Idioms (T)

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turn the tables
(past tense: the tables have turned)
to reverse the fortunes of two things or people

– examples

Traditionally United have been the stronger team in the city, but recently City have turned the tables.

“For years you made me make your coffee, clean up your office, and do all your dirty work. But now the tables have turned, haven’t they: you do what I say, or you’re fired!”

tackle (a problem)
to solve a problem, or at least try to fix it

– examples

“If we can’t tackle the high staff turnover, I’m afraid we are always going to be losing money.”

take a hike
(impolite) tell someone to go away; “get lost”

– examples

“Take a hike Dave. We don’t need you here wasting our time.”

take a rain check
decline an offer, but might do it next time

– examples

“Do you want to come out for a drink?”
“I’m afraid I’m going to have to take a rain check tonight – got a big test tomorrow. But I’ll see you next week, right?”

take a straw poll
take a quick check of who thinks what; take an on-the-spot count of who wants to do something (the results are for suggestion, not a final decision)


The newspaper said that a straw poll of voters believe that the President got the issue wrong, but we will have to wait until election night to see how wrong.

“Can I just take a quick straw poll of who here thinks we should go ahead with this plan?”

take aback
(often ‘taken aback’)
to be surprised by how events are happening

– examples

“I always thought Phil a bit of a mummy’s boy, so when I saw him beat Dave up I was quite taken aback.”

take by storm
to be an overwhelming success; to be a huge success that interests a lot of people

– examples

His new play, ‘Frog Genocide’, took both London and New York by storm.

This year he has taken the league by storm, putting in many game-winning performances.

take by the scruff of the neck
(also ‘grab by the scruff of the neck’)
to take complete control of something when it is is danger of getting out of control; to take complete control when others are wasting time or dithering

– examples

The boss was pleased with Dave’s performance, especially how he took the last project by the scruff of the neck when others in his team were losing interest.

take (something) for granted
to not appreciate something because you think it will always be there


It was only after his wife left him that Dave realised how he had taken her for granted.

“You can’t take it for granted that this year will be as good as last year; you have to keep working hard.”

(walking) time bomb
(also: ‘ticking time-bomb’)a person who is very likely to explode / get very angry
(‘ticking time-bomb’ does not have to be a person)

– examples:

He is a good player, but is also a ticking time-bomb; if the opponents can annoy him enough, he will probably explode.

(you're) toast
you’re finished; it’s all over; (threat) you’re dead

– examples

“Oh god, I crashed the car. When Dad finds out, I’m toast.”

“If you break anything, you’re toast.”