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Idioms starting with letter P

What are idioms?

Idioms are phrases or expressions which are commonly used in everyday conversation, mostly by native speakers of English. The meaning of the idioms might not be that straight forward for new English speaker, however having good command of it will certainly helps to make your English sound more fluent.

The metaphorical nature of idioms makes conversation more interesting and flows in certain situation. You've probably heard some of them even though you don't fully understand the words. Let us help you increase your idioms knowledge by browsing through our extensive collection of idioms alphabetically.

  • packed out
    very crowded; containing as many people as possible. (Informal.)
    The theatre was packed out.
    The cinema was packed out twenty minutes before we arrived.
  • pack someone off (to somewhere)
    to send someone away to somewhere, often with the suggestion that one is glad to do so.
    His parents packed him off to boarding-school as soon as possible.
    John finally has left for France. We packed him off last week.
  • pack them in
    to draw a lot of people. (Informal.)
    It was a good night at the theatre. The play really packed them in.
    The circus manager knew he could pack them in if he advertised the lion tamer.
  • paddle one’s own canoe
    to do (something) by oneself; to be alone.
    I’ve been left to paddle my own canoe since I was a child.
    Sally didn’t stay with the group. She wanted to paddle her own canoe.
  • pain in the neck
    a bother; an annoyance. (Informal.)
    This assignment is a pain in the neck.
    Your little brother is a pain in the neck.
  • pale around the gills and green around the gills; green about the gills
    looking sick. (Informal.)
    John is looking a little pale around the gills. What’s wrong?
    Oh, I feel a little green about the gills.
  • paper over the cracks (in something)
    to try to hide faults or difficulties, often in a hasty or not very successful way.
    The politician tried to paper over the cracks in his party’s economic policy.
    Tom tried to paper over the cracks in his relationship with the boss, but it was not possible.
  • par for the course
    typical; about what one could expect. (This refers to a golf-course.)
    So he went off and left you? Well, that’s about par for the course. He’s no friend.
    I worked for days on this project, but it was rejected. That’s par for the course around here.
  • parrot-fashion
    without understanding the meaning of what one has learnt, is saying, etc.
    The child learnt the poem by heart and repeated it parrot-fashion.
    Jean never thinks for herself. She just repeats what her father says, parrot-fashion.
  • part and parcel of something
    an essential part of something; something that is unavoidably included as part of something else.
    This point is part and parcel of my whole argument.
    Bill refused to accept pain and illness as part and parcel of growing older.
  • parting of the ways
    a point at which people separate and go their own ways. (Often with come to a, arrive at a, reach a, etc.)
    Jane and Bob finally came to a parting of the ways and divorced.
    Bill and his parents reached a parting of the ways and he left home.
  • party line
    the official ideas and attitudes which are adopted by the leaders of a particular group, usually political, and which the other members are expected to accept.
    Tom has left the club. He refused to follow the party line.
    Many politicians agree with the party line without thinking.
  • pass as someone or something
    to succeed in being accepted as someone or something.
    The spy was able to pass as a normal citizen.
    The thief was arrested when he tried to pass as a priest.
  • pass muster
    to measure up to the required standards.
    I tried my best, but my efforts didn’t pass muster.
    If you don’t wear a suit, you won’t pass muster at that expensive restaurant. They won’t let you in.
  • pass the buck
    to pass the blame (to someone else); to give the responsibility (to someone else). (Informal.)
    Don’t try to pass the buck! It’s your fault, and everybody knows it.
    Some people try to pass the buck whenever they can. They won’t accept responsibility.
  • pass the hat round
    to attempt to collect money for some (charitable) project.
    Bob is passing the hat round to collect money to buy flowers for Ann.
    He’s always passing the hat round for something.
  • pass the time of day (with someone)
    to chat or talk informally with someone. (Informal.)
    I saw Mr. Brown in town yesterday. I stopped and passed the time of day with him.
    No, we didn’t have a serious talk; we just passed the time of day.
  • past someone’s or something’s best and past someone’s or something’s sell-by date; past it
    less good or efficient now than someone or something was before. (Past it and past someone’s or something’s sell-by date are informal.)
