The Ultimate Common Phrases Quiz


By: Talin Vartanian

6 Min 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?

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.


If I say this test is going to be a "piece of cake," what do I really mean?

"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.


If I say you are a "busy bee," what do I mean?

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.


What do you think the phrase "down to Earth" means?

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.


If something is "down to the wire," it means that...

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.


If my friend is "driving me nuts," my friend is...

"Drive me nuts" is usually associated with feelings of being upset and "crazy." This can also refer to feeling very annoyed with someone.


"Actions speak louder than words" means...?

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.


If I say that two people are a pair of "love birds," what do I really mean?

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.


If I say that you're "making a scene," it means you're...

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.


Try and decode what a "man of few words" means.

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.


What do you think the phrase "money doesn't grow on trees" means?

"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.


If I say that this pie looks "mouth-watering," it means that it looks...

"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.


If I say that "the ball is in your court," I mean that...

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.


If I quit smoking "cold turkey," I mean...

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.


What does "beat around the bush" mean?

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.


If I tell you to not worry about things that happened and you cannot change, I'm telling you to...

"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.


If you tell me to "cut to the chase," what are you trying to say?

"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.


A person who is "crying wolf" means that...

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.


If I say that this vase "costs an arm and a leg," it means that the vase is...

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.


If I have to go back to the start of something, it means that I have to go...

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.


"Better safe than sorry" means...

"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.


If I tell you "don't judge a book by its cover," what am I trying to say?

"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.


We will "cross that bridge when we get to it" means to...?

"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.


If I tell you "don't put all of your eggs in one basket," what am I trying to tell you?

"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.


You "hit the nail on the head" means...?

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.


To "hit the sack" means to...?

To "hit the sack" means to go to sleep. Some people also say "hit the sheets" or "hit the hay."


What do you think it means to "kill two birds with one stone?"

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."


If you're at a party, you might try to "break the ice" with someone. What does this mean?

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.


If I tell you to "put a sock in it," what am I trying to say?

"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.


The phrase for playfully making fun of someone is...

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.


If I want you to "make a long story short," I want you to...

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.


If I "see eye to eye" with you, what does that mean?

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.


If someone looks very scared, one might call them a...

A "scaredy-cat" is someone who looks very scared. This is often used to poke fun at someone, sometimes in a humiliating way.


To "spill the beans" means to...?

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.


Not taking something too literally means to...

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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