A Idioms

This A idioms list will be continually updated with new definitions and examples, quizzes and other information to help you learn and remember these expressions.

Note: Each idiomatic expression does not always start with the letter “a.” This list is organized to to include idioms whose main subject or action word starts with the letter “a.”

List of A Idioms

A

from A to Z:  to include everything.

  • Our travel agent planned our vacation from A to Z, including hotels, transportation, meals and sightseeing.
  • This manual explains how to operate and care for this automobile from A to Z.  There are diagrams in the manual but we also have videos on our website.


ABLE

able to do (something) with one’s eyes closed / shut:   to be able to do something easily and effortlessly.

  • She’s such a good cook she can  practically cook with her eyes shut.
  • I know this route so well I could probably drive it with my eyes closed.


able to do (something) blindfoldedto be able to do something easily and effortlessly.

  • I’ve been driving a motorcycle so many years I could do it blindfolded.
  • I know this recipe so well that I don't measure any ingredients and I could cook it blindfolded.


ABOUT

about time:  a moment that should happen now or that should have happened previously (before).

  • It’s about time  for dinner so please go and wash your hands.
  • It’s about time  you paid me back the money you borrowed.


about to (do something):  to be ready or planning to do something.

  • I was about to raise my hand  in class when Sally shouted out the answer. 
  • I thought my boyfriend was about to propose marriage  but he broke-up with me instead.


ABOVE

above all (else):  the most important thing.

  • He loves to drink milk above all else, even more than juice or soda.
  • Above all  you should remember to bring your medicine, you can buy anything else you forget while you're on the trip.


above the law:  not having to obey the law or rules.

  • Our manager thinks he’s above the law, coming in late every morning but yelling at us if we’re even five minutes late.
  • Don't you love how police officers drive super fast when there's no emergency? It's as if they are above the law!


above suspicion:  not believed to have done something wrong.

  • My parents always think my sister is above suspicion  because she’s the oldest but usually she’s to blame.
  • Police officers are normally above suspicion  but they've had a number of problems in this department for the past year.


none of the above:  all of the items or factors listed before something else.

  • Do you want coffee, tea, juice or none of the above?
  • I debated whether to choose answer "a" or "b" for question 15 but the correct answer was actually "none of the above."


ABSENT

absent-minded:  not carefully remembering or paying attention.

  • My mother’s so absent-minded  she not only loses her keys but she also forgets where she parks her car.
  • You've been very absent-minded  lately in class forgetting your homework and staring into space. Is there something going on at home that I should know about?


ACCOUNT

take (something) into account:  to carefully think about or consider something.

  • We thought we could drive to the beach in two hours but we didn’t take Friday traffic into account and we got there five hours later.


ACT

act one’s age:  to behave in a way that is right or appropriate for a particular age.

  • Our 12-year old refuses to act her age  and continues to suck her thumb.
  • When you start acting your age—instead of like a five year-old—we'll let you use the car.


act out:  to behave badly, especially when angry.

  • My younger brother always acts out  when he doesn’t get to watch cartoons in the morning.
  • My husband has started acting out  when I was late coming home so I told him to stop being so selfish and help out by preparing our dinner himself once in awhile.


act up: (1) to behave badly; (2) to activate or start (especially describing illnesses or problems).

  • My daughter always acts up  at the supermarket when I refuse to buy her candy. 
  • My bad back is acting up  again so I can’t play tennis today.


a tough act to follow:  to be so good that the next thing after it doesn’t seem as good in comparison.

  • I hope the teacher lets me give my speech first because Tony is a tough act to follow.
  • That appetizer was delicious. The main course is going to be a tough act to follow.


catch someone in the act:  to see or discover someone at the moment they are doing something wrong.

  • I tried to quietly walk in the back door to the office because I was late but my colleague caught me in the act  and told my boss.
  • I turned my paper to the side so Stephen could copy answers off my test but the teacher caught us in the act  and gave both of us a failing grade.


clean up someone’s act:  to start behaving well or better than before.