    Joan was a wonderful singer, but she’s past her best now.
    This old car’s past it. I’ll need to get a new one.
    Mary feels she’s past her sell-by date when she sees so many young women joining the company.
    This cooker’s past its sell-by date. We’ll have to get a new one.
  • pay an arm and a leg (for something) and pay through the nose (for something)
    to pay too much money for something. (Informal.)
    I hate to have to pay an arm and a leg for a tank of petrol.
    If you shop around, you won’t have to pay an arm and a leg.
    Why should you pay through the nose? also: cost an arm and a leg to cost too much.
    It cost an arm and a leg, so I didn’t buy it.
  • pay lip-service (to something)
    to express loyalty, respect, or support for something insincerely.
    You don’t really care about politics. You’re just paying lip-service to the candidate.
    The students pay lip-service to the new rules, but they plan to ignore them in practice.
  • pay one’s debt to society
    to serve a sentence for a crime, usually in prison.
    The judge said that Mr. Simpson had to pay his debt to society.
    Mr. Brown paid his debt to society in prison.
  • pay one’s dues
    to pay the fees required to belong to an organization.
    If you haven’t paid your dues, you can’t come to the club picnic.
    How many people have paid their dues?
  • pay someone a back-handed compliment
    to give someone an apparent compliment that is really an insult.
    John said that he had never seen me looking better. I think he was paying me a backhanded compliment.
    I’d prefer that someone insulted me directly. I hate it when someone pays me a back-handed compliment—unless it’s a joke.
  • pay someone a compliment
    to compliment someone.
    Sally thanked me for paying her a compliment.
    When Tom did his job well, I paid him a compliment.
  • pay the earth
    to pay a great deal of money for something. (Informal. Compare with cost the earth.)
    Bob paid the earth for that ugly old sideboard.
    You have to pay the earth for property in that area.
  • pay the piper
    to provide the money for something and so have some control over how the money is spent. (From the expression “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”)
    The parents at a fee-paying school pay the piper and so should have a say in how the school is run.
    Hotel guests pay the piper and should be treated politely.
  • pick and choose
    to choose very carefully from a number of possibilities; to be selective.
    You must take what you are given. You cannot pick and choose.
    Meg is so beautiful. She can pick and choose from a whole range of suitors.
  • pick a quarrel (with someone)
    to start an argument with someone.
    Are you trying to pick a quarrel with me?
    No, I’m not trying to pick a quarrel.
  • pick holes in something
    to criticize something severely; to find all the flaws or fallacies in an argument. (Informal.)
    The solicitor picked holes in the witness’s story.
    They will pick holes in your argument.
  • pick on someone
    to criticize someone or something constantly; to abuse someone or something. (Informal.)
    Stop picking on me!
    Why are you always picking on the office junior?
  • piece of cake
    something very easy. (Informal.)
    No, it won’t be any trouble. It’s a piece of cake.
    Climbing this is easy! Look here— a piece of cake.
  • pie in the sky
    a supposed future reward which one is not likely to get. (From “You’ll get pie in the sky when you die,” a line from a song by U.S. radical labour organizer Joe Hill.)
    The firm have promised him a large reward, but I think it’s just pie in the sky.
    Don’t hold out for a big reward, you know—pie in the sky.
  • pig(gy)-in-the-middle
    a person who is in a position between two opposing groups.
    Jack and Tom share a secretary who is always pigin-the-middle because they are always disagreeing with each other.
    Fred’s mother is piggy-in-the-middle when Fred and his father start to argue. She tries to please both of them.
  • pigs might fly
    a saying indicating that something is extremely unlikely to happen.
    Pam might marry Tom, but there again, pigs might fly.
    Do you really believe that Jack will lend us his car? Yes, and pigs might fly.
  • pile in(to something)
    to climb in or get in roughly. (Informal.)
    Okay, children, pile in!
    The children piled into the car and slammed the door.
  • pinch and scrape
    to live on very little money, sometimes to save money.
    Bob has to pinch and scrape all the time because of his low wages.
    Students have to pinch and scrape to buy books.
  • pin one’s faith on someone or something
    to put one’s hope, trust, or faith in someone or something.
    I’m pinning my faith on your efforts.
