Common Idioms to Boost your IELTS Score – Topic : Anger and Irritation

Anger and Irritation

bite someone’s head off or snap someone’s head off

If someone bites your head off or snaps your head off, they speak to you in an unpleasant, angry way, because they are annoyed about something. [INFORMAL]

Don’t bite my head off just because you’re fed up!

blow a fuse

If you blow a fuse, you suddenly lose your temper and cannot control your anger.

NOTE: A fuse is a safety device found in electrical equipment. If the equipment becomes too hot, the fuse blows, or burns. This breaks the electrical circuit, so that the equipment will stop working.

He’s going to blow a fuse when he finds out about Miller.

a dirty look or a filthy look

If someone gives you a dirty look or a filthy look, they look at you in a way that shows that they are very angry about something.

Tony was being really annoying. Michael gave him a dirty look and walked out of the kitchen.

drive someone up the wall

If something or someone drives you up the wall, they annoy you very much. [INFORMAL]

He’s so uncooperative he’s beginning to drive me up the wall.

a face like thunder

If someone has a face like thunder, they look extremely angry. [BRITISH]

The kitchen had flooded and Mick was raging around the house with a face like thunder.

fly off the handle

If you fly off the handle, you suddenly become very angry. [INFORMAL]

NOTE: The reference here is to an axe head (= the metal cutting part) which has become loose, and so when someone swings the axe, the axe head flies off.

When I finally managed to speak to him, he flew off the handle and shouted down the phone.

give someone hell

  1. If someone gives you hell, they make your life very unpleasant by behaving badly towards you.

Their younger son gives them hell.

  1. If you say that someone gives you hell, they shout at you or speak to you angrily because you have done something wrong.

I got home three hours late and my mum gave me hell.

go through the roof or hit the roof

If someone goes through the roof or hits the roof, they suddenly become very angry, and usually show their anger by shouting at someone. [INFORMAL]

When I told my mother she went through the roof.

She took one look at my hair and hit the roof.

have a chip on your shoulder

If someone has a chip on their shoulder, they feel angry and resentful because they think that they have been treated unfairly, especially because of their background. [SPOKEN]

NOTE: A ‘chip’ is a small piece that has been broken off something larger. There is a story that in America in the past, men sometimes balanced a small piece of wood on one shoulder in the hope that someone would knock it off and give them an excuse to start a fight.

She thinks he has a chip on his shoulder because he didn’t go to university.

have a fit or throw a fit

If someone has a fit or throws a fit, they become very angry and upset.

Mum will have a fit when she hears about this.

She threw a fit when she found me in the dressing room.

lose it

If someone loses it, they become extremely angry or upset. [INFORMAL]

I completely lost it. I was shouting and swearing.

make your blood boil

If something makes your blood boil, it makes you very angry.

NOTE: In medieval times, some people believed that certain emotions changed the temperature of the blood.

It makes my blood boil. He doesn’t like talking to the players but he wants his opinions known.

a pain in the neck

If someone or something is a pain in the neck, they are very annoying. [INFORMAL]

He was a pain in the neck. I was glad when he left my department.

‘Sorry,’ he said. ‘They’ve forgotten to insure the car. It’s a pain in the neck, but what can I do?’

a sore point or a sore spot

You can say that a subject is a sore point with someone or a sore spot for them if it makes them feel angry, embarrassed, or upset.

The continuing presence of foreign troops remains a very sore point with these students.

Slow job growth is a sore spot for the President.

NOTE: If you touch or hit someone’s sore point or sore spot, you mention a subject which makes them feel angry, embarrassed, or upset.

The mention of Jim Kennerly had touched her sore spot.

It was clear by his expression that my question had hit a sore point.


Exercise 1

Find four idioms that have the same meaning.

  1. Elisa’s parents hit the roof when she crashed their car.
  2. Our teacher was clearly getting angry, then suddenly she blew a fuse.
  3. Everyone finds the new student a complete pain in the neck.
  4. Kenji finally lost it when his laptop crashed again.
  5. I don’t want to tell you because I’m sure you’ll throw a fit.
  6. Don’t mention English grades because Jonas has a chip on his shoulder after doing badly last year.

Exercise 2

Complete the sentences with the words in the box.

up     | on |   in off | through | off

1          His stupid jokes drive me ________ the wall.

2          My sister will go ________ the roof when she finds out.

3          I was surprised when she bit my head ________

4          Lourdes is always flying ________ the handle at her husband.

5          There’s a boy In our class who’s a real pain ________ the neck.

6          I think you’ve got a bit of a chip ________ your shoulder.

Exercise 3

Match sentence halves 1-8 with A-H to make complete sentences.

