List of P Idioms:

A decorative text logo with the words "P" idioms: A list of common English idioms starting with the letter "P"

Check out this P idioms list. Do you think idioms are “a PAIN in the neck” to learn? Don’t “PUSH the panic button.” Clear definitions and examples make it easy to learn common idiomatic expressions. When you're first learning idioms, just focus on noticing them and understanding them. Later you can use them when you speak if you choose.

You remember what an idiom is, right?

An idiom is a group of words that has a meaning that is different from the individual words that make up the expression.

The main  word in this list of P idioms starts with the letter "P" but I've also created pages of expressions with other letters of the alphabet: click here to go to the main idioms page.

P Idioms


at a snail’s pace:  very slowly (as slow as a snail would move).

  • Traffic was moving at a snail’s pace so it took two hours to get home from work.
  • What’s wrong with the Internet? It’s working at a snail’s pace today.

keep pace (with someone/something):  to go as fast as or stay at the same level as someone or something else.

  • We’ve got to hire 2-3 more employees to keep pace with the orders coming in.
  • kept pace with the leaders until the last lap of the race but then everyone sprinted ahead.

set the pace:  doing something that creates a standard.

  • Apple continues to set the pace with innovations in personal electronics.
  • I doesn’t matter what I try to do, my dog always sets the pace for our walks together.

a change of pace:  to do something different than before.

  • Why don’t we go to a museum for a change of pace?
  • I decided to bring my lunch today for a change of pace.


ahead of the pack:  doing something more successfully than others in your group (or people you are competing against).

  • I’m always reviewing my notes and reading all of the materials before class to stay ahead of the pack.
  • If you want to get ahead of the pack,  you should invest in the finest quality suits and accessories.

lead the pack:  to be the person in a group who is the furthest ahead or doing the best in an activity.

  • I’d like you to meet Samantha, who leads the pack in sales for our company.
  • My team is leading the pack in our regional soccer division.

pack someone off:  to send someone away.

  • Every summer we pack our kids off to camp and they love it.
  • When I was 15 years-old, my parents packed me off to Europe to live with my aunt for a year and it changed my life.


on the same page:  to think the same way about something.

  • Are we on the same page about the budget for this project or do we need to discuss it further?
  • My parents and I are not on the same page about what college I’m going to.

turn the page:  to stop dealing with something and begin something new.

  • After 15 years working for a bank, I decided it was time to turn the page and became a yoga teacher.
  • Perhaps you should turn the page on this relationship and find someone who will treat you better.


a pain in the neck / butt:  someone or something that is irritating or annoying.

  • Having to drop my kids off to baseball practice in the afternoons is a real pain in the neck.
  • Dealing with the IT department is such a pain in the butt but what else can I do?

it pains someone to do something:  having to make a big effort to do something.

  • Does it really pain you to put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher?
  • It pains my husband to take out the garbage but I do everything else around the house.
  • It pains me to call my mother every weekend but I know she really appreciates it.

take/go to great pains to do something:  to make a lot of effort to do something.

  • It took me great pains to make dinner so you’re going to eat it whether you like it or not.
  • Please don’t go to great pains to pick me up at the airport—if it’s inconvenient I’ll take a cab.


pale in comparison (to/with something):  to not be as good or important as something else.

  • This wine pales in comparison to what we drink in France.
  • The quality of these running shoes pales in comparison to my Adidas.
  • I think Justin Bieber pales in comparison to Justin Timberlake.


grease someone’s palm:  to give someone money to get them to do what you want.

  • I guess I need to grease the hostess’ palm to get a reservation at that restaurant.
  • I wish I could just grease someone’s palm to get accepted into Harvard.

in the palm of one’s hand to control someone or something.

  • I’ve been giving great advice to these clients for so long, now they’re in the palm of my hand and except all of my suggestions without question.
  • My brother has my dad in the palm of his hand so I always go to him when I need help.

palm off something (palm something off):  to persuade someone to take something.

  • Don’t try to palm off your chores to your little sister this time.
  • I haven’t been able to palm my work shift off to anyone so I won’t be at the party.


pan out:  when something happens or is successful. 

  • If my acting career doesn’t pan out I’m going to be a drama teacher.
  • The job didn’t pan out because the salary they offered was too low.


push / press / hit the panic button:  to respond to a situation in a frightened or panicked way.

