Idioms in Context: Expressions and Their Meanings

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Here is a short story about a simple life philosophy. Try reading the dialogue one time to understand the gist without using the idiom definitions. On your second reading, use the definitions to help you understand the text while learning new idioms. You'll find idiom definitions and a short quiz on some of the expressions at the end of the story. 

A Little Life Philosophy

Here are some thoughts on how to live a reasonably balanced life. These aren't any great insights, just everyday thoughts on how to be satisfied and relatively happy despite the curves that life throws us at times. First and foremost, it's important to find people that you like. That means finding someone who won't make you feel put upon. That's truly a horrible feeling! It's also a good idea to find people who aren't going to press your buttons too much. Friends will kid around, but good friends will hit a happy medium between joking and respecting each other. On the topic of friends, it's a good idea to treat your friends like you'd like them to treat you. It's simple, but put this advice into practice and you'll be surprised at what great friends you find. 

In these modern times, we all enjoy having the latest, greatest products such as smart phones and stylish clothing. Just remember that all that glitters is not gold. It is helpful to always keep the presence of mind about you when shopping. Rather than fall into the trap of using your credit card too much, wait a day or two. Try this trick the next time your heart skips a beat because some beautiful piece of technology calls to you from the shop window. Once you've got this technique under your belt, you'd be surprised how much you will save.

Finally, when things do go wrong be careful and take it slowly. Take a few deep breaths, regain your composure, and then act. Unfortunately, we all get the short end of the stick at times. When this happens, know that life doesn't turn on a dime. Ups and downs are all part of the puzzle that is life. Taking this approach will make problems run like water off a duck's back. You'll need to straighten things out from time to time, but you'll know it's not the end of the world. Of course, it's also a good idea to cross bridges when you come to them rather than worry too much about everything that could go wrong in life!

Idioms and Expressions

  1. All that glitters is not gold: Not everything that looks good is good
  2. Cross a bridge when one comes to it: Deal with a situation when it happens, used when explaining that one shouldn't worry too much about possible problems
  3. Fall into the trap: Do something that something wants you to do in order to take advantage of you
  4. Feel put-upon: Feel like someone is forcing your to do something you don't want to do
  5. Get something under one's belt: Experience something
  6. Get the short end of the stick: Lose in an arrangement of some sort, receive the smallest portion
  7. Have the heart skip a beat: Be surprised by something
  8. Hit a happy medium: Find balance between extremes
  9. Kid around: Have fun, joke
  10. Presence of mind: The ability to calmly think about a situation and make the best decision rather than act on emotion
  11. Push someone's buttons: Know exactly what to say to anger another person
  12. Put something into practice: Do something that you want to become a habit, often used when following advice
  13. Regain one's composure: Find balance after having becoming very emotional (anger, sadness, spite, etc.)
  14. Run like water off a duck's back: Not bother or affect someone
  15. Straighten something out: Resolve a problem 
  16. Throw someone a curve ball: Do something that surprises someone, often used when negative events happen 
  17. Turn on a dime: Change without hesitation

Idiom and Expression Quiz

Check your understanding of the new idioms and expressions with this quiz.

  1. Jennifer feels ___________ by her boss at work. She's always asking her to stay and work overtime. 
  2. I wish you wouldn't ________________. This is serous business for serious people!
  3. Luckily, Tom had the _________________ to bring all the equipment despite the crazy rush to leave this morning.
  4. I'd like to get a climb of Mt. Hood _______________. It must be an amazing adventure.
  5. I'm trying to put my philosophy __________________ every day. It's not always easy!
  6. I wish you would stop pushing my _________________. I don't want to argue with you.
  7. I've hit a ___________________ between work and free time.
  8. My heart skipped __________ when I heart the news about their marriage.
  9. He fell into _____________ when he agreed to give her lessons for free.
  10. I'm afraid you've gotten ___________________________. Next time will be better!


  1. put-upon
  2. kid around
  3. presence of mind
  4. under my belt
  5. into practice
  6. buttons
  7. happy medium
  8. a beat
  9. a trap
  10. the short end of the stick

More Idioms and Expressions in Context Stories

Learn more expressions using stories with one or more of these further idioms in context stories with quizzes.

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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "Idioms in Context: Expressions and Their Meanings." ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2020, Beare, Kenneth. (2020, August 25). Idioms in Context: Expressions and Their Meanings. Retrieved from Beare, Kenneth. "Idioms in Context: Expressions and Their Meanings." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 30, 2023).