20 most useful idioms about agreeing and disagreeing

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On this page, we will look at the 20 most useful idioms about agreeing and disagreeing. As you may know, there are thousands of different idioms in English, but many of them are no longer used in common English conversations. Our focus in the section of our free English course is to focus only on those idioms which are still commonly used and you can expect to see or hear when talking to native English speakers.

After you have reviewed the list, make sure to take the practice exercise for 20 most useful idioms about agreeing and disagreeing.

Idiom:Meaning:Example:
A battle of willsA disagreement where both sides are determined to winI’m trying to get the dog to stop barking when people come to the door, but it’s a battle of wills at the moment – he won’t give up!
Get off (someone’s) backStop criticising or telling someone what to doI know what I’m doing, so get off my back and let me finish this job!
Bury the hatchetTo stop and argument and agree to make peaceThey haven’t spoken to each other since they had an argument at work, but they’ve finally decided to bury the hatchet and go out for lunch together.
Over my dead body!When you refuse to let someone do something they want to do“I’m going on holiday with friends for a week” “Over my dead body! You’re only 13 and too young to go away for so long!”
Send (someone) packingTo tell someone to leave.A salesperson came to the door today, but I sent him packing – I haven’t got time or money for that right now!
Wipe the slate clean (very similar to ‘bury the hatchet’)To forget about previous disagreements or problems and to start againI think they each blamed each other for the business closing, but they met last week and have decided to wipe the slate clean.
Over my dead body!When you refuse to let someone do something they want to do“I’m going on holiday with friends for a week” “Over my dead body! You’re only 13 and too young to go away for so long!”
Skating on thin iceDoing or saying something that could easily/quickly end up in a disagreement or troubleHe was told not to keep interrupting, but he’s still doing it and the boss is looking more and more annoyed. He’s skating on thin ice right now!
Pick holes in (something)Trying to finding faults in something someone is doing or sayingJohn was asked to talk about working from home, but the boss keeps licking holes in his presentation.
A bone to pick with (someone)Something that annoyed you that you want to talk to the person aboutHey – I have a bone to pick with you. Why did you tell me to stop talking when we are the party?
An olive branchSomething you do, say or offer to try an end a disagreementThe staff were not happy with the work =conditions or the pay, so the company offered an extra 2 days holiday as olive branch.
Split hairsDisagreeing about small or irrelevant detailsMy food costs less than David’s, so I don’t want to split the $20 bill evenly. Mine was about 20 cents cheaper.
Water under the bridgeTo say that something that you had disagreed about is no longer importantI know we argued about whose fault it was but it’s not important now – it’s water under the bridge.
Add fuel to the fireTo make a situation or argument even worseHe told her she was boring and he didn’t want to see her again. To add fuel to the fire, he posted the same thing on Facebook for everyone to see!
To clear the airTo talk about something to stop a feeling of disagreement or resentmentJane, I want to clear the air about that comment you made in the meeting. I thought it was rude and unfair, and I’d like to know what you meant by it.
Agree to disagreeTo agree not to argue anymore about a difference of opinionI think the government is doing a great job but Kevin doesn’t, so to prevent this becoming problem we’ve agreed to disagree.
At each other’s throatsAlways arguing (normally strongly)I know they are twins, but they always seem to be at each other’s throats – they can’t have a decent conversation about anything without shouting at each other!
On the warpathTo be very angryThe boss has been on the warpath since he found out that some people have been leaving early.
A sore pointA subject that someone is sensitive about and should therefore be avoidedTalking about holidays is a sore point for John – he has just found out he has to work that week so will need to cancel his plans.
To clear the airTo talk about something to stop a feeling of disagreement or resentmentJane, I want to clear the air about that comment you made in the meeting. I thought it was rude and unfair, and I’d like to know what you meant by it.
A running battleA disagreement that has been going on for some time.He wants to build a taller fence, but he’s had a running battle with his neighbour about who should pay for it.

Once you’ve reviewed the idioms, test yourself with the short exercise below.


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