pain in the neck
(also” ‘pain in the ass’)
something that is really annoying

– examples

“Is Dave going to be at the party? I hope not, because that guy is a real pain in the ass.”


part and parcel
something that comes with the job (usually a risk or a difficulty) and cannot be avoided.

– examples

It was the fifth time he had broken his finger, but unfortunately injuries are part and parcel of being a professional boxer.


pass the buck
to pass the blame and responsibility to other people when things go wrong

– examples

“If there is one thing the management of this company know how to do, it is passing the buck. They never say it was their decisions that were wrong.”


pass the time of day
to pass time, usually by wasting it on small matters

– examples

“I don’t really enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles, but they pass the time of day.”


pay your dues
spend some time struggling and learning in a lower job, or doing difficult work, before getting a high position (not being given a good job straight away)

– examples

“I hate this company! I’ve been here 10 years, but they give the promotion to the boss’s son. Why not me?! I’ve paid my dues.”


people person
a person who is good at talking to people; a person who enjoys talking to people

– examples

“There are some customers wanting to complain. Can you speak with them? I’m not really a people person.”


pick (someone's) brain
look for advice and ideas from another person

– examples

“Can I pick your brain for a minute? I’m having some problems with my girlfriend’s mother and I don’t know what to do.”


pick up the pace
go faster

– examples

“Ok, we did a good job this morning, but I think we need to pick up the pace this afternoon if this is going to be finished today.”


pipe dream
a dream or ambition that will never come true; a completely unrealistic dream

– examples

When he was at school his teachers told him becoming a rock star was a silly pipe dream, and he should study more.


play second fiddle
to be the second most important – and therefore ignored – behind someone better

– examples

“I’m tired of playing second fiddle to Anne. I think I need to move jobs.”


poetry in motion
something that is artistic and beautiful to watch

– examples

Seeing Dave dance is like watching poetry in motion.

“Sometimes City’s football is poetry in motion.”


pop the question
ask someone to marry you

– examples

“I saw Philip buying a wedding ring yesterday. I think he is going to pop the question pretty soon.”


the powers that be
the people who are in charge; the management

– examples

Anne wanted to change the office hours to a later start and earlier finish, but the powers that be didn’t agree.


preaching to the choir
telling an opinion (or complaining about something) with which that the audience already agrees

– examples

“There is no way Anne should have been given that job.”
“Hey, you’re preaching to the choir here. I don’t think she should even have a job.”


presence of mind
to be calm or caring enough to think of (or remember) something important when in a dangerous or difficult situation

– examples

Even although the house was filling with smoke, Dave still had the presence of mind to set off the alarm.


pressed for time
In a hurry; without a lot of time for something right now

– examples

“Can we talk about this tomorrow? I’m a bit pressed for time right now.”


pull strings
to use contacts and people you know to get something

– examples

Anne asked Phil if he could help her with her parking tickets. Phil said she shouldn’t worry and that he would pull a few strings.


pull the plug
to terminate something; to stop a project (usually because it is not doing well)

– examples

The management decided to pull the plug on the training programme; they said it was costing too much money and they hadn’t seen any improvement.


pull your socks up
to start trying harder; to have to try harder

– examples

“I’ve been disappointed with your work so far this year. You’ll have to pull your socks up if you want to pass.”


(a) purple patch
a moment of time of great luck, great results, or great success

– examples

Dave has been enjoying a purple patch lately: his play has been superb.

“Well, I’ve been enjoying a bit of a purple patch as far as dating has been concerned: I’ve had three in the last week, and all of them were excellent.”


when push comes to shove
when there is no other choice, this is what we will do; when the last big decision needs made, this is true

– examples

Dave said he would support Phil until the end; however, when push came to shove, he left as quickly as everybody else.

“Well, when push comes to shove, remember I am still there for you.”


put (someone) on a pedestal
to raise someone above other people; to believe and say somebody is better than others

– examples

The newspapers are always keen to put people on a pedestal, and then crush them later.

“I don’t know why you put him on such a pedestal: he isn’t smart, good-looking, or even rich.”


put two and two together
to reach a logical and correct answer by adding together the evidence

– examples

“How did you know Anne and Dave were boyfriend and girlfriend?”
“Well, Anne said she had to take time off work to visit her mother. The very same time, Dave said he had a conference. I just put two and two together.”


put (our) heads together
to think together; to both think about something so we can get a better answer

– examples

The boss ordered Anne and Dave to stop arguing and instead put their heads together and try to find an answer.


a piece of cake
a task that caused/will cause no problems at all

– examples

Dave was worried that organising his trip to Disneyland was going to be difficult, but actually it was a piece of cake: he just called a travel agent and they did the rest.

“Tomorrow we have to do the health and safety check, but don’t worry, if you have common sense it is a piece of cake.”

“How did the exam go?”
“Piece of cake.”