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An idiom is a phrase that, when taken as a whole, has a meaning you wouldn’t be able to deduce from the meanings of the individual words.

1. Stir up a hornet’s nest

Explanation: To stir up a hornet’s nest is to course problems or make trouble or to course commotion.

Example:

The community members decided not to stir up a hornet’s nest by calling a community meeting to force the tenants to cut a meter out of their stands.

2. An eye for an eye

Explanation: An idea that a person who causes another person to suffer should suffer in an equal amount.

Example:

After his younger brother was bullied at school, John felt angry and vengeful. He was a firm believer in “an eye for an eye,” so he confronted the bully, intending to give him a taste of his own medicine. However, his mother reminded him that this approach often just perpetuates a cycle of violence, and it’s better to seek peaceful solutions.

3. Barking up the wrong tree

Explanation: To be wrong about the reason for something or the way to achieve something.

Example:

Detective Hastings has been fixated on the theory that the local baker is responsible for the recent series of thefts. However, after months of investigation, no substantial evidence has been found to tie the baker to the crimes. His partner, Detective Evans, suspects that they've been “barking up the wrong tree” and suggests shifting their focus to a suspicious group of people who recently moved into the neighborhood.

4. Bite off more than you can chew

Explanation: Take on a commitment one cannot fulfill.

Example:

The board of directors requested approval for a huge international HIV Research project; with only national resources and capacity, they bit off more than they could chew. As they will not be able to manage the research by looking at current international standards.

5. Pigs might fly

Explanation: It may be used when you think that there is no chance at all of something happening.

Example:

Pinky: “Wish to have a winter snowing Christmas day in South Africa this year.”
Jacob: “And pigs might fly.”

6. Not enough room to swing a cat

Explanation: Very small or little space.

Example:

The Taxi (minibus) of fourteen-seaters was filled up with 24 people with not enough room to swing a cat.
EnglishIdioms & expressions

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