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.