List of R Idioms:

This is a list of common R idioms in English. “In REALITY” idioms can be tricky but “REST assured” that if you study just a few each week you’ll happily “REAP what you sow.”

At first, just try to understand idioms and notice them when other people use them. You can speak English at a very high level without using a lot of idioms yourself. When you feel more comfortable that you truly understand some of these idioms you can use them in your own speech and writing. 

You can still speak English at a very high level without using a lot of idioms because can express the same meaning with other words. However, you absolutely have to understand idioms to reach an advanced English level.

Before you go through the list, let's review what an idiom is:

  • An idiom is a group of words that has a meaning that is different from the individual words that make up the expression.

You'll notice this list has expressions beginning with the letter "R."  The main  word in the idiom starts with this a W. There are also pages of idiomatic expressions with other letters of the alphabet: click here to go to the main idioms page.

R Idioms

RACE

race against time (race against the clock):  trying to finish or do something in a short period of time.

  • It was always a race against time  in the mornings trying to get the kids ready for school.
  • It was a race against time  to find a new apartment before our lease was up.


RACK

rack up something:  1) to accumulate a lot of something; 2) to score a lot of points.

  • I racked up a lot of frequent flyer miles  traveling to Asia in Europe for business.
  • Be careful; it’s easy to rack up a lot of credit card debt  on small daily purchases.


RADAR

on someone’s radar:  in someone’s awareness so they can consider it.

  • I’d love to ask Cindy out for a date but I’m not even on her radar.
  • Someone please tell me how I can get this topic on management’s radar — it’s really important.


RAGE

all the rage:  popular or in style.

  • Do you remember when bellbottoms and platform shoes were all the rage?
  • Watch this YouTube channel if you want to find out what fashions are all the rage  in Paris right now.


RAILS

go off the rails:  to be ruined by poor management.

  • Everything went off the rails  when the owner’s son took over the company.


RAIN

raining cats and dogs:  to rain very hard.

  • It’s been raining cats and dogs  for two days and now there some flooding in the coastal areas.
  • I love staying at home drinking tea when it rains cats and dogs  outside.
  • When it's raining cats and dogs  an umbrella really doesn't help much.


RAINBOW

chasing rainbows:  trying to accomplish something that isn’t practical.

  • My wife is chasing rainbows  again with her idea to knit dog collars.
  • I may be chasing rainbows  but one day one of my business ideas is going to make millions of dollars.


RAKE

rake in something (rake something in):  to obtain a large amount of something that’s valuable.

  • She’s been raking in new clients  now that she’s advertising on the radio.
  • I was raking in the money  when the real estate market with strong.


RAMP

ramp up something:  to increase the volume or amount of something.

  • We need to ramp up security  after someone broke into our neighbor’s home.
  • If this is a party then why can’t we ramp up the music?


RANCH

bet the ranch:  to risk everything you have to try to obtain something.

  • I’m pretty certain our team will win but I wouldn’t bet the ranch.
  • I’d bet the ranch  her daughter could be a fashion model with her tall height in unique look.


RANK(S)

pull rank:  to use the power of your job or position to get what you want.

  • My business partner pulled rank  and took the invitation to go to the Gala.


join the ranks of something:  to become part of a group.

  • In June I’ll join the ranks of college graduates  with huge student loan debt.
  • I hope to join the ranks of lawyers  or doctors  someday.


RANSOM

a king’s ransom:  a large amount of money.

  • It would take a king’s ransom  to purchase a mansion like that.
  • Don’t laugh — she makes a king’s ransom  selling clothing for dogs.


RAP

beat the rap:  to avoid punishment.

  • The other person couldn’t identify the burglar so unfortunately he was able to beat the rap.


take the rap for something:  to be blamed or punished for something you didn’t do.

  • I take the rap for a lot of things  because I’m the oldest child.


RAT

smell a rat:  to have a feeling something is wrong.

  • I’ve got five kids so I smell a rat  whenever it gets really quiet at my house.
  • I smelled a rat  when my girlfriend said her ex-boyfriend was just calling to say hello.


