100+ Idiomatic Expressions: The Ultimate Guide to Learning Them (2023)

List of Common English Idioms:

Hard to swallowDifficult to believe
Digging aroundLooking for
He’s a really bright sparkHe’s an intelligent person
He’s kicked the bucketHe’s died
She’s hitting the booksShe’s studying hard
Break a leg!Good luck!
Set out on a new careerStart a new career
Saunter through lifeLive in a relaxed way
Follow in someone’s footstepsDo something the way another person did it before
One step at a timeDo something slowly and carefully
Career pathThe sequence of jobs someone takes that create their career
MilestonesImportant events in a person’s life or career
Dead end jobA job that offers no opportunity for advancement
To be at a crossroadsWhen someone is at a point in life where their decisions will have long term consequences
He’s on the straight and narrowHe’s living in a morally proper way
To walk someone through somethingTo show someone how to do something
We need to come up with a road mapWe need to make a plan
I wouldn’t go down that road if I were you!I wouldn’t do that if I were you!
Don’t run before you can walkDon’t try to do something difficult before mastering the basics
Inching forwardWhen progress on something is being made in small increments
To move at a snail’s paceTo move slowly
To get good mileage out of somethingTo get a lot of benefits from something
To have your whole life in front of youTo be young and have a lot of years to live
To get on with your lifeTo make progress in life goals after a difficulty
To tread carefullyTo behave or speak carefully to avoid offending or causing problems with someone or something
To be a minefieldWhen something presents many possible dangers
We’ll cross that bridge when we come to itTo wait to worry about one problem at a time
Information superhighwayThe internet
Time is moneyTime is a valuable resource
A tasty (or juicy) bit of gossipVery interesting or sensational gossip
To devour someone or somethingTo consume something very quickly
To add a pinch of salt to somethingTo acknowledge that someone exaggerates
To chew something overTo think about something before making a decision
To not swallow somethingTo not accept something as fact
To bite off more than you can chewWhen someone makes a commitment that they cannot keep
To eat your wodsWhen someone has to admit they were wrong
A warm welcomeA friendly welcome
The cold shoulderAn unfriendly welcome
When things heat up between peopleWhen a relationship becomes romantic
To be cold-heartedTo be dispassionate or uncaring
A 24-hour hotlineA phone line that is always active
A very frosty receptionTo receive a greeting that makes someone feel unwelcome
The Cold WarWar without active fighting between nations
A warm smile and the warm handshakeA welcoming smile and handshake
Cold callersPeople who call phones, usually for sales, who don’t have previous contact with the person they’re calling
We took the temperature of the groupChecked the overall opinion of a person or group of people about something
Most people were quite warm about the ideaPeople have a positive reaction to the idea
You’ll reap the rewards laterTo collect the benefits of your work
To prune outTo clear, clean or groom something
Separate the wheat from the chaffSeparate what is useful or valuable from what is worthless
Rooted inBased on something or connected to a source/cause
To cutback somethingTo reduce something, usually related to the amount of money spent
To dig deepTo use a lot of your physical, mental or financial resources to achieve something
Great growthA positive change in the production of goods or services
Root and branchCompletely/utter
Seed moneyMoney that is used to start a small business or other activity
Bright shootStart something new, a new chapter
Plough its own furrowTo follow a plan or course of action independently
Green fingersHave an ability to make plants grow, to be good at gardening
Build/make a good caseTo argue that something is the best thing to do, to explain and give reasons why something should be done
A fabricationTo tell lies about something, completely made-up/invented
To be on solid groundTo be confident about the topic you are dealing with, or because you are in a safe situation
Build onTo use something as a base or foundation to develop something else
ShatteredTo break something into a smaller form or into many pieces
Undermine your positionBehave in a way that makes you less likely to succeed
Demolish your argumentsTo break down someone’s argument to an extent that it is no longer accurate or correct
Constructive criticismCriticism that is useful because they can help improve something
Grounds for dismissalA reason for you to be dismissed from your job, often due to your (negative) behavior
Completely groundlessNot based on any good reason
Grounded in factSomething that is based on facts
Come to lightTo be revealed
UnearthedTo find something that was lost or forgotten
A mine of information/gossip/dataSomeone or something that can provide you with a lot of information etc.
Get to the bottom ofFind an explanation, often to a mystery
Digging intoTo methodically reveal information
To bury the memoryTo try to hide something, such as a memory, the truth etc.
EmergeSomething that is brought to attention
Out in the openIn public view or knowledge, everybody knows
Underground sceneAn alternative culture, different from the mainstream of society and culture
TransparencySomething that can be seen by everyone/the public
Crystal clearPerfectly easy to understand
Put your head in the sandTo ignore or hide from the obvious signs of danger
Bright sparkSomeone that is highly intelligent
EnlightenmentTo understand something completely
Throw light on somethingTo reveal something about someone/something, to clarify something
DullSomething that lacks imagination, boring
BrilliantShining brightly, stands out, illustrious
In the darkA state of ignorance, to not have knowledge about something
Dim-wittedSomething/someone that thinks slowly, lacks intelligence
Dark agesWhen something was not understood, a time when knowledge was limited
IlluminatingTo make something more understandable
Right-wingA part of a political group that consists of people who support conservative or traditional ideas
Look down uponTo view someone or something as unworthy
Side of the fenceRefers to either side of opposing views or ideas
Political landscapeThe current state of things and how they are looking in the future
Look at lifeHow you observe things that happen, your opinion on daily matters
Behind you all the wayTo fully support someone’s actions
Point of viewAn opinion on something
Better perspectiveA clearer view of something, a more thorough understanding of a situation
Take someone’s sideTo support one person’s side of an argument
Where I standYour opinion, point of view
Look up toTo respect someone as a role model
Moral high groundThe status of being respected, a position of being ‘more’ moral than others
Sitting on the fenceUndecided on a decision, avoid making a decision on something

