Truth & Lies Idioms

“Liars need to have good memories.”

a French proverb

Before we get to the idioms related to truth and lies, let’s look at how the nouns are usually used:

TRUTH COLLOCATIONS 

  • to tell the truth: Tell me the truth. Did you break the vase? (say vs. tell)
  • to learn the truth: I’ve got to learn the truth about my family.
  • to find out the truth: When did you find out the truth? – Recently.
  • to accept the truth: It may be hard to accept the sad truth.
  • to hide the truth: Don’t try to hide the truth. The truth will out (used for saying that people will find out the truth about something, even if you try to keep it a secret).

Common adjective + truth collocations are: absolute, whole, full, simple, awful, horrible (truth)

LIE COLLOCATIONS

  • to tell a lie: Don’t tell me lies!
  • to swallow a lie: How could she swallow (believe) such a blatant /ˈbleɪt(ə)nt/ (obviouslie?
  • to live a lie: He lived a lie for 20 years, pretending to be the faithful husband of two different women living in two different towns.

Common adjective + lie collocations are: big, little, complete, white (a lie told to avoid making someone upset), elaborate /ɪˈlæb(ə)rət/ (detailed and complicated) (lie)

TRUTH IDIOMS

Idiom Meaning Example
If truth be told/known

in truth (formal)

to be honest

frankly speaking

If truth be told, I’ve never really loved him.

In truth, the lecture could be better.

nothing could be further from the truth  it’s a complete lie He is a bad person. – Nothing could be further from the truth! He is the best person I’ve ever known.
economical with the truth 

(humorous)

avoiding telling the truth, lying I admit I’ve been economical with the truth.
to have a/the ring of truth to seem to be true Do you believe his story? – It has the ring of truth.
to spill (spilt; spilt) the beans  to tell someone something, often something that should be kept secret Come on, spill the beans. Are you organizing a surprise party?
spill (spilt; spilt) the guts (American slang) tell me everything you know (about sth.) You’re in big trouble, so spill the guts!
honesty is the best policy it’s always better to be honest Honesty is the best policy. Just tell them what you really think.
in all honesty (colloquial) to tell you the truth  (especially when the truth is not something pleasant to hear) I can’t, in all honesty, say that I like your singing.
in (all) fairness used for making your criticism of someone or something seem less strong I should say in all fairness to him that he’s not the most prominent scientist.
to come (came; come) clean to tell the truth about something that you have kept secret You need to come clean about/over/on your plans. Come clean with me!
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“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Charles Spurgeon

LIES IDIOMS

Idiom Meaning Example
to throw (threw; thrown) dust in one’s eyes to mislead (misled; misled), deceive sb. Don’t even try to throw dust in my eyes! I see right through you (I understand the truth about you).
to pull the wool over sb’s eyes to deceive, trick sb. It’s so typical of him to try to pull the wool over people’s eyes. Don’t trust him!
funny business dishonest actions or behavior intended to trick sb. If you see any funny business, report to the authorities.
monkey business  behavior that is not acceptable or is dishonest The teacher suspected that there had been some monkey business going on while he was out of the room.
to lie through one’s teeth to tell sb. a complete lie He’s lying through his teeth! Don’t you see?
to take (took; taken) sb. for a ride to cheat or swindle sb. (to get money dishonestly from sb. by deceiving or cheating them) They won’t take me for a ride! I know what they are up to (I know what bad (often illegal) things they are doing).
smoke and mirrors behavior or information designed to hide the truth about a situation or create a false impression The new budget is nothing but smoke and mirrors (it’s just smoke and mirrors).
to stretch the truth  to say sth. that is not completely honest in order to make sb. or sth. seem better than it really is Don’t stretch the truth about how you got the A on the test.
to bend (bent; bent) the truth/the facts to say sth. that is not completely true in order to achieve an aim We all sometimes bend the truth, don’t we?
to play games to try to deceive sb. She’s just playing games. Her words mean nothing.

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