  • My parents said if I don’t clean up my act  and get better grades I won’t be able to continue playing football.
  • The doctor told my husband he's got really high blood pressure and that he's got to clean up his act  by eating better and exercising but now he's so stressed out he's eating even worse than before.


get someone’s act together:  to improve poor or bad behavior.

  • After skipping class and playing video games my first year in college, I got my act together and got all A’s and B’s my second year.
  • I finally had to tell my assistant that she's on probation and if she doesn't get her act together  and be on time for work we're going to have to fire her.


ACTION

in action:  working or in progress.

  • This Italian restaurant has an open kitchen so you can see the chef in action  throwing pizza dough in the air.
  • I love coming to professional tennis matches and watching the players in action.  It's completely different than watching on tv.
  • You can see the coffee bean roasting in action  at our local roasting plant from noon until 3:00 PM daily.


take action:  to do or start something.

  • After years of complaining, the secretary finally took action  and quit her job.
  • The community decided to take action  and begin cleaning the park themselves rather than waiting for the local government to handle the situation.


a piece of the action:  to share part of the advantages or profits of something important that’s happening.

  • When my brother saw how much money I was making designing websites he wanted a piece of the action  and started working with me.
  • Now that my lawn care business is doing well all my friends want a piece of the action  but I am going to hire people who I know will work hard and not complain.


actions speak louder than words:  what someone does is more important than what they say.

  • If you love me, show me—actions speak louder than words.
  • I'm not impressed with your promises to take care of a puppy. Actions speak louder than words and until you keep your room clean and do your chores we're not discussing getting a dog again.


ADD

add up / add up to (something):  to signify or result in something.

  • Studying just a few new words a day will add up to  a huge vocabulary in just a year.
  • If you want to lose weight then write down everything you eat. It's amazing how snacks add up  when you start tracking the calories you eat.


ADO

without further ado:  without talking more about something.

  • Without further ado, close your books and let’s begin the test.
  • I appreciate your attention and without further ado  Professor Johnson will now deliver this evening's keynote address.


ADVANTAGE

take advantage (of something or someone):  to use an opportunity or circumstance to get or achieve something.

  • My roommate takes advantage of  my dislike for conflict and eats a lot of my food in the refrigerator because she knows I won't confront her about it.
  • I really hate it when companies try to take advantage of elderly people  by selling them worthless remedies and devices for their health.


AFRAID

afraid of one’s own shadow: to be very frightened (so frightened that the individual would jump if they saw their own shadow in the sun).

  • My German Shepard may look like a guard dog but in reality he’s afraid of his own shadow.
  • I'd go down in there to try to get the soccer ball but I'm even afraid of my own shadow.


AFTER

after all is said and done:  after everything has finally happened or been said.

  • After all is said and done, it was a great holiday even though the airline lost our luggage.
  • After all is said and done  we decided to get divorced because we think it's the best solution for us and for our children.


after the fact:  after something has already happened.

  • We had to write to the airline after the fact  because we forgot to bring our frequent flyer membership cards with us when we checked in for our flight.
  • We found out after the fact  that the person we purchased the car from had gotten into a major accident that he didn't tell us about.


AGAINST

against one’s will:  without someone’s agreement.

  • My father wants me to marry someone he chooses but I will never get married against my will.
  • Her ex-boyfriend held her at gunpoint for eight hours against her will  until she was able to escape and run to the police when he fell asleep.


against the clock:  in a hurry or trying to complete something before a specific time.

  • We worked against the clock  to finish the report before the end of the day.
  • I'm always racing against the clock  to get my term papers to the teacher by the end of the semester.


against time:  trying to finish something before a certain time or deadline.

  • I hate rushing against time  but my manager never gives me the information I need until the day before my projects are due.
  • We had to race against time to get to the airport and we made it just as they were making the last call for boarding.


AHEAD

ahead of time:  early or before something is required.

  • I always arrive ahead of time  to all of my appointments to prevent stress.
  • If you can get the report to me ahead of time  I will take a look and give you some feedback.


ahead of the game:  in a position in front of others or in an advantageous position.

