The English We Speak – To keep a lid on it

When you say keep a lid on something, it means keep it secret – or keep it quiet about it…

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The English We Speak from BBC Learning English
Li: Thanks for the coffee, Neil. What a good idea to present The English We Speak from a coffee shop!
Neil: Yes, Li, it’s good to get out of the studio – and anyway, I get the coffee for free here.
Li: You don’t pay for it?! So why do you get it for free?
Neil: Contacts.
Li: Err… contacts?
Neil: Yes, people I know. Don’t tell anyone but my friend works here and… well… when the boss isn’t around, he gives me the coffee for free.
Li: He gives it to you for free?
Neil: Ssshhh! Keep your voice down. If he gets found out he’ll get the sack – you know, lose his job. We need to keep a lid on it.
Li: Keep a lid on it?! Why do we need to keep a lid on the coffee? Are we trying to hide it?
Neil: No Li. When you say keep a lid on something, it means keep it secret – or keep it quiet about it
Li: Oh I see.
Neil: The phrase can also mean keep something strongly under control. Like your loud voice – control it and don’t tell anyone! Keep a lid on it.
Li: We had better hear some examples while I drink my coffee… quietly!
We need to keep a lid on the company merger – if the newspapers get to hear about this, our share price will drop.
Our baby is due in November but keep a lid on the news – we haven’t told our parents yet.
Please – keep a lid on your emotions – otherwise the waiter is going to ask us to leave!
Li: So that is keeping a lid on something. Mmm, this coffee does taste good but I don’t like the idea that you got it for free – it’s dishonest… I might have to tell someone about this dishonest behaviour.
Neil: Ah! You mean you’re going ‘to lift the lid’ on what I’m doing – that means to tell someone about something bad – well, you can but you know what that will mean?
Li: What’s that?
Neil: You’ll be buying the coffee next time – and it’s not cheap!
Li: Oh right – let’s just keep it our little secret for now shall we?
Neil: OK Li! Both: Bye.


BBC The English We Speak

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