    Don’t pin your faith on Tom. He’s not dependable.
  • pins and needles
    a tingling feeling in some part of one’s body.
    I’ve got pins and needles in my legs.
    Mary gets pins and needles if she crosses her arms for long.
  • pipe down
    to be quiet; to get quiet. (Informal.)
    Okay, you lot, pipe down!
    I’ve heard enough from you. Pipe down!
  • pipe-dream
    a wish or an idea which is impossible to achieve or carry out. (From the dreams or visions induced by the smoking of an opium pipe.)
    Going to the West Indies is a pipe-dream. We’ll never have enough money.
    Your hopes of winning a lot of money are just a silly pipe-dream.
  • pipped at the post
    beaten in the final stages of a race or competition; defeated in some activity at the last minute. (Informal. From horse-racing.)
    Tom led the race for most of the time, but he was pipped at the post by his rival.
    Jane nearly bought that house, but she was pipped at the post by the present owner.
  • pitch in (and help)
    to get busy and help (with something). (Informal.)
    Pick up a paintbrush and pitch in and help.
    Why don’t some of you pitch in? We need all the help we can get.
  • pit someone or something against someone or something
    to set someone or something in opposition to someone or something.
    The rules of the tournament pit their team against ours.
    John pitted Mary against Sally in the tennis match.
    In the illegal dog fight, large dogs were pitted against small ones.
  • plain sailing
    progress made without any difficulty; an easy situation.
    Once you’ve passed that exam, it will be plain sailing.
    Working there was not all plain sailing. The boss had a very hot temper.
  • play both ends (against the middle)
    [for one] to scheme in a way that pits two sides against each other (for one’s own gain). (Informal.)
    I told my brother that Mary doesn’t like him. Then I told Mary that my brother doesn’t like her. They broke up, so now I can have the car this week-end. I succeeded in playing both ends against the middle.
    If you try to play both ends against the middle, you’re likely to get in trouble with both sides.
  • play cat and mouse (with someone)
    to capture and release someone over and over; to treat a person in one’s control in such a way that the person does not know what is going to happen next.
    The police played cat and mouse with the suspect until they had sufficient evidence to make an arrest.
    Tom has been playing cat and mouse with Ann. Finally she got tired of it and broke up with him.
  • play devil’s advocate
    to put forward arguments against or objections to a proposition—which one may actually agree with—purely to test the validity of the proposition. (The devil’s advocate was given the role of opposing the canonization of a saint in the mediaeval Church to prove that the grounds for canonization were sound.)
    I agree with your plan. I’m just playing devil’s advocate so you’ll know what the opposition will say.
    Mary offered to play devil’s advocate and argue against our case so that we would find out any flaws in it.
  • played out
    no longer of interest or influence. (Informal.)
    Jane’s political ideas are all played out.
    That particular religious sect is played out now.
  • play fair
    to do something by the rules or in a fair and just manner.
    John won’t do business with Bill any more because Bill doesn’t play fair.
    You moved the golf ball with your foot! That’s not playing fair!
  • play fast and loose (with someone or something)
    to act carelessly, thoughtlessly, and irresponsibly. (Informal.)
    I’m tired of your playing fast and loose with me. Leave me alone.
    Bob played fast and loose with Sally’s affections.
  • play gooseberry
    to be with two lovers who wish to be alone. (Informal.)
    I’m not going to the cinema with Tom and Jean. I hate playing gooseberry.
    Come on! Let’s go home! Bob and Mary don’t want us playing gooseberry.
  • play hard to get
    to be coy and excessively shy; to make it difficult for someone to talk to one or be friendly.
    Why can’t we go out? Why do you play hard to get?
    Sally annoys all the boys because she plays hard to get.
  • play havoc with someone or something
    to cause a lot of damage to something; to ruin something; to create disorder in something.
    The road-works played havoc with the traffic.
    A new baby can play havoc with one’s household routine.
  • play into someone’s hands
    to do exactly what an opponent wants one to do, without one realizing it; to assist someone in a scheme without realizing it.
    John is doing exactly what I hoped he would. He’s playing into my hands.
    John played into my hands by taking the coins he found in my desk. I caught him and had him arrested.
