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HOME > AMERICAN IDIOMS > Idioms starting with C

Common American Idioms for ESL students


(To) call it a day:
To end work and go home. ex. "Let's call it a day. It's getting late."

(To) call (someone's) bluff:
To demand proof that someone is not lying. ex. "He said he was the best runner in town, so I called his bluff and challenged him to a race."

(To) call the shots:
To be in charge. ex. "He likes to think he calls the shots around here, but he doesn't."

(A) can of worms; To open a can of worms:
To get into a complicated (often embarrassing or awkward) situation. ex. "He opened up a can of worms when he asked her to tell the truth about the last two years of her life."

(To) carry a tune:
To be able to sing on key (accurately). ex. "She has an awful voice! She can't carry a tune."

(To) cash in on something:
To profit from something. ex. "The actor wanted to cash in on his popularity by opening a restaurant."

(A) catch:
When talking about wives, husbands, girlfriends, etc., people sometimes say "He's quite a catch" or "She's quite a catch", which means that the person in question is a great partner, or that it's good to be in a relationship with him/her (usually because of his/her personality, money, or looks).

(To) catch someone's eye:
To get someone's attention through eye contact.

(To have a) change of heart:
To change your opinion, position about something. ex. "At first, Bill didn't want to donate any of his money to the animal shetler, but then he had a change of heart and donated $10,000."

(A) cheap drunk:
Also knows as "a cheap date". A person who becomes drunk after only one or two drinks. ex. "Victor had one gin and tonic and was already slurring - what a cheap drunk!"

Chicken (adj); to be chicken:
To be scared, frightened.

(To have a) chip on (one's) shoulder:
An aggressive or mean attitude. ex. "It's really hard to talk to your brother. He always seems to have a chip on his shoulder".

(A) clean bill of health:
A report from the doctor that one's health is good; good results from a doctor's medical examination. ex. "I went in for my yearly physical and got a clean bill of health from Dr. Jones."

(To start with/start off with/start over with a) clean slate
To start again, ignoring what had happened in the past. ex. "After spending 10 years in prison, Peter was released and started over with a clean slate."

(To) clear the air:
To discuss things honestly in order to get rid of resentment, doubts, etc. ex. "The two men realized they had to clear the air by discussing what had happened the month before."

(To) clear the table:
To remove all dishes, cutlery, etc. from a table after a meal. ex. "You clear the table, and I'll do the dishes."

(A) close call:
Something that is close to danger or an accident. ex. "That was a close call! The train almost hit the motorbike."

Coast-to-coast (adj/adv):
From the Atlantic to the Pacific coast in the United States. ex. "Our car made the coast-to-coast trip in 70 hours".

(To) come away empty handed:
To return without anything. To expect to receive something but to end up receiving nothing. ex. "The union workers came away empty handed from the negotiations."

(To) come to an end:
To finish; to stop/ ex. "When the road came to an end, we turned left."

(To) come out of the closet:
To reveal that one is gay. ex. "The Republican senator shocked his constituents last June by coming out of the closet."

Come to think of it:
I just remembered. ex. "Hey, come to think of it, I do have a sleeping bag you can borrow."

(To) come up short:
To not quite achieve one's goal. ex. "The students tried to raise $1,000 for the school play, but they came up short."

Come what may
Whatever happens. No matter what happens.

Copycat (noun or adjective)
Someone who imitates/mimics another person *not really used in a positive sense*.

(To) corner
To trap, make sure that there is no way out for someone. ex. "After the police cornered the bank robber, he surrendered."

Couch potato
A person who spends most of his/her time on the couch, watching TV.

(To) cover a lot of ground:
To go through a lot of information. ex. "We've covered a lot of ground in my English class in the past two months."

(To) cover for someone:
To make excuses for someone or to conceal someone's errors. ex. "He asked me to cover to him while he ran out to talk to his girlfriend."

(At the) crack of dawn:
Right at dawn (when the sun comes up). ex. "When the road came to an end, we turned left."

(To) crash:
To sleep. To go to bed. ex. "Do you think I can crash here tonight?"

(To) cramp someone's style:
To limit someone in some way. To limit someone from expressing themselves fully. ex. "Get lost. You're cramping my style!"

(To) cry one's eyes out:
To cry hard. ex. "When her grandfather died, she cried her eyes out for three days straight."

(To) cut class:
To not go to class. To skip going to class. ex. "Jacob was a very bad student. He was always cutting class to go smoke with his buddies." (To) cut corners:
To save money by doing things poorly or wrong. ex. "If you cut corners, you'll end up with low-quality products which no one will want to buy."

(To) cut loose:
To act or speak freely, without holding back ( = without restraint). ex. "When the three of us are together we really cut loose."

(A) cut above (something):
Superior/ better (than something). ex. "The commercial claimed that this car company was a cut above the rest."

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