English idioms that describe relationships.
These will help you talk about positive and negative relationships – and also how you communicate in relationships.
get on like a house on fire = to get on really well with someone: “They get on like a house on fire.”
have a soft spot for someone = to be very fond of someone: “She has a soft spot for her youngest child.”
go back a long way = to know someone well for a long time: “Those two go back a long way. They were at primary school together.”
be in with = to have favoured status with someone: “She’s in with the management.”
get off on the wrong foot with someone = to start off badly with someone: “She really got off on the wrong foot with her new boss.”
keep someone at arm’s length = to keep someone at a distance: “I’m keeping her at arm’s length for the time being.”
they’re like cat and dog = to often argue with someone: “Those two are like cat and dog.”
rub someone up the wrong way = to irritate someone: “She really rubs her sister up the wrong way.”
be at loggerheads = to disagree strongly: “Charles and Henry are at loggerheads over the new policy.”
sworn enemies = to hate someone: “Those two are sworn enemies.”
Equality and inequality
bend over backwards for someone = do everything possible to help someone: “She bent over backwards for them when they first arrived in the town.”
be at someone’s beck and call = to always be ready to do what someone wants: “As the office junior, she was at his beck and call all day.”
pull your weight = to do the right amount of work: “The kids always pull their weight around the house.”
do your fair share = to do your share of the work: “He never does his fair share!”
take someone under your wing = to look after someone until they settle in: “He took her under his wing for her first month at work.”
keep tabs on someone = to watch someone carefully to check what they are doing: “He’s keeping tabs on the sales team at the moment.”
wear the trousers = to be in control: “She wears the trousers in their relationship.”
be under the thumb = to be controlled by someone else: “He really keeps her under the thumb.”
How you communicate
get your wires crossed =to misunderstand someone because you think they are talking about something else: “I think I’ve got my wires crossed. Were you talking about car or personal insurance?”
get the wrong end of the stick = to misunderstand someone and understand the opposite of what they are saying: “You’ve got the wrong end of the stick. The fault was with the other driver, not with me.”
be left in the dark = to be left without enough information: “We’ve been left in the dark over this project. We haven’t been told how to do it.”
talk at cross purposes = when two people don’t understand each other because they are talking about two different things (but don’t realise it): “We’re talking at cross purposes here.”
go round in circles = to say the same things over and again, so never resolving a problem: “We always end up going round in circles in these meetings.”
leave things up in the air = to leave something undecided: “I hate leaving things up in the air.”
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