20 English Idioms Starting Letter C

1. Call it a day

To call it a day is to bring an activity to an end.

• You have been working for over 10 hours on that report. I think you should call it a day and go home.
• I’m feeling a little tired. I think I should call it a day.
• We went to the beach, swam in the sea, ate at a beach restaurant and then called it a day and went home.
• It is already 8 o’clock. I think we should call it a day and go home.
• The captain said that we would call it a day when the sun goes down.

2. Call it quits

To call it quits is to stop doing something or to end a relationship.

• Though there were problems between us, I really wanted to save our marriage, but my wife was convinced that we should call it quits.
• I’m feeling tired. Can we call it quits for today?
• Susie called it quits on our relationship because she felt that I was cheating on her.
• Every once in a while it is okay to call it quits before it is officially time to leave work, but if you make it a habit, your boss will soon show you the door.

3. Call off

To call off something is to cancel it.

• The match was called off due to bad weather.
• Sophia shocked her parents by calling off her engagement to Peter.
• We were planning to throw a small party on Sunday, but we had to call it off because both of us were sick.

4. Call on

This phrasal verb has different meanings. One is to visit someone.

• I like to call on my old friends every now and then. (= I like to visit my old friends every now and then.)
• We were pleasantly surprised when Susie called on us last Sunday. We hadn’t seen her in a long time.

The other meaning of this expression is to choose a person to answer a question.

• Yesterday in English class the teacher called on me to recite a poem, and I didn’t know what to do.

5. Call on the carpet

To call someone on the carpet is to summon them for a scolding or rebuke.

• My boss called me on the carpet yesterday because I had missed yet another deadline. (= My boss scolded me for missing yet another deadline.)
• The headmaster called the boy on the carpet for misbehaving in the class.

According to scholars, the expression call on the carpet originated in 19th century America. A carpet is some sort of cloth used to cover the floors. In the 19th century only the rich and the powerful could afford to buy carpets. That means to be called on the carpet is to be summoned by someone in authority. In most cases, this summoning is done with the objective of rebuking somebody.

• The students who cheated on the exam were called on the carpet.


The phrase on the exam is mainly used in American English. British speakers tend to use in the exam.

6. Call the shots

When you call the shots, you are in charge and make the final decisions.

• If you really want them to buy from you, you should talk to the wife, not to the husband. She is the one who calls the shots in their marriage.
• He has always wanted to call the shots and now he does exactly that. He has just been appointed the CEO of the company.
• You may call the shots if you want, but you must be ready to face the consequences as well.

7. Carry the day

To carry the day is to win a match or to succeed in persuading others to accept your way of thinking.

• We didn’t play well at first, but we carried the day in the end.

By the end of the meeting it became clear that our rivals had carried the day. • It took quite some time but Susie was finally able to carry the day and get everyone’s approval with regards to the project.

The expression win the day means the same.

• In the end common sense won the day and she decided to call off her engagement to Peter.

8. Catch some rays

To catch some rays is to get a sun tan by exposing your body to sunlight.

• Don’t forget to apply some sunscreen before you go out to catch some rays.
• When the weather gets warmer many people head for the beach and catch some rays.

The expressions catch a few rays and bag some rays also mean the same.

• ‘You look a few shades darker.’ ‘Yeah, I went to Hawaii to bag some rays.’

9. Catch you later

Catch you later can mean see you later. This expression is mainly used in very informal English.

• I’m leaving for office. I’ll catch you later. (= I will see you later.)
• ‘Well, I must be going now. Catch you later.’ ‘OK. Bye. Take care.’
• She told me that she would catch me later at the club, but she didn’t turn up.

Catch you later has one more meaning. It can be used to mean that you will pay money owed later.

• The other day my friend and I had dinner at a restaurant and I paid for it. He said that he would catch me later on his half of the bill.
• Thanks for buying the drinks. I’m out of cash now. I’ll catch you later.

10. Change one’s tune

To change one’s tune is to change one’s opinion or attitude.

• Right now she doesn’t want to quit her job, but she might change her tune once her little baby arrives.
• They were not keen on hiring him, but they changed their tune when they realized that he was indeed an efficient designer.
• I was not keen on investing in real estate, but the huge appreciation in land prices forced me to change my tune.

