idioms that contain the word back

Let’s Learn Some Idioms That Contain the Word, “BACK”

I say it is good to be back because I was off for a couple of weeks and it is good to get back to making a podcast episode. Get back is a phrasal verb with multiple meanings, but in this context it means, “It is good to return to making a podcast episode.”

And that is what we are going to focus on, the word back. Or more precisely, 5 idioms that contain the word, “back”. See the theme! I’m baaaack! I have returned.

We are not going to do phrasal verbs, no no my friends, today we are going to look at 5 idioms and only five idioms. Why just 5? Well, first of all I know you are busy and life is too, so I want to make these episodes short and sweet. Are you ready? Let’s begin!

First up is, “Back to the drawing board”

Back to the drawing board? What are you talking about Sarah, I can’t draw and even if I could, why would I go back to it? WHat if I never left it? What if I don’t have a drawing board, or any board for that matter?

No worries my friend, “Back to the drawing board means – to go back to square one because an earlier attempt failed. Translation, you tried something, it didn’t work and now you have come up with a new plan or idea. You go, “Back to the drawing board.” You don’t have to actually draw or have a board, you just have to start over from square one? Why do we say square one when we may not be needing squares? I don’t know, but that will be a later episode, I am sure!

Let me use “Back to the drawing board,” in a sentence. “We had to go back to the drawing board when our new product was a total flop, no one wanted to buy it.”

Our second idiom for today is, “ Pat someone on the back .“

If you pat someone on the back you are giving them praise for doing something well. You don’t actually have to touch them, you can just say things like this, “Hey Bill, you deserve a pat on the back for a job well done! Or you can say let’s everyone give ourselves a pat on the back! Let’s all give ourselves an acknowledgement for a job well done. Think about it, when you want to tell someone they are doing well you often pat them on the back. So this one seems like a natural! If you are practicing English, give yourself a pat on the back. Not comfortable with giving yourself a pat on the back? Then let me help you! Give yourself a pat on the back, for listening to this podcast and learning something new. I hope!

The third idiom for this episode is “Behind someone’s back.”

If you do something behind someone’s back you are doing something without others’ knowledge or secretly. You are doing something in a sneaky way. You are doing it behind their back. Oh you don’;t have to be physically behind their back, in fact you don’t have to anywhere near them to do something behind their back. You just have to be doing something without their knowledge and often in a sneaky way. Let me try this. Betty went behind Bill’s back and bought a vacation rental. I hope he isn’t mad.”

Translation, Betty bought a vacation rental without Bill’s knowledge. It can sometimes be a good thing, but most often it is used in a bad way. As in, “You went behind my back and did what I told you not to do!”

It can often be confused with betraying someone, that is another idiom all together, that idiom is to stab someone in the back. If you stab someone in the back you most definitely betray someone. Think Caesar and his being stabbed to death by his senators.

I am not going to include, “to stab someone in the back”, in the list of 5.

So, bonus round, you will actually have 6 idioms.

Number four on our list of idioms will be, “Keep something under wraps.”

If you keep something under wraps you are keeping something a secret. Think of a tarp or a blanket covering over something. That tarp or blanket is the wrap and what is underneath it is being hidden or kept secret. Let me make a sentence with this idiom. “Hey we are having a surprise party for Bill, keep it under wraps.”

Got it? Keep it a secret, otherwise it won’t be a surprise!

And finally, “Break someone’s back.”

To break someone’s back has two meanings, the first meaning is to work very hard. For example; ” Bill broke his back remodeling the house. “ Did Bill really break his back remodeling the house, no. However, it was a lot of hard work.

The second meaning of “Break someone’s back” is to cause someone’s failure or defeat. Let’s use a sports example. When the basketball team brought in a whole new set of players, it broke the other team’s back, and the game was over.” Bringing in the new players, caused the other team to lose, it broke their back. Not literally or physically but figuratively. And that’s the fun of idioms, they are a fun form of figurative language!

Now let’s review:

  • Back to the drawing board – to go back to square one because an earlier attempt failed
  • Pat someone on the back – to praise someone for doing well
  • Behind someone’s back – to do something without others’ knowledge or secretly
  • Keep something under wraps – to keep something secret
  • Break someone’s back – to work very hard; to cause someone’s failure or defeat

Now let’s see if I can put these five to verse:

If one works very hard

One can use break your back

If something causes defeat

One can use break your back

But what if it’s someone’s back

You go behind,

Then you are doing,

Something, often unkind

But, maybe you’re not

You’re just being cheeky?

No, you are being sneaky!

But if it’s praise they lack

Pat someone on the back!

Maybe things went wrong

And there is much discord

No worries,

Go back to the

Drawing board!

And finally, before I hear taps

If you want to keep a secret

Keep things under wraps!

What! Come on English!

There you have it my friends, 5 idioms that contain the word back in them. I hope you enjoyed today’s episode and you learned something new or received a refresher on some idiom you already knew.

Thank you so much for being here. If you like what you hear, share it with your friends, hit like and subscribe, and if you are feeling really ambitious leave a review.