Common Idioms to Improve Your IELTS Score – Topic : Knowledge and understanding

 Topic: Knowledge and understanding

up to speed

If you are up to speed, you have all the latest information about something.

We try to keep people entertained and up to speed with what’s going on in town.

NOTE: You can say that you bring someone up to speed, or that they get up to speed when you give them all the latest information about something.

I guess I should bring you up to speed on what’s been happening since I came to see you yesterday. The president has been getting up to speed on foreign policy.

get the hang of something

If you get the hang of an activity, you learn how to do it well. [INFORMAL]

After a few months you will start getting the hang of the language and expressing yourself quite well.

get the picture

If you get the picture, you understand what is happening in a situation. [INFORMAL]

NOTE: This expression is often used when someone does not understand something immediately.

Anna was giggling. She was beginning to get the picture.

get the wrong end of the stick or get hold of the wrong end of the stick

If someone gets the wrong end of the stick or gets hold of the wrong end of the stick, they completely misunderstand a situation or something that is said. [INFORMAL]

Did I get hold of the wrong end of the stick? Was that not what he meant?

get your head around something or get your head round something

If you get your head around a fact or an idea, you succeed in understanding it or accepting it. [BRITISH, INFORMAL]

At first people laughed at me because they simply could not get their head around what I was telling them.

It’s hard to get your head round figures this big.

go in one ear and out the other

If something that you tell someone goes in one ear and out the other, they pay no attention to it, or forget about it immediately.

I’ve told him so many times – it just goes in one ear and out the other.

a grey area

If you call something a grey area, you mean that it is unclear, for example because nobody is sure how to deal with it, or it falls between two separate categories of things.

Tabloid papers paint all sportsmen as heroes or villains. There is no grey area in between.

not have a clue

If you do not have a clue about something, you do not know anything about it, or you have no idea what to do about it. [INFORMAL]

I don’t have a clue what I’m supposed to be doing.

jump to conclusions

If someone jumps to conclusions, they decide too quickly that something is true, when they do not know all the facts.

Forgive me. I thought you were married. I shouldn’t jump to conclusions.

NOTE: You can also say that someone ‘jumps to a/the conclusion’.

I didn’t want her to jump to the conclusion that the divorce was in any way her fault.

NOTE: People sometimes use ‘leap’ instead of ‘jump’.

The medical establishment was careful not to leap to conclusions.

put two and two together

If you put two and two together, you correctly guess the truth about something from the information that you have.

He put two and two together and guessed what the police were searching for.

NOTE: You can say that someone puts two and two together and makes five, to mean that they guess something more exciting or interesting than the truth.

Mr Lane’s solicitor said that the police had put two and two together and made five.

read between the lines

If you read between the lines, you understand what someone really means, or what is really happening in a situation, even though it is not stated openly.

He didn’t go into details, but reading between the lines it appears that he was forced to leave.

NOTE: You can also talk about what is between the lines.

He didn’t give a reason, but I sensed something between the lines.

take something on board

If you take an idea, suggestion, or fact on board, you understand it or accept it. [BRITISH]

NOTE: The literal meaning of this expression is to take something onto a boat or ship.

I listened to them, took their comments on board, and then made the decision.

EXERCISE

Exercise 1

Complete the sentences with the words in the box

 
ear       clue                  hang                picture            stick      area
  1. I soon began to get the _____________ of the new filing system.
  2. Anna doesn’t have a _____________ how to talk to children.
  3. The difference between telling a lie and not telling the whole truth is a grey _____________.
  4. I thought she was paying for dinner but I must have got the wrong end of the _____________.
  5. Brad tried to remember the directions but they seemed to have gone in one _____________ and out the other.
  6. The inspector spent a few minutes with the victim and soon began to get the _____________.

Exercise 2

Match sentence halves 1-6 with A-F to make complete sentences.

 
1. We saw them together in the restaurant and it was so easy to

2. I’ve told them I’m a vegetarian many times but they just don’t

3. The real skill of being an agony aunt is being able to

4. I’ve learnt a lot about the new regulations and I’ll run a training day to

5. The international dateline is an idea I’ve never been able to

6. Unfortunately, the children were disappointed; they

A read between the lines.

