Common Idioms to Boost Your IELTS Score – Topic : Deception

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The most Common Idioms to Boost Your IELTS Score – Topic : Deception


blow the whistle on someone/something

If you blow the whistle on something dishonest or illegal, or on someone who is doing something dishonest or illegal, you tell the authorities about them because you feel strongly that what they are doing is wrong.

NOTE: In games such as football, the referee blows a whistle to stop play when a player has committed a foul (= an act that is not allowed).

Members of coastal communities are being asked to blow the whistle on activities that damage the marine environment.

cover your tracks

If someone covers their tracks, they hide or destroy evidence of what they have done or where they have been.

NOTE: Tracks here mean footprints.

He was a very clever man who never took a chance, a man who always covered his tracks.

be economical with the truth

If someone is economical with the truth, they deceive people by not telling them the whole truth about something.

When they insisted that no changes had been made to the original plan, his team was being economical with the truth.

give the game away

If someone or something gives the game away, they reveal something which someone had been trying to keep secret.

Eric had intended to make his announcement in an article in The Times but the paper gave the game away by advertising the article a week before publishing.

go behind someone’s back

If someone goes behind your back, they do something secretly or without your permission.

Do you think I wouldn’t know if you went behind my back?

go through the motions

If you go through the motions, you do something that you have to do or are expected to do, but without any real effort or enthusiasm.

Alex didn’t really care about his job anymore, he was just going through the motions.

a hidden agenda

if someone has a hidden agenda, they are secretly trying to achieve something while they appear to be doing something else.

NOTE: An agenda is a list of things that need to be dealt with, for example at a meeting.

The unions fear these tactics are part of a hidden agenda to reduce pay and conditions throughout the company.

keep something under your hat

If you keep something under your hat, you do not tell anyone else about it. [INFORMAL]

NOTE: This was a slogan used to promote security in Britain during the Second World War.

Very few people know, so keep it under your hat.

lead someone up the garden path

If someone leads you up the garden path, they deceive you by making you believe something which is not true.

He led me up the garden path. He said their relationship was over but now I know that it wasn’t.

lie through your teeth

If someone lies through their teeth, they tell obvious lies and do not seem to be embarrassed about this.

We ought to be angry that public officials lie through their teeth.

on the fiddle

If someone is on the fiddle, they are getting money dishonestly, for example by cheating with the accounts at work. [BRITISH]

A postman earning only £136 a week drove around in a Porsche for six months before his bosses realized he was on the fiddle.

pull someone’s leg

If you pull someone’s leg, you tease them about something, for example by telling them something which is not true.

NOTE: There are two possible explanations for this expression, although there is no proof for either. One suggestion is that in the past, when someone was being hanged, their friends or family sometimes pulled their legs hard so that they died more quickly and suffered less. Alternatively, the expression may refer to thieves tripping people up before they robbed them.

Tracey hasn’t really got a new job in New York. She was just pulling your leg.

sweep something under the carpet

If you sweep a problem under the carpet, you try to hide it and forget about it. [BRITISH]

People often hope that if they sweep something under the carpet the problem will go away, but that is not the case.

NOTE: You can also use verbs such as brush and push instead of sweep.

The problem has been brushed under the carpet for decades.

a white lie

If you tell a white lie, you say something which is untrue, often in order to protect someone or to avoid upsetting someone.

I said she looked nice, thinking it kinder to tell a white lie. 


Exercise 1

Complete the sentences. Choose the best answers.

1          I never know if he’s serious or if he’s pulling my _________.

a          leg       b          teeth    c          hat

2          It’s obvious that she’s lying through her _________.

a          hat       b          teeth    c          back

3          This information is too important, you can’t sweep it under the _________.

a          tracks   b          carpet  c          back

4          Please keep this story under your _________.

a          leg       b          carpet  c          hat

5          They made careful plans and carefully covered their _________.

a          tracks   b          back     c          carpet

6          I was surprised to find he’d gone behind my _________.

a          hat       b          back     c          leg

Exercise 2

Match idioms 1-6 with situations A-F.

