Can You Pass This Common Phrases Test?

Beth Hendricks

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About This Quiz

Different cultures have long had their own way of speaking. Ancient Egyptians used hieroglyphics to communicate, an ancient art of symbols and characters placed together to illustrate their point. The Greeks, the Chinese and Native Americans all relied on smoke signals at various points in history to convey their messages. And, as languages progressed, we learned that each had its own idiosyncrasies that only those who spoke it could truly understand. 

English, spoken by more than 1.5 billion people the world over, even has its quirks across the glove. In England, for example, you might hear someone say, "I'm knackered" (meaning they're tired) or they may offer you a "cuppa" (that's coffee, if you didn't know). In the United States, we also have our own sayings or common phrases that might appear odd to others. We might say something like, "I'm going to hit the sack," when we're tired or we might offer someone "a cup of joe" (that's coffee too). In this country, we have developed interesting sayings that might sound odd to others but which make perfect sense to us.

So, let's stop beating around the bush and get to the heart of the matter ... this quiz. It's packed full of common phrases you may have heard in conversation (and others that maybe you haven't). Some quizzes are a "dime a dozen," but not this one! Let's get a move on! (That means "let's go!")


A "friend in need" is also which of these?

The saying "A friend in need is a friend indeed" is one that speaks to the type of person who will be there for you during your time of need as being someone who is truly your friend.

A "bird in the hand is worth" what?

Having something in your hand is usually better than letting go of it in pursuit of something "greater." This quote speaks to being satisfied with what you already have instead of looking for something new.

You can lead a horse to water, but which of these can't you do?

The full quote is, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink." In short, this means that you can present an opportunity to someone, but you cannot coerce them to take full advantage of that opportunity.

Beauty is in the eye of whom?

We all find different things beautiful, don't we? What one person loves, another may hate and vice versa. That's what this quote means: What is deemed beautiful completely depends on the person viewing it.

It's more expensive than I can afford. It's which of these?

Have you ever heard someone say that something cost "an arm and a leg?" They didn't really cut off an arm and a leg to buy it, but the cost was nearly as high — in a non-literal sense, of course.

The first thing I tried didn't work, so now I need to go where?

Going "back to the drawing board" means that you're starting over from scratch or going back to the beginning. The use of the word "drawing board" refers to starting over on a new drawing or design.

She wouldn't just tell me what she really thought. She was doing which of these?

If you say that someone is "beating around the bush," they are essentially going around and around an issue without dealing with it straight on. This is an avoidance tactic to steer clear of what the main issue really is.

"An apple a day" does which of these things?

Want to keep the doctor away? The cure is to eat an apple a day, or so goes this old saying. There's no real proof that eating an apple daily will do this, but it alludes to a pattern of healthful eating that can certainly keep you in optimal shape.

He wasn't easily flustered. He was which of these?

Have you ever heard of someone being called "cool as a cucumber?" It actually has nothing to do with the person's actual temperature, but rather their ability to stay calm and unflappable under pressure.

What does "slow and steady" do?

"Slow and steady wins the race" is a phrase that speaks to doing things in a slow, consistent and steady manner for optimal results instead of just jumping in and making quick or abrupt decisions or choices.

"Absence makes the heart" do which of these things?

Have you ever spent time away from someone you love? Aren't you even happier to see them when they return? That's what this phrase "absence makes the heart grow fonder" means.

He decided to stop smoking in which of these ways?

For most people who quit smoking, it's a difficult journey to navigate. Many make use of smoking cessation aids, while others go it "cold turkey," meaning they just stop abruptly with no assistance.

Where is the "grass always greener"?

"The grass is always greener on the other side" ... or is it? That's what this quote means. It may appear that someone else's circumstances are better than yours from your perspective, but when you get "on the other side," the view may be quite different indeed.

She had a lot to do. She was "busy as" which of these?

Bees keep a pretty busy itinerary: There are flowers to pollinate and nectar to gather ... and don't forget people to sting! Ouch. So, when someone is described as being "busy as a bee," you can be assured they're flitting around with a lot to do!

She was a hard-working woman. She "brings home" what?

This one had you at bacon, am I right? Bringing home the bacon doesn't really have anything to do with actual bacon (sad face). Rather, it's about earning a living or making money you bring home to take care of your family.

They were just alike! They were which of these?

People who are described as being "two peas in a pod" are people who are strikingly similar in some way. They may share commonalities such as appearance, likes or dislikes that causes people to consider them being like one another (as two peas in a pod would be).

He was born into a wealthy family, with which of these in his mouth?

When you describe someone as "being born with a silver spoon in their mouth," you're referring to the wealth they were born into. Of course, none of us is born with a silver spoon in our mouths, literally, but some of us are fortunate enough to be born into well-to-do families.

He was a "jack of all trades," but also which of these?

Have you ever known someone who was a jack of all trades? They could do many things, but could they do all of them well? That's the gist of this quote, "Jack of all trades, master of none," meaning that someone who is skilled in many areas is likely not mastering any of them.

She had a hard time giving the speech because she had which of these?

