u-turn
to change direction; to change an opinion to the opposite

– examples:

“I’m pleased you have u-turned on your decision to leave college: getting an education is important.”


uncalled for
an action that was not necessary (especially to hurt others)

– examples

“I know Phillip hurt your feelings, but killing his pet fish was uncalled for.”


uncharted waters
in an area or situation you have never been in before

– examples

“I’ve done many things in my life, but having a long-term relationship is still uncharted waters for me. Most days I don’t know if I am doing a good job.”


under a cloud
for others to be judging you negatively because you previously did something wrong

– examples

Anna used to be the boss’s favourite, but ever since the money went missing from the account she has been under a cloud. Anna says she didn’t do it, but not everybody believes her.


under fire
being heavily criticised

– examples

The coach has been under increasing fire since his decision to sell the team’s best player was followed by three heavy defeats.


under the radar
not noticed by others, especially by those who should notice

– examples

The transfer of the world’s best player to the team meant the signing of a new goalkeeper too went under the radar; now, however, they are seeing it was the second one that was more important.

“I don’t need a promotion. I’m happy to just be working away, under the radar, getting things done.”


under the table
illegal or secret (when talking about deals and business)

– examples

If there is one thing foreigners don’t understand about business in this country, it is that under the table deals are normal.


under the weather
feeling a little sick

– examples

Phil said he was feeling a little under the weather and so didn’t go to school; the truth was that he was at the cinema with Anna.

“I’m sorry, I can’t go to your party. I’ve been a feeling a little under the weather recently – I don’t know what is wrong.”


under (your) belt
to have already achieved something of importance

– examples

Nobody can deny that he is a great chess player: with five titles under his belt, he has shown his talents.

There was a great deal of criticism for Dave, but he ignored it: with three successful companies and a happy family under his belt, he didn’t need to impress them.


under (your) breath
(usually ‘say’ or ‘whisper’ something under (your) breath)
to say something quietly to yourself, usually an opinion you don’t want others to hear

– examples

Dave said he thought Anna had been a great help, but under his breath he told himself he never wanted to see her again.

“You’re great!” Anna said, before whispering under her breath, “Yeah, a great big pain in the ass.”


under (your) nose
(often ‘right under your nose’)
in front of you, but you can’t see it

– examples

For years he had been searching for a good partner, not knowing he had one right under his nose. Finally, three years ago he asked his wife to join the board, and they have been successful ever since.

“I have a feeling the answer is right under my nose, but I just can’t see it.”


under (your) skin
find something really irritating/annoying

– examples

“Man, Dave really gets under my skin. I don’t understand how anyone can like that guy.”


under (the) thumb
controlled by someone (often used to describe a husband controlled by his wife)

– examples

“You know, ever since you got married you just do anything she says. You’re completely under her thumb.”


up for grabs
still available; the decision of who will get something has not yet been made

– examples

With two games to go in the season, the title is still up for grabs.

“A lot of the prizes have gone, but the star prize is still up for grabs so please don’t go home yet.”


up in the air
the future is uncertain

– examples

The company went into administration last week, and the future of the staff is up in the air at the moment.


up the ante
to make a situation worth even more to the winner, and worse for the loser; to bet more on an outcome

– examples

At first the game was simply to knock on a door and run away, but then Dave upped the ante: who would dare to go into the house?

After losing money for a year on the stock market, Anna felt she had no choice but to up the ante: if she won, she would have no loses. If she lost: she was already down.


up to scratch
meeting the required standard or quality

– examples

It took him a few months to get his painting up to scratch, but now it seems he is doing well in all areas of his art course.

“I’m afraid i don’t think your recent work has been anywhere near up to scratch. This is your last warning.”


up to speed
knowing the latest information; up-to-date

– examples

“I want to be kept up to speed on what is happening on the Jones case” the detective said. “I don’t want any journalist asking me questions and I don’t know what is going on.”

“Ok, I’ll see you next week. Keep me up to speed if there are any changes.”


up to (the) eyes
having a lot of something, usually some sort of trouble or work

– examples

After a week away on the beaches of Hawaii, Anna returned to find herself up to the eyes in work.


have the upper hand
have an advantage over somebody

– examples

The casinos always have the upper hand: the odds are stacked against you.

Going into the negotiations, Dave knew that Anna had the upper hand. Somehow he needed her to make a mistake.