  • play one’s cards close to one’s chest and keep one’s cards close to one’s chest
    to work or negotiate in a careful and private manner.
    It’s hard to figure out what John is up to because he plays his cards close to his chest.
    Don’t let them know what you’re up to. Keep your cards close to your chest.
  • play one’s cards right
    to work or negotiate correctly and skilfully. (Informal.)
    If you play your cards right, you can get whatever you want.
    She didn’t play her cards right, so she didn’t get promotion.
  • play one’s trump card
    to use one’s most powerful or effective strategy or device.
    I won’t play my trump card until I have tried everything else.
    I thought that the whole situation was hopeless until Mary played her trump card and told us her uncle would lend us the money.
  • play on something
    to make use of something for one’s own ends; to exploit something; to manage something for a desired effect. (The on can be replaced by upon.)
    The shop assistant played on my sense of responsibility in trying to get me to buy the book.
    See if you can get her to confess by playing upon her sense of guilt.
  • play politics
    to allow political concerns to dominate in matters where principles should prevail.
    Look, I came here to discuss this trial, not play politics.
    They’re not making reasonable decisions. They’re playing politics.
  • play possum
    to pretend to be inactive, unobserved, asleep, or dead. (Informal. The possum is an opossum.)
    I knew that Bob wasn’t asleep. He was just playing possum.
    I can’t tell if this animal is dead or just playing possum.
  • play safe
    not to take risks; to act in a safe manner.
    You should play safe and take your umbrella.
    If you have a cold or the flu, play safe and go to bed.
  • play second fiddle (to someone)
    to be in a subordinate position to someone.
    I’m tired of playing second fiddle to John.
    I’m better trained than he is, and I have more experience. I shouldn’t play second fiddle.
  • play the field
    to date many different people rather than going steady with just one. (Informal.)
    Tom wanted to play the field, so he said goodbye to Ann.
    He said he wanted to play the field rather than get married while he was still young.
  • play the fool
    to act in a silly manner play safe to amuse other people.
    The teacher told Tom to stop playing the fool and sit down.
    Fred likes playing the fool, but we didn’t find him funny last night.
  • play the game
    to behave or act in a fair and honest way.
    You shouldn’t try to disturb your opponent’s concentration. That’s not playing the game.
    Listening to other people’s phone calls is certainly not playing the game.
  • play the market
    to invest in the shares market. (As if it were a game or as if it were gambling.)
    Would you rather put your money in the bank or play the market?
    I’ve learned my lesson playing the market. I lost a fortune.
  • play to the gallery
    to perform in a manner that will get the strong approval of the audience; to perform in a manner that will get the approval of the less sophisticated members of the audience.
    John is a competent actor, but he has a tendency to play to the gallery.
    When he made the rude remark, he was just playing to the gallery. He wanted others to find him amusing.
  • play tricks (on someone)
    to trick or confuse someone.
    I thought I saw a camel over there. I think that my eyes are playing tricks on me.
    Please don’t play tricks on your little brother. It makes him cry.
  • play up
    to cause trouble; to be a nuisance. (Informal.)
    My leg is playing up. It really aches.
    Her arthritis always plays up in this cold, damp weather. also: play someone up to annoy someone.
    That child played me up. He was naughty all day.
    The pupils played the substitute teacher up the entire day.
  • play up to someone
    to try to gain someone’s favour; to curry someone’s favour; to flatter someone or to pretend to admire someone to gain favour.
    Bill is always playing up to the teacher.
    Ann played up to Bill as if she wanted him to marry her.
  • play with fire
    to do something very risky or dangerous.
    The teacher was playing with fire by threatening a pupil.
    I wouldn’t talk to Bob that way if I were you—unless you like playing with fire.
  • pluck up (one’s) courage
    to increase one’s courage a bit; to become brave enough to do something.
    Come on, Ann, make the dive. Pluck up your courage and do it.
    Fred plucked up courage and asked Jean for a date.
  • poetic justice
    the appropriate but chance receiving of rewards or punishments by those deserving them.
    It was poetic justice that Jane won the race after Mary tried to get her banned.
    The car robbers stole a car with no petrol. That’s poetic justice.
