The Ultimate Common Phrases Quiz

By: Talin Vartanian
Estimated Completion Time
6 min
The Ultimate Common Phrases Quiz
Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Common phrases are popular expressions that are often an analogy for a life lesson. They may also stem from movies, plays or folklore. In this quiz, we've compiled 35 different common phrases that are an analogy for a life lesson.

Let's take a look at some of these common phrases. If someone has a "chip on their shoulder," that means that the person is bitter about something that previously happened. This could include feelings of anger, sadness, remorse or holding a grudge against someone else. 

Another phrase is "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." This means that if you eat enough healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables, on a daily basis, you'll be healthy enough to "keep the doctor away" (aka visit the doctor less frequently).

Some phrases also reference types of animals, such as "an elephant never forgets." This means that someone has a strong memory, and they are less likely to forget small details. 

So here's how this quiz works: we'll give you the common phrase, and all you have to do is guess what it really means. If you ever get stuck, be sure to utilize the provided hint for every question. Without further ado, take this common phrases quiz now to see how you do!

What do you think the phrase "work hard, play hard" means?
If you work hard, you get to reward yourself with a leisurely activity.
The phrase "work hard, play hard" means that you get to reward yourself with a leisurely activity after working hard in school or at your job. The leisurely activity could be anything from going out to eat or binge-watching TV shows.
The harder you work, the more money you'll make.
The harder you work, the happier you'll be.
The more you play, the more you have to work.

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If I say this test is going to be a "piece of cake," what do I really mean?
This test is going to be hard.
This test is going to be easy.
"A piece of cake" means that a task is expected to be easy. This could refer to chores, school work or solving almost any kind of problem.
I won't be able to take the test.
I haven't studied for the test.

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If I say you are a "busy bee," what do I mean?
You must love honey like a bee.
You're lazy like a bee.
You're a busy person with a lot to do.
A "busy bee" is someone who has a lot to do, whether it's chores, school work or other kinds of tasks. A "busy bee" is also someone who is generally hard-working in nature.
You look like a bee.

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What do you think the phrase "down to Earth" means?
Someone who loves to try new things
Someone who is afraid of heights
Someone who is scared all the time
Someone who is humble and relaxed
If you've ever used the phrase "down to Earth" about a person, you're likely referring to their humble and relaxed nature. These types of people are also usually easy to talk to and easy to befriend.

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If something is "down to the wire," it means that...
The result of an action or situation will be revealed in a short amount of time.
If I say "this fighting match is down to the wire," it means that the results of the fighting match (so far) are very close, and the winner will be revealed very soon, usually in a few minutes or less. There is usually a sense of urgency with this type of phrase.
Someone is going to cut a wire.
Someone is afraid of heights.
Someone needs more time.

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If my friend is "driving me nuts," my friend is...
Making me scared
Making me sad
Making me happy
Making me crazy and/or upset
"Drive me nuts" is usually associated with feelings of being upset and "crazy." This can also refer to feeling very annoyed with someone.

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"Actions speak louder than words" means...?
Actions are not as valuable as words.
Actions and words mean the same thing.
Actions carry more value than words that are spoken.
The phrase "actions speak louder than words" refers to actions carrying more weight, or more value, than words that are simply spoken. This is often because it's easier to talk rather than take action.
Nobody listens to words anymore.

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If I say that two people are a pair of "love birds," what do I really mean?
Two people look like they share an immense affection for each other.
A couple who is referred to as a pair of "love birds" means that they share a great affection for one another. This is often referred to both married and unmarried couples.
Two people look like birds.
Two people look like they hate each other.
Two people are trying to spell the word "love."

