Common Idioms to Boost Your IELTS Score – Topic : Fear and Frustration

at the end of your tether

If you are at the end of your tether, you are very upset because you are no longer able to deal with a difficult situation.

NOTE: A tether is a rope or chain which is used to tie an animal to a post or fence.

I had tried every solution I could think of. I was at the end of my tether.

a bundle of nerves

If you say that someone is a bundle of nerves, you mean that they are extremely nervous.

 NOTE: A bundle is a number of things that are tied or wrapped together.

Elaine admitted she was a bundle of nerves when she had to sing in front of the queen.

butterflies in your stomach

If you have butterflies in your stomach, you feel very nervous about something that you have to do.

Now I’ve qualified as a competitor, I’m starting to feel the butterflies in my stomach already.

NOTE: Butterflies is also used in many other structures and expressions with a similar meaning.

If a jockey says he doesn’t get butterflies down at the start, he’s telling lies.

frighten the life out of someone or scare the life out of someone

If someone or something frightens the life out of you or scares the life out of you, they frighten you very much. [INFORMAL]

It used to frighten the life out of me when they tried to jump on the moving train.

Further tests revealed that I needed major heart surgery. It scared the life out of me.

get cold feet or have cold feet

If you get cold feet or have cold feet about something you have planned to do, you become nervous about it and are not sure that you want to do it.

Leaving Ireland wasn’t easy and I had cold feet about it a couple of times.

not get a word in edgeways

If you cannot get a word in edgeways in a conversation, you find it difficult to say anything because someone else is talking so much. [BRITISH]

For heaven’s sake, Sue, will you let me get a word in edgeways!

give someone the creeps

If someone or something gives you the creeps, they make you feel nervous or frightened. [INFORMAL]

That statue in my parents’ hallway always gave me the creeps.

jump out of your skin or nearly jump out of your skin

If you jump out of your skin or nearly jump out of your skin, you are suddenly very surprised or shocked by something.

The first time I heard shots I jumped out of my skin but now I hardly notice them.

I was concentrating so hard I nearly jumped out of my skin when there was a sudden knock on the door.

the last straw or the final straw

If you say that something is the last straw or the final straw, you mean It is the latest in a series of bad events and it makes you unable to deal with a situation any longer.

NOTE: The reference here is to an animal which is already carrying a great deal on its back and which collapses when one more thing is added.

The relationship had been in trouble for a while and Jack’s behaviour that night was just the final straw.

on edge

If someone is on edge, they are anxious and unable to relax.

She seemed a bit on edge the whole evening, which I decided was due to work stress.

red tape

Red tape is official rules and documents that seem unnecessary and cause delay.

NQTE: Lawyers and government officials used to tie documents together with red or pink tape.

After dealing with all the red tape and finally getting approval for the building, our funding has been cut.

scare someone out of their wits

If something or someone scares you out of your wits, they make you very frightened or worried.

Oh, I’m so glad you’re all right! You scared us out of our wits. We heard you had an accident.

NOTE:  The verb frighten is sometimes used instead of scare.

The tree crashed through the conservatory, frightening me out of my wits.

be shaking like a leaf

If someone is shaking like a leaf, their body is shaking a lot, usually because they are very frightened.

I didn’t think about the danger at the time. Afterwards I was shaking like a leaf.

until you are blue in the face

If you say that someone can say or do something until they are blue in the face, you mean that however many times they say or do it, it will have no effect. [INFORMAL]

The president can issue orders until he is blue in the face, but no one will take any notice. 

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