Learn new expressions in English with these exercises:
I don’t suppose I need to tell you that ‘back’ can mean the part of your body that you can lie on or, more generally, the opposite of ‘front’.
- I’ve hurt my back and I can’t lift anything heavy.
- You’ll find it in the back of the garage.
‘Back’ is used in lots of idiomatic expressions. How many of them do you know?
If you ‘put your back into’ something, you work really hard.
- If we want to dig that pond today, we’re going to have to really put our backs into it. The ground is so hard.
If somebody is giving you orders/nagging you etc., you can ask them to ‘get off your back’. This is not very polite!
- I know you are my boss but could you just get off my back for a bit and let me work in peace?
If you do something well you ‘deserve a pat on the back’.
- He deserves a pat on the back for the way he has got everybody working so hard.
Sometimes people criticize you but not to your face. They talk ‘behind your back’.
- I hate people who won’t say anything to your face but talk about you behind your back.
Sometimes we agree to do something for somebody if they agree to do something for you – ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’.
- I’ll stand in for you at the meeting if you’ll work late for me on Thursday. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.
If you stop doing something that you used to do regularly, you ‘turn your back on’ it.
- I used to go out to nightclubs every night but I turned my back on all that when I started working for this company.
If somebody who is not popular is leaving, you ‘won’t be sorry to see the back of him’.
- My boss is getting promoted and moving to Madrid. I won’t be sorry to see the back of him. He was always criticizing me.
If somebody makes you angry, they ‘get your back up’.
- He really gets my back up when he starts saying how women are inferior to men.
If you are in a very bad situation, you have your ‘backs to the wall’.
- Either this works or the company closes. Our backs are to the wall.
If somebody does something bad to you, you may want to try to ‘get your own back’.
- He played a joke on me but I got my own back by having a lot of horse manure delivered to his house.
Sometimes we try not to worry about things but a small worry remains ‘in the back of my mind’.
- I know he will probably do a good job but in the back of my mind I can’t help thinking about the problems he had last year.
If you know something really well, you know it ‘like the back of your hand’.
- I know my way around New York like the back of my hand.
If criticism has no effect on somebody, it is ‘like water off a duck’s back’.
- I told her yet again about being late for meetings but it’s like water off a duck’s back with her.
If a place is very isolated geographically, it is ‘in the back of beyond’.
- They set up their new factory in the back of beyond. There is no airport for two hundred miles.
If you do not have a major role in an activity, you ‘take a back seat’.
- I don’t have the time to do much on this so I suggest I take a back seat and you drive it forward.