If you’re learning American English, you should know that the expression “branch out” doesn’t just describe a tree pushing limbs out of its trunk. Americans also use it to say they’re striking off in a new direction or trying something new.
Below are six more idiomatic phrases that also take their inspiration from trees:
Bark up the wrong tree
What it means: To look for something in the wrong place; to pursue the wrong person or object.
In conversation: “John wanted me to get him a job. He’s barking up the wrong tree. I don’t have that kind of power at my office.”
Knock on wood
What it means: A reference to the superstition of knocking on wood to avoid attracting bad luck.
In conversation: “I’m hoping to get a promotion this month. Knock on wood!”
Out on a limb
What it means: To take a risk.
In conversation: “Sam had a secure job with a high salary, but he dreamed about owning a restaurant. Last year, he went out on a limb and quit his job to open a small restaurant.”
Can’t see the forest for the trees
What it means: Not able to see a situation from a broader perspective; not able to see the whole situation; not able to see the big picture.
In conversation: “Yuki is very detail-oriented, but she is not able to see the forest for the trees.”
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
What it means: A person grows up to be very similar to his/her parents, in behavior and/or physical characteristics; children are similar to their parents.
In conversation: “Jenna’s mother is a surgeon, and her father is also a doctor. Jenna will graduate from medical school next year. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!”
Out of the woods
What it means: To be out of danger; to be out of a difficult situation.
In conversation: “My business was losing money for several months. I thought about closing the business. Fortunately, the economy is better, and my business is doing well now. I’m out of the woods.”