 

B take it on board.

 

C had put two and two together and made five.

D jump to conclusions.

E get my head around.

F bring you all up to speed.

 

Exercise 3

Complete the sentences. Choose the best answers.

  1. Then you click ‘save’ and move the file to here. Do you read between the lines / get the picture / put two and two together ?
  2. It’s going to take me a couple of days to get up to speed / the picture / the wrong end of the stick with the new project.
  3. This is a very difficult exercise. I just can’t jump to conclusions / go in one ear and out the other / get my head round it.
  4. Don’t worry. You’ll soon get the hang of it / jump to conclusions / get the wrong end of the stick.
  5. Listen to all the evidence and don’t take it on board / jump to conclusions / get your head around it.
  6. Adam shook his head; he didn’t put two and two together / read between the lines / have a clue how to fix this.

Exercise 4

Replace the underlined words with the correct idioms in the box.

 
get hold of the wrong end of the stick

get the hang of it

get the picture

go in one ear and out the other

haven’t got a clue

read between the lines

  1. You don’t have to explain it anymore. I understand the situation.
  2. He doesn’t listen carefully, and tends to misunderstand.
  3. I don’t think I’ll be able to do the accounts. I know nothing about book keeping.
  4. They haven’t actually said anything is wrong, but I can sense it.
  5. It’s difficult at first, but after a bit of practice, you learn how to do it.
  6. You have to repeat everything to them. Whatever you say will be forgotten immediately afterwards!

Exercise 5

Use sentences A-F to answer questions 1-6.

1          Whose company has adopted a new way of working?

2          Who is surprised at how strict his working conditions are becoming?

3          Who thinks he will soon have a new boss?

4          Who is improving his expertise at work?

5          Who is expecting to benefit from recent events?

6          Who wants to work for a different company?

A Veejay feels he hasn’t a clue how to find a better employer.

B Nik is getting himself up to speed on the new tax law.

C Khalid leapt to the conclusion that the CEO would now resign.

D Stefan’s firm has really taken the idea of teleworking on board.

E Cheng put two and two together and hoped this would mean a promotion for him.

F Xavier can’t get his head around all the new rules in the office.

Exercise 6

Complete the table. Put the idioms in the correct groups.

 
not have a clue            get your head around something

get the wrong end of the stick              a grey area

up to speed                  take something on board

read between the lines                jump to conclusions

get the hang of something      get the picture

put two and two together                    go in one ear and out the other

understanding correctly 1 ________________________________

2 ________________________________

3 ________________________________

4 ________________________________

5 ________________________________

6 ________________________________

7 ________________________________

not understanding 1 ________________________________

2 ________________________________

3 ________________________________

4 ________________________________

5 ________________________________

Your turn!

Think about learning experiences you or people around you have had recently. Use the idioms in this unit to talk about them. For example:

I finally managed to get my head around how a car engine works.

My parents still haven’t got the hang of text messaging.

Answer key

Exercise 1                  

1 hang             4 stick

2 clue               5 ear

3 area               6 picture

Exercise 2      

1 D      4 F

2 B      5 E

3 A      6 C

Exercise 3      

1          get the picture

2          up to speed

3          get my head round it

4          get the hang of it

5          jump to conclusions

6          have a clue

Exercise 4

1          get the picture

2          get the wrong end of the stick

3          haven’t got a clue

4          read between the lines

5          get the hang of it

6          go in one ear and out the other

Exercise 5

1          Stefan’s

2          Xavier

3          Khalid

4          Nik

5          Cheng

6          Veejay

Exercise 6

 
Understanding correctly get your head around something

up to speed

take something on board

read between the lines

get the hang of something

get the picture

put two and two together

Not understanding not have a clue

get the wrong end of the stick

a grey area

jump to conclusions

go in one ear and out the other

 

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Common Idioms to Improve Your IELTS Score – Topic : Knowledge and understanding
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