The word ‘call’ can mean many different things. As a verb, the meaning is to shout or contact by phone.

For example:

  • I’ve been calling your name for ages; didn’t you hear me? (shout)
  • I called Liam but he didn’t answer. (contact by phone)


Call is a regular verb. The past tense and past participle is called.

idiomatic phrasal verbs

Did you know phrasal verbs are sometimes used in idioms? See if you can spot any. If you don’t know any phrasal verbs with ‘call’, click here to learn them.

Check out the grammar section if you want to learn more about verbs.

idioms list with ‘call’

call a spade a spade – talk about something truthfully even if it’s not polite
e.g. Mickey calls a spade a spade. He’s a bit blunt but at least he’s honest.

call it a day – stop working on a job/task/relationship because you’re tired or it’s not working
e.g. Let’s work for another 15 minutes then we’ll call it a day.

call of nature – you need to go to the toilet
e.g. I need to answer a call of nature then I’ll be with you.

call off the dogs – stop someone behaving aggressively towards another person
e.g. Call off the dogs Harry. He’s apologised, let that be the end of it.

call/take the register – read out loud an official list of names
e.g. When the teacher calls the register, can you say ‘yes’ when he says my name?

call the shots – be in charge, make the decisions
e.g. Luke is in charge of the project. He’ll be calling the shots.

call the tune – be in control and make all the important decisions
e.g. Don’t ask me, I don’t call the tune around here.

call time on – end something
e.g. Barker has called time on his footballing career, he’ll retire at the end of the season.

pot calling the kettle black – a person criticises someone for doing something they also do
e.g. Pot calling the kettle black Lisa. You can’t tell me to stop smoking, you smoke.

too close to call – you can’t predict the outcome, it will be by a small margin
e.g. The election is too close to call, either of them 3 could win.

Let’s see these idioms with pictures and meaning using real-life scenarios.

verb phrases - call
Idioms with verbs - CALL - call a spade a spade
Idioms with verbs - CALL - call it a day
Idioms with verbs - CALL - call of nature
verb phrase - call off the dogs
Idioms with verbs - CALL - call the shots
Idioms with verbs - CALL - call the tune
verb phrase - call time on
Idioms with verbs - CALL - call/take the register
Idioms with verbs - CALL - pot calling the kettle black
Idioms with verbs - CALL - too close to call


Hey, did you know the verb ‘call’ has many phrasal verbs. Since you like idioms and phrases, you obviously want to improve your fluency and speak like a native.

Am I right?


I thought you might like to learn the phrasal verbs with ‘call’ too. They are very common in informal English and great to know/be able to understand if you happen to be speaking to a native. We use them all the time, like literally ALL the time.