The idiom change one’s mind has a very similar meaning.
• Why argue with her? She won’t change her mind.

11. Check out

To check something out is to examine it or take a look at it.

• We have redesigned our website. Please check it out and let’s know your thoughts.
• They have just launched a new showroom in the city. If you are not busy, let’s go and check it out.
• He is only eight, but he has already started checking out the girls.

To get something checked out is to get it examined by somebody.

• You really should get that lump checked out by a doctor.

12. Chip in

To chip in is to contribute a small amount of money to a fund.

• ‘Would you chip in a few dollars on a gift for the teacher?’ ‘Yes, I would be happy to chip in.’

Usage note

We chip in money on something for someone.

• She chipped in a dollar on a gift for Louis.
• Most people wouldn’t mind chipping in a few bucks for a good cause.
• If you are ready to chip in a dollar we can buy a nice birthday gift for Susie.

13. Chow down

To chow down is to eat a large amount of food. It can be used with people or with animals. This expression is only used in an informal style.

• Chow down fast if you don’t want to be late for the movie.
• Dinner is on the table – so let’s chow down.
• My son doesn’t like cereals or vegetables, but give him a box of chocolates and he will chow it down in a few minutes.
• Let’s chow these cookies down before mummy comes.

14. Cold call

A cold call is an unsolicited telephone call. It is usually done to sell a product or a service.

• Although few people like to receive cold calls, marketers believe that it is one of the most effective marketing strategies.
• He brings in new business by making cold calls on potential clients.
• She quit her sales job because she was tired of making cold calls.

15. Cost an arm and a leg

If something costs an arm and a leg, it is very expensive. Note that the expression an arm and a leg is also used with the verbs pay and charge.

• Gold ornaments cost an arm and a leg these days.
• Although I liked that dress I couldn’t buy it. It cost an arm and a leg!
• Have you got any cheap laptops? These models cost an arm and a leg.
• If you have got good quality products that don’t cost an arm and a leg, you will have no trouble finding buyers.
• If you are looking for a sea-facing apartment, you must be willing to pay an arm and a leg.

16. Couch potato

The idiom couch potato is used to refer to a person who sits on a couch all day and does nothing else. This expression is often used to imply that a person is lazy.

• If he wasn’t such a couch potato, I would marry him.
• Susie has to manage two jobs in a day because her husband is a couch potato.
• Stop being a couch potato if you want to get rid of that pot belly.

17. Crystal clear

If something is crystal clear, it can be understood easily.

• ‘Are you sure you understand everything that we discussed now?’ ‘Yes, it’s crystal clear.’
• I have explained everything in detail. So it must be all crystal clear now.
• Students always liked her lessons because they were crystal clear.
• It may not be crystal clear now but you will understand better once you start using the camera.

18. Cut corners

To cut corners is to reduce expenses. Sometimes it means to do something in the quickest and easiest way which often produces less than optimum results.

• The pay day is still weeks away and we are already short of cash. It is time to cut corners.
• If you want to build a revolutionary product, you must resist the temptation to cut corners.
• We are not at all happy with the work you did on the new kitchen. It is evident that you cut corners. The quality of the wood used for cupboards is particularly bad.
• Although our products boast of some revolutionary features, they are still very expensive. We need to find a way to cut corners to bring the price down.

19. Cut it out!

This is an expression used to ask someone to stop doing something.

• I’m tired of listening to your crappy jokes. Cut it out!
• Stop making excuses for the problems you have created. I don’t want to hear any of it. Cut it out this instant.
• I don’t want to hear any more rude remarks from you. Cut it out!

20. Cut your losses

To cut your losses is to stop doing an activity that is not producing the desired results.

• The product was revolutionary in many aspects, but it didn’t attract many buyers. So the company decided to cut their losses and stop producing it.
• The project isn’t going anywhere. I guess it is high time we cut our losses and diverted our attention to something more productive.
• Although he tried hard, he couldn’t win her heart. In the end he realized that they weren’t supposed to be together. So he cut his losses and stopped seeing her

Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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