English Idioms in Black and White

Who doesn’t love some beautiful black and white pictures? Today we bring you a variety of English idioms featuring black and white images to help you visualize the meanings, along with sample sentences and definitions!

Read on for idioms in black and white!!

Show Some Spine

This first Ginseng English idiom is show some spine. Your spine is your backbone, the strong middle bones that support your body. When you tell some one to show some spine or show some backbone, you are telling them to be brave or morally strong. If someone has no backbone or is spineless, it means they are a coward.


Your boss won't take advantage of you if you just show some spine and stand up to her.

Don't be intimidated by him. He's just a bully. Show some spine!

I always thought of Karen as timid, but she really showed some spine in that meeting.

Go Hand in Hand

When two things go hand in hand, they are very closely connected and always come together. You cannot separate them. For example, we can say that food and health go hand in hand. They are completely connected.

When two people hold each other's hands, we say that they are hand in hand. To help you remember, you can picture health and good food walking hand in hand down the street together! 

Homework may be annoying, but it goes hand in hand with learning any new skill!

I can't eat cookies without milk, they just always go hand in hand for me!

Honesty goes hand in hand with friendship.

Rest Assured

We use rest assured when we are confident that you don't need to lose sleep over something because it will work out and be ok. It's another way of saying, "You don't have to worry."

Rest assured, I finally see the bus coming up the street now!

You can rest assured, the airlines will refund you for the flight that they cancelled.

I could rest assured when I was finally home in my own bed and didn't have to worry about bed bugs anymore!

Gray Area

We use the term gray area to talk about a situation where things don't fit easily into categories or where the rules are not clear. Things are easy when they are black and white, but much more complicated when there is a lot of gray area. Examples below!


It seems like there is a lot of gray area in the university's policy on coworkers dating.

A good novel doesn't just tell you what to think about a character, if they are good or bad. The gray area is the most interesting part!

The law was designed before the internet existed, so there is still a lot of legal gray area surrounding it.

A Wrench in the system

This idiom is a wrench in the system. A wrench is a tool. Usually we think of tools as helpful things, good for building or fixing things, but a wrench in the system is actually a negative phrase. Imagine you have a big, complex machine with lots of gears and moving parts. Then imagine someone puts a wrench in the middle of those moving parts. This will cause big problems for your system, right? That's what we mean when we say a wrench in the system: it's a problem that causes a big complicated plan or system to break or fail.

We had our whole vacation planned out, but when we got food poisoning, it really put a wrench in the system.

If the new client won't agree to this contract, it will really throw a wrench in the system.

When they lost a major funder, it threw a wrench in the system for the new startup.

Come out of shell

The next idiom is come out of your shell. Lots of animals, like snails and turtles, have hard shells that they can hide in if they are scared or in danger. We can use this as a metaphor for people's personalities. If you come out of your shell, it means you open up and become more social and less shy.


Paula seems quiet at first but once you get to know her, she really comes out of her shell.

Lots of kids are shy around age 4 or 5, but most come out of their shells as they get a little older.

When Kim has a few drinks, he really comes out of his shell and doesn't stop talking!

Birds eye view

How does the world look to a bird flying high above the earth? Probably similar to your perspective if you are in a tall building or an airplane. This is what we mean when we say you have a bird's-eye view. 

Punctuation Note

Notice that we put a hyphen (-) in bird's-eye. This is because, together the words bird's and eye are working like an adjective describing view. Whenever you have two words together working as an adjective to describe a noun, you should connect them with a hyphen.

I was nervous for my first hot-air balloon ride, but I really loved the bird's-eye view.

Drone cameras make it easy for anyone to get great pictures from a bird's eye view.

The bird's-eye view from the 25th floor was nice, but the elevator up was so slow.


Homesick is the emotional feeling you might get when you're far away from your home, friends and family and you miss them very much.  Homesickness can make you feel very sad and depressed, but will usually go away after you make more friends and become more adjusted and comfortable in a new place.

I was really excited when I first got to Spain, but after a week the homesickness really kicked in and I had to call my Mom daily.

It's funny, even after living in a new city for 2 years, sometimes I feel homesick for my childhood town. Eating my favorite food from home helps!

Alex thought he would feel homesick while traveling in Asia, but he was so busy having fun that he didn't even think about home!

Shoot the Moon

Shoot the moon or shoot for the moon! The meaning of this idiom is to try something really ambitious or challenging, to have very big goals. It's impossible to actually shoot the moon, but some people say "If you shoot for the moon and miss, you will land among the stars." This means, if you have very high goals and you don't achieve them, you may still achieve something else great. Common synonyms for shoot the moon are go for broke and aim high.  


When my aunt plays cards, she really shoots the moon and bets a lot.

BThey already offered you the job. When they ask what kind of salary you want, you may as well shoot the moon and ask for more than you expect.

When I was a kid, my parents always taught me to dream big and shoot the moon.

Calm before storm

We use the idiom the calm before the storm to describe the very calm, quiet, or peaceful time before a big argument breaks out, a big change happens, something difficult occurs, or quite literally, before a storm comes!

It's nice to have all my teaching work finished before the students arrive so that I can really enjoy the calm before the storm.

My parents seem happy now, but this is just the calm before the storm. Wait until my mom finds out that my dad bought a new car without talking to her first!

Before the tornado hits, there is a great peacefulness that comes over the town. This is literally the calm before the storm.

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