  • point the finger at someone
    to blame someone; to identify someone as the guilty person.
    Don’t point the finger at me! I didn’t take the money.
    The manager refused to point the finger at anyone in particular and said the whole staff were sometimes guilty of being late.
  • poke fun (at someone or something)
    to make fun of someone; to ridicule someone. (Informal.)
    Stop poking fun at me! It’s not nice.
    Bob is always poking fun.
  • pot calling the kettle black
    [the instance of] someone with a fault accusing someone else of having the same fault.
    Ann is always late, but she was rude enough to tell everyone when I was late. Now that’s the pot calling the kettle black!
    You’re calling me thoughtless? That’s really a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
  • pound for pound
    considering the amount of money involved; considering the cost. (Often seen in advertising.)
    Pound for pound, you cannot buy a better car.
    Pound for pound, this detergent washes cleaner and brighter than any other product on the market.
  • pound the streets
    to walk through the streets looking for a job. (Informal.)
    I spent two months pounding the streets after the factory I worked for closed.
    Look, Bob. You’d better get on with your work unless you want to be out pounding the streets.
  • pour cold water on something and throw cold water on something
    to discourage doing something; to reduce enthusiasm for something.
    When my father said I couldn’t have the car, he poured cold water on my plans.
    John threw cold water on the whole project and refused to participate.
  • pour money down the drain
    to waste money; to throw money away.
    What a waste! You’re just pouring money down the drain.
    Don’t buy any more of that low-quality material. That’s just pouring money down the drain.
  • pour oil on troubled waters
    to calm things down. (If oil is poured on to rough seas during a storm, the water will become more calm.)
    That was a good thing to say to John. It helped to pour oil on troubled waters. Now he looks happy.
    Bob is the kind of person who always pours oil on troubled waters.
  • power behind the throne
    the person who controls the one who is apparently in charge.
    Mr. Smith appears to run the shop, but his brother is the power behind the throne.
    They say that the mayor’s husband is the power behind the throne.
  • powers that be
    the people who are in authority.
    The powers that be have decided to send back the immigrants.
    I have applied for a licence, and the powers that be are considering my application.
  • practise what you preach
    to do what you advise other people to do.
    If you’d practise what you preach, you’d be better off.
    You give good advice. Why not practise what you preach?
  • praise someone or something to the skies
    to give someone much praise.
    He wasn’t very good, but his friends praised him to the skies.
    They liked your pie. Everyone praised it to the skies.
  • preach to the converted
    to praise or recommend something to someone who is already in favour of it.
    Mary was preaching to the converted when she tried to persuade Jean to become a feminist. She’s been one for years.
    Bob found himself preaching to the converted when he was telling Jane the advantages of living in the country. She hates city life.
  • presence of mind
    calmness and the ability to act sensibly in an emergency or difficult situation.
    Jane had the presence of mind to phone the police when the child disappeared.
    The child had the presence of mind to take a note of the car’s number-plate.
  • press-gang someone into doing something
    to force someone into doing something. (From the noun press-gang, a group of sailors employed to seize men and force them to join the navy.)
    Aunt Jane press-ganged me into helping with the church fe?te.
    The boss pressganged us all into working late.
  • prick up one’s ears
    to listen more closely.
    At the sound of my voice, my dog pricked up her ears.
    I pricked up my ears when I heard my name mentioned.
  • pride of place
    the best or most important place or space.
    Jack’s parents gave pride of place in their living-room to his sports trophy.
    The art gallery promised to give pride of place to Mary’s painting of the harbour.
  • pride oneself on something
    to take special pride in something.
    Ann prides herself on her apple pies.
    John prides himself on his ability to make people feel at ease.
  • prime mover
    the force that sets something going; someone or something that starts something off.
    The assistant manager was the prime mover in getting the manager sacked.
    Discontent with his job was the prime mover in John’s deciding to emigrate.
  • pull a face and make a face
    to twist one’s face into a strange expression, typically to show one’s dislike, to express ridicule, or to make someone laugh. (Also plural: pull faces, make faces.)
    The comedian pulled faces to amuse the children.
    Jane made a face when she was asked to work late.