A typical ESL student is both fascinated and frustrated by idioms; they give you fluency but are very hard to use accurately because:

  • They may change meaning if you forget or change a single word.
  • You must use them in the right context – don’t say‘he’s kicked the bucket’(died) at a funeral!
  • You can’t translate them into, or from, another language. There is no literal translation.

100+ Idiomatic Expressions: The Ultimate Guide to Learning Them (1)

7 Ways toMake English Idioms and Phrases Easier to Understand:

1. Listen to context.

Idioms are unusual expressions. So ask yourself ‘Why is that person using an unusual expression?’ The reasons are likely to be connected with emphasis, exaggeration, or a high state of emotion! So check the context – and the facial expression!

2. Check to see if you understood.

Use expressions like; ‘so you’re pretty angry about that right?’ or ‘OK, you mean that you’re too busy at the moment.’

3. Be honest when you don’t understand.

Try using; ‘I’m sorry, but I don’t know what you mean.’

4. Never translate idioms.

Idioms from your own language may use the same imagery or concepts (and it is always interesting to notice these similarities) but they are unlikely to translate word-for-word into English expressions.

5. Listen to how native speakers use idioms.

A native English speaker NEVER says ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’ – so why should an ESL student? Listen to what native speakers actually say in a given situation, and copy.

6. Take notes.

Keep a notebook of your favorite expressions in English and add anything new that you hear. Try to use new expressions soon after you learn them, this is called ‘use it or lose it.’

7. Tolerate your mistakes.

You will definitely make mistakes and create confusion when you use idiomatic expressions, so be brave and allow yourself the space to try, fail, and try again.

Learn English Idiomatic Expressions without Memorizing

Most lists of common English idiomatic expressions I see have 2 things wrong with them. They include a lot of out-dated expressions that no one actually uses anymore (it’s raining cats and dogs), and they’re really hard to memorize.

Rather than force you to memorize a list of expressions, we’re going to teach you some tricks that will make it easy to understand English expressions, even if you’ve never heard them before.

Most idiomatic expressions can be divided into a few groups, and these groups have things in common that make them easier to understand. Below you’ll find these groups, with the English expressions in bold.

(Video) Learn the 100 Most Common Idioms in 30 Minutes (with examples)

100+ Idiomatic Expressions: The Ultimate Guide to Learning Them (2)

EnglishExpressions About Life:

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – so said Lao Tzu, the founder of Chinese Taoism.

When he said these wise words, he wasn’t just offering encouragement to people who had to walk long distances in Zhou Dynasty China during the 6thBC, but was talking about every kind of journey in life.

The quotation is generally taken to mean that any undertaking in life – even really big ones – must start with small steps, and that we must not become discouraged by the size of the tasks in front of us. The idea that our tasks, and indeed our lives, can be seen as physical journeys that can be broken down into steps is common in many languages; English is no exception.

So we mightset outon a new career,saunterthrough life without a care,follow in someone’s footstepsor take a difficult taskone step at a time.

And just as the physical hikes, strolls or walks that we go on require paths or roads, which can be straight or winding, and sometimes lead to dead ends – so it is with our projects, careers and lives.

This means that some of us want to follow a clearcareer path, are proud of themilestoneswe achieve and don’t want to work in adead end job. When deciding on a course of action we might find ourselves at acrossroads in life, wonderingwhich way to turn, hoping we don’t takethe road to ruin!