Rrrribit! Can you imagine a frog in your throat? Yuck! This phrase, however, means that the person speaking feels as though they have something stuck in their throat, making it difficult to speak. This is typically the result of fear or nervousness at speaking publicly.

She was so in love with him. She was which of these things?

It's one thing to be in love, but it's another thing to be so in love that you're upside-down or "head over heels." This means that the feeling has so overtaken you that you've been tossed into an unnatural state of being. I often feel that way about pizza.

She didn't have a good plan. She was doing which of these?

There are planners and then there are those of us who prefer to take life as it comes, the proverbial "flying by the seat of her pants" type of person. People who do this are winging it as they go, which isn't always such a bad thing.

If you're really jealous of someone else, you might say you're which of these?

Don't you hate it when that green-eyed monster rears its ugly head? You've heard of someone being "green with envy," so perhaps the green-eyed monster is just a breathing representation of how those feelings impact us.

I owed her $100, so she told me to do which of these things?

If someone tells you to "pony up," it most likely means that you need to pay some amount you're owed. This phrase has nothing to do with actual ponies but is derived from the Latin word "pone," which means money.

We went out as a group so everyone paid their own way. What is another way of saying this?

The idea of "going Dutch" means that each person is paying for him or herself. There are several ideas as to where this originates, but surprisingly, you won't find the Dutch people using this phrase. It's a decidedly American phrase.

She offered to do it and said it would be no big deal. It was which of these things?

Mmm, cake. It's a delicious treat. When someone says something is a "piece of cake," however, they're referring to it being simple or easy to take care of. You know, sort of like downing a piece of cake would be.

On Saturday, she didn't feel like doing anything except watch TV. She was which of these?

The idea of a lazy, do-nothing-all-day "couch potato" is said to have originated in the work of an artist in the 1970s. Today, a "couch potato" is someone who spends the entire day on the couch, probably watching TV. But, hey, your secret is safe with us.

We went to the party, and it was so crowded we were which of these?

Those sardines, man. They're packed into their cans pretty tightly. The same can be said of places where the public gathers, such as concerts, sporting events or clubs where people are packed in like sardines.

I didn't think it was a big deal, but she was doing which of these things?

There are things that are a big deal and things that just aren't. The latter might be considered "molehills," or insignificant. Yet, there will always be that one person who has to turn something insignificant into something major or make a mountain out of it.

She decided to email her boss directly and "kill two birds" with what?

Don't worry — no birds were harmed in the making of this question! "Killing two birds with one stone" simply means that you are able to knock out two or more things with one action. That's just efficiency.

He was a contrary teenager, but as a young man, he did which of these?

"Walking the straight and narrow" doesn't mean, of course, that you're walking in a straight line. It does mean, however, that you're abiding by the rules and sticking to the things you should be doing ... instead of being a contrary teenager.

I told her not to tell anyone, but she decided to do which of these?

When someone "spills the beans," they tell something they shouldn't have or share it before it was time to let it be known. This phrase is believed to have started back in ancient Greece when voting was done by using beans to account for each person's choice.

A "watched pot never" does which of these?

Boy, if this one isn't the truth! You can stand in a kitchen and watch a pot ... and, what? Oh, it's not about a real pot? OK, then we'll go with the idea that when you're waiting for something to happen, particularly something exciting, it seems to take even longer than normal.

She was about to perform, so I told her which of these?

It's not rude to tell someone who's about to perform to "break a leg." In fact, in the theater world, it's nearly expected. No one is really sure where it originated, but it's the ultimate way to wish someone "good luck" rather than just saying, "Good luck!"

Unfortunately, "money doesn't grow" in which of these places?

This is one you probably heard your parents say: "Money doesn't grow on trees." Of course, money truly doesn't grow on trees, but the idea behind this saying is that money won't just fall from the sky ... You have to work hard and earn it.

"The apple doesn't" do which of these things?

This phrase "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" is typically used to talk about a child who shares some striking similarities with his or her parents. In this context, the "tree" is the mom or dad and the "apple" is the child, who hasn't changed much from the tree itself.

"The road to Hell is paved with" what?

"The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." That's a deep one, huh? This saying means that good intentions or promises are never as good as action that will secure good results.

She told us secrets we weren't supposed to know. Which of these did she do?

We're not sure who was keeping a cat in a bag to begin with, but we're sure that wasn't a good idea. "Letting the cat out of the bag" means that someone revealed some secrets or privileged information, probably before they should have.

"If it ain't broke," don't do which of these?

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is how this common phrase goes. This typically means that is something is going great as-is, don't attempt to change it or "make it better," because you'll probably just really break it instead.

"It ain't over 'til" what happens?

"It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings" generally means not to count on knowing the final result until the event is over. This phrase is actually believed to have been coined by a sports announcer in Texas in the 1970s.

They tried to talk through their issues, but they were avoiding which of these?

It stands to reason that "the elephant in the room" would be the biggest thing in that room, right? Yet, avoiding the "elephant in the room" means that you're going around the biggest issue — or obstacle — present.

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