What will you do if you can’t afford to go on holiday next summer? – I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it”.

  1. Cry

Cry your eyes out
Cry a lot and for a long time
My son cried his eyes out when we told him we couldn’t afford a new bike.

  1. Cup

Not to be smb’s cup of tea (informal, spoken)
Not be the (kind of) person, thing or activity that you like
He invited me to the opera but it’s not really my cup of tea.

  1. Cupboard

Cupboard love (BrE)
Affection that smb shows towards smb else in order to get smth
The cat seems especially fond of her, but it’s just cupboard love. She’s the one who feeds him.

  1. Cut

Cut and dried
(of matters, arrangements or opinions) completely decided and unlikely to be changed
By the end of the evening their plans for carrying out the robbery were cut and dried, with nothing left to chance.
cut a dash (BrE)
impress others by your elegant appearance or behaviour
She cuts quite a dash with her designer clothes and expensive car.
cut smb short
stop smb speaking
She was just about to say who had got the job, but I cut her short and asked her to keep it secret.
Cut smth short
Make smth end before the natural time; interrupt smth
We’ll have to cut our stay short, I’m afraid. My husband’s father is seriously ill.



Extras - Tools for Students and Teachers

ESL/EFL/ESOL Resources- Map



ESL Search Engine

Find English Materials

Resource Packs

ESL Courseware

We offer several ESL/EFL E-books that are hot on most ESL/EFL/English educators' lists. The materials are easy to download and use. They help teachers in the lesson plans and teaching.

»

Resource Packs

Language Store

Our ESL store puts power English teaching and learning materials within your grasp. There are downloadable E-books, Powerpoint Lessons, Phonetic courseware and lesson plan materials of all kind. Find out more>>>.

»

Resource Packs

Young Learners

This English for Kids Course E-books has over 300 exercises. They include: Printables worksheets, Flashcards, Powerpoint presentations, Video presentations, mp3 audio and all the tools you need to deliver a fantastic lesson to ESL/EFL Young Learners. Find out more>>>.

»


English-4kids.com Englishmedialab.com Esltower.com Esl-galaxy.com Download-esl.com Chinesefortravel.com These sites offer tons of materials for English language teachers and learners.