Common Idioms to Boost your IELTS Score – Topic : Involvement and Interest

Involvement and Interest

not be your cup of tea

If something is not your cup of tea, you do feel very interested or enthusiastic about it.

I’ve never been the greatest traveller. Sitting for hours on motorways is not really my cup of tea.

NOTE: You can also say that something or someone is your cup of tea when you like them or feel interested in them.

I don’t have much time for modern literature. Shakespeare’s more my cup of tea.

have an axe to grind

If someone has an axe to grind, they have particular attitudes about something, often because they think they have been treated badly or because they want to get an advantage.

NOTE: One possible explanation for this expression is a story told by the American scientist and inventor Benjamin Franklin (1706-90) about a man who managed to get his own axe sharpened without paying by asking a boy to show him how his father’s grindstone (= a round stone used for sharpening metal tools or weapons) worked.

It would be best if an independent agency, that doesn’t have an axe to grind, could deal with this case.

NOTE: You can also say that you have no axe to grind to deny that your strong opinions about something are based on personal reasons.

The unions insist they have no axe to grind, because they will represent workers wherever they are based.

in the picture

If someone is in the picture, they are involved in the situation you are talking about.

We were a great team. I was kept in the picture from the beginning.

jump on the bandwagon

If someone jumps on the bandwagon, they suddenly become involved in an activity because it is likely to succeed or it is fashionable.

NOTE: In American elections in the past, political rallies (= large public meetings) often included a band playing on a horse-drawn wagon (= a covered vehicle pulled by horses). Politicians sat on the wagon and those who wanted to show their support climbed on it.

There will always be people ready to jump on the bandwagon and start classes in whatever is fashionable, with little or no training.

NOTE : Verbs such as climb, get and leap are sometimes used instead of jump. These expressions are usually used in a disapproving way.

A lot of people are climbing on the bandwagon of selling financial services to women.

keep a low profile

If someone keeps a low profile, they avoid doing things that will make people notice them.

The president continues to keep a low profile on vacation in Maine.

NOTE: You can also use low-profile before a noun.

There is no need for the presence of any police officers. This is a low-profile event.

a labour of love

A labour of love is a task that you do because you enjoy it or feel strongly that it is worth doing.

They restored the Victorian greenhouse, an expensive labour of love.

mean business

If you mean business, you are serious and determined about what you are doing.

One of them pointed a shotgun at me. I could see he meant business.

a nosey parker

A nosey parker is someone who wants to know too much about other people. [BRITISH, INFORMAL]

NOTE: ‘Parker’ may refer to Matthew Parker, who was an English archbishop in the sixteenth century and had a reputation for interfering in people’s business.

The village’s nosey parker, Olive, likes to spy on her neighbours with binoculars.

NOTE: ‘Nosey’ is sometimes spelled ‘nosy’.

poke your nose into something or stick your nose into something

If someone pokes or sticks their nose into something, they interfere in something that does not concern them. [INFORMAL]

He has no right to go poking his nose into my affairs.

Why did you have to go and stick your nose in ?

NOTE: Keep your nose out of something means the opposite of poke your nose into something.

Nancy realized that this was his way of telling her to keep her nose out of his business.

steer clear of something

If you steer clear of someone or something, you deliberately avoid them.

I’d advise anyone with sensitive or dry skin to steer clear of soap.

try your hand at something

If you try your hand at something, you try doing it in order to see whether you are good at it.

After he left school, he tried his hand at a variety of jobs – bricklayer, baker, post man.

up to your ears

If you are up to your ears in work or in an unpleasant situation, you are very busy with it or are deeply involved in it.

I can’t come out this evening – I’m up to my ears in reports.

whet someone’s appetite

If something whets your appetite for a particular thing, it makes you want it.

Winning the World Championship should have whetted his appetite for more success.

NOTE: Most speakers of English only ever use the verb ‘whet’ in this expression. It is rarely used elsewhere.

your heart isn’t in something

If your heart isn’t in something you are doing, you are not enthusiastic about it.

She was a successful teacher, popular with her pupils and her colleagues, but her heart wasn’t in it.


Exercise 1

Complete the best answer to complete the sentences.

  1. Come to our arts and crafts evening and try your ________ at something different.

a          nose     b          heart    c          hand

  1. Don’t stick your ________ into matters that don’t concern you.

a          ears      b          nose     c          hand

  1. Everyone stayed late yesterday – we’re up to our ________ in work at the office.

a          hearts   b          ears      c          noses

  1. The rebuilding of the church organ was a real labour of ________.

a          love     b          heart    c          business

  1. The new committee at the sports club are making lots of changes and they really mean ________.

a          heart    b          labour              c          business

  1. We believe that the judge is fair and has no ________ to grind.

a          axe       b          bandwagon     c          appetite

Exercise 2

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

1 It looks as though more and more companies

2 I knew karate and had

3 I congratulated the winners but

4 I never wanted to be famous and I like

5 He has decided that art history

6 He spoke as if I had nothing to do with it, as though I

A wasn’t in the picture at all.

