Blood, sweat and tears: phrases with ‘blood’

an artist's impression of red blood cells in a blood vessel
SCIEPRO/Science Photo Library/GettyImages

by Liz Walter

We might not like the thought of blood, but there are lots of useful phrases that contain this word!

I’ll start with the phrase in the title. When we talk about blood, sweat and tears, we mean a lot of very hard work. Similarly, a very emphatic way of saying that someone works extremely hard to achieve something is that they sweat blood:

We built our own house, but it took blood, sweat and tears.

They have been sweating blood to pay for their children’s education.

Not surprisingly, many phrases with ‘blood’ are connected with violence. We use the phrase blood and guts to refer to extreme violence, for instance in a film, and we sometimes use the word bloodbath to describe an event in which many people are killed or injured:

It’s a great horror movie and not all blood and guts.

It began as an argument between two families and ended in a bloodbath.

If you are after someone’s blood, you are very angry and want to punish them (though not necessarily physically!). If you say that someone has blood on their hands, you mean that they are responsible for someone’s death:

Mum’s found the broken plate and she’s after your blood!

If the government doesn’t introduce more safety measures, it will have blood on its hands.

The word ‘blood’ also occurs in phrases to do with family. If someone is your (own) flesh and blood, they are a member of your family. The phrase blood is thicker than water means that the most important relationships we have are with our family. Similarly, if a talent or quality is in your blood, it is something you have inherited from older generations of your family:

Who can you trust more than your own flesh and blood?

He’ll support his brother, not me. After all, blood is thicker than water.

My parents are both violinists, so music’s in my blood.

The word ‘blood’ is also used to talk about feelings. If something makes your blood run cold, it makes you very scared, and if it makes your blood boil, it makes you very angry:

When I saw the police car outside her house, my blood ran cold.

The man’s rude remarks made her blood boil.

Finally, if getting someone to tell you something or give you something is like getting blood out of/from a stone, it is very hard to do:

I want him to tell me what’s wrong, but it’s like getting blood out of a stone.

I hope this post has helped you learn some new English phrases without blood, sweat and tears!

17 thoughts on “Blood, sweat and tears: phrases with ‘blood’

  1. gignu

    Great post! I’m just reading the book “Cold Blood” which is about a cold-blooded murderer. That’s also a good phrase xD

  2. Katelyn

    We dont use the phrase “blood is thicker than water” correctly. It doesn’t actually mean that family is closer. Cuz what would it be closer in comparison of? Water? Back in the day the soldiers used the expression meaning that the blood shed with their fellow soldier’s is thicker than water from the womb.

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