The most Common Idioms to Boost your IELTS Score – Topic : Help and Encouragement


Help and Encouragement

bend over backwards or bend over backward

If you bend over backwards or bend over backward, you try very hard to help or please someone, even though it causes you trouble.

We bent over backwards to make them feel welcome and they didn’t thank us once.

be there for someone

If you are there for someone, you are ready to listen to their problems and to help and support them. [SPOKEN]

Jimmy is a good friend  he’s always been there for me when i needed help or advice.

give and take

If you talk about give and take, you mean the way in which two people or groups in a relationship accept that they cannot have everything that they want and that they must sometimes give the other person or group what they want.

All good partnerships involve a bit of give and take.

hold someone’s hand

If you hold someone’s hand in an unfamiliar or difficult situation, you help and support them.

Tony will hold your hand through the sale, deal with offers and advise on any problems.

in the same boat

If two or more people are in the same boat, they are in the same unpleasant or difficult situation.

Don’t worry if you are going bald – 40 per cent of men under 35 are in the same boat.

keep your chin up

If you keep your chin up, you stay cheerful in a difficult or unpleasant situation.

Richards was keeping his chin up yesterday despite the continued setbacks.

lend a hand or lend someone a hand

If you lend a hand or lend someone a hand, you help someone to do something.

If I’d known you were having trouble, I could have lent a hand.

Could you lend me a hand with these books, please?

NOTE: A hand is used in many other structures with a similar meaning.

I used to give Mary a hand with the catering

Need a hand with those?

Do you want a hand with the children?

look the other way

If someone looks the other way, they deliberately ignore something bad that is happening when they should be trying to deal with it or stop it.

NOTE: You usually use this expression to suggest that this is a bad thing to do.

The government is fully aware of the problem but they just look the other way.

meet someone halfway

If you meet someone halfway, you accept some of their opinions or wishes, so that you can come to an agreement with them or have a better relationship with them.

The opposition is willing to meet the president halfway on his latest plans for the economy.

a pat on the back

If you give someone a pat on the back, you praise them for something they have done.

The industry can give itself a little pat on the back for the positive moves it has made to help its own recovery.

NOTE: You can also say pat someone on the back, or pat yourself on the back.

I thought the editor would pat me on the back and say, ‘Well done!’ Instead he fired me.

Today is a good day to pat yourself on the back for bravery and effort.

put your heads together

If people put their heads together, they try to solve a problem together.

If there’s a problem, we all just sit down, put our heads together and figure it out.

sing someone’s praises

If you sing someone’s or something’s praises, you praise them in an enthusiastic way.

Smith continued to sing Tony’s praises. ‘He’s so different, he’s so natural’, he said.

take someone under your wing

If you take someone under your wing, you start to look after them and make sure that they are well and have what they need.

NOTE: The image here is of a hen gathering her chicks under her wing.

She took the youngster under her wing, gave her advice and helped her prepare for the tour.

a tower of strength or a pillar of strength

If someone is a tower of strength or a pillar of strength during a difficult period in your life, they give you a lot of help or support.

My eldest daughter was a tower of strength for me when I was sick.

In her terrible sadness she has found Charles to be a pillar of strength.


Exercise 1

Complete the sentences with the words in the box

over     up        together          in         on        under

1          I phoned to give you a pat __________ the back for saving the situation.

2          Let’s put our heads __________ and think of some people who could help.

3          As we’re both __________ the same boat, it might be sensible to work together.

4          Most parents bend __________ backwards to treat their children equally.

5          Jane took us __________ her wing and showed us around.

6          I try to think positively and keep my chin __________.

Exercise 2

Choose the best answer to complete the sentences.

1          There is usually a fair amount of __________ and take in a trading relationship.

a          pat       b          give                             c          hand

2          They want to negotiate and we’re very willing to __________ them halfway.

a          meet                b          bend                c          hold

3          Hannah was happy to __________ a hand in practical ways if she could.

a          pat                   b          lend                 c          take

4          For most of the afternoon, Mum had been __________ Cyril’s praises.

a          giving              b          putting             c          singing

5          I want to be __________ for my kids because my dad wasn’t for me.

a          there                b          together           c          over

6          The government finds it easiest to __________ the   other    way regarding this issue.

a          look                 b          bend                c          keep

Exercise 3

Answer the questions.

1          If you take someone under your wing, do you ignore or help them?

2          If you keep your chin up, are you being cheerful or miserable?

3          If you give someone a pat on the back, should they be pleased or offended?

4          If you bend over backwards, are you ignoring someone or trying to help them?

5          If someone lends you a hand, are you being helpful, or are they being helpful to you?

6          If you hold someone’s hand in a difficult situation, do you need help or do you give help?

Exercise 4

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

1          women candidates / bends over backwards / to attract / the party

2          learn that / girls and boys / give and take / there must be / in all relationships

3          lend a hand with / the whole family / the harvest / has to

4          they must / sensible decision / in order to reach a / put their heads together

5          for you / you know / be there / I’ll always

6          choose to / what should we / look the other way / do if our elected representatives

Exercise 5

Match idioms 1-8 with definitions A-H.

1          Keep your chin up. I’m sure everything will be alright in the end.

2          If we put our heads together, we’ll come up with a solution.

3          You must have made a good impression on the manager – he was singing your praises!

4          The trouble is, so many of us look the other way when we realize there’s a problem.

5          I know how you feel. I’m in the same boat as you.

6          His parents bend over backwards for him but they get no thanks.

7          I’ll do what I can for him just now but I can’t hold his hand forever.

8          My husband has been a tower of strength throughout this ordeal.

A do everything possible to help

B in an identical situation

C stay optimistic

D support him

E being complimentary about you

F deliberately ignore the situation

G someone who is helpful and supportive

H work as a team

Exercise 6

Use sentences A-H to answer questions 1-8.

1 Who was a kind and supportive mother?

2 Who likes to find a compromise?

3 Who was given a generous welcome?

4 Who found someone to help him?

5 Who is rather pleased with what he has done?

6 Who was a kind and supportive father?

7 Who is managing to remain cheerful?

8 Who thinks that other people have similar problems?

A Rakesh gave himself a pat on the back for finishing early.

B Smith and Burnet’s policy with customers who complain is to try to meet them halfway.

C Mr Chang took Ewen under his wing and treated him like a son.

D Lisa told herself there were plenty of girls in the same boat as her.

E Sven returned from New York singing the praises of American hospitality.

F Sasha hasn’t found a job yet, but she’s keeping her chin up.

G Maria was a pillar of strength when her children had so many problems.

H Manuelle held his son’s hand throughout his marriage break-up.

Your turn!

Use the idioms in this unit to describe how someone has helped or encouraged you, or how you have helped someone else. For example:

I’m finding the grammar classes really difficult but it helps to know we’re all in the same boat.

My colleagues and I put our heads together and submitted the winning proposal.

Answer Key

Exercise 1

1          on

2          together

3          in

4          over

5          under

6          up

Exercise 2

1 b       3 b       5 a

2 a       4 c       6 a

Exercise 3

1 help them

2 cheerful

3 pleased

4 trying to help them

5 they are being helpful to you

6 give help

Exercise 4

1          The party bends over backwards to attract women candidates.

2          Girls and boys learn that there must be give and take in all relationships.

3          The whole family has to lend a hand with the harvest.

4          They must put their heads together in order to reach a sensible decision.

5          You know I’ll always be there for you.

6          What should we do if our elected representatives choose to look the other way?

Exercise 5

1          C         5          B

2          H         6          A

3          E          7          D

4          F          8          G

Exercise 6

1          Maria

2          Smith and Burnet

3          Sven

4          Ewen

5          Rakesh

6          Manuelle

7          Sasha

8          Lisa

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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