  • I am always taking new training courses so I can stay ahead of the game.
  • I worked on my physical fitness really hard before the school year started so I was ahead of the game  while everyone else was suffering during our training practices.


AIR

clear the air:  to explain something to remove doubts or misunderstanding about something.

  • I asked my supervisor for a meeting so I could clear the air  about my recent absences from work.
  • My parents wanted me to clear the air  about the empty cigarette box they found in my backpack so I had to explain it was my brother's.


disappear / vanish into thin air:  to be gone quickly and completely.

  • When I asked my roommates to help me clean our apartment everyone vanished into thin air.
  • This is the best stain remover ever. Just spray a little on the clothing, pop it into the washer and the stain will disappear into thin air.


in the air:  everywhere; able to be noticed or felt.

  • Spring is in the air, the birds are chirping and the trees are blooming.
  • I hate Valentines Day! Love is in the air  and it makes me feel even more lonely than usual.


off the air:  not currently being broadcast on the radio or television.

  • The television announcers seemed to be happy colleagues but off the air  they were bitter enemies.
  • My favorite show went off the air  last week so I need to find a new television series to watch on Thursday evenings.


on the air:  broadcasting on the television or radio.

  • There are several Spanish television programs on the air  on AM radio.
  • 5-4-3-2... and we are LIVE! on the air at station WMZQ San Antonia.


air one’s dirty laundry (in public):  to talk about something that should be kept private.

  • I hate going to family reunions because my uncle always airs his dirty laundry  and we all feel embarrassed for my aunt.
  • Social media is so annoying sometimes—Is it really necessary for people to air their dirty laundry in public?


out of thin air:   from nowhere, from nothing.

  • When my students are late for class they make up excuses out of thin air.
  • I was so lucky that just when I needed it, my aunt sent me $200 out of thin air.


up in the air:  not decided, developed or finalized.

  • Our plans for the summer holiday are still up in the air  because my boss hasn’t approved my vacation request.
  • Everything is still up in the air  until we finalize a budget for the conference.


AISLES

rolling in the aisles:  laughing loudly or uncontrollably (especially a group of people at a show or performance—they laugh so loud they almost fall from their chairs into the aisles between the different sections of seats).

  • We went to the comedy club last night and one of the comedians had everyone rolling in the aisles.
  • That's a great movie to rent. We were rolling in the aisles  it was so funny.


ALIVE

alive and kicking:  alive and well (healthy), in working condition.

  • I’ve been driving my car every day for fifteen years but it’s still alive and kicking.
  • I'm not sure how I'll feel tomorrow but I just finished the marathon and I'm still alive and kicking.


ALL

all along:  the entire or whole time.

  • I got divorced because my husband was cheating on me all along  with his old girlfriend.


all at once:  happening suddenly or at one time.

  • It was really sunny when we started our walk but all at once  the sky turned dark grey and started raining really hard.


all ears:  to listen carefully and attentively.

  • Everyone on the plane was all ears  when pilot said we had to make an emergency landing.


all eyes are on something / someone:  everyone is carefully watching something to see what will happen.

  • Whenever I go out with my friend Sally all eyes are on us  because she’s so beautiful.


all thumbs:  clumsy or awkward in doing or using something.

  • I’m all thumbs  with arts and crafts but my daughter is great at it.


all very well:  good but not good enough.

  • It’s all very well  that you’re eating better but you also have to exercise if you want to lose weight.


at all:  (1) in any condition or way; (2) to any degree or extent.

  • My adviser was not at all  happy with my research paper.  
  • I can’t eat peanuts at all  because I have a severe allergy to them.


ANTS

ants in one's pants:  to be so excited, nervous or anxious about something that it's hard to be still and calm.

  • It's been raining for five days in a row and my kids really have ants in their pants  because they haven't been able to play outside.
  • What was wrong with your boss today at the staff meeting? He was jumping around like he had ants in his pants  and it was so unprofessional.


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