An idiom is a phrase with a special meaning. If you don’t know an idiom, it’s often very difficult to imagine what it means because the words usually lose their individual meanings. Idioms exist in every language and English has thousands of them.

Here are ten ‘body’ idioms that you’ll hear both on the street and in business meetings. How many of them have you already heard?

to stab someone in the back (to betray someone)

It’s great to have your friends behind you but what happens when one breaks your trust? They hopefully won’t use a knife, but their actions might hurt you in another way. “I trusted my colleague, but he stabbed me in the back and took my job.”

to keep an eye on something (to mind something)

You’re not going to focus on this thing, but you shouldn’t forget about it and make sure it’s ok. “Can you keep an eye on my bag while I go to the toilet?”

to point the finger at someone (to blame someone)

It was him! Apart from pointing with your finger, there are other ways to signal someone’s mistake. “Don’t point the finger at me! We could all have done something to stop it.”

to put your foot in it (to say something you weren’t supposed to say)

You know that moment when you say something and know you shouldn’t have? The other person often wasn’t supposed to know, or finds it upsetting. “I put my foot in it when I told the client we weren’t giving his project priority.”

to give someone a hand (to help someone)

Sometimes two hands aren’t enough. If we’re lucky, someone (or more than one person) will make our task easier. “It would have taken us ages to move house if our friends hadn’t given us a hand.”

to let your hair down (to relax after working)

After a hard day at work, secretaries used to go home, untie their hair and relax. But you don’t have to have long hair (or even any hair at all) to do this. “My boss likes to let his hair down at the weekend at the bar.”

to lose your head (to lose your self-control)

We control our thoughts and actions with our brains. When we stop thinking logically and become emotional, it’s very easy to do things we later regret. “When he heard the news in the meeting, he totally lost his head and shouted at the boss.”

to pull someone’s leg (to deceive someone as a joke, in a friendly way)

Many people don’t like to take things too seriously and like to have a bit of fun, often at the expense of someone else. They don’t mean to be unkind, though. “My colleague told me the boss wanted to fire me, but he was just pulling my leg.”

to be a pain in the neck (to be annoying)

There are no such things as vampires, but other people – and things – can cause you similar problems. “Writing this report every Monday morning is a real pain in the neck.”

to give someone the cold shoulder (to completely ignore someone in an unfriendly way)

You say hi and they don’t even look at you. We often have an idea why they’re doing this – you’ve offended them in some way, you’ve done something they don’t approve of, or they simply don’t like you. “I have no idea why Mr Smith’s assistant is giving me the cold shoulder.”

Can you think of any more?

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