Try Your Best to Pass This Common Phrases Quiz

By: Olivia Cantor
Estimated Completion Time
5 min
Try Your Best to Pass This Common Phrases Quiz
Image: mrPliskin/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Have you noticed that many common phrases we use today are idioms or idiomatic expressions? Count how many you use!

The dictionary defines "idiom" as "a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deductible from those of the individual words." In short, these phrases shouldn't be taken at face value, so to speak. For example, if you say "a no-brainer,' that doesn't mean someone has no brain. It doesn't translate to a "literal meaning." Rather, this is what's called "figurative language" in literature.

You're always using examples of figurative language in daily speech but you may not know it. The most common type is simile, wherein you compare two things. If you say "My boss is as slow as a turtle in approving my leaves," that's simile. You're getting the qualities or characteristics of a turtle's slowness and comparing that to how your boss makes slow decisions.

Another common type is metaphor, wherein you also do comparisons but it's more of the symbolic kind. For example, when you say "I work better with night owls," that doesn't mean you work in a zoo! Rather, you're using the night owl image to symbolize people who are more productive during the night. If you say, "I'm an early bird," then that means you're using the traits of a bird to symbolize your work ethic or productivity mode. 

Other types of figurative language you can discover later on are personification, oxymoron, hyperbole, onomatopoeia and many more. For now,  see how much you know of figurative language examples through the common phrases we use every single day. Have fun!

When you want to go really, really fast from point A to point B, what are you doing?
Speed networking
Making a beeline for it
Make a beeline for something when you're in a rush! This common phrase takes a page out of the worker bee manual, since these creatures are fast-moving workers in the animal kingdom. But humans have their own respective reasons for rushing, though; it's not necessarily work-related!
Megaphone diplomacy
Hitting the airwaves

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If you're trying to impress coworkers with tons of ideas, what are you unpacking?
Cloud on the horizon
Bag of tricks
Like a magician who can pull out anything amusing from their bag of tricks, you're also the same when you don't run out of ideas or innovations. On the one hand, you make work easier for your team since you're oozing with solutions. On the other hand, some might see you as brown-nosing the boss.
A cross to bear
Itchy feet

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Unpredictable predicaments can make a person do what?
Hit the roof
Sudden bouts of anger cause a person to hit the roof. The intensity and the suddenness of this emotional surge makes this figurative "roof-hitting" possible. This is an example of hyperbole or exaggerated statements made for added emphasis; don't take it literally!
Jump the lights
Fall off the back of a lorry
Laugh all the way to the bank

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When, "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread," as they say, what's one possible result?
You speak of the devil.
Mending fences
Be as blind as a bat
Get taken for a ride
It's a painful and traumatic experience if you get taken for a ride, especially if the one who "drove" was a close friend or relative. It means getting fooled or swindled by gaining your trust first. The ride part is the betrayal that they'll do next to con you out of something valuable.

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Taking shortcuts in life is like doing which action?
Keeping your head above water
Cutting corners
Certain people get attracted to "get rich quick" schemes since it's a way of earning money by cutting corners. Instead of putting in the hard work, they opt to take their chances on the easy and quick route to fame and fortune. Unfortunately, they are the kind of people who get swindled easily, too.
Dodging a bullet
Crossing the bridge when you get there

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Singularity in skill leads one to be which kind of creature?
Cash cow
An elephant in the room
A one-trick pony
In this multimedia-driven multitasking world, a person who's a one-trick pony won't survive for long. Not only does a person need to develop several hard skills, but having soft skills is also huge in today's business climate.
A loan shark

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Being a "bundle of nerves" mean you're harboring what?
Butterflies in your stomach
Nervousness can clearly manifest physically in a person in various forms. Some break out a sweat and get cold, clammy hands, while some feel something at the pit of their stomachs. That's why we also call it having "butterflies in your stomach" when feeling anxious.
A dark horse
Pins and needles
All of the above

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When "haters gonna hate" as they say on the internet, what kind of "work" gets done here?
A can of worms
A done deal
A hatchet job
People who execute the published kind of hatchet job obviously hasn't heard of libel. It's a crime that a maligned person can file against an attacker who wrote and/or published the demeaning piece. People can sue any malicious hatchet job publication using this defense.
Ill-gotten gains

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Getting the "luck of the draw" allows a person to have which hopeful option?
Making ends meet
Looking like a million dollars
Left high and dry
Having a foot in the door
Success doesn't happen overnight for most people, so it's important to seize opportunities as they come. Grabbing these brass rings leads to getting one foot in the door. This means you're slowly inching your way inside the industry or company you're aiming to enter.

