Idioms

(Look) on the bright side

A bright ray of sunlight on a cloudy day

If you are faced with a difficult or unfortunate situation, you can either focus on the negative aspects or you can be optimistic and look on the bright side. If you look on the bright side, you try to find positive or advantageous points about an otherwise negative scenario. We use this expression to refer to something that might offer hope or encouragement during a difficult time.

Go off the rails

A train going off the rails

If someone loses complete control of their behavior or emotions, then you can say that they have gone off the rails. We use the expression go off the rails to refer to someone who has started to behave in a strange or abnormal way. In many cases, their actions are considered to be inappropriate or unacceptable compared to their usual standards. As a result, they are likely to cause damage either to themselves or others.

The tables have turned

During a chess match, the tables can turn.

If someone used to be in a better position than you in terms of wealth, power or overall advantage, but now you are in a better position than them, then the tables have turned. We say that the tables have turned when the roles between two people (or groups of people) have reversed and are now the opposite of what they used to be. It means that the person who once had the advantage in a situation now has the disadvantage, and vice versa.

Take a rain check on something

On a stormy day, relax and take a rain check.

If you need to postpone or cancel plans with someone then you can take a rain check. We use this expression when we want to politely decline an invitation or reschedule a plan, but also imply that we would be interested in accepting another one in the future. When you take a rain check on something it lets the other person know that although you are unable to accept their offer or participate in an activity now, you are hopeful that it will work out next time. It shows a willingness to reschedule for a later date.

Humour me

A smiling businessman drinking coffee

When you say humour me, you are asking someone to simplify what they are saying. It implies that you know that the other person might find it silly or pointless. It is an expression that shows humility.

This expression is appropriate for use in personal and professional settings as it asks others to explain their ideas in a way that you can understand. It is especially appropriate when someone is using specialized language.

Pull an all-nighter

If you’ve stayed up all night, from dusk until dawn, then you’ve pulled an all-nighter. We use the term "all-nighter" to refer to an event that lasts through the night into the morning. This term is often associated with school and work, and it is used to say that a person stayed up all night to study for a test or complete a task.

Beat around the bush

Oversized bush, trimmed into a globe shape

If someone beats around the bush, they do not talk about a subject in an open or direct way. Instead, they may talk about a lot of irrelevant or unimportant details to avoid getting to the main point. People usually beat around the bush, either consciously or subconsciously, when they are trying to avoid a subject that is sensitive, controversial, or uncomfortable. As a result, the person may approach the topic cautiously by discussing it in a vague or roundabout way.