Idioms (R)

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rack (your) brain
to try and remember something; to think deeply on a subject

(can also use ‘wrack my brain’)

– examples

“I know I have seen him before, but I have been racking my brain all morning and still don’t know where.”

“I’ll rack my brain and see if I can think of something to do for her birthday.”

rain on (your) parade
to do something that ruins someone else’s fun or idea

– examples

Phil punched Dave in the face on Anna’s birthday, which sort of rained on her parade a bit.

“I don’t want to rain on your parade, but do you really think opening a restaurant is a good idea? I mean, you don’t know anything about the business.”

the rat race
the struggle of working against everyone else (especially in the city, from 9-5)

– examples

The best thing Dave ever did was to escape the rat race. He now has a very enjoyable life running a small restaurant in the countryside.

read between the lines
to understand the real meaning of what is being said, not just what the words directly say

– examples

Dave told Anne that he was looking for a new challenge. She could read between the lines, however, that this meant he was leaving her.

The company statement came out, and most of it is positive. However, if you read between the lines of some of the numbers, you can see there are problems coming.

the real deal
the real thing; not a fake
(also used for people or organisations that prove they really are good at something, not only possibly good in the future)

City started the season well, but many thought they weren’t the real deal. Now, however, nobody is doubting them.

“Is this a real diamond, or a fake?”
“It’s the real deal, of course.”

recharge (your) batteries
relax and rest so you can come back refreshed and with energy

– examples

“I feel OK now. I think the holiday helped me a lot: I just needed some time to recharge my batteries.”

a recipe for disaster
a situation or combination that can only fail

– examples

Everyone said that marrying her was a recipe for disaster, but Philip did it anyway.

“Dave is managing this project? But he’s an idiot! It’s a recipe for disaster.”

roll out the red carpet
to make grand preparations for the arrival of somebody important

– examples

“I see you have repainted the building, tidied away the files, and have everyone wearing suits. You’re really rolling out the red carpet for these people arriving, aren’t you?”

a red herring
something that distracts people from the real thing; something that is false, and people should ignore it (and not pay so much attention to it)


All through the movie the sister looked like she was the murderer; she was, however, just a red herring. It was the mother who did it!

“Don’t listen to him. Everything he says is a red herring. You should just look at the facts.”

(the) red mist
a sense of anger that arrives, either slowly, or very suddenly

– examples:

Dave is a good boss, and usually very kind. However, when the red mist descends, the staff know to stay out of his way.

“He’s a good player, but is quite violent. You never know when the red mist is going to descend and he is going to get sent off.” [

red tape
annoying bureaucracy

– examples

There is a lot of red tape involved in starting a business in this country.

“I don’t want us to spend weeks caught in red tape; just get it started.”

rest on your laurels
to become lazy or stop trying because they think they have achieved everything they need to


The people were getting annoyed with a government that seemed to rest on its laurels. It was not surprising, then, that at the election they voted for a new President.

“We did well, but I don’t want any of us resting on our laurels. This next year is going to be even more important.”

ride roughshod over (somebody)
to do whatever you want, ignoring the wants, rules or feelings of others who don’t want you to do it

– examples

“I wish you wouldn’t just ride roughshod over me: I told you I didn’t want you to do that, but you went and did it anyway.”

right as rain
everything is perfect and going well; everything is healthy and good

– examples

He was sick for quite a long time last year., but he is right as rain now.

right out of the blocks
as soon as something starts; at the very beginning of something

– examples

City knew they had to win, and right out of the blocks they started to attack.

“I need you to show them who the boss is right out of the blocks; don’t let them think they are in charge. I know they are kids, but they also know how to cause a lot of trouble.”

right up (your) alley
(also: ‘right up your street’)
perfectly suited to you; something you will definitely like

– examples

Dave is good at sports, and interested in travel, so a job teaching kids football in Africa seemed right up his alley.

“I think you’ll like this gift; it is right up your alley.”

ring a bell
when hearing something, to half-remember; to not truly remember, but feel you have heard it before

– examples:

“Gary Hobbes? That name rings a bell. I think I used to work with someone called Gary Hobbes.”

ringside seat
a clear view, close to the action

– examples

“I just had a ringside seat to one of the biggest fights I have ever seen: Dave and his girlfriend just went crazy on each other, and all I could do was watch.”

rock the boat
cause trouble; upset a previously calm situation

– examples

For years the team has been fine, but then they brought in some new people and that really rocked the boat. Now they make more money, but nobody feels happy or secure.