Examples of idiomatic expressions about life:

  • He’s put his criminal past behind him – He’s on thestraight and narrownow!
  • It’s a difficult system to get used to, solet me just walk you through the first few steps.
  • We need to come up with aroad mapto go forward with these negotiations.
  • Being selected for the national team was the first majormilestonein my career.
  • So you want to invest in his business? I wouldn’tgo down that roadif I were you!
  • I feel like I’m at acrossroads in my careerand I’m not surewhich way to turn.
  • I have tried tofollow in Dad’s footstepsand to do the right things.
  • I suppose I’ve gone down quite awinding career path– I’ve never done things the easy way!
  • Holmes hadcrossed pathswith Moriarty several times before and it had never gone well.
  • I know I said you should read a bit more, but War and Peace?Don’t run before you can walk!

Please note that we use the imperial system, rather than the modern metric system, to refer to distances in idioms:

  • We are justinching forwardwith this projectat a snail’s pace.
  • I think I can getgood mileageout of this idea.

Notice the way that prepositions are used to imply movement or direction in life:

  • He envied his grandchildren having their wholelives in front of them.
  • I always try and put failures behind me andget on with my life.

Also, if we are traveling along a road or pathway, we might expect to find obstacles to our progress and have to handlethem in some way:

  • We need totread carefullyhere because ethnic tensions in the area can bea minefield.
  • I don’t know yet what we’ll do if they reject our offer – butwe’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

And please note that idioms involving roads can refer to other things:

  • Theinformation superhighwayhas changed the way we think about the world.

EnglishExpressions About Money:

When Benjamin Franklyn wrote that ‘time is money’ in hisAdvice to a Young Tradesmanin 1746, he meant that time was a commodity which can be treated the same way that we treat money or any other resource. He was right too, from a linguistic perspective anyway, as we have long had this attitude towards time within the English language.

Like money, time is something that we save, waste or spend. We praise good time management, we complain that we don’t have enough time, and we wonder how long our time will last. Let’slook at the way the English language treats the concepts of time and money.

Examplesof English Expressions About Money:

Look at these sentences and decide if you can substitute the word ‘time’ for the word ‘money’ (you may have to make a few extra changes):

  • We will have to go soon – we are getting short ofmoney.
  • I have wasted a lot oftimeon this project.
  • We made some changes at work to savemoney.
  • He is determined to make it work – he’s invested so muchtimein the business already.
  • He worked my shift at work for me – so I guess I owe him sometimein return.
  • I would like to devote moretimeto keeping the garden in shape.
  • This problem has cost us too muchmoneyalready!
  • We are living on borrowedtime.
  • I thought I gave him enoughmoney– but he seems to have squandered it all!
  • She’s always had bettermoney-management skills than me.

In most of the sentences above you can substitute ‘time’ for ‘money’ without a problem. The context may change, but the sentences themselves still look fine.

Please note that we can replace the actual word ‘time’ with anamountof time – and we can do this with ‘money’ too:

(Video) LEARN 100 COMMON ENGLISH IDIOMS | English Vocabulary Lesson

  • Wespentthree weeks there.
  • Ispent$50 on it.
  • Ittakeshalf an hour to get there.
  • Ittook$100 to convince him!

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English Expressions About Knowledge:

What is the basic unit of knowledge – a fact, a truth, a maxim or a law? Well, from a computing point of view it is called a ‘byte’. In 1956 Werner Buchholz, a computer scientist working at IBM, wanted a term he could use to describe the eight binary digits (bits) needed to encode a single letter, number or symbol on a computer.

He chose the word ‘byte’ – a deliberate misspelling of the word ‘bite’ – and this term now refers to the basic unit of all the information held on all computers, everywhere. When he chose this word, Buchholz was (perhaps unknowingly) using a very common, basic and important idiom in the English language; knowledge (or information) is food.

If you think about it, this idiom is quite easy to understand;information exists in the outside world and must somehow comes inside us so that we can learn and understand it.

This process of bringing information into ourselves can be thought of as eating. So we might hear atasty bit of gossipordevour a newspaper, we may need toadd a pinch of salt to unlikely stories,chew overa difficult subject, ordigest information– we may even need tospit information outif required!

Examples of English Expressions about Knowledge:

  • He absolutelydevours newspapers– he gets about three every morning!
  • You have agreat appetite for knowledge, and I respect that.
  • I won’t give you an answer yet – Let mechew it overfor a while.
  • Who broke the school window? Come on lad –spit it out!
  • I got my dad a subscription toThe Reader’s Digest.
  • She always exaggerates so if I were you I’d take what she says with apinch of salt.
  • Don’t give them too much information at the start of the course – justbite-sized chunksfor now.
  • We sat with a bottle by the riverruminating onthe meaning of life.
  • The exam system is terrible – you just have toregurgitatethe textbook, basically.
  • Information is food? –I’m not swallowing that!

Please note that idiomatic expressions involving food or eating can express other meanings in English, for example if youbite off more than you can chew, you try to do too much or more than you are able to do; or if youeat your own words, you retract what you said earlier:

  • Hebit off more than he could chewwhen he agreed to paint the house by himself.
  • He’s going to regret saying that – I’m going to make himeat his own words!

