much ado about nothing

If people make much ado about nothing, they make a lot of fuss about something which is not important.
“A discussion took place about the colour of the receptionist’s shoes – much ado about nothing!”

argue the toss

If you argue the toss, you dispute a decision or choice which has already been made.
“The final choice was made yesterday, so don’t argue the toss now!”

all hell broke loose

If you say that all hell broke loose, you mean that there was a sudden angry or noisy reaction to something.
“When it was announced that the plant was going to close down all hell broke loose.”

get off by back!

If you tell someone to get off your back, you are annoyed and ask them to stop finding faults or criticizing you.
“Liz, please, get off my back! You’ve been making comments about my work all morning!”

battle lines are drawn

This expression is used to say that opposing groups are ready to defend the reason behind the conflict.
“The battle lines have been drawn between those who accept the changes and those who are against the proposed reforms. “

battle of wills

A conflict, argument or struggle where both sides are determined to win is described as a battle of wills.
“When they separated, neither party would make concessions – it was a battle of wills.”


A discussion among a group of people who try to determine who or what is to blame for a particular mistake, failure or wrongdoing, is called ‘blamestorming‘.
“A blamestorming session took place following the unfavourable reviews in the press.”

bone of contention

A bone of contention is a matter or subject about which there is a lot of disagreement.
“The salaries have been agreed on, but opening on Sundays is still a bone of contention.”

bone to pick

If you have a bone to pick with someone, you are annoyed with them and want to talk to them about it.
“Mark wants to see the boss. He says he’s got a bone to pick with him.”

in good/bad books

If you are in somebody’s good or bad books, you have their approval or disapproval.
“I’m in my wife’s bad books at the moment because I forgot our wedding anniversary.”

bury the hatchet

When people who have had a disagreement decide to forget their quarrel and become friends again, they bury the hatchet.
“I didn’t agree with my colleague’s decision, but for the sake of peace, I decided to bury the hatchet.”

call someone’s bluff

If you call someone’s bluff, you challenge them to do what they threaten to do (while believing that they will not dare to do it).
“After the neighbour’s threats to demolish the fence, when Jack decided to call his bluff, there were no more complaints.”

cat and dog life

A life in which partners are constantly or frequently quarrelling is called a cat-and-dog life.
“They lead a cat-and-dog life.  I don’t know why they stay together.”

caught in the crossfire

If you are caught in the crossfire, you suffer the effects of an argument or dispute between two people or groups.
“When the two taxi drivers started to argue, their passengers were caught in the crossfire.”

clear the air

If you decide to clear the air, you try to remove the causes of fear, worry or suspicion by talking about the problem openly.
“The atmosphere had become so unpleasant that he decided it was time to clear the air.”

dead set against

If you are dead set against something, you are strongly opposed to it.
“My father wanted a dog, but my mother was dead set against the idea.”

devil’s advocate

During a discussion or debate, if you play devil’s advocate, you pretend to be against an idea or plan in order to determine the validity of the arguments in favour of it.
“She decided to play devil’s advocatejust to see how strongly people felt about the project.”

fight like cat and dog

Two people who fight or argue like cat and dog frequently have violent arguments, even though they are fond of each other.
“They fight like cat and dog but they’re still together after 30 years.”

go against the tide/stream

If you go against the tide (or the stream), you refuse to conform to current trends, or the opinions or behaviour of other people.
“Bill can be difficult to work with; he constantly goes against the tide.”

hammer and tongs

If people are going at it hammer and tongs, they are arguing fiercely, with a lot of energy and noise.
“Our neighbours are going at it hammer and tongs again. They’re constantly arguing.”

let sleeping dogs lie

If you tell someone to let sleeping dogs lie, you are asking them not to interfere with a situation because they could cause problems.
“Look, they’ve settled their differences. It’s time to let sleeping dogs lie.”

at loggerheads

If you are at loggerheads with a person or organisation, you disagree very strongly with them.
“The management and the trade unions are at loggerheads over the decision to close down the plant.”

lock horns

If you lock horns with somebody, you argue or fight with them about something.
“If there is another incident like that in the building, the occupants will be locking horns!”

no love lost

To say that there is no love lost between two people or organisations means that they do not like each other at all.
“There is no love lost between the Conservatives and Democrats.”

make a mountain out of a molehill

If someone makes a mountain out of a molehill, they make a small, unimportant problem seem much more serious than it is.
“Don’t make a mountain out of molehill! It’s not a major problem.”

a moot point

A subject which gives rise to argument or debate is called a moot point.
“Whether Bach composed it himself or not is a moot point among musicians.”

nothing doing!

This term means that there is no way you would accept to do what is proposed.
“Work on Sunday? Nothing doing!

at odds (with someone)

If one person is at odds with another, they disagree with each other.
“Sam is at odds with his father over the purchase of a new tractor.”

olive branch

If a person or organisation holds out an olive branch to another, they show that they want to end a disagreement and make peace.
“The protesters finally accepted the olive branch extended to them.”

out of the question

Something which is out of the question is impossible and is therefore not worth discussing.
“Buying a new car is out of the question – we simply can’t afford it.”

over my dead body!

This expression is used by someone who absolutely refuses to allow someone to do something.
“Mum, can I get by nose pierced?”  “Over my dead body!

pick a fight

Someone who picks a fight deliberately looks for an opportunity to start a quarrel or begin an argument.
“Our new neighbour seizes every occasion to pick a fight.”

pick holes

If someone picks holes in something such as a plan, an idea or a proposal, they criticize it or try to find fault with it.
“Why don’t you make a suggestion instead of picking holes in all my ideas!”

press something home

If you press something home, you insist on a point in a discussion or argument.
“Her lawyer kept pressing home the fact that she was a single mother.”

a running battle

If two people or groups have a running battle with each other, they argue or disagree about something over a long period of time.
“There’s been a running battle between the local authorities and the population over the school bus route.”

send someone packing

If you send someone packing, you tell them to leave, in a very forceful and unfriendly way.
“When Amanda discovered that Jack was unfaithful, she sent him packing.”

shouting match

An argument or debate where people shout loudly at each other is called a shouting match.
“The debate between the two politicians turned into a shouting match which spoiled the event for viewers.”

sink one’s differences

If people or organisations sink their differences, they decide to forget their disagreements.
“We must sink our differences and build a peaceful community.”

sit on the fence

If you sit on the fence, you avoid taking sides in a discussion or argument.
“It’s an important issue. You can’t continue to sit on the fence!”

skating in thin ice

If you are skating on thin ice, you are doing or saying something that could cause disagreement or trouble.
“Don’t mention that subject during the negotiations or you could be skating on thin ice.”

split hairs

If you split hairs, you pay too much attention to differences that are very small or unimportant.
“If we start splitting hairs, we’ll never reach an agreement.”

water under the bridge

If something difficult or unpleasant took place in the past but is no longer important, it is referred to as water under the bridge.
“They had a serious disagreement in the past, but that’s water under the bridge today.”

wipe the slate clean

If you wipe the slate clean, you make a fresh start and forget all past offences, disagreements or mistakes.
“When their father died, Bob and his brother decided to wipe the slate clean and forget the old family quarrels.”