Phrasal Verbs, Idioms and Other Expressions using ‘WORK’


Language is a dynamic entity, constantly evolving to reflect the nuances and complexities of human experience. Phrasal verbs, idioms, and other expressions are vital components of this evolution, offering rich insights into cultural, social, and emotional contexts. One such versatile word that forms the cornerstone of numerous expressions is ‘work’.

Try to decide what the idioms and other expressions in sentences 1 – 10 mean, then check your answers mentioned at the end of this article.

1. He cooked us a fantastic breakfast. We had the whole works!

2. Everything was going really well, and then the boss threw a spanner in the works.

3. We’ll have our work cut out for us if we want to continue making money from this project.

4. I was hot, tired and in a really bad mood, but a cold shower worked wonders!

5. You will pass your exams, but only if you work your socks off.

6. He was very hungry, and made short work of the meal I had cooked.

7. We’re only a little bit late, and we have got a good excuse, so don’t get so worked up!

8. It is very difficult to obtain a visa to visit the country, but if you know how to work the system it can be very easy.

9. I’ve worked my fingers to the bone for this company for twenty years, and now they tell me that they don’t need me anymore!

10. I work in the customer complaints department for a major airline, so being shouted at by angry customers is all in a day’s work for me.

Correct Answers:

  1. We had everything (for example, bacon, sausage, eggs, toast, mushrooms, tomatoes, beans, etc). We can also say the full works or the full Monty.
  2. The boss did something that suddenly stopped a process or plan.
  3. We will have a difficult job to do.
  4. The cold shower had an extremely (and surprisingly) good result.
  5. You will need to work very hard to pass your exams. People from the USA sometimes say work your butt off.
  6. He ate the meal very quickly. This expression can be used in other situations to mean deal with something quickly and efficiently. If you make short work of someone, you defeat an opponent quickly and easily: “Harrison wasn’t playing very well, and Jennings made short work of him in the second set”
  7. Don’t get upset, angry or excited. We can also say Don’t work yourself up.
  8. People who work or play the system do or get what they want despite the rules that make it difficult.
  9. I’ve worked very hard. This expression is often used when hard physical work is involved.
  10. All in a day’s work is an expression used for saying that a particular situation or experience is normal for someone, although most people would find it difficult or unusual. It is often used as a sentence on its own: “I’ve been shouted at, spat at, sprayed with paint and had eggs thrown at me today!” “Never mind, Prime Minister. All in a day’s work, eh?”
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