20 Idioms for Working Hard


Are you ready to give it 110%?  Do you constantly wonder what English idioms you can use to describe how hard you work? Good, because today you are going to learn 20 Common English idioms for working hard.  We have included the idiom meaning and an example of the idiom to help support your language learning by putting the idioms into context.  As you can see, we have been working hard for you!

What are idioms?

Let’s take a quick refresh – what is an idiom?  An idiom is a common English saying or expression where the meaning of the complete phrase isn’t related to the literal meaning of the words used.

Idioms are a common feature of the English language and it’s important for ESL learners to feel confident using them.

Why are idioms important?

Idioms are one of the best ways to sound fluent, confident and natural as an English speaker.  Native English speakers use them all the time and they are a fun and advanced way to develop your language to an advanced level of English.

Can I use Idioms at work?

While this list is not ‘business idioms’, all of these hard-working idiom phrases can be used in both business and informal situations.

Free English Lesson!

Please enjoy this free English lesson.  Below you will find the list of 20 work idioms, the description of the idiom and idiom examples.  Below the list, you will find a crossword to help test your new idiom knowledge as well as watch a video of this lesson on common idioms for working hard.

If you would like to take your English learning to the next level, join our Head English tutor, Anna English, on one of our English Language Courses.

20 Idioms For Working Hard

Idiom #1: Back/nose to the grindstone

To return to/start a hard tedious task.

Right, that’s my break over, I had better get back to the grindstone.

Idiom #2: Be on a roll

Experiencing a period of success or good luck.

We signed up two new clients last week and 4 new clients this week, with 3 more in the pipeline. We are on a roll.

Idiom #3: Be snowed under

Be overwhelmed with a very large quantity of work (or commitments).

I’m so sorry I missed the teacher’s meeting today, with the exams around the corner and several members of staff self-isolating I’m completely snowed under at the moment.

Idiom #4: Bend over backwards

To work extra hard to help someone or to make them happy.

I don’t understand why he continues to bend over backwards for Julia, she doesn’t appreciate it.

Idiom #5: Blood, sweat, and tears

If something needs blood, sweat, and tears then it is a hard thing to do and requires a lot of effort.

We spent 15 years building this business, it took blood, sweat, and tears to make it what it is today.

Idiom #6: Burning a candle at both ends

To work too hard as well as trying to do other things.

My boss had a nervous breakdown last month, it’s not surprising, he was burning the candle at both ends for many months.

Idiom #7: Get cracking

Get started on a project or task.

Right, do we all know what we are supposed to be doing? Great, let’s get cracking.

Idiom #8: Give it 110%

Try really hard to achieve something.

I know that you are all tired, it’s really hot outside, and you would rather be relaxing in the shade eating ice cream, but today is a very important day for our school so I want you to get out there and give it 110%.

Idiom #9: Go the extra mile

To do more than what is expected to make something happen, or help someone.

We have decided to promote Nick.  He went the extra mile for us during the pandemic and really showed us his commitment.

Idiom #10: Hang in there

Don’t give up. Keep going through the hard times.

The next few months will be hard for all of us, just hang in there, things will improve.

Idiom #11: Jump through hoops

Go through an elaborate or complicated procedure in order to achieve an objective.

We are in the process of applying for a mortgage, but we have to jump through so many hoops.

Idiom #12: Knuckle/buckle down

To focus and work diligently on a task or problem

If you all knuckle down and do your revision between now and the exams then you will pass with flying colours.

Idiom #13: Make up for lost time

To do something as much as possible because you were not able to do it before. To catch up.

I haven’t seen my family for over two years, so we are going to go on holiday together, we really need to make up for lost time.

Idiom #14: Move mountains

Make every possible effort, doing the impossible if needed.

Trust me, I will move mountains to make sure that you are satisfied with your new branding.

Idiom #15: No pain no gain

Suffering is necessary in order to achieve something.

The athletes are complaining about having to train on a Sunday, but no pain no gain.

Idiom #16: Pull one’s own weight

To do your fair share of work that a group of people is doing together.

James, you have taken a lot of time off this month and when you have been in you haven’t done very much work.  We are all working hard to reach our deadline, so we need you to start pulling your own weight otherwise we will have to let you go.

Idiom #17: Raise the bar

Raise the standards which need to be met in order to qualify for something.

Apple has really raised the bar with their latest iPhone.

Idiom #18: Stay ahead of the game

To react quickly and gain/keep an advantage.

We are changing our marketing strategy, advertising will now include TikTok.  We must stay ahead of the game.

Idiom #19: Stay the course

To keep going strong to the end of a race or contest or task.

We have been working with this client for 12 months on this project, we plan to stay the course and get the job done.

Idiom #20: Take the bull by the horns

To deal decisively with a difficult or dangerous situation.

I’ve asked him several times but he ignores me.  I must take the bull by the horns and tell my landlord that I am moving out unless he fixes the central heating.

Can you think of any more? Hop over to the YouTube channel and leave a comment below the video.

Test Your Knowledge

  Let’s test your knowledge. Below you will find a crossword. Using the clues try to find the missing idioms and write them into the spaces provided. When you have completed the crossword click CHECK to check your answers or click SHOW SOLUTION to reveal the correct answers.

Video Tutorial

  Watch this video to hear Anna take you through this list of English idioms.

Did you enjoy this Free English lesson on work idioms?  If you’d like to see more, you can: