|be on the ball||If you are on the ball, you are aware of what is happening and are able to deal with things quickly and intelligently.|
We need someone who is really on the ball to head the fund-raising campaign.
|beat one’s brains out||If someone beats their brains out, they try very hard to understand something or solve a problem.|
My grandmother beats her brains out every evening trying to do the crossword puzzle in the newspaper.
|it beats me!||This expression is used to express surprise at something that you find difficult to understand.|
It beats me how he can live in that horrible apartment!
|it’s beyond me||To say ‘it’s beyond me’ means that it is impossible for you to understand.|
It’s beyond me why Mary wants to marry John.
|blind you with science||If someone tries to blind you with science, they confuse you with their knowledge by using difficult or technical words.|
When you ask Tim for a simple explanation, he blinds you with science.
|I wasn’t born yesterday||This expression is used to indicate that you are not as foolish or as easily deceived as some people seem to think.|
Stop inventing silly excuses. I wasn’t born yesterday you know!
|brains behind something||Someone who is the brains behind a project or action is the person thought to have planned and organized everything.|
The police have arrested a man believed to be the brains behind the bank robbery.
|can’t make head or tail of||If you can’t make head or tail of something, you can’t understand it at all.|
Amy’s message was so confusing. I couldn’t make head or tail of it!
|put on your thinking cap||If you tell someone to put their thinking cap on, you ask them to find an idea or solve a problem by thinking about it.|
Now here’s this week’s quiz; it’s time to put your thinking caps on!
|chinese arithmetic||If something is very complicated or difficult to understand, it is said to be like Chinese arithmetic.|
When he tried to explain the rules of the game to me, it was like Chinese arithmetic!
|not have a clue||If you don’t have a clue about something, you don’t know anything about it.|
My wife’s grandmother’s maiden name? I don’t have a clue!
|collect one’s thoughts||If you collect your thoughts, you try to think calmly and clearly in order to prepare yourself mentally for something.|
Anne stopped to collect her thoughts before calling back the customer.
|come to grips with||If you come to grips with a problem or situation, you start to understand or deal with it properly.|
After the initial shock, the patient began to come to grips with his disability.
|come to your senses||If you come to your senses you start to thiink clearly and behave sensibly.|
She finally came to her senses and realized that public transport was faster than driving in the city.
|common knowledge||When information is well-known to everyone (particularly in a community or group), it is called common knowledge.|
You didn’t know the intern was Jack’s son? It thought it was common knowledge.
|credibility gap||The extent of disbelief, of the difference between what you are asked to believe and what you are able to believe, is call a credibility gap.|
The growing credibility gap may lead to a serious loss of votes in the next elections.
|at cross purposes||If two people are at cross purposes, there is a misunderstanding as to what each one is talking about.|
Look, we seem to be at cross purposes. You’re talking about ‘sailing’ boats, but I’m talking about ‘selling’ boats.
|crystal clear||A statement or expression that is easy to understand or has an obvious meaning is crystal clear or as clear as crystal.|
There was no need to repeat the instructions. They were crystal clear.
|dumbing down||If something, such as a television programme or a film production, isdumbed down, it is deliberately made less intelligent or less demanding in order to attract a larger audience.|
Some TV channels are dumbing down their programmes in an attempt to increase their audience ratings.
|enough said||This expression is used to indicate that you completely understand the situation and you do not need any further details.|
Your mother-in-law arrived unexpectedly last night? Enough said!
|eyes (wide) open||If you do something with your eyes open, you are fully aware of what you are doing.|
I took on the job with my eyes wide open so I’m not complaining.
|facts speak for themselves||When the facts of a situation are co clear that no further explanation or extra details are necessary, the facts speak for themselves.|
No need to tell you that the situation is disastrous. The facts speak for themselves.
|get someone’s drift||If you get someone’s drift, you understand in a general way what they are trying to say.|
I didn’t understand every word but I got the drift.
