Idioms and phrases for competitive exams are one of the most important parts to give attention to while preparing for the verbal ability section of English for Entrance Exams. Usually, a candidate gets a sentence where he/ she has to fill in the appropriate Idiom or phrase or the candidate has to choose an idiomatic phrase that would be the best fit for the given description. Questions appear in the forms of:    

  • Fill in the blanks
  • Choose the right option
Idioms And Phrases For Entrance Exams

An Idiom is a phrase or expression that presents a figurative meaning, a meaning that is not directly evident in the phrase. It contains two or three words. There are instances where the idiom can have a literal meaning too, but it is rare. The English language has over 25,000 idioms in use. Consider the following phrase:

  • Out of the woods

The above-given phrase is an idiom that has a figurative meaning. Being trapped in the woods is a difficult situation and managing to escape out of it is an incredible feat. Hence this phrase has come to mean managing to free oneself from a difficult situation. An example of the idiom in use is given below:

  • The police officer concluded that Ram was just a witness and not a conspirator, and he was finally out of the woods.

Idioms and phrases for Competitive Exams

Idioms and phrases for competitive exams along with their meaning and examples in use are given below in the box:

Sl. No.IdiomMeaningIn Use
1.Under his thumbUnder someone’s controlMina is under his thumb. She will obey anything he says.
2.Between rock and hard placeBetween two dangers, unable to make a decision.He was between rock and hard place having to choose either skydiving or bungee jumping.
3.Come off with flying coloursBe highly successfulRavi came off the exam with flying colours.
4.To play ducks and drakes To act foolishlyAmmu was playing ducks and drakes at the party.
5.To take the bull by the hornsTo face a problem head onSonia decided to take the bull by the horns when she got to know that she will have to answer her teachers.
6.Rain cats and dogsRain heavilyThere was a cyclone in the Arabian sea and it was raining cats and dogs at my place.
7.To move heaven and earthTo make high effort to do somethingRaju decided to move heaven and earth if it meant he could get into the cricket team.
8.Bark up the wrong treeAccuse the wrong personPriyal was barking up the wrong tree when everyone knew that Raghu was the actual culprit.
9.Keep one at bayKeep a distance with someone.Ravi didn’t like Suresh’s attitude, so he decided to keep him at bay.
10.Make a clean breast of itConfess the wrong that someone has doneLakshmi decided to make a clean breast of it and confess that she had stolen the eggs.
11.Have a card up one’s sleeveHave a secret plan in storeKia knew that Dia had a card up her sleeve so that she could win the competition.
12.Cock and bull storyA made up story hard to believeGeena knew that the tale about Yash taking out a snake with his bare hands was a cock and bull story.
13.Cry for the moonAsk for something impossibleBabu felt that Neha was crying for the moon when she asked him to get her a white peacock.
14.Show a clean pair of heelsRun awayDev knew that Will would show him a clean pair of heels if asked to volunteer as a teacher.
15.Spread like wildfireSpread quicklyThe rumour that Raghu and Veena were dating spread like wildfire.
16.Tooth and nailWith all the powerSuresh and Ramesh were fighting tooth and nail for the sweet.
17.Take a leaf out of one’s bookImitate someoneHarry was taking a leaf out of John’s book when he decided to quit his job and start a business.
18.A man of strawA man of no substanceHe doesn’t stay true to his word, he is a man of straw.
19.Read between the linesUnderstand a hidden meaningIsha read between the lines and understood that Riya and Ishan had been fighting.
20.Smell a ratSuspect a foul playI smelled a rat when I first hear that Fairuz had done the work on her own.
21.Bury the hatchetEnd a quarrel and make peaceThe witness and the lawyer decided to bury the hatchet at last.
22.Like a fish out of waterIn a strange situationThe first time I went to New York, I was like a fish out of water.
23.In hot waterIn troubleI entered hot water when I disclosed that I knew who the real culprit was.
24.Get cold feetGet hesitantI got cold feet  at the last moment to enroll for the French program.
25.Nip in the budDestroy at an early stageThe habit of not asking permission should be nipped in the bud.
26.A big gunAn important personAmitabh Bhachan is a big gun in Bollywood.
27.A bosom friend A very close friendTania is my bosom friend.
28.A close shaveA narrow escapeI happened to regain my balance before falling off the stairs. It was a close shave.
29.At homeComfortableI felt at home with my best friend.
30.Out of the blueSomething that happens unexpectedlyWill asked Jane to marry him out of the blue.
Important Idioms

English for Entrance Exams is generally an easy section for any entrance examinations, but the grammar part of it has always confused exam takers. Questions of the section conduct tests about the in-depth knowledge of a student in using the English Language. Hope this article was helpful to you in understanding the Idioms and phrases for competitive exams. All the best!

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