English Idiom – Turn the tables.

Meaning – To reverse a situation in favour of yourself or another person who was previously at a disadvantage. To change a situation so that someone who was in a disadvantageous position becomes dominant, or to reverse the roles of those involved in a situation. It’s a phrase commonly used in situations where one person or group has been dominating another and suddenly the situation is reversed, and the person or group who were previously at a disadvantage become dominant. It implies a shift of power or advantage from one side to the other.

Games like backgammon were often referred to as tables games in the past, and the phrase turn the tables comes from the practice of reversing the board in such games. By doing so, players would essentially take on the position of their opponent, and this would often give them an advantage. This practice of turning the tables eventually became a metaphor for any situation in which someone gains an advantage by reversing the course of events.


When could you use this idiom?

  • In a sports match or competition, when one team or player is losing but then suddenly starts to play better and wins the game.
  • During a business deal, when one party has the upper hand but the other party suddenly gains an advantage.
  • If there is a plot twist in a book or movie, when the audience is led to believe one thing but then the opposite happens.


  • “The bullying stopped when the victim turned the tables on their tormentor and stood up for themselves.”

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  • Is there an idiom like this in your country?

What is an idiom?

An idiom is a word or phrase that is not taken literally.  An idiom is an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its individual words, but has a separate meaning of its own.

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