|get the message||If you get the message, you understand what someone is trying to tell you, even if it is expressed in actions or gestures rather than words.|
When Tony pointed to his watch, I got the message – it was time to leave for the airport.
|get the picture||A person who gets the picture understands what is being explained or described.|
The alarm went off and people started running everywhere – you get the picture I’m sure!
|get wise to||If you get wise to something, you learn something that you were not aware of before.|
He finally got wise to the fact that children were stealing apples from his garden.
|hammer something home||If you hammer home a point or an argument, you repeat it often to make sure that it is fully understood.|
The police hammered home the dangers of drinking and driving.
|hit the nail on the head||When you hit the nail on the head, you are absolutely right about something or have guessed the exact nature of a problem or situation.|
You hit the nail on the head when you said Mark had money problems. He’s lost his job.
|horse sense||Someone who has horse sense is a practical thinker who has the ability to make sensible decisions.|
Don’t worry. Andrew has good horse sense. He’ll do the right thing.
|ignorance is bliss||This means that if you don’t know about a problem or unpleasant fact, you won’t worry about it.|
I didn’t know our neighbour was an escaped prisoner until the police arrrived – ignorance is bliss!
|jump to conclusions||A person who jumps to conclusions reaches a decision or makes a judgement too fast, before taking the time to check out all the facts.|
We haven’t got the full story yet so let’s not jump to conclusions.
|know which side your bread is buttered||If you know which side your bread is buttered, you know where your interests lie or what will be to your advantage.|
Jack never argues with his father-in-law. He knows which side his bread is buttered.
|learning curve||The length of time needed to learn something new is called the learning curve.|
The new system has a long learning curve so we’ll have to give the staff time to get used to it.
|light bulb moment||A light bulb moment is when you have a sudden moment of inspiration, comprehension or realization.|
Harry had a light-bulb moment when he finally realized what was blocking the mechanism.
|see in a new light||If you see something in a new light, you view it in a way that makes you change the opinion you had before.|
After listening to my colleague, I began to see things in a new light.
|lost the plot||If a situation becomes so confusing that you are unable to understand what is happening or what you are supposed to do, you lose the plot.|
His instructions were so long and confusing that I just lost the plot!
|lost the thread||If you lose the thread of a conversation or story, you are unable to follow it.|
There were so many interruptions during the film that I completely lost the thread.
|lost ball in high weeds||Someone who is totally confused, and doesn’t know what they are doing or how to do it, is a lost ball in high weeds.|
The new intern in a lost ball in high weeds – he has no idea now to begin the task he’s been given.
|make sense of||If you make sense of something, you understand it or find the meaning.|
I couldn’t make sense of the instructions.
|miss the point||If you miss the point you fail to understand the essential part of what has been said.|
Sam missed the point. It’s not the job that’s the problem, it’s the amount of work it involves for one person.
|not miss a trick||If a person never misses a trick, they are very alert and aware of everything that is happening around them.|
The old lady next door will know if Bill is there or not – she never misses a trick!
|not playing with a full deck (of cards)||Someone who is not playing with a full deck (of cards) lacks intelligence or does not have full mental abilities.|
Old Mrs.Whitehead was not playing with a full deck when she bought that fancy lawnmower!
|muddy the waters||If you muddy the waters, you make something less clear by giving confusing information.|
I had difficulty understanding, and Alan’s explanation just muddied the waters!
|no-brainer||A decision or choice that requires little or no thought, because the best option is so obvious, is called a no-brainer.|
The choice was between a cash refund or having the amount credited to my account – it was a no-brainer. I took the cash!
|out of your depth||If you are out of your depth, you are unable to understand a subject or deal with a situation because it is too difficult for you.|
The level of the class was too high for me, so very quickly I felt out of my depth.
|out to lunch||To say that someone is out to lunch means that they seem to be either unaware of what’s going on around them, or unable to understand what is happening.|
He’s hopeless as a leader – considererd as ‘out to lunch’ by the group.
