Number one for English language teachers

Your English: Idioms: card

Type: Article

Tim Bowen shows he has a couple of cards up his sleeve!

‘With a general election looming, it’s high time the leaders of the main parties put their cards on the table’. If you put your cards on the table, you tell people exactly what you are thinking or what you are intending to do, as in ‘Right. I’m going to put my cards on the table. If I don’t get a pay rise, I’m leaving’. 

On the other hand, if you hold your cards close to your chest, you don’t tell other people what you are thinking or planning, as in ‘The management are proposing some radical changes but at the moment they’re holding their cards close to their chest’.  

If you hold all the cards, you are in a good position when you are competing against someone because you have all the advantages, but if the cards are stacked against you, you are in a disadvantageous position and will probably fail 

If you have a card up your sleeve, you have a secret advantage that you can use later, as in ‘It might seem that he’s lost the argument but he’s got a couple more cards up his sleeve, I believe’. 

The expression if you play your cards right is used for saying that if someone does something right and is lucky, they might get what they want, as in ‘You’ve got a good chance of getting the job if you play your cards right’. 

If something is on the cards, it is very likely to happen, as in ‘He’s favourite to win the tournament but he’s two sets down at the moment and a real shock is on the cards’.

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