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Idioms (U)

u-turn

meaning: to change an opinion to the opposite

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

meaning: an action that was not necessary, especially an action that hurts others

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

meaning: in an area or situation you have never been in before

1. “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

meaning: your reputation is low because of something you did

1. 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

meaning: being heavily criticised

1. 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

meaning: not noticed by others, especially by those who should notice

1. 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.

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

meaning: illegal or secret deals

1. 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

meaning: feeling a little sick

1. 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.

2. “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

meaning: to have already achieved something of importance

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

2. 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

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

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

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

meaning: in front of you, but you can’t see it

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

2. 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.
under (your) skin

meaning: find something really irritating or annoying

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

meaning: controlled by someone (usually a husband controlled by his wife)

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

meaning: still available; winnable; the decision of who will get something has not yet been made

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

2. “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

meaning: the result is uncertain

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

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

1. 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?

2. After losing money for a year on the stock market, Anna felt she had no choice but to up the ante. Her hope was that one big success would erase her losses.
up to scratch

meaning: meeting the required standard or quality

1. 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.

2. “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

meaning: knowing the latest information; up-to-date

1. “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.”

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

meaning: having a lot of something (usually trouble or work)

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

meaning: have an advantage over somebody

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

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