idiom: to take the bull by the horns

Welcome to my first blog entry of 2011! Because it’s a new year and people often make resolutions to improve their lives at this time of year, I thought I’d teach you an idiom that is connected with that: to “take the bull by the horns”. We use it when we want to talk about directly and actively trying to get what we want rather than trying to get it passively or indirectly. For example:

A: I have a problem with my neighbor. He’s really noisy at night. I’m going to complain to my landlord about him.

B: If I were you, I’d take the bull by the horns and talk to him directly. I think that’s a much better way.

I haven’t been able to lose much weight, so I’m going to take the bull by the horns and hire a trainer at my local gym.

A: How did you get a promotion so quickly at this company?

B: I took the bull by the horns and told my boss I wanted the manager’s job.

If you want to date Sarah, you should take the bull by the horns and just ask her out.

We always use this idiom in positive sentences, but we don’t use it in negative sentences. Also, it’s rare to use it in questions. I said we can use this idiom at the beginning of a new year because that’s when people feel most motivated to go after what they want directly. So I hope in 2011 that you can get what you most want. Just remember to take the bull by the horns and do it!   🙂



  1. Javier Bandrés Said:

    Hi Mike,
    This is the first time I enter your blog and I like it, indeed. I am very interested in idioms, and I try to learn some of them correctly and then use them in my everyday English. In Spain we use the same expression, and it’s very popular. Another one we use a lot is “like a bull in a china shop”, but the difference is we change the kind of animal and our expression is talking about “an elephant”. I suppose the result will be definitive, anyway!.
    Thank you for your attention.

    • Hi Javier.

      Thank you for writing in. That’s really interesting about the change from bull to elephant in that idiom. I didn’t know that. I would like to learn Spanish one day. Anyway, I hope you have a wonderful 2011!


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