  • pull a fast one
    to succeed in an act of deception. (Informal.)
    She was pulling a fast one when she said she had a headache and had to go home.
    Don’t try to pull a fast one with me! I know what you’re doing.
  • pull oneself together
    to become calm or steady; to become emotionally stabilized; to regain one’s composure.
    Now, calm down. Pull yourself together.
    I’ll be all right as soon as I can pull myself together. I just can’t stop weeping.
  • pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps
    to achieve (something) through one’s own efforts. (Informal.)
    He’s wealthy now, but he pulled himself up by his bootstraps.
    The orphan pulled himself up by his bootstraps to become a doctor.
  • pull one’s punches 1.
    [for a boxer] to strike with light blows to enable the other boxer to win.
    Bill has been barred from the boxing ring for pulling his punches.
    “I never pulled my punches in my life!” cried Tom. 2. to hold back in one’s criticism or attack. (Usually in the negative. The one’s can be replaced with any.)
    I didn’t pull any punches. I told her just what I thought of her.
    The teacher doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to discipline.
  • pull one’s socks up
    to make an effort to improve one’s behaviour or performance.
    If you don’t want to be expelled from school, you’ll have to pull your socks up.
    The firm will have to pull its socks up in order to stay in business.
  • pull out all the stops
    to use all one’s energy and effort in order to achieve something. (From the stops of a pipe-organ. The more that are pulled out, the louder it gets.)
    You’ll have to pull out all the stops if you’re going to pass the exam.
    The doctors will pull out all the stops to save the child’s life.
  • pull someone’s leg
    to kid, fool, or trick someone. (Informal.)
    You don’t mean that. You’re just pulling my leg.
    Don’t believe him. He’s just pulling your leg.
  • pull something out of a hat and pull something out of thin air
    to produce something as if by magic.
    This is a serious problem, and we just can’t pull a solution out of a hat.
    I’m sorry, but I don’t have a pen. What do you want me to do, pull one out of thin air?
  • pull strings
    to use influence (with someone to get something done or gain an advantage).
    I can borrow the hall easily by pulling strings.
    Is it possible to get anything done around here without pulling strings?
  • pull the rug out from under someone(’s feet)
    to do something suddenly which leaves someone in a weak position; to make someone ineffective.
    The news that his wife had left him pulled the rug out from under him.
    The boss certainly pulled the rug out from under Bob’s feet when he lowered his salary.
  • pull the wool over someone’s eyes
    to deceive someone.
    You can’t pull the wool over my eyes. I know what’s going on.
    Don’t try to pull the wool over her eyes. She’s too smart.
  • push one’s luck
    to expect continued good fortune; to expect to continue to escape bad luck. (Informal.)
    You’re okay so far, but don’t push your luck.
    Bob pushed his luck once too often when he tried to flirt with the new secretary. She slapped him.
  • put a brave face on it
    to try to appear happy or satisfied when faced with misfortune or danger.
    We’ve lost all our money, but we must put a brave face on it for the sake of the children.
    Jim’s lost his job and is worried, but he’s putting a brave face on it.
  • put all one’s eggs in one basket
    to risk everything at once; to depend entirely on one plan, venture, etc. (Often negative.)
    Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You shouldn’t invest all your money in one business.
    John only applied to the one college he wanted to go to. He put all his eggs in one basket.
  • put ideas into someone’s head
    to suggest something—usually something that is bad or unfortunate for someone—to someone (who would not have thought of it otherwise).
    Jack can’t afford a holiday abroad. Please don’t put ideas into his head.
    Bob would get along all right if his chums didn’t put ideas into his head.
  • put in a good word for someone
    to say something to someone in support of someone.
    I hope you get the job. I’ll put in a good word for you.
    You might get the part in the film if Mike puts in a good word for you.
  • put it on
    to pretend; to act as if something were true. (Informal.)
    Ann wasn’t really angry. She was just putting it on.
    I can’t believe she was just putting it on. She really looked mad.
  • put on airs
    to act superior. (Informal.)
    Stop putting on airs. You’re just human like the rest of us.
    Ann is always putting on airs. You’d think she was a queen.
  • put one across someone
    to deceive or trick someone. (Informal.)
