Idioms and Expressions - Have

Young woman whispering secret into friend's ear
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The following idioms and expressions use the verb 'have'. Each idiom or expression has a definition and two example sentences to help your understanding of these common idiomatic expressions with 'have'.

English Idioms and Expressions Using 'Have'

have a big mouth

Definition: somebody who tells secrets, who is a gossip

  • Don't talk to Mary she has a big mouth.
  • If you didn't have such a big mouth, I'd tell you my secrets.

have a bee in your bonnet

Definition: have an obsession, something that always remains in your thoughts and efforts

  • She has a bee in her bonnet that health care must change.
  • If I have a bee in my bonnet, I have to do everything I can until I can make it happen.

have a bone to pick with someone

Definition: have something (usually a complaint) that you want to discuss with someone

  • I have a bone to pick with you. Just a moment, let's talk.
  • Tom's looking for Pete because he's got a bone to pick with him.

have a brush with something

Definition: have brief contact, or experience with someone or something

  • I had a brief brush with Jack and I didn't like it.
  • He's had a brief brush with unemployment.

have a chip on your shoulder

Definition: be in a bad mood and challenging people to fight

  • Don't take him seriously, he just has a chip on his shoulder.
  • Yes, I have a chip on my shoulder! What are YOU going to do about it?!

have a close call

Definition: be close to danger

  • I had a close call yesterday and was almost in an accident.
  • She's had a few close calls in her life.

have a familiar ring

Definition: sound familiar, as if you've heard it before

  • That story has a familiar ring. Did we read that last year?
  • Her experiences have a familiar ring. I guess everybody goes through that.

have a good head on your shoulders

Definition: have common sense, be sensible

  • Jack has a good head on his shoulders. Don't worry about him.
  • I think you have a good head on your shoulders. You should trust your decision.

have a green thumb

Definition: be very good at gardening

  • Alice obviously has a green thumb. Look at that garden!
  • My wife has a green thumb, so I let her do all the gardening.

have a heart

Definition: be compassionate or generous and forgiving with somebody

  • Don't hold that against her. Have a heart!
  • I think he'll have a heart and forgive you.

have a heart of gold

Definition: be generous and sincere

  • Mary has a heart of gold. I just love her.
  • The teacher has a heart of gold with her students.

have a heart of stone

Definition: be cold and unresponsive, unforgiving

  • Don't make him angry. He has a heart of stone.
  • I can't believe how he treats his children. He's got a heart of stone.

have an ax to grind

Definition: complain about something often

  • He has an ax to grind against his health care provider.
  • I know you have an ax to grind against Agatha, but stop complaining!

have an in with someone

Definition: have special access to someone (often used at work)

  • She has an in with the boss. Let her ask him for permission.
  • I wish I had an in with the director so I could get a promotion.

have a one-track mind

Definition: always thinking about one thing

  • He has a one track mind. He can't talk about anything besides golf.
  • Do you have a one-track mind?

have a soft spot in your heart for someone or something

Definition: love or adore a thing or person

  • I've got a soft spot in my heart for Maria Callas.
  • He has a soft spot in his heart for pinball!

have a sweet tooth

Definition: like sweets too much

  • I know you have a sweet tooth, but you need to be careful.
  • I need to watch my weight, especially because I have a sweet tooth.

have clean hands

Definition: to without guilt, guiltless

  • Don't blame him, he has clean hands.
  • The man claimed to have clean hands in the crime.

have egg on one's face

Definition: be embarrassed after having done something very stupid

  • I had egg on my face after I asked that stupid question.
  • I don't think he realizes he has egg on his face.

have eyes in the back of your head

Definition: seem able to follow everything that is going on, even though you do not focus on it

  • She has eyes in the back of her head. Be careful!
  • The students believed their teacher had eyes in the back his head.

have mixed feelings

Definition: to be uncertain about something or someone

  • Janice has mixed feelings about Ken.
  • Brad has mixed feelings about buying a new car.

have money to burn

Definition: have an excess of money

  • Don't worry about it! She's got money to burn.
  • Do you think I have money to burn?! Of course, I can't buy you a diamond ring.

have your hands tied

Definition: be prevented from doing something

  • I'm afraid I have my hands tied and can't help you.
  • Peter told me he had his hands tied on the Franklin deal.

have your head in the clouds

Definition: to not pay attention to what is going on around you

  • Doug had his head in the clouds all the time he was at university.
  • Do you have your head in the clouds?! Pay attention!

have your tail between your leg

Definition: be afraid of something, not have the ​courage to do something

  • He just couldn't approach her. He seemed to have his tail between his legs.
  • Janet went to her father with her tail between her legs and asked for forgiveness.

have other fish to fry

Definition: have more important things to do, have other opportunities

  • Look. I have other fish to fry, so just say yes or no.
  • Susan had other fish to fry and left her position at the bank.

have someone or something in your hands

Definition: have the responsibility for someone or something

  • I have the project in my hands. If you have any questions, come to me.
  • She had her boyfriend in her hands. She could do anything.

have the Midas touch

Definition: have the ability to easily be successful

  • He'll succeed. He's got the Midas touch.
  • Ask her to approach those difficult clients. She has the Midas touch.

have the presence of mind to do something

Definition: stay calm in a dangerous or frightening, or emergency situation

  • He had the presence of mind to cover her up before he went to find help.
  • Alice has the presence of mind to take along some extra food before setting out on the hike.