The Most Common Idioms To Boost Your IELTS Score – Topic : Honesty And Fairness


above board

If a situation or business is above board, it is honest and legal.

NOTE: This expression comes from card games in which players place their bets on a board or table. Actions above the table, where other players can see them, are probably fair.

Anyone who wants to inspect our books can see for themselves that we are totally above board.

not beat around the bush or not beat about the bush

If you don’t beat around the bush or don’t beat about the bush, you say what you want to say clearly and directly.

NOTE: In organized hunting, someone will drive birds or small animals out of the undergrowth by beating it with a stick. They may have to do this cautiously as they do not know exactly where the birds or animals are.

Let’s not beat about the bush. I think these letters are worth a lot to you.

below the belt

If someone says something that is below the belt, they say something cruel and unfair.

NOTE: In boxing, it is against the rules to hit an opponent below the level of their belt.

He made a joke about her divorce which I thought was a bit below the belt.

by fair means or foul

If someone tries to achieve something by fair means or foul, they use any possible method to achieve it, not caring if their behaviour is dishonest or unfair.

They will do everything they can to win, by fair means or foul.

call a spade a spade

If you call a spade a spade, you speak honestly and directly about a subject even if it offends people.

NOTE: In a play by the Ancient Greek dramatist Menander, one of the characters says ‘I call a fig a fig, and a spade a spade’.

In the meantime, Whyte is an outspoken voice who is willing to call a spade a spade.

come clean

If you come clean about something, you tell the truth about it.

I had expected her to come clean and confess that she only wrote these books for the money.

fair and square

If someone wins a competition or does something fair and square, they do it without cheating or lying.

My father bought them fair and square fifty years ago. We’ve still got the receipts.

keep your nose clean

If you keep your nose clean, you behave well and avoid trouble. [INFORMAL]

He’d worked hard and kept his nose clean for all those years.

lay your cards on the table or put your cards on the table

If you lay your cards on the table or put your cards on the table, you tell someone the truth about your feelings, opinions, or plans.

NOTE: Referring to when players in a card game lay their cards face up for the other players to see.

I’ll lay my cards on the table: I think the new design is terrible.

I’m going to put my cards on the table and make you an offer.

a level playing field

A level playing field is a situation that is fair and where no one has an advantage over other people.

Trade with these nations must be conducted on a level playing field.

NOTE: You can also use even or uneven instead of level.

Given an even playing field, girls tend to do better at school than boys.

move the goalposts

If someone moves the goalposts, they change the rules or aims in a situation or activity, in order to gain an advantage and to make things more difficult for the other people involved.

They seem to move the goalposts every time I meet the required conditions.

NOTE: You can also say that someone shifts the goalposts.

The administration is shifting the goalposts and changing its demands.

on the level

Someone or something that is on the level is honest or true.

Wait a minute, something’s odd here – is this guy on the level? Can we trust him?

stab someone in the back

If someone that you trust stabs you in the back, they secretly do something which hurts and betrays you.

She was incredibly disloyal. She would be your friend to your face, and then stab you in the back.

to someone’s face

If you say something, especially something critical or unpleasant, to someone’s face, you say it directly to them.

He was too old and he had to step aside. But who was going to say so to his face?


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