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If I say that you're "making a scene," it means you're...
Scared to do what you want in life
Causing a disruption/chaos in a public area
If I say that you're making a scene, it means you're causing a disruption or some kind of chaos in a public area. This often involves yelling or crying.
Writing a scene for a play
Making arts and crafts

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Try and decode what a "man of few words" means.
Someone who can't speak
Someone who talks too much
Someone who doesn't really talk too much
A "man of few words" is someone who is generally quiet in nature and doesn't talk too much. They often let their actions speak for themselves.
Someone who doesn't know how to speak

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What do you think the phrase "money doesn't grow on trees" means?
Money can be easily replenished.
The tree ran out of money to grow.
Money has a lot of value to it and can be difficult to replenish.
"Money doesn't grow on trees" refers to how difficult it can be to replenish money, since it can't "grow" easily like something on a tree. This makes it a high-value item.
People shouldn't worry about money too much.

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If I say that this pie looks "mouth-watering," it means that it looks...
Really tasty
"Mouth-watering" usually refers to a food or beverage item, which implies that it looks very tasty. It can also refer to how a food item smells.
Really gross
Undercooked
Overcooked

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If I say that "the ball is in your court," I mean that...
We're going to a game of basketball.
You have my ball.
It's your turn to make a move.
When it comes to decision-making between two people, the phrase "the ball is in your court" may be used. It refers to another person having the authority to make a move regarding a decision.
It's your turn to throw the ball back to me.

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If I quit smoking "cold turkey," I mean...
This turkey is cold in temperature.
I quit smoking in an abrupt manner (without "weaning" off of it).
Sometimes people "wean" off of smoking in a gradual manner. Others quit "cold turkey," which means that there is no gradual decline of smoking; it's a decision to quit in an abrupt manner.
I've picked up the habit of smoking.
I hate the way these cigarettes taste.

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What does "beat around the bush" mean?
To grow a bush
To trim around the bush in a yard
To not directly address the main problem at hand
If I say that you're "beating around the bush," it means that you're not directly addressing the real issue, the main problem at hand. The person will typically answer the question but in a very vague way.
To talk about whatever you want

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If I tell you to not worry about things that happened and you cannot change, I'm telling you to...
"Cut the mustard"
"Beat around the bush"
"Cut to the chase"
"Don't cry over spilled milk"
"Don't cry over spilled milk" means not to worry or cry over things that cannot be changed. Just like you can't put spilled milk back in the bottle, you shouldn't worry about things you can't change anymore.

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If you tell me to "cut to the chase," what are you trying to say?
I don't understand what you're saying.
Don't cut in front of me.
Don't run away from me.
Get to the main issue, or point, of a conversation.
"Cut to the chase" refers to getting to the main issue, or point, of a conversation. This is often told to someone who is not directly addressing a problem.

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A person who is "crying wolf" means that...
They are telling the truth.
They are lying by asking for help that they don't really need.
You might be familiar with the story of "the boy who cried wolf," which also refers to the famous phrase "crying wolf." It means that somebody is lying by asking for help that they don't need.
They are too scared to ask for help.
They are hungry.

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If I say that this vase "costs an arm and a leg," it means that the vase is...
Pricey
The high price tag of an item can be referred to the phrase "costing an arm and a leg." This is because your arm and leg(s) are high in value, which is an analogy for how expensive something is.
Cheap
Well-made
Broken

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If I have to go back to the start of something, it means that I have to go...
"Backwards"
"Back to the circle"
"Back to square one"
Going "back to square one" means going all the way back to the start of a task or a situation. This may also refer to a lack of progress with the task at hand.
"Back to my hometown"

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"Better safe than sorry" means...
I'm not sorry for my actions.
I don't know where the safe is.
You are currently safe.
It's better to make a low-risk decision than a high-risk one.
"Better safe than sorry" means that it's better to make a low-risk decision than a high-risk one. This is often because high-risk decisions come with a lot of consequences.

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If I tell you "don't judge a book by its cover," what am I trying to say?
I don't like to read books.
Don't judge the appearance of someone or something.
"Don't judge a book by its cover" doesn't necessarily equate to books, but all things that have an outward appearance, including people and objects. It also means to give something a chance without immediately dismissing it.
Read the book first.
Make judgements based on appearance.

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We will "cross that bridge when we get to it" means to...?
Address a hypothetical or potential problem when it becomes apparent.
"Cross the bridge when we get to it" means to address a potential problem when it actually becomes a problem. This is often used to not worry about something now, but later.
Procrastinate on all of your chores.
Talk to someone nicely.
Don't cross any foreseeable bridges.

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If I tell you "don't put all of your eggs in one basket," what am I trying to tell you?
Don't worry so much about problems.
Your basket is too small to hold the eggs.
Don't bet everything on one possibility.
"Don't put all of your eggs in one basket" means to not bet everything on one outcome or one possibility. This phrase is commonly used for a single source of income.
The basket is not the right fit for the eggs.

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You "hit the nail on the head" means...?
What you said was partially true
What you said was inappropriate
What you said was wrong
What you said was right
If I say "you hit the nail on the head," I mean you were 100% correct in what you said. This may also refer to actions, not just words.

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To "hit the sack" means to...?
Find where the sack is
Wake up
Go to sleep
To "hit the sack" means to go to sleep. Some people also say "hit the sheets" or "hit the hay."
Make the bed

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What do you think it means to "kill two birds with one stone?"
To fulfill two separate tasks simultaneously
To "kill two birds with one stone" means to fulfill two separate tasks at the same time. The "stone" refers to the action that was used to complete the two tasks or the "two birds."
To achieve one task at a time
To go bird watching
To juggle as many tasks as possible

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If you're at a party, you might try to "break the ice" with someone. What does this mean?
To hide away from social interaction
To try and shatter any nearby ice cubes
To overcome social awkwardness by striking up a conversation
To break the ice with someone means to strike up a conversation with them. Usually, this refers to social awkwardness between two people who don't know each other too well.
To think of something to say

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If I tell you to "put a sock in it," what am I trying to say?
You're saying inappropriate things.
You're not wearing any socks.
You're talking too much and you need to stop.
"Put a sock in it" means that someone is talking too much and you want them to stop. This may also be used to someone who is talking at a high volume, and you want them to lower their voice.
You're not talking enough.

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The phrase for playfully making fun of someone is...
"Poke fun at"
To "poke fun at" someone means to playfully make fun of them. While "poking fun at someone" can be harmless in nature, it can cause hurt feelings.
"Bully someone"
"Be aggressive"
"Mind your manners"

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If I want you to "make a long story short," I want you to...
Stop talking about the story
Give me the short version of the story, without the unnecessary details
To "make a long story short" means to literally tell the short version of a story. This often involves leaving out details that may be considered unnecessary.
Don't tell the story at all
Tell both the long and short version of the story

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If I "see eye to eye" with you, what does that mean?
"We both have the same eye colors."
"We shouldn't be friends anymore."
"You and I feel the same way on this topic."
If two people "see eye to eye," it means that they both feel the same way on a particular topic. This is often met with mutual agreement with little argument involved.
"You and I don't feel the same way on this topic."

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If someone looks very scared, one might call them a...
"Fearless lion"
"Boy who cried wolf"
"Scaredy-cat"
A "scaredy-cat" is someone who looks very scared. This is often used to poke fun at someone, sometimes in a humiliating way.
"Frightened dog"

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To "spill the beans" means to...?
Reveal secretive information
If you want someone to "spill the beans," it means you want them to reveal secretive information. This type of information is often private in nature.
Clean up the spilled beans
Keep secretive information to yourself
Not sweat the small stuff

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Not taking something too literally means to...
"Don't interrupt someone"
"Listen to what others are saying"
"Treat it like a rock"
"Take it with a grain of salt"
To "take something with a grain of salt" means not to take someone's words too literally. This is because a grain of salt is often insignificant in value, which is an analogy for someone's seemingly insignificant words.

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