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Your English: Idioms: beat

Type: Article

Tim Bowen isn’t beating around the bush in this instalment of Your English. We say you can’t beat it!

‘It’s time that politicians stop beating about the bush and start to find some real solutions to this crisis.’ If someone beats about the bush, they spend a lot of time talking about something but avoid getting to the main point or finding a solution, often because it is embarrassing for them.

If people beat a path to someone’s door, they go to their house or their place of work in large numbers, as in ‘She must be sick and tired of all these journalists beating a path to her door’.

To beat someone to it means to do something before someone else, as in ‘When I went to take the keys I found that someone had beaten me to it’.

The expression It beats me can be used to emphasize that you don’t know something or you don’t understand something, ‘Why did he do such a stupid thing?’ ‘It beats me’.

In a situation where you have tried doing something different from a lot of other people but have failed, so you decide to start doing what they do, you can say If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em (note that the full form them doesn’t work in this expression), as in ‘They’ve always resisted online sales but with profits falling they’ve finally decided that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’.

To show that something is particularly good, the expression You can’t beat it can be used, as in ‘After a hard day’s work you can’t beat a cup of cocoa and a good book’. 

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