RATTLE

rattle off something (rattle something off):  to quickly say something.

  • I love how my boyfriend can rattle off all the scores and stats  for countless Super Bowl championships but can’t remember the date we met.
  • I can rattle off phone numbers  from 20 years ago but I don’t know any of my current friends’ numbers because they’re all programmed into my phone and I autodial them.


RAW

a raw deal:  unfair treatment.

  • I got a raw deal  with my desk and computer because I started a week later than the rest of the team.
  • Did you get a raw deal  or did you just except the first offer without negotiating a higher salary?


RAY(S)

a ray of sunshine:  a sign of hope.

  • The inquiry from a potential client offered a ray of sunshine  for my new business.
  • My tax refund gave me a ray of sunshine  for eliminating some of my credit card debt.


catch some rays (catch a few raids):  to sunbathe, to lie outside in the sun.

  • Wow, it looks like you caught some rays  at the beach this weekend.
  • I’m going to just relax this weekend and catch a few rays.


REACH

reach out (to someone):  to try to communicate with or offer help to someone.

  • After my mother died, a lot of friends and colleagues reached out  to send kind messages and stopped by to see me.
  • You need to reach out  to more voters if you want to win this election.


within reach:  something that is possible to do or have.

  • It will be a challenge but I think running a marathon is within reach  if you slowly add mileage during the year and don’t get injured.
  • I earned a $50,000 bonus last year and think $100,000 is within reach  for next year.


READ

read something into something:  to insert your own meaning into something instead of what was intended.

  • If he said he’s tired and doesn’t want to go out tonight, why do automatically read more into it?
  • Please do not read something else into this performance review. We were very pleased overall but would like to see improvement in this particular area.


read up on something:  to read information to learn more about something.

  • I was reading up on nutrition and supplements  and I’m going to drink a lot more herbal teas in the future.
  • You should read up on that car, especially some Consumer Reports, before you decide whether to buy it.


read between the lines:  to discover hidden meaning in something someone says or writes.

  • I meant exactly what I said. Why do you always try to read between the lines?
  • If you read between the lines  you might think she wants you to spend more time with the kids.


read something (from) cover to cover:  to read something from beginning to end.

  • I didn’t get any sleep last night because I read the last Harry Potter novel from cover to cover.
  • Few people sit down and read the Bible from cover to cover.


read the fine print:  the important information (and often legal information).

  • Does anyone really read the fine print  when they load software onto their computer?
  • If you read all the fine print  you’d never take any pharmaceutical medications.


REALITY

in reality:  actually.

  • I’d hoped to finish my paper today but in reality  I haven’t even started.
  • Whatever thoughts you choose to think will determine how you feel in reality.


REAP

reap what you sow:  what you experience is a result of your actions.

  • What you expect when you eat lots of sweetened fattening foods? You reap what you sow.
  • If you want to improve your grades just remember you reap what you sow.
  • I learned that it’s not how many hours I work but what work I actually complete — you reap exactly what you sow.

REAR

bring up the rear:  to be at the back of a group of people going somewhere.

  • Whenever we go for a run I’m always the one bringing up the rear.
  • To make sure none of the kids get lost, I’ll stay behind and bring up the rear.

rear its ugly head:  to become a problem that needs to be resolved.

  • The mold in the bathroom shower is starting to rear its ugly head again.
  • Can you make an announcement at the staff meeting about getting to work on time? Staff tardiness is starting to rear its ugly head.

REBOUND

on the rebound:  1) becoming stronger or better; 2) recovering from the ending of a romantic relationship.

  • I’m definitely on the rebound  since I got the cast off my leg.
  • You should never date anyone seriously when you’re on the rebound  from a long-term relationship.


RECORD

for the record:  something that is said publicly and officially.

  • Just for the record, I never intentionally took marijuana — someone had cooked it into the brownies and none of us knew this.
  • The senator wanted to make a statement for the record so his views would not be taken out of context.


off the record:  not meant to be known publicly or officially.

  • I can only speak off the record  because there’s a confidentiality clause in my contract.
  • Off the record, we’re launching a major new product in June.


on the record:  to make something be known officially and publicly.