B my heart wasn’t in it.

C the ability to steer clear of danger.

D will soon be leaping on the bandwagon.

E to keep a low profile.

F is not his cup of tea.

Exercise 3

Decide if the following sentences are true (T) or (F).

  1. If you have an axe to grind, you have certain attitudes that are based on personal experience.
  2. If you jump on the bandwagon, you don’t want to follow others in becoming involved in an activity.
  3. If you steer clear of something, you want to get involved.
  4. If you are up to your ears in something, you are very busy or involved.
  5. If someone is a nosey parker, they want to know more information than they need.
  6. If you keep a low profile, you want to become visibly involved in something.

Exercise 4

Read the sentences and choose the best explanation.

  1. His heart isn’t really in it.

a          He hates it.                                            b          He isn’t completely happy with it.

  1. I’m going to try my hand at pottery.

a          I’m going to see what it’s like.            b          I’m not going to continue doing it.

  1. It really sounds as if he means business.

a          I think he’s serious about it.               b          I don’t think he’s serious about it.

  1. I made this card myself. It was a real labour of love.

a          It didn’t take long                                 b          I worked very hard at it.

  1. I don’t want to poke my nose into your business.

a          I respect your privacy.                        b          I want to be involved.

  1. I’d steer clear of that issue, if I were you.

a          I’d get involved.                                   b          I would avoid it.

Exercise 5

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

really my cup of tea                up to my ears               jump on the bandwagon

steer clear of                mean business                         have an axe to grind

Pat: Hi, George. How are you?

George: Hi, Pat. I’ve been 1 very busy for the last few months. We’ve taken on a lot of new clients. One of our : main competitors, has been expanding rapidly. It’s clear that they 2 are really serious about succeeding. So my boss has decided to  3 follow the trend and start expanding too. I don’t  4 have a problem about the extra work, but we just don’t have enough staff to deal with it all.

Pat: You should ask for a promotion.

George: I would, but then they’d expect me to work even longer hours! So I’m going to  5 avoid that. Anyway, I’ve : been thinking about a career change. I’m beginning to think that software development is 6 not something I enjoy.

Exercise 6

Correct the idioms in these sentences.

  1. I’m going to steer a low profile and hope nobody asks me to volunteer for anything at the committee meeting.
  2. You certainly look like you mean to do business with your rubber gloves and apron on!
  3. I wish people wouldn’t poke their sticks into my business.
  4. I think I’ll just jump on the picture and start my diet with the rest of you.
  5. It’s probably best to jump clear of the city centre during the rush hour.
  6. I’ve decided I’m going to try my heart at DIY and redecorate my room.
  7. My trip to America the previous year had whetted my nose for foreign travel.
  8. It’s amazing how much information a serious nosy profile can find out.

Exercise 7

Complete the sentences with idioms from this unit, changing the verb and pronoun forms if necessary.

  1. Writing this book has been a great pleasure, a true _____________.
  2. He arrived at precisely nine o’clock, wearing workmen’s boots and carrying his tool kit, so we knew he _____________
  3. She did nothing to draw attention to herself, trying to _____________
  4. I always try to write the same amount about each of the political parties – I don’t _____________
  5. If you want people to respect you, don’t _____________ their private affairs.
  6. In the interview with Sir Allan, I _____________ any questions relating to the court case.
  7. After advertising six vacancies, they are now _____________ in applications forms.
  8. _____________ at deep sea fishing or take a course in scuba diving. Beginners welcome!

Your turn!

Use the idioms in this unit to describe your involvement or interest in things in your life. For example:

I’m keeping a low profile at college because I haven’t completed my assignment.

There’s a concert tonight but rock music isn’t really my cup of tea.

Answer Key

Exercise 1

1 c       4 a

2 b       5 c

3 b       6 a

Exercise 2

1 D      4 E

2 C      5 F

3 B      6 A

Exercise 3

1 T       4 T

2 F       5 T

3 F       6 F

Exercise 4

1 b       4 b

2 a       5 a

3 a       6 b

Exercise 5

1 up to my ears

2 mean business

3 jump on the band wagon

4 have an axe to grind

5 steer clear of

6 not really my cup of tea

Exercise 6

1 keep a low profile

2 mean business

3 poke their noses into

4 jump on the bandwagon

5 steer clear of

6 try my hand

7 whetted mv appetite

8 nosy parker

Exercise 7

1          labour of love

2          meant business

3          keep a low profile

4          have an axe to grind

5          poke/stick your nose into

6          steered clear of

7          up to their ears

8          Try your hand

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 IELTSMaterial. 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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