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"Patience is a virtue" if you can practice which action?
Sail close to the wind
Leave in the lurch
Live out of a suitcase
Hold your horses
Aside from "hold your horses" which means to be patient and wait, there are many more idioms in the English language featuring horses. Examples are: straight from the horse's mouth, be on one's high horse, lead a horse to water, look a gift horse in the mouth, and beat a dead horse, to name a few.

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When you've reached "the end of your rope," which specific place can you also land on?
Back to the wall
At wit's end
A person who has already exhausted all remaining amount of patience or level of thinking can be at wits' end if they've hit a wall. This means being in a confused or confounded state that you don't really know the next step to take, hence the "end" of your mental and emotional efforts.
On the stump
In the same boat

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Before "familiarity breeds contempt," what state should you be in first?
In dire straits
As fresh as a daisy
New kid on the block
Aside from being the name of a popular '90s boy band, "new kid on the block" refers to any new person who finds themselves in a company, group, place or community whose members are tightly knit already. To gain acceptance and respect, newbies need to prove themselves worthy first.
As good as gold

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Humongous portions get hauled out in which fashion?
In dribs and drabs
On all fours
Lion's share
In the division of things such as duties or goods, one gets the "lion's share" if they receive the biggest chunk of it. Its animal kingdom reference points to the king of the jungle getting its rightful portion. But in human terms, getting the lion's share doesn't necessarily mean you're the boss.
In one fell swoop

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When you're a "stranger in a strange land," as the novel said, how do you feel, too?
On the blink
Like a fish out of water
If you feel like you stick out like a sore thumb in a given place, situation or scenario, then you can feel like a fish out of water. It means you're not in your element and you feel so alienated being there. We've all felt wet behind our ears during our greenhorn days, for sure.
As clean as a whistle
As cool as a cucumber

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Indecision is in commission when which action is in motion?
Putting the pedal to the metal
Looking out for number one
The jury is still out.
In a country using a jury in their judicial system, this collective body makes the decision that leads to sentencing or acquittal. So if "the jury is still out," no decision will literally happen in court. Countries that don't have a jury system might not get this idiomatic phrase, though.
Asleep at the wheel

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A "titan of the industry" also belongs to which category?
Top dog
Head honcho
Mover and shaker
Any of the above
The top dog or head honcho in a company is usually a titan of their particular industry, too. If they're influential and visionaries to boot, then they're also part of the movers and shakers of society, not just their industry.

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When two choices aren't actual options, what's the singular warning here?
Grasp at straws
Shape up or ship out
"Shape up or ship out" originated as a military threat during times of war. It's a North American idiom that warned soldiers to get their act together and behave properly as military men. If they don't, then they'll get sent out to battle at the war zones.
Juggle frogs
Get the show on the road

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Enforcing Murphy's Law can result in what?
A bad hair day
Murphy's Law states that "anything that can go wrong will go wrong," so the disastrous consequence of that is to have a "bad hair day." The two concepts share the same idea of having things out of control, messing up stuff that can get chaotic in our lives.
Even the score
A slap on the wrist
Cut both ways

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It's something that supports the soul whether intangible or not. Unfurl the answer, please!
Blue-eyed boy
Smart cookie
Greenhorn
Security blanket
Thank toddlers for giving us the concept of the "security blanket" or that piece of cloth they cling to for comfort. In adulthood, this security blanket morphs into things that give them reassurance and stability. It can be money or financial things, material things or property, or relationships.

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When does a lifesaver arrive to save a cliffhanger?
In the nick of time
"Nick of Time" is also the title of a Johnny Depp '90s movie with a ticking bomb plot pattern. This means his character needs to do something drastic to save the life of his kidnapped daughter. If he doesn't execute plans in the nick of time, it's a life or death situation for the both of them.
On the cusp
Once in a blue moon
Never in a million years

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If you walk away for good, what are you doing?
Getting my comeuppance
Taking the rap
Burning bridges
Certain professional life coaches advise us to not burn bridges when we're transferring from one job to another. This advice is helpful, especially if you're moving within a small industry where people might know each other. That's why one should never bad-mouth former coworkers to new ones.
Facing the music

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A person getting ticked off can soon head toward which direction?
On the home stretch
On the warpath
This term comes from Native American lore, and historically had an actual connection to physical paths. Today, to be "on the warpath" means you're on your way to battle with somebody. It could also mean you're furious about something that it can push you to war mode.
My way or the highway
Any port in the storm