  • We would like to hear you make that promise on the record.
  • The politician called the news conference to go on the record  about his relationship with his assistant.


set the record straight:  to tell the true facts that haven’t yet been reported.

  • There have been so many rumors I’m really glad you finally set the record straight.
  • To set the record straight, it’s not that you’re overweight — he’s just not interested in you because he’s gay.


RED

in the red:  to be in debt.

  • After two straight quarters of profits the company went in the red  in the third quarter and investors started to get nervous.
  • I never buy on credit because I don’t like being in the red.


see red:  to be very angry.

  • My mom saw red  when she came home and noticed we’d eaten some cake.
  • Uh-oh. That look means my dad’s seeing red  about something.


paint the town red:  to go out and have a wild celebration (usually drinking a lot of alcohol).

  • We went out on New Year’s Eve and I guess I painted the town red  because I can’t remember anything.
  • We’re going to paint the town red  tonight — want to join us?


roll out the red carpet:  to give a special welcome to someone. (Like the red carpet at special events: e.g., movie premieres, award ceremonies, galas).

  • Whenever my parents come to visit my sweet wife really rolls out the red carpet  and they love it.
  • Let’s schedule a planning meeting — we need to roll out the red carpet  for the speakers at this conference.


to give the red carpet treatment:  to treat someone with special care and attention.

  • We like to stay at the Four Seasons hotel because they give all their guests the red carpet treatment.
  • Thanks for a wonderful weekend and all the red carpet treatment you gave us.

REEL

reel and someone/something (reel someone/something in):  to attract or pull someone/something closer into someone.

  • The coach reeled in all the players  from the field for a brief talk about the next play.
  • We need to reel in some new customers  from the surrounding cities in order to really increase profits.

reel off something (reel something off):  to say or do things very quickly one after another.

  • She reeled the figures off  so quickly everyone knew she’d prepared well for the presentation.
  • I used to be able to reel off all the names of the presidents and vice presidents  but now I can only remember a few of them.

REFLECT

reflect on something:  to carefully think about something.

  • Perhaps you should stop and reflect on everything you did  the past semester before blaming your “awful” professor for your terrible grade.
  • Whenever I board an airplane I get nervous and reflect on how precious life is.

REGARD

in regard to something:  in relation to something; in consideration of something.

  • In regard to this summer, we haven’t made any plans yet but will be going to Paris for Christmas.
  • Your work performance is very good but in regard to your relationship  with the rest of the team, we’re very concerned.
  • I’m calling in regard to my appointment  with Dr. Jones on April 20.

REIN

give someone / something free rein (have free rein):  allow someone / something complete freedom in action or expression.

  • Do you really think you should give free rein to your five-year-old  in the kitchen?
  • His dogs have free rein  at the house so there’s dog hair everywhere.

keep a tight rein on someone / something:  to restrict or control someone or something.

  • We’ve got to keep a tight rein on travel expenditures  during the next year so we either travel less or fly coach class.
  • Until your grades improve, were going to keep tight rein on your phone and computer use.

rein in someone / something (rein someone / something in):  to restrain or control someone or something.

  • After I switched jobs I had to rein in my spending  on clothes and eating out.
  • We had to rein in our children’s’ telephone usage  after we discovered how many hours they were talking to friends late at night.

take over the reins:  to take over control of something.

  • Office morale improved drastically after the new director took over the reins.
  • I hope the economy will improve the next president takes over the reins.

ROAD

Hit the road:  to leave (especially to go home); to depart on a journey (especially to travel to a place by car).

  • It was great to see you but I've really got to hit the road  now.
  • You're driving to Florida? What time are you hitting the road  tomorrow?




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You can also find many idiom definitions with the different online learner's dictionaries.


Your turn: Practice these R idioms

Let's check your understanding of these R idioms by using them in a few practice sentences. Although I said you don't need to use them in your own speech, you do need to use them in practice! This will check you absolutely understand the meaning and help you remember them better. I'll fix any mistakes you might make.

Simply choose a couple of R idioms from the list and create your own sentences in the comments box below.

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