May 20

To little effect

Not producing much change or a good result.

“He won’t answer the phone. We’ve been trying to reach him all day to little effect.


Cultural references

Ideas that relate to the culture of a country.

“Cultural references make understanding series and films a lot more challenging.


Guess what!

You can use this to attract people’s attention before saying something surprising.

“Guess what! My book has been published.


A hard-and-fast rule

A strict rule, not to be broken.

“New Zealand has hard-and-fast rules when it comes to what you can bring into the country.


Burn the candle at both ends

Having so much to do that you have to get up very early and go to bed late in order to finish it.

“Go home and get some rest. Burning the candle at both ends day after day is going to make you ill.


Music to my ears

Something you are very pleased to hear.

“You passed your test with flying colours! That’s music to my ears.


With flying colours

If you pass a test with flying colours, you have had a high score.

“I couldn’t wait to tell you that I have passed the test with flying colours.


It goes without saying

There is no need to say it because it is obvious.

“Thank you for putting me up this week! It goes without saying that you can come over and stay with me when you visit my country.


Set a low bar 

Not demanding a lot from something or someone.

“I know you are desperate to find a job. Any job! But, don’t set a low bar and end up being exploited in a crappy place.


Go out of your way

To make an extra effort in order to help someone.

“A group of care workers have gone out of their way to help the residents of a care-home on the Isle of Wight stay safe from the coronavirus. How? By moving in with them.


Jazz up something

To add something that makes it more interesting or exciting.

“Lately, I’ve been trying to jazz up my meals by experimenting with the aromatic flavours of some Asian recipes.


Go overboard

Apart for falling off a boat, going overboard means do too much; more than is necessary or reasonable.

“Can we try to not go overboard with the food next Christmas, mum?


All eyes are on 

To say that all eyes are on somebody or something means that this person or thing is the centre of attention.

“Some world leaders are finding it hard to accept that all eyes are on epidemiologists and their opinions based on expertise.”


Nothing to write home about

Not exciting or special.

“I stayed till the end of the play, out of respect, but their version of Orwel’s 1984 was nothing to write home about.”


A catch-22

If you are in a catch-22 situation, you are in a no-win situation with contradictory rules.

“Ok, so I need to have experience to get the job but there is no way I can gain experience without working. A catch-22!”


To skyrocket

To rise sharply

“I’ve heard that the Amazon sales of home improvement materials  have skyrocketed over the last few weeks in the UK. It seems there is a lot of DIY happening during the lockdown.”


Turn a blind eye (to something)

To pretend you don’t notice something, as if it wasn’t happening.

“Correcting every single mistake was detrimental so she had to turn a blind eye to some of them.”


Tick along or tick over

Continue working but making very little progress.

“How is your business doing, Mark?” “Ticking along, really.”


Push someone’s buttons

Make someone angry.

“No wonder she avoids visiting her parents. Her mum knows exactly how to push her buttons.


To be high-maintenance

Something or someone that requires a lot of time, attention, work, money, etc.

“The hair style you are suggesting is high-maintenance. I’d rather not have to use straighteners every day.