Turn the tables

  • Turn the tables is an idiom that has been in use for about 400 years. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words, or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, in the same boat, bite the bullet, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. We will examine the meaning of the idiom turn the tables, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.


    To turn the tables means to reverse fortunes, to cause the dominant adversary to become the weaker participant and the weaker participant to become the dominant one. For instance, if a baseball team’s score is behind their opponent’s score and they suddenly drive in several runs that put their score higher than their opponent, they may be said to have turned the tables. The expression turn the tables comes from backgammon and related games that were once called tables games. If one turned the tables, he reversed the fortunes of the players; the person who was winning became the one who was losing, and vice versa. Related phrases are turns the tables, turned the tables, turning the tables.



    Trainer Tony Pike doesn’t have to think too far back to find a reason Loire can turn the tables on Jennifer Eccles in the New Zealand Oaks at Trentham tomorrow. (The New Zealand Herald)

    VERITY’S PLOT Hollyoaks’ Verity will ‘turn the tables’ on evil dad Edward as she works to get Tony’s marriage to Diane back on track (The Sun)

    THE STATE DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTION on Wednesday tried to turn the tables on a prisoner who alleged the agency violated his civil rights and assaulted him by accusing the inmate of attacking officers during a cell search by a tactical team. (CommonWealth Magazine)

    Through these brief incidents, Swift pokes fun at what she considers to be masculine norms and highlights the double standard women face by turning the tables. (Michigan Daily)

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