    He tried to put one across the old lady by pretending to be her longlost nephew.
    Meg thought she’d put one across her parents by claiming to spend the night at her friend’s house.
  • put one in one’s place
    to rebuke someone; to remind one of one’s (lower) rank or station.
    My employer put me in my place for criticizing her.
    Lady Jane put the butler in his place when he grew too familiar.
  • put one’s best foot forward
    to prepare to do one’s best; to make the best attempt possible to make a good impression.
    When you apply for a position, you should always put your best foot forward.
    Since you failed last time, you must put your best foot forward now.
  • put one’s foot down (about something)
    to be adamant about something.
    Ann put her foot down about what kind of car she wanted.
    She doesn’t put her foot down very often, but when she does, she really means it.
  • put one’s foot in it
    to say something which one regrets; to say something tactless, insulting, or hurtful. (Informal.)
    When I told Ann that her hair was more beautiful than I had ever seen it, I really put my foot in it. It was a wig.
    I put my foot in it by mistaking John’s girlfriend for his wife.
  • put one’s hand to the plough
    to begin to do a big and important task; to undertake a major effort.
    If John would only put his hand to the plough, he could do an excellent job of work.
    You’ll never accomplish anything if you don’t put your hand to the plough.
  • put one’s house in order
    to put one’s business or personal affairs into good order.
    There was some trouble at work and the manager was told to put his house in order.
    Every now and then, I have to put my house in order. Then life becomes more manageable.
  • put one’s oar in and shove one’s oar in; stick one’s oar in
    to interfere by giving unasked-for advice. (Informal.)
    You don’t need to put your oar in. I don’t need your advice.
    I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have stuck my oar in when you were arguing with your wife.
  • put one’s shoulder to the wheel
    to take up a task; to get busy.
    You won’t accomplish anything unless you put your shoulder to the wheel.
    I put my shoulder to the wheel and finished the task quickly.
  • put one through one’s paces
    to make one demonstrate what one can do; to test someone’s abilities or capacity.
    The teacher put the children through their paces before the exam.
    I auditioned for a part in the play, and the director really put me through my paces.
  • put on one’s thinking-cap
    to start thinking in a serious manner.
    Let’s put on our thinking-caps and decide where to go on holiday.
    It’s time to put on our thinking-caps, children, and choose a name for the dog.
  • put on weight
    to gain weight; to grow fatter.
    I have to go on a diet because I’ve been putting on a little weight lately.
    The doctor says I need to put on some weight.
  • put out (some) feelers
    to attempt to find out something without being too obvious.
    I wanted to get a new position, so I put out some feelers.
    We’d like to move house and so we’ve put out feelers to see what’s on the market.
  • put paid to something
    to put an end to something; to prevent someone from doing something; to prevent something from happening. (From the practice of book-keepers of writing “paid” in the account book when a bill has been settled.)
    Jean’s father’s objections put paid to John’s thoughts of marrying her.
    Lack of money put paid to our holiday plans.
  • put someone in mind of someone or something
    to remind someone of someone or something.
    Mary puts me in mind of her mother when she was that age.
    This place puts me in mind of the village where I was brought up.
  • put someone in the picture
    to give someone all the necessary facts about something. (Informal.)
    They put the police in the picture about how the accident happened.
    Would someone put me in the picture about what went on in my absence?
  • put someone on a pedestal
    to respect or admire someone too much; to worship someone.
    He has put her on a pedestal and thinks she can do no wrong.
    Don’t put me on a pedestal. I’m only human.
  • put someone on the spot
    to ask someone embarrassing questions; to put someone in an uncomfortable or difficult position.
    Don’t put me on the spot. I can’t give you an answer.
    We put Bob on the spot and demanded that he do everything he had promised.
  • put someone or something out to pasture
    to retire someone or something. (Informal. Originally said of a horse which was too old to work.)
    Please don’t put me out to pasture. I have lots of good years left.
    This car is very old and keeps breaking down. It’s time to put it out to pasture.
  • put someone’s nose out of joint
    to cause someone to feel slighted or insulted. (Informal.)
    I’m afraid I put his nose out of joint by not inviting him to the picnic.
