IELTS Speaking Vocabulary: Topic Trouble

Idioms: Topic Trouble

1. (To) get into a jam 

Meaning: “Get into a jam” means getting into a troublesome situation. On the contrary, “get out of a jam” means to avoid or solve the problem.

Example: We only got into a jam because our flight was delayed.

(We were in trouble because our flight was delayed.)

2. (To) take the bull by the horns

Meaning: To confront the problem directly, decisively and courageously.

Example: We took the bull by the horns and failed him about his mistakes.

(We addressed the issue face-to-face and confronted him about his mistakes.)

3. (To be) in deep water

Meaning: To be in serious trouble

Example: My friend knew he’d be in deep water with his parents because he didn’t come home last night.

(My friend knew he was going to be in big trouble with his parents because he didn’t come home last night.)

4. What one doesn’t know won’t hurt one

Meaning: Not knowing or not having information about something (usually troublesome) saves one from being worried, upset or hurt about it.

Example: Don’t tell him about his mistake. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

(Don’t tell him about his mistake, that way he won’t be upset.)

5. There’s a storm brewing

Meaning: A sentence that signals trouble or sadness in the near future.

Example: Everything may look fine now, but there’s a storm brewing.

(Everything seems fine now, but there will be trouble soon.)

6. (To) ask for it

Meaning: To behave in a way that can lead to trouble. If the problem is with someone and the speaker uses “You ask for it”, they think that person deserves the problem.

Example: He just got reprimanded. – Well, he asked for it! He was really rude.

(He was just reprimanded. – Well, he deserved it, he was very rude.)

7. (To be) on red alert

Meaning: The state of being ready to deal with a sudden dangerous situation.

Example: We were on red alert because we heard a storm was coming.

(We’re on high alert because we hear a storm is coming.)

7. (To) grasp at straws

Meaning: Attempting to act or make decisions, often out of desperation, even though these actions or decisions may not be able to save the situation.

Example: I forgot our anniversary, so I’m grasping at straws for an appropriate gift for her.

(I forgot our anniversary, so I’m trying to find a suitable gift for her.)

9. (To be) in someone’s bad books

Meaning: To make someone uncomfortable or give a bad impression.

Example: I’m in John’s bad books because I accidentally broke his phone.

(John doesn’t like me because I accidentally broke his phone.)

10. (To) shoot yourself in the foot

Meaning: Do or say something that causes problems for yourself.

Example: I think you might be shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t take this job offer.

(I think you are doing yourself a disservice by turning down this job opportunity.)

11. (To) clean up after (someone or something)

Meaning: 1- To clean up, to keep tidy; 2- Solve someone else’s problems or mistakes.

Example: You can’t expect me to clean up after your mistakes forever.

(You can’t expect me to correct you forever.)

Part 2 –“Describe a time when you saw two of your friends argued.”

I’ve never liked group work in college. You have to deal with too many types of people and most of the time this can result in conflict, like my two friends – Anna and John, who would fight about literally anything when doing our group assignment, so I always have to be on red alert when working with them. 

You see, Anna can be a bit controlling, while John is quite sloppy, so John gets to be on her bad books. One time John messed up a few details in his part of the assignment, which got us into a jam later on with the data. Anna took the bull by the horn, cleaned up after his mistakes and confronted him about this. Both of them had a big fight. After that, I thought everything was back to normal but I didn’t know there was a storm brewing. Anna secretly kicked John out of the group, which made John fail the class. 

Anna believed John asked for it, but I thought what Anna did was a bit too much. In the end, the two couldn’t even stand the sight of each other. 

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