Common Idioms – Topic : Safety and risk
1. By the skin of your teeth
If you do something by the skin of your teeth you just manage to do it but very nearly fail.
In the men’s First Division, the champions survived by the skin of their teeth.
2. A close shave
If someone has a close shave they very nearly have a bad accident or very nearly suffer a defeat.
NOTE: This is a reference to shaving with a dangerously sharp razor.
McGregor had a close shave when a seven foot polar bear ran at him while he was filming a documentary about the animals in Canada.
3. The coast is clear
If the coast is clear you are able to do something because nobody is there to see you doing it.
NOTE: This expression may refer to smugglers (= people who take things illegally into a country) sending messages that there were no coastguards near and it was safe to land or set sail.
‘You can come out now,’ he called. ‘The coast is clear. She’s gone!’
4. A good bet OR a safe bet
If something is a good bet or a safe bet it is a sensible or useful thing to do or use.
If you want something smart to wear to a friend’s wedding, a dark suit is a good bet.
NOTE: You can also say that something would be a better bet or a safer bet, meaning that it would be more sensible or useful than another possibility.
I was going to buy an apartment but I’m now thinking a house might be a better bet.
NOTE: You can also say that something is someone’s best bet or safest bet, meaning that it is the most sensible or useful thing to do.
If you really want to keep your home safe from robbery, your best bet is still to buy a dog.
5. In safe hands
If someone or something is in safe hands they are being looked after by someone who will make sure they are not harmed or damaged.
They could get on with their own lives, knowing their girls were in safe hands.
NOTE: You can sometimes use other adjectives instead of safe.
Although I knew the children would be in good hands, I still felt anxious.
He was forced to give up his business, which is now in the capable hands of his only son.
6. Play it safe
If you play safe or play it safe, you do not take any risks.
If you want to play safe, cut down on the amount of salt you eat.
The pilot decided that Christchurch was too far away and played it safe, landing at Wellington.
7. Be playing with fire
If you are playing with fire you are doing something that has big risks and is likely to cause problems.
In this economic climate, union leaders who are thinking about strikes are playing with fire.
8. Put all your eggs in one basket
If you put all your eggs in one basket you put all your efforts or resources into one course of action and will not be able to do anything else if this fails.
You could argue this is a risky strategy, putting all your eggs in one basket; if the firm goes bust you lose your job and your savings and everything.
NOTE: People sometimes put other words before eggs and basket to show a particular situation they are talking about.
Never put all your investment eggs in one basket.
These countries have put their development eggs in the tourism basket, spending millions of dollars from public funds to build the sorts of facilities that foreign tourists demand.
9. Be skating on thin ice
If someone is skating on thin ice they are doing something which could have unpleasant consequences for them.
He told me I was skating on thin ice and should change my attitude.
NOTE: You can use verbs such as tread, walk, or stand instead of skate.
‘Watch it Max,’ Christopher thought to himself, ‘you’re treading on very thin ice.’
NOTE: You can also just say that someone is on thin ice.
I could see I was on thin ice. We’d had similar pointless arguments many times before.
10. Stick your neck out
If you stick your neck out, you say something which other people are afraid to say, even though this may cause trouble for you.
NOTE: This expression may come from boxing, where fighters need to keep their necks and chins drawn in or protected in order to avoid being hit by their opponent.
At the risk of sticking my neck out, I doubt whether the attempt will be successful.
11. Take your life in your hands or take your life into your hands
If you take your life in your hands or take your life into your hands when you do something, you take a lot of risks when you do it.
A rider who does not know the road takes his life in his hands by cycling in the dark.
You take your life into your hands just crossing the road in this city.
12. To be on the safe side
If you do something to be on the safe side you do it to protect yourself from harm or trouble, although it is unlikely to be necessary.
I didn’t think it was serious but I took her to the doctor’s just to be on the safe side.