He’s pulling your leg! Idioms with ‘pull’.


by Liz Walter

There are a surprising number of commonly used idioms that contain the verb ‘pull’. This post will look at some of the most useful ones.

Let’s start with the idiom in the title. If you accuse someone of pulling your leg, you mean that you believe they are teasing you by saying something that isn’t true. If we think that someone is teasing us in that way, we might say Pull the other leg/one!’, or even the longer version Pull the other one – it’s got bells on!. This shows that we don’t believe them.

She’s just pulling your leg – she doesn’t really expect you to do all the cooking.

You have a pet lion? Pull the other one!

We use ‘pull’ in several idioms connected with people making an effort and doing what they should do. If someone pulls their weight, they do their share of the work and if you pull out all the stops, you make as much effort as possible to ensure that something is successful or impressive.

Anyone who doesn’t pull their weight will have to leave the project.

They pulled out all the stops to make sure the president enjoyed his visit.

On the other hand, if someone tells you to pull your socks up, they are saying in an angry way that you should do something better.

You need to pull your socks up and start taking your studies a bit more seriously!

There are two nice ‘pull’ idioms connected with stopping things. If you pull the plug on an activity, you stop it, often by not spending any more money on it, and if you pull the rug from under someone’s feet, you suddenly stop supporting them or do something that causes serious problems for them:

They decided to pull the plug on their latest venture after disappointing sales in the first year.

We were planning a surprise party for their anniversary but they pulled the rug from under our feet by announcing they were going away on a cruise.

If you say that someone didn’t pull their punches, or didn’t pull any punches, you mean that they say something in a very direct way, without trying to be kind or tactful:

She told me exactly what she thought of my novel and she didn’t pull any punches.

And finally – a rather painful image! – if you say that doing something is like pulling teeth, you mean that it is very difficult and often slow to do:

Getting my boss to agree to any change is like pulling teeth.

I hope that learning these useful idioms won’t be like pulling teeth, so try to pull out all the stops to learn them!

33 thoughts on “He’s pulling your leg! Idioms with ‘pull’.

  1. Miguel Martinez

    Is “pull someone out of your way” an idiom, I wonder?I’m doing my best learning new words and idioms using Cambridge dictionary.

    1. jason

      also : Pull the wool over ones eyes.
      : Pulled a rookie maneuver .
      : push and pull.
      : pull out all the stops.
      : pull a stunt like that again

  2. Guruprasad Pavanje

    * Pull a fast one – my favourite!
    * Pulling the right strings
    * Pull over
    I liked “pull the other one – it’s got bells on!”.

  3. J.Baptiste N.

    Hi dear friend. Thanks very much for your teaching us idioms.this is very useful and important lesson. ________________________________


    The post was created in the delightful style of Liz Walter briefly and contently.
    Nothing superfluous is convincing and beautiful.
    Thank you, Liz!

  5. Suresh Kumar Agrahari

    Thank you sir for writing this type of blog and your blog is Panacea for us in improving my spoken English and writing in English as well.
    Keep teaching us through your blog .

  6. Valeria cervantes

    I liked your site very much. I am brazilian and love to learn new words and idioms. But i m not sure most of your terms are UK ?
    Do you know any sight line this with US words and idioms?
    My kindest regards

    1. Liz Walter

      Hi Valeria: Thanks for your comment. I am British, but I do try to mark terms that are only British and provide US alternatives. So you can be pretty confident that you’ll be OK if you learn these terms.

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