  • Don’t press the panic button every time people don’t “like” your Facebook posts—it makes you look like a 14-year-old.
  • This time I’m not going to hit the panic button and immediately sell all my stock if there’s a downturn in the market.
  • When the police arrived at our house I pressed the panic button sobbing because I thought something happened to my children. Actually, they were only going door-to-door collecting donations for a charity.


caught with one’s pants down:  to be in an embarrassing situation or be discovered doing something wrong.

  • caught my daughter with her pants down practicing singing into her hairbrush.
  • We caught the manager with her pants down taking lots of office supplies home.

scare the pants off someone:  to really scare or frighten someone.

  • When I turned on the light and my cat was staring me in the face it scared the pants off me.
  • Agggghhhh! Don’t walk up behind us so quietly like that—you scared the pants off us!

wear the pants:  to be the person who makes all of the decisions or is in charge of a marriage (or relationship).

  • My grandma was a tiny little lady but she definitely wore the pants in her marriage.
  • We finally broke up because both of us kept fighting over who would wear the pants in our relationship.


on paper:  in theory something looks good or possible but it may or may not be that way in reality.

  • On paper this looks like the shortest route to the cabin but I guess it will depend on traffic and the condition of the roads.
  • Be sure to call her employment references! Anyone can make themselves look good on paper.
  • On paper he looked like the perfect date.  In reality, he hadn't updated his profile or picture in twenty years and was really old.

(leave) a paper trail:  (to leave) a series of written documents that show what someone did or how something happened.

  • My wife tried to hide her store purchases by paying with cash but she left a paper trail of receipts and clothing tags in her desk drawer.
  • If your boss is asking you to do things against company policy leave a paper trail by confirming his instructions back to him through email.


on par with someone/something:  to be at the same level as someone or something else.

  • I think your performance is on par with that of my previous assistant even though she had a lot more experience.
  • Service on Virgin Atlantic is definitely not on par with Singapore Airlines' or Emirates’.

par for the course:  something that is normal or expected for the situation.

  • If you don't start shopping until Christmas Eve, waiting in long lines is par for the course.
  • If you want to be a model, being 10 pounds underweight is par for the course.

up to par:  at the usual and expected standard.

  • Their customer service is no longer up to par so we switched to another company.
  • I’m sorry, but your singing isn’t up to par with the rest of the group so we’ve got to find someone else.


rain on someone’s parade:  to disappoint or prevent someone from enjoying something by criticizing their plans, goals or dreams.

  • Just because her score wasn’t as good as yours didn’t mean you had tell everyone you were better and rain on her parade.
  • Don’t tell dad your plans or he’ll rain on your parade like usual.


parcel out something (parcel something out):  to divide and give out portions of something to different people.

  • We’ve got to parcel out the supplies to each department.
  • When do you want to parcel the assignments out to the board of directors?


do one’s part:  to do the part of the activity one is responsible for doing. 

  • If everyone does their part and gets $1,000 in pledges we’ll easily reach our goal.
  • I always do my part and then you expect me to help you do yours—it’s not fair.

part and parcel (of something):  something that goes together with something else and cannot be separated from it.

  • Working long hours is part and parcel of being a partner at a big law firm.
  • Spending an hour driving through rush-hour traffic is part and parcel for commuting into the city from the suburbs.

take part (in something):  to be involved in an activity.

  • I’m so sorry but I won’t be able to take part in your wedding because I’ll be in Europe all summer.
  • I hope I can take part in the festival as a volunteer this year.


a parting of the ways / part ways:  the separation of people because of disagreement.

  • She’s so impossible to work with that there’s been a parting of ways with three different assistants in six months.
  • I had to part ways with my business partner because he wasn’t bringing in any clients.


the party is over:  the ending of something successful.

  • We finished first in our volleyball league but sadly the party is over.


make a pass at someone:  to flirt or act in the way that shows interest in another person (especially sexual interest).

  • I was so embarrassed when my little brother made a pass at my best friend from college.
  • I ignore anyone who makes a pass at me when they’re drunk.

pass along something (pass something along):   to give something to someone.

  • Could you pass along this report to Janice the next time you go to the accounting department?
  • I heard your dog died—please pass my deepest sympathy along to your sister. 

to pass away:  to die.

  • If you want to be polite you should say, “I’m sorry to hear your father passed away,” and not “I’m sorry your father died.”
  • It’s been a hard year because both my parents passed away during the holidays.

pass for someone/something:  to look like or seem to be someone or something else.