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When there's no knack in being unique, what quality will leak?
As full as a tick
As hard as nails
Run-of-the-mill
The agricultural origin of "run-of-the-mill" has something to do with how grains are ground. The resulting quality will get scrutinized immediately by the mill worker to determine if they got good grain results or not. If they get ordinary or average yields, they say that's just "run-of-the-mill."
Ripple effect

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Point out the know-it-all wise guy from this list!
Smart aleck
Armchair critic
Back seat driver
Any of the above
Back seat drivers are passengers who dictate directions and driving tips to the driver, appearing like a know-it-all. Meanwhile, an armchair critic is someone who's good at theoretically analyzing and critiquing a situation they don't have practical knowledge of. Both can be a smart aleck, too.

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If someone disproves that, "No man is an island," what did they just do?
Feather their nest
Hit pay dirt
Paddle their own canoe
To "paddle your own canoe" means you're making moves to be independent, self-reliant and self-sufficient. You're also taking charge of your destiny and where you want to go in life since only you can paddle that canoe and no one else.
Go back to square one

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When the cat's got your tongue, what's the result on your mind?
Gets my fingers burned
Hear it through the grapevine
Money talks
Draws a blank
"To draw a blank" is an amusing idiomatic phrase that's also philosophical as well as existential. Drawing a blank means producing nothing in particular, so there's no result or evidence. If you ask someone and they draw a blank, that means they didn't give you anything substantial.

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What's the standard stellar time for mere mortals?
In the interim
At the eleventh hour
Fifteen minutes of fame
"Fifteen minutes of fame" is a phrase commonly attributed to artist Andy Warhol, who mentioned it in his exhibit catalog. He theorized that people will pursue fame and will become famous for a grand total of 15 minutes on average. Media scholars say social media enables this theory right now.
For donkey's years

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To "go the extra mile" on a project, where are you willing to come?
Middle of the road
In the same boat
Highways and byways
Hell or high water
"Come hell or high water" is a common phrase to use when you want to encourage yourself to push things further. Nothing will drown you to surrender and no devil can prohibit you from achieving your goal.

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If something drives you up the wall, what else is it doing?
Being a social butterfly
Passing the buck
Hanging you out to dry
Gets your goat
When something or someone gets you angry or irritated for a reason (or even for no apparent reason), then it's obviously getting your goat. In millennial speak, you're "getting triggered" if they're getting your goat.

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When others don't "forget about the price tag," what will you realize?
Go Dutch
Make a killing
No such thing as a free lunch
There was such a thing as a free lunch in the U.S. during the 19th century but only in concept. Saloon owners advertised that people can get free food for lunch if they buy drinks. So "there's no such thing as a free lunch" indeed when hidden costs in drinks actually pay for the freebie.
Money doesn't grow on trees

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Comparing apples and oranges is useless because they are what?
As mad as a hatter
As clear as mud
As different as night and day
When two things are "as different as night and day," then there's an obvious differentiation between two parties or entities. Often, this differentiation points to being opposites, too, just like how nighttime and daytime are opposite times of a given day.
As tough as old boots

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"To boldly go where no one has gone before," what path is the best for this route?
The road less traveled
Each time we use "the road less traveled" in a sentence, Robert Frost might inadvertently turn in his grave! That's because the line is a misquote from his poem entitled "The Road Not Taken" which says "I took the one less traveled by / And that has made all the difference."
On the cusp
Just around the corner
Going downhill

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To keep someone posted, what should you avoid doing?
Be out of touch
"To be out of touch" can have different meanings depending on how the phrase gets used. Its primary meaning refers to lack of communication with someone, whether for a long time or even briefly. It can also mean not updating yourself with the latest knowledge in specific sectors or domains.
Talk for England
Fiddle while Rome burns
Argue the toss

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News that's spread by word of mouth can also have which faster effect?
Spread like wildfire
A wildfire can consume prairie lands, grasslands or forests very fast and can burn down everything on its path. So for something to "spread like wildfire" means it catches on so fast that it becomes uncontrollable already. But the parallelism only refers to the spreading, not the burning down part.
A shotgun approach
About face
One over the eight

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When you're feeling like a "drop in the ocean" at work, what's your job status like?
Angel investor
Lame duck
Cog in the machine
Two common phrases refer to feeling mechanical in a workplace: "cog in the machine" and "cog in a wheel." Both idioms refer to a worker who has a small role in the company's upkeep so they don't have a big influence or authority to make big decisions.
Wolf in sheep's clothing

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