Language is intrinsically filled with common sayings. It's part of a society's culture. Because of this, everyone uses common phrases every day...after all, that's what makes them common. While you may be sure that you know all the common phrases that English has to offer, we might be able to find one or two that you're not familiar with. Even if you think you're a linguistic pro, it's likely harder than you think to pass this four-minute common phrases drill without mistakes.
If you're familiar with colloquial phrases such as, "I got it straight from the horse's mouth," "Don't count your chickens before they hatch" and "She let the cat out of the bag," then you just might be able to ace this quiz. Just remember, there's a time limit! Even if you think you know them all, you'll have to think on your feet to be able to get through all 35 questions before time runs out.
Do you think you know all about common phrases? Do you have four minutes to spare? Find out how much you really know by taking this quiz. If you're up for the challenge, let's get started so you can find out if you're as good as you think you are.
The phrase is "hit the nail on the head." This phrase means that you got something exactly right. The phrase has been used since at least the mid-sixteenth century.
The phrase is "make a long story short." This phrase means to cut out the details and get straight to the point of story. For instance, you'd say " To make a long story short, after the car accident, she had to go to the hospital, but she's fine now," rather than going into explicit detail about what happened.
The phrase is to "beat around the bush." This phrase means to put-off getting to the point. It originally referred to a method of hunting during medieval times. People would make noise around a bush so that the animals would come running out.
The phrase is "a penny for your thoughts." This phrase is used when you're asking someone to share what they are thinking. The phrase dates back to at least the early sixteenth century.
The phrase is "at the drop of a hat." This phrase indicates that something is done instantly. It comes from the nineteenth century act of physically dropping a hat (or motioning with it) to signal the beginning of an event, like a race.
The phrase is "back to the drawing board." This phrase means to start over from the beginning. It originated in a 1941 comic strip by artist, Peter Arno.
The phrase is "drastic times call for drastic measures." This phrase means that you might do desperate things when you are desperate. It actually is a warping of an ancient Greek saying by Hippocrates referring to the need for aggressive medical care to cure aggressive diseases.
The phrase is "the best thing since sliced bread." This means something is pretty innovative. Bread used to only be sold in solid loafs, and you'd slice off a piece as you needed it. Loaves of mechanically and uniformly sliced bread were sold as a means to save time and energy.
The phrase is "don't judge a book by its cover." This phrase means that things aren't always as they appear--just like you can't tell how good a story is based solely on the cover of the book. This phrase has been used since the middle of the nineteenth century.
The phrase is "costs an arm and a leg." This phrase is used to describe something very expensive. It's not totally clear from whence this idiom came. It was possibly from the term "I'd give my right arm" (a decree of how much one wants something) to the more literal loss of arms and legs during WWII as a way to describe how costly the war was.
The phrase is to "cross that bridge when you come to it." This phrase means you shouldn't worry about something until it happens. The first written use of the phrase was in 1851.
The phrase is "don't cry over spilled milk." This means that you can't undo what has already happened. An iteration of the phrase dates back to at least the mid-seventeenth century.
The phrase is "don't count your chickens before they hatch." This phrase means you shouldn't rely on something that might not happen. It likely originated in one of Aesop's fables, "The Milkmaid and Her Pail."
The phrase is "don't give up your day job." This phrase means that you might not be very good at something. For instance, if you think you can cook, but your friends assure you that your food is awful (and you shouldn't pursue a career opening a restaurant), they might tell you not to quit your day job.
The phrase is "add insult to injury." This phrase means to make a bad situation even worse. It comes from one of Aesop's fables, "The Bald Man and the Fly."
The phrase is "actions speak louder than words." This phrase means that people should be judged by the things that they do, not what they say. While the phrase itself dates back to the seventeenth century, it was made popular in 1856 by Abraham Lincoln.
The phrase is "Elvis has left the building." This phrase means it's all over and done. It was accidentally coined by an announcer named Horace Logan, when Elvis left a show after finishing a set, and Logan wanted the audience to sit back down.
The phrase is "barking up the wrong tree." This phrase means that you're off target. It refers to hunting dogs that would scare an animal, like a raccoon, up a tree and bark until their owner arrived to kill it. Sometimes, the dogs would mistakenly think an animal was still in a tree after it escaped.
The phrase is "curiosity killed the cat." This phrase means that sometimes it's a good idea to mind your own business. The idiom was originally written as, "Care'll kill a cat," in a 1598 play by Ben Jonson.
The phrase is "every cloud has a silver lining." This means that, if you look, you can find something good even in a bad situation. A version of this phrase was written by John Milton (famous for writing "Paradise Lost") in 1634.
The phrase is to "take it with a grain of salt." This means that you shouldn't take something too seriously or literally. It likely originated with Pliny the Elder as part of a translation on how to avoid being poisoned.
The phrase is "feeling a bit under the weather." This phrase is used to indicate that someone is not feeling well. It likely has nautical origins, referring to the part of the ship getting pummeled by bad weather, and therefore, making one seasick.
The phrase is "it takes two to tango. This phrase means that it takes two people to do something. It actually comes from the title of a song, written in 1952, by Dick Manning and Al Hoffman.
The phrase is to "kill two birds with one stone." This phrase means to accomplish more than one thing with only one action. There are many competing origin stories for this particular idiom.
The phrase is to "burn the midnight oil." This phrase is about working late into the night. It refers to the antiquated process of using an oil lamp to do work once it's dark outside.
The phrase is to "let sleeping dogs lie." This phrase means that it's a good idea to leave something alone. The first printed account of this idiom is in Chaucer's "Troilus and Criseyde," written around 1380.
The phrase is "let the cat out of the bag." This phrase means to tell a secret, usually accidentally. It began to be used regularly in the late eighteenth century.
The phrase is "miss the boat." This phrase means to miss your chance. It became a popular phrase once regularly scheduled mass transportation was a normal part of daily life. What was originally meant in the very literal sense, eventually became figurative.
The phrase is "not playing with a full deck." This phrase is used to describe someone who is not very smart. You need a full deck of cards to play a game correctly.
The phrase is "a picture is worth thousand words." This phrase means that a visual representation is better than, or just as good as, a verbal description.
The phrase is to "pull the wool over his eyes." This phrase means to deceive someone. It originated in America, likely in the first half of the nineteenth century.
The correct phrase here, "on the fence," means to be unable or unwilling to make a decision one way or another. If you chose "lamb" instead, we understand why, and you can rest assured that many people make this mistake! But the correct spelling for that verb is "lam," which means "escape" or "flight," but doesn't have anything to do with immature sheep.
The phrase is "your guess is as good as mine." This phrase means that the speaker doesn't know either. The origin of this phrase is unknown.
The phrase is "bite off more than you can chew." This phrase means that you may have gotten in over your head. For instance, if you agree to work 40 hours of overtime every week, and also host a book club and a cooking club, then you might have been bitten off more than you can chew.
The phrase is "straight from the horse's mouth." This phrase means to get something straight from the source. It's associated with horse-betting: The people who know the horse best are most likely to know how likely it is to win a race. They're the next best thing to asking the horse.