Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"
Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"

English idioms are vital on the IELTS Speaking exam.

You must use idiomatic language to score 7+ on test day.

Today we’ll share idioms containing the verb “hold.”

We’ll provide example sentences for IELTS topics.

Practice using these to boost IELTS Speaking scores!

Where to find the rest of the series

Today’s episode is part 3 of a 3-part series.

Part 1 dove into the differences between the verb “hold” and the phrasal verb “hold up.”

This was episode 2158 of the All Ears English podcast: English Vocabulary Tips That Hold Up.

Click here to follow the All Ears English podcast!

Part 2 shared several meanings of “hold-up” that we use often at work.

You can find that episode here: Achieve Success at Work by Avoiding These Hold-Ups.

Be sure to follow The Business English Podcast for vocabulary and tips!

Today we’ll dive into idioms with the verb “hold.”

#1: Hold one’s feet to the fire

This means that one is being forced into a particular behavior.

If you’re doing or saying something you’re hesitant about, this idiom is perfect.

  • “I didn’t want to tell him, but he held my feet to the fire!”

It also works great as a filler phrase for IELTS.

  • “I’m not sure what I think about that, but if you really held my feet to the fire I’d have to say…”

This would be useful when answering many different questions.


In your opinion, should children be required to study art?

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#2: Doesn’t hold a candle to

This means something is not as good as something else.

We also say it “doesn’t compare” to the thing that is better.

I visited a museum in my hometown and, as I’m sure you’d imagine, it doesn’t hold a candle to the Louvre or the Met, but it was actually pretty impressive!

Many Speaking Part 1 questions will ask you to compare preferences.


Do you enjoy watching sports on TV?

#3: Hold one’s own 

This idiom means to be pretty good at something.

It doesn’t mean you are exceptionally talented.

Instead, it means you are average.

  • I’m not great at painting but I hold my own! 

This idiom is useful all over the IELTS exam.

For example, you may need to describe yourself or another person on Speaking Part 2.


Describe the smartest person you know.

You can definitely share about something you “hold your own” at.

Why you need idioms on IELTS

Idiomatic language is required on the IELTS Speaking exam.

In the scoring system, it is a requirement to score band 7 or higher.

Phrasal verbs and idioms satisfy this requirement.

You must be able to use idioms word for word in the proper context.

Practice using today’s idioms in sample speaking answers so you are ready for test day!


Idiomatic language is a requirement to score 7+ on IELTS Speaking.

Today’s idioms with the verb “hold” are useful for a myriad of IELTS questions.

Practice answering IELTS Speaking questions aloud using these idioms.

This way you’ll be ready on test day!

For all the strategies you need on IELTS, sign up for 3 Keys IELTS!

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

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