  • Now that you’ve colored your gray hair, you could definitely pass for 35 or 40.
  • With all that makeup you could pass for a clown.

mention (something) in passing:  to briefly mention something without making it seem very important.

  • Your mother mentioned you were coming in passing but I wasn’t sure what time you would arrive.
  • Since you only mentioned it in passing, I didn’t think anything further about it.

pass judgment (on someone/something):  to give a strong opinion, especially criticizing someone or something.

  • You shouldn’t pass judgment on a religion you know nothing about.
  • Don’t pass judgment on my new girlfriend until you actually meet her.

pass the buck:  to shift one’s responsibility for doing something to someone else.

  • You’ll never be successful if you always try to pass the buck.
  • My coworker tried to pass the buck again but I told my boss how many projects I’m already working on.

pass something off as something (pass off something as something):  to pretend that something is something different from what it really is.

  • This annoying man at one of the markets in Rome seriously tried to pass off a fake Louis Vuitton bag as an original.
  • Don’t try to pass off what you said as a compliment—I know you think I look fat in this dress.

pass oneself off as someone/something:  to pretend to be someone or something else.

  • Those girls tried to pass themselves off as my classmates in order to get a student discount.
  • Can you believe she was able to pass herself off as one of Madonna’s backup dancers and actually got backstage at the concert?

pass out:  to lose consciousness.

  • I was so tired that I passed out in front of the TV as soon as I sat down on the sofa.
  • I had five glasses of wine and then passed out in the cab on the way home.

pass over someone/something:  to ignore or not choose someone or something.

  • For the third time, I was passed over for a promotion so I’ve decided to quit.
  • The teacher passed over me each time I raise my hand to answer a question—I don’t think he likes me.

pass up something (pass something up):   to not take advantage of or reject an opportunity.

  • Don’t pass up any volunteer opportunities in college—even though you don’t get paid, they’re great experience.
  • I had to pass up a great deal on airfare to Florida because I don’t get paid until Friday.


greener pastures:  an improved situation.

  • Many adults go back to college in search of greener pastures in a second career.
  • I hope you’ll find greener pastures when you move back to your hometown.


a pat on the back:  praise or approval.

  • Don’t expect a pat on the back every time you do something right.
  • I got nice pat on the back for the newsletter article I wrote.


patch up something (patch something up):  to make a relationship good again.

  • I hope you can patch things up with your roommate since you’ll be living together for another six months.
  • patched things up with my mom and apologized for yelling at her.


cross one’s path:  to happen to someone.

  • If the opportunity to work on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign ever crosses my path, I would immediately accept it.
  • Nothing interesting crossed my path during the month I was in Spain so I decided to travel on to Italy a week earlier.

off the beaten path:  thinking/doing something different than the usual things people do;  going where other people normally don’t go.

  • Instead of backpacking through Europe I went off the beaten path and spent a year traveling through Africa.
  • People who go off the beaten path usually gain the most valuable experience.

the path of least resistance:  the easiest possible way.

  • Going to college after high school is the path of least resistance but I’ve decided to launch my own business instead.
  • My whole life I’ve taken the path of least resistance so no wonder I’m bored and hopeless.


give someone pause:  to make someone stop and carefully think about something.

  • Your comments that I’m always so negative really gave me pause and I realized you’re right.
  • I hope this performance review will give my assistant pause and get him to be more serious about his work.


pound the pavement:  to look for a job or support for something.

  • I’ve been pounding the pavement for six months and still haven’t had one interview.
  • I had to pound the pavement for almost a year before I got this job.


pig out:  to eat too much of something at one time.

  • I need to get some more snacks for tonight because my boys like to pig out while watching the football game.
  • I gained 12 pounds on our vacation because I felt obligated to pig out at every meal since food and drinks were included in the price.

when pigs fly:  never.

  • When my boss asked me to make him coffee I told him it'd be ready when pigs fly. 
  • I guess I can expect you to clean your room when pigs fly?
  • "Do you think I'll get promoted to the senior media associate position?"  "When pigs fly!  You'll have to get a degree in media relations and speak at least two languages fluently."


couch potato:  A very lazy person who sits on a couch watching television all day.

  • I dated a really cute guy but soon discovered he was a couch potato.  I suggested many different activities we could do together but all he wanted to do was sit and watch tv.
  • If you start smoking pot you'll soon be a couch potato and fat from eating snacks all day.

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