1 Majid gave me a filthy look

2 Driving lessons are Paula’s sore spot because

3 Mum always has a fit when

4 My boss often snaps my head off when

5 My friends will give me hell if

6 It drives me up the wall

7 She had a face like thunder,

8 Dora makes my blood boil,

A to hear Viktor talking about all his successful business deals.

B we’re understaffed and I’m late for work.

C the way she never thanks me for my help.

D so I asked her what was wrong.

E she’s failed her test four times.

F I keep them waiting yet again.

G we don’t clean the kitchen properly.

H to shut me up.

Exercise 4

Re-order the phrases to make sentences. Add punctuation where necessary.

1          a dirty look for / his brother / Dmitri gave / laughing

2          with Cynthia / is a sore point / Virginia’s engagement

3          gave us hell / what we’d done / the headmaster / when he found out

4          if you promise / I’ll only tell you / not to blow a fuse

5          borrow her bike again / fly off the handle / if you ask to / Clara is likely to

6          when / he hit the roof / the mess / Dad discovered

7          the knowledge that / of this crime / he is guilty / makes my blood boil

8          marching out of the room / I saw / with a face like thunder / Mr Clarke come

Exercise 5

Match words 1-6 with phrases A-F to make idioms from this unit.

1          blow                            A         your blood boil

2          bite                              B         off the handle

3          drive                            C         a fuse

4          fly                                D         someone up the wall

5          make                            E          a chip on your shoulder

6          have                             F          someone’s head off

Exercise 6

Correct the idioms in these sentences.

1          It makes my head boil just to think about the way he spoke to me.

2          When I arrived he was sitting in the chair with a look like thunder.

3          I asked him how he was, and he just bit my neck off!

4          She looked really upset when I said that. I must have hit a sore shoulder.

5          He’s got a fiery temper. He flies off the fuse for the smallest reason.

6          I can’t stand it when he does that. It drives me up the roof!

7          That boy is really irritating. He’s a pain in the head.

8          When I mentioned the incident, he gave me such a filthy chip.

Exercise 7

Choose the most appropriate thing A-H to say in each situation 1-8.

  1. Someone is really annoying you.
  2. You think someone has a deep resentment about a family member.
  3. You find a particular task really tiresome and annoying.
  4. You are talking about a teenager you know who really makes his mother’s life difficult.
  5. Someone has looked at you in a way to suggest they are angry with you.
  6. You realize you have reacted strongly to someone because they’ve mentioned something you feel quite emotional about.
  7. A teacher is looking angrily at the students in his classroom.
  8. Your friend tells you to shut up when you enter the room and say hello.

A It’s a pain in the neck.

B You’re driving me up the wall.

C Why did you give me a dirty look?

D There’s no need to snap my head off.

E He has a face like thunder.

F I think you’ve got a chip on your shoulder.

G I’m sorry. It’s just that you hit a sore spot when you said that.

H He gives his mother hell.

Your turn!

Have you been angry or irritated recently? Use the idioms in this unit to describe your experience. For example:

I think my boss is a pain in the neck.

I lost it when Zul dropped my mobile phone

Answer Key

Exercise 1

l, 2, 4 and 5

Exercise 2

1 up                 4 off

2 through         5 in

3 off                6 on

Exercise 3

1 H      5 F

2 E       6 A

3 G      7 D

4 B      8 C

Exercise 4

1          Dmitri gave his brother a dirty look for laughing.

2          Virginia’s engagement is a sore point with Cynthia.

3          The headmaster gave us hell when he found out what we’d done. OR When he found out what we’d done, the headmaster gave us hell.

4          I’ll only tell you if you promise not to blow a fuse.

5          Clara is likely to fly off the handle if you ask to borrow her bike again. OR If you ask to borrow her bike again, Clara is likely to fly off the handle.

6          When Dad discovered the mess he hit the roof.

7          The knowledge that he is guilty of this crime makes my blood boil.

8          I saw Mr Clarke come marching out of the room with a face like thunder.

Exercise 5

1 C      4 B

2 F       5 A

3 D      6 E

Exercise 6

1          makes my blood boil

2          a face like thunder

3          bit my head off

4          hit a sore spot / point

5          flies off the handle

6          drives me up the wall

7          a pain in the neck

8          a filthy look

Exercise 7

1          B

2          F

3          A

4          H

5          C

6          G

7          E

8          D

Written By

Syed Monif is a professional content marketer and IELTS Trainer by day, and a bookworm by night, and sometimes during the day too! He currently works on creating extremely user-friendly and engaging content for the online portal His work involves creating and editing content while making sure they're super interesting and easy to read! And also as a master procrastinator, right now he's probably googling something so arbitrary like 'How rich is Scrooge McDuck?' without realizing that his lunch break is almost over.

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