|penny drops||When a person has difficulty understanding or realizing something, and then the penny drops, they finally understand.|
The teasing continued for some time until the penny dropped and the boy realized it was a joke!
|put two and two together||A person who can put two and two together is capable of reaching the right conclusion based on the information they have.|
Forget your explanation. She won’t believe you. She can put two and two together!
|quick off the mark||If someone is quick off the mark, they are quick to react to an event or take advantage of an opportunity.|
You’ve got to be quick off the mark when stores announce special offers.
|quick/slow on the uptake||Someone who is quick or slow on the uptake is quick or slow to understand what is meant.|
Please explain the problem in simple words – I’m a bit slow on the uptake!
|rocket science||If you say ‘it’s not rocket science’ or ‘no need to be a rocket scientist’, you are emphasizing that something presents no major difficulty.|
Bob will explain how it works. Don’t worry – it’s not rocket science!
|sharp cookie||Someone who is not easily fooled or deceived is a sharp cookie.|
You can’t fool my grandmother. She’s a sharp cookie!
|sharp as a tack||A person who is as sharp as a tack is able to think quickly and learn very fast.|
You won’t have to explain it to him twice. He’s as sharp as a tack.
|shed light||If you shed light on something, you help to explain it or make it easier to understand.|
It was hoped that the testimony of the witnesses would shed light on the causes of the accident.
|smart alec||A smart alec is an annoying self-assertive person who tries to show off how clever they are.|
Some smart alec interrupted the game claiming that the answers were incorrect!
|street smart||A person who is street-smart or streetwise has enough experience and knowledge about life in the city to be able to deal with difficult or dangerous situations.|
The kids living in this area are all street-smart – they’re in less danger than us.
|strike home||When somebody’s comments or remarks strike home, they make you fully understand the situation.|
The seriousness of his injuries struck home as he listened to the surgeon.
|suss out||If you suss out something, such as a problem or a situation, you examine it and manage to understand it.|
Ask Jack to explain – he’s got it all sussed out!
|tech savvy||People who are tech savvy have sufficient technical knowledge and skills to be comfortable using computers and other electronic devices.|
Many students are more tech-savvy than their teachers.
|there is one born every miinute!||This expression means that there are many people in the world who are stupid or easily fooled.|
He really believed the boy found the money on the street? There’s one born every minute!
|tie yourself up in knots||If you tie yourself up in knots, you become totally confused or confuse others when trying to explain something.|
Sandy tied herself up in knots trying to explain the rules of the game.
|tunnel vision||If a person has tunnel vision, they focus on only one aspect of something, or they are unable to see more than one way of doing things.|
Our manager has tunnel vision. He sees no reason to change anything.
|use one’s noodle||If you use your noodle, you use your brain or your common sense.|
How did I figure that out? I just used my noodle!
|walking encyclopaedia||This term refers to a person who is very knowledgeable about a lot of subjects.|
The origin of Halloween? Ask Jill – she’s a walking encyclopaedia!
|weigh your words||If you weigh your words, you choose your words carefully in order to express exactly what you mean and avoid any misunderstanding.|
At the press conference he spoke very clearly, weighing his words.
|get wires crossed||If people get their wires crossed, they misunderstand each other or are confused about what was said.|
We must have got our wires crossed. I thought we were to meet at the hotel.
|wise after the event||When somone realizes, after something has happened, what could have been done to prevent it from happening, they are wise after the event.|
In retrospect, I suppose I should have realized the boy was in difficulty and offered to help, but it’s easy to be wise after the event.
|wise up/get wise to||If you wise up or get wise to something, you become fully aware of the facts and are no longer fooled.|
When Mike finally wised up to the methods being used, he resigned from the company.
|none the wiser||If you do not know more about something after hearing or reading an explanation, or if you fail to find information on the subject, you are none the wiser.|
I tried to understand the voting system but I was none the wiser after reading the explanation.
|wrap your brain around||If you concentrate on something in an effort to understand, you wrap your brain around it.|
I need a translation of this report urgently, so wrap your brain around it fast!