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Construction Idioms: Phrases & Idioms about Construction


Construction Idioms and Sayings! Learn commonly used expressions and idioms about construction in English with meaning, ESL picture and examples.

Construction Idioms and Phrases

List of Idioms about Construction

  • (Dumb as a) Bag Of Hammers
  • (To) Put a Spanner in the Works
  • Accident Waiting To Happen
  • Against The Grain
  • An Axe To Grind
  • Backing and Filling
  • Bury the Hatchet
  • Mend Fences
  • Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day
  • Shit a Brick
  • Throw a Wrench Into
  • Tighten the Screws
  • Toss a Wrench (Spanner) Into

Construction Idioms with Meaning and Examples

(Dumb as a) Bag Of Hammers

  • Meaning: Stupid, oriented toward illogic
  • ExampleThe news anchor is pretty, but she’s as dumb as a bag of hammers.

Note: In the USA, “dumb as a box of rocks” is more common.

(To) Put a Spanner in the Works

  • Meaning: To sabotage something; to cause something to fail
  • ExampleWhen Josie raised the issue of Eurozone regulations, that really put a spanner in the works, and we had to start over with the design.

Note: The USA equivalent is “throw a wrench into” something, but this is less common.

Accident Waiting To Happen

  • Meaning: A dangerous way of setting up or organizing something
  • ExamplePutting tables on the patio with no guardrail is just an accident waiting to happen.

Against The Grain

  • Meaning: Contrary to one’s natural inclinations
  • ExampleI’ll do it, but it goes against the grain for me to lie to her like that.

Note: From the fact that to cut against the “grain” or the natural lines of wood is difficult.

An Axe To Grind

  • Meaning: A grievance, a disagreement with someone that justifies confrontation .
  • ExampleI have an axe to grind with you – you took credit for all the research I did on the project.

Backing and Filling

  • Meaning: Delaying a decision by making small changes or arguing about small details .
  • ExampleThe sales team kept backing and filling, but they’re finally on board with the marketing plan.

Bury the Hatchet

  • Meaning: Make peace, agree to end a dispute
  • ExampleEllen and I were always at odds, but we’ve finally decided to bury the hatchet and try to work together.

Note: This is of American origin and may have referred to a practice of some Native American tribes. It is now more widely used.

  • Meaning: Improve relations after a dispute
  • ExampleI’d really like to mend fences with Angela. Our disagreement seems so foolish now.

Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

  • Meaning: Complex projects take time
  • ExampleI realize we’ll have to divert manpower to the programming for the new website, but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Shit a Brick

  • Meaning: Be extremely fearful.
  • Example: When the names of the people being laid off were being read, I was shitting a brick.

Note: This is obscene. You can also say “shit bricks.”

Throw a Wrench Into

  • Meaning: To sabotage; to cause to fail
  • ExampleSorry to throw a wrench into your plans, but we can’t launch the product that day – the president will be out of the country.

Note: The UK equivalent is “put a spanner in the works.” Wrench is American; “spanner” is British.

Tighten the Screws

  • Meaning: Increase pressure on someone
  • ExampleThe government has really been tightening the screws on people who underreport their income.

Toss a Wrench (Spanner) Into

  • Meaning: Sabotage; cause a process to stop
  • ExampleBy raising the issue of toxics regulations, Carl really tossed a wrench into the project.

Note: Wrench is American; “spanner” is British.

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Useful Construction Idioms in English

Construction Idioms

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