“I don’t want to rock the boat, but I think we need to think about making some changes here.”

rocky road
a difficult path to achieve something

– examples

“It is going to be a rocky road, but don’t give up, and one day you’ll achieve your dreams.”

roll the dice
to gamble; to take a chance

– examples

“If we don’t take a chance, we’ll never know if we can do it. I say, roll the dice and let’s see what happens.”

roll with the punches
be flexible when the situation changes or slight problems arrive

– examples

‘It is a difficult relationship, but I have learnt to just roll with the punches because I love her.”

roll your eyes
to show (by moving your eyes from one side the other) that you either don’t believe or find something ridiculous

– examples

“I asked her if she wanted to join us on our trip to the toy shop, but she just rolled her eyes and said she was busy. I think she thinks we are very childish.”

rolling in money
to have a very large amount of money

– examples

Ever since he set up his own software company he has been rolling in money.

rose-tinted glasses
to look at things with a positive bias; to think things are better than they really are because you want to believe that

– examples

Dave was telling me how great his school days were, but I think he was looking at it through rose-tinted glasses: I don’t remember him being happy when he was young.

rough and ready
not neat and well-prepared, but still can be used

– examples

He gave her the storage room to use as her first office. It was a bit rough and ready, but it did the job.

rough around the edges
promising, but needs a bit of practice

– examples

“I think he will be a very good player. At the moment he is a little rough around the edges, but he is quick, intelligent and understands the game, all of which are going to help him.”

rough edges
a product is nearly finished, but has a few things left to solve

– examples

“I like your design. There are still a few rough edges, but the idea is good.”

(a) rough patch
a time of difficulties (often about relationships, businesses, or sports teams)

– examples

Their marriage is going through a rough patch right now, but hopefully some time away will help them solve the problems.

rub shoulders (with some people)
to spend time with people, usually when talking about famous, important or interesting people

– examples

Anna loves her new job because not only does it pay well, but it also lets her rub shoulders with some of the brightest people in the city.

rub (someone) up the wrong way
to do something that really annoys somebody

– examples

Dave has a bad habit of roughing people up the wrong way, which means most of the people he meets at work don’t like him.

rue the day

– examples

Dave still rues the day he split up with Anna.

“Listen to me! You’re making a mistake! You’ll rue the day you fired me!” [

ruffle a few feathers
annoy someone, especially by saying or doing something or by making changes

– examples

The boss’s decision to not offer a bonus this year certainly ruffled a few feathers.

“I want you to go there and ruffle a few feathers; they are being far too lazy, so go wake them up.”

rule of thumb
the general rule

– examples

As a rule of thumb Anna didn’t date guys from work, but Dave was just too cute and funny.

run a mile
run away from; get away from something

– examples

At first Dave liked Anna, but when she told him about her weird family Dave ran a mile.

“Usually I run a mile from sports, but if she is going, then sure I’ll go!”

run amok
to run wild and out of control

– examples:

The substitute teacher could not control the class; the kids completely ran amok for the whole class. [

run off (your) feet
extremely busy so have no time to stop or rest

– examples

“I need a holiday; work is running me off my feet, and I feel tired every morning.”

run out of gas
to slowly run out of energy and come to a stop

– examples

He started the marathon well, but quickly ran out of gas. By mile 10 he was walking, panting, and wanting to die.

At the beginning the movie shooting was going well, but it soon began to run out of gas. Scenes took longer, actors were late, and the studio refused to put any more money in. In the end, the movie was cancelled.

run (something) into the ground
to run or manage something so badly it is eventually destroyed

– examples

The company used to be successful, but the new boss has run it into the ground. Next month it will close.

The manager likes to run his interns into the ground: they have to make the coffee, do his shopping, and do the cleaning.

run (your) mouth off
(shortened to ‘run your mouth’)
to ‘trash talk’; to talk a lot, giving a lot of opinions and annoying others

– examples

“I really don’t like that kid: he’s only 10, but he’s really arrogant, always running his mouth
about people.

run of the mill
average; normal and not that interesting

– examples

“I don’t see why you are so interested in that bicycle; it just looks like a run-of-the-mill bike to me.”

running on empty
(also: ‘running on fumes’)
to have no energy left, but still be trying to go

– examples

“I’ve been working on this thing for 15 hours now. I’m running on fumes, to be honest, but I have to get it finished.”

runs in the family
something that happens, or can be seen, in more than one person in a family

– examples

The doctor asked Dave if heart disease ran in the family. Dave said it did not.

“Dave is an idiot, and his sister isn’t bright either. I guess stupidity runs in the family.”

(hit) rock bottom
to reach the lowest point; things can get no worse

– examples

– After his wife left him, Dave hit rock bottom. Alone in a foreign country, and out of work, he thought life was never going to get any better.

– “Well, everyone, I think we have hit rock bottom. At least things can’t get any worse…”