  1. She wasn’t enjoying herself so she said she was too tired to stay.
  2. He hated parties but he went anyway.
  3. We found out after she left that she’d been taking money from the till.
  4. The company offered him a ‘free’ holiday weekend and then tried to sell him the apartment.
  5. We knew she was guilty when she started to cry.
  6. They stole some cash and she told the manager.

A She was on the fiddle.

B She gave the game away.

C She blew the whistle on them.

D He went through the motions.

E She told a white lie.

F They had a hidden agenda.

Exercise 3

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

1          When you mentioned seeing her at the surprise party

2          I’m not really enthusiastic about the trip –

3          They thought they’d get away with it but someone

4          He never seems to get caught for his dishonesty – he’s

5          I can see they’re not telling the truth – they’re

6          When they mentioned a pay rise they were

A good at covering his tracks.

B you really gave the game away!

C leading me up the garden path.

D lying through their teeth.

E blew the whistle on them.

F I’m just going through the motions.

Exercise 4

Correct the idioms in these sentences.

  1. Many of the politicians were found to be pulling the fiddle.
  2. She looks twenty years younger than she really is. Only the skin on her hands blows the game away.
  3. Look, if I tell you something will you promise to cover it under your hat?
  4. The week he died, the Foreign Minister was planning to blow the fiddle on corrupt top-level officials.
  5. The killer may return to the scene of the crime to brush away his tracks.
  6. Ministers and heads of industry are going under the motions of negotiating with the unions.

Exercise 5

Complete the sentences with the words in the box.

keep it under your hat | pulling your leg | economical with the truth | on the fiddle | a white lie | led us up the garden path | a hidden agenda go behind my back
  1. His business was closed down after it was discovered that he hadn’t been declaring all his earnings – he’d been ____________.
  2. I wonder what the real purpose of this meeting is? I suspect there’s ____________
  3. When she asked me what I thought of her new hairstyle, I decided not to hurt her feelings and told ____________
  4. Don’t take him seriously – he’s only ____________
  5. It was very dishonest of you to ____________ and gossip about me to others.
  6. Please don’t tell anyone about my new job just yet – ____________
  7. The newspapers have ____________ on this matter.
  8. He said there was no point being honest when you could make so much more money being ____________

Exercise 6

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

blow the whistle on someone | a white lie | a hidden agenda give the game away pull someone’s leg | go through the motions | be economical with the truth | sweep something under the carpet
lying 1 ___________________________________

2 ___________________________________

pretending 1 ___________________________________

2 ___________________________________

hiding the truth 1 ___________________________________

2 ___________________________________

telling the truth 1 ___________________________________

2 ___________________________________

Your turn!

Have you heard, seen, or been involved in any kind of deception recently? Use the idioms in this unit to describe your experience. For example:

I told a white lie when I said I didn’t mind that my friend forgot my birthday.

It was clear that Pablo was lying through his teeth when he said he’d left his homework on the kitchen table.


Exercise 1

1 a       4 c

2 b       5 a

3 b       6 b

Exercise 2                  

1 E       4 F

2 D      5 B

3 A      6 C

Exercise 3                  

1 B      4 A

2 F       5 D

3 E       6 C

Exercise 4

1          on the fiddle

2          gives the game away

3          keep it under your hat

4          blow the whistle

5          cover his tracks

6          going through the motions

Exercise 5

1          economical with the truth

2          a hidden agenda

3          a white lie

4          pulling your leg

5          go behind my back

6          keep it under your hat

7          led us up the garden path

8          on the fiddle

Exercise 6

lying a white lie

pull someone’s leg

pretending a hidden agenda

go through the motions

hiding the truth be economical with the truth

sweep something under the carpet

telling the truth blow the whistle on someone

give the game away


Written By

Misbah Kagad is a Content Marketing Specialist, currently working as IELTS Trainer at Experience Expert with a demonstrated history of working in the education management industry. Skilled in Copywriting, Web Content writing, Management, IELTS and Research. Strong professional with a Diploma focused in Computer Science... Currently helping aspirants to crack IELTS, with tips and tricks to score a bandwidth of 8 and more. Handles the ideation and creation of compelling content including content for IELTS website, writing e-books and solving previous IELTS question papers…

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