    Jane’s nose was put out of joint when her baby brother was born.
  • put someone through the wringer
    to give someone a difficult or exhausting time. (Informal.)
    They are really putting me through the wringer at school.
    We all put Bob through the wringer over this contract.
  • put someone to shame
    to show someone up; to embarrass someone; to make someone ashamed.
    Your excellent efforts put us all to shame.
    I put him to shame by telling everyone about his bad behaviour.
  • put someone to the test
    to test someone; to see what someone can achieve.
    I think I can jump that far, but no one has ever put me to the test.
    I’m going to put you to the test now!
  • put someone up to something
    to cause someone to do something; to bribe someone to do something; to give someone the idea of doing something.
    Who put you up to it?
    Nobody put me up to it. I thought it up myself.
  • put someone wise to someone or something
    to inform someone about someone or something. (Informal.)
    I put her wise to the way we do things around here.
    I didn’t know she was taking money. Mary put me wise to her.
  • put something on ice and put something on the back burner
    to delay or postpone something; to put something on hold. (Informal.)
    I’m afraid that we’ll have to put your project on ice for a while.
    Just put your idea on the back burner and keep it there until we get some money.
  • put something on paper
    to write something down.
    You have a great idea for a novel. Now put it on paper.
    I’m sorry, I can’t discuss your offer until I see something in writing. Put it on paper, and then we’ll talk.
  • put something over
    to accomplish something; to put something across.
    This is a very hard thing to explain to a large audience. I hope I can put it over.
    This is a big request for money. I go before the board of directors this afternoon, and I hope I can put it over.
  • put something plainly
    to state something firmly and explicitly.
    To put it plainly, I want you out of this house immediately.
    Thank you. I think you’ve put your feelings quite plainly.
  • put something right and set something right
    to correct something; to alter a situation to make it more fair.
    This is a very unfortunate situation. I’ll ask the people responsible to set this matter right.
    I’m sorry that we overcharged you. We’ll try to put it right.
  • Put that in your pipe and smoke it!
    See how you like that!; It is final, and you have to live with it! (Informal.)
    Well, I’m not going to do it, so put that in your pipe and smoke it!
    I’m sick of you, and I’m leaving. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!
  • put the cart before the horse
    to have things in the wrong order; to have things confused and mixed up.
    You’re eating your dessert! You’ve put the cart before the horse.
    Slow down and get organized. Don’t put the cart before the horse!
    John puts the cart before the horse in most of his projects.
  • put the cat among the pigeons and set the cat among the pigeons
    to cause trouble or a disturbance, especially by doing or saying something suddenly or unexpectedly.
    Meg put the cat among the pigeons by announcing that she was leaving home.
    When Frank told of Bob’s problems with the police, he really set the cat among the pigeons.
  • put two and two together
    to find the answer to something from the information available; to reach an understanding of something.
    Well, I put two and two together and came up with an idea of who did it.
    Don’t worry. John won’t figure it out. He can’t put two and two together.
  • putty in someone’s hands
    [someone who is] easily influenced by someone else; [someone who is] excessively willing to do what someone else wishes.
    Bob’s wife is putty in his hands. She never thinks for herself.
    Jane is putty in her mother’s hands. She always does exactly what her mother says.
  • put up a (brave) front
    to appear to be brave (even if one is not).
    Mary is frightened, but she’s putting up a brave front.
    If she weren’t putting up a front, I’d be more frightened than I am.
  • put upon someone
    to make use of someone to an unreasonable degree; to take advantage of someone for one’s own benefit. (Typically passive.)
    My mother was always put upon by her neighbours. She was too nice to refuse their requests for help.
    Jane feels put upon by her husband’s parents. They’re always coming to stay with her.
  • put words into someone’s mouth
    to speak for another person without permission.
    Stop putting words into my mouth. I can speak for myself.
    The solicitor was scolded for putting words into the witness’s mouth.
  • Put your money where your mouth is!
    a command to stop talking or boasting and make a bet, or to stop talking and provide money for something which one claims to support.
    I’m tired of your bragging about your skill at betting. Put your money where your mouth is!
    You talk about betting, but you don’t bet. Put your money where your mouth is!
20 January, 2021