Don’t try making a literal translation of those! And choices, for example, have taste:

  • I can offer you a couple oftasty optionsfrom our new winter collection.
  • The delegates are being forced to choose between twounpalatablecandidates.

English Expressions About Relationships:

Here is a party game that I used to play with friends and family when I was young (a long time ago!) It involves somebody hiding something, and somebody else searching for it.

Firstly, I would close my eyes or leave the room. Then someone would hide something, some keys perhaps, in some part of the room. After this I would be allowed to look for them and the rest of the players could offer encouragement by saying; ‘You’re getting warmer,’ when I approached the hidden object, or; ‘You’re getting colder,’ when I went in the wrong direction.

When I got really close to the hidden keys, some of the younger children would be shouting ‘You’re really hot now – boiling!’ And finally I would find the keys under a magazine on the coffee table!

The idea that you get warmer when you are closer to something is quite common in English and is particularly strong when applied to our relationships with each other. Heat is a metaphor for how close we feel to someone else, and how well we think they are treating us.

Close relationships are ‘warm’, and unfriendly relationships are ‘cold’. This means that if I say that the receptionist at the hotelgreeted me very warmly, you can be sure that she was very friendly and welcoming. Equally, if I tell you that the audience gave mea frosty reception, you will know that my lecture was not a great success!

So we can say that our relationships and feelings have some sort of ‘linguistic temperature!’

Examples of English Idioms about relationships:

  • Hello – and a verywarm welcometo the show!
  • I tried to explain to her but she just gave me thecold shoulder.
  • Perhaps you shouldcool things offwith him for a while.
  • I think things areheatingupbetween Dave and Mary!
  • She was a verycold-heartedmother who never gave us hugs or praise.
  • We have set up a 24-hourhotlinefor anyone who wants more information.
  • Well, that was a veryfrosty reception– I don’t think we’re very welcome here!
  • Thecold warwas a low point in East-West relations in Europe.
  • She liked him immediately; it was thewarm smile and the warm handshake.
  • I can’t stand thesecold callerstrying to sell me things I don’t want!

Notice that heat can also describe our relationship to ideas:

  • Wetook the temperatureof the group as to whether John would be a suitable replacement for Mark and found that most people werequite warmto the idea.

English Expressions About Economics

In Hal Ashby’s excellent 1979 comedy ‘Being There’, Peter Sellers plays the part of a simple-minded gardener who accidentally becomes a top financial adviser in Washington DC.

One of the running jokes in the film is the way that Sellers’ character misunderstands questions about the economy to be questions about his garden – and how businessmen and television presenters mistake his answers and comments about gardening to be sound financial advice!

How can this be? Well, in the English language there are many words and expressions that we use in agriculture and gardening that can also be used to describe the world of economics and business. After all, if a gardener and an economist meet at a party, we can be sure they’ll agree with each other that encouraging growth is a good idea!

(Video) Learn 50 Idioms Native Speakers Actually Use | Advanced English

Examples of English Expressions About Economics:

  • If you work hard now, you’llreap the rewardslater.
  • We needed toprune outthe deadwood to make the company more competitive.
  • The first stage of the interview process is really just toseparate the wheat from the chaff– to discount the applicants who are definitely unsuitable.
  • Our main business isrootedin this sector.
  • There have been sharp staffcutbackssince they lost the contract.
  • We will have todig deepif we want this project to succeed.
  • There has beengreat growthover the second quarter.
  • The company was in a terrible state – we needed to makeroot and branchreform.
  • We have invested a lot ofseed moneyin this project.
  • After the recession we can now see the firstbright shootsof recovery, with several new businesses opening around town.

Please note that many of the above phrases can be used in other contexts; for example, ‘dig deep’ simply means ‘try harder’ and can be used in any situation where more effort is required;

  • Liverpool are going to have todig deephere if they are going to win this match.

Also, some agricultural idioms can be used in non-business contexts:

  • The entire university should act as one on this issue, rather than each department trying toplough its own furrow.

And some gardening idioms don’t seem to transfer to other contexts:

  • I’ve killed every plant I’ve ever owned. But she has got reallygreen fingers, you should see her garden – it’s beautiful!

Ok, that should really help you with business English.

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English Expressions About Opinions

‘The wise man builds his house on the rock,’ – so goes the traditional saying (it’s loosely based on Matthew 7:24-27 in the Bible), but while it is certainly wise to build a house on solid ground, and with the proper materials, this saying is generally taken to be about the foundations of our beliefs.

In fact there has always been a close link between buildings and beliefs; for example, the word ‘church’ originally referred to a group of people who worshipped together (now more commonly called a ‘congregation’), the teachings and philosophy they followed, and the physical building that they used.

Keeping this mind (and checking your dictionary for details) it won’t be surprising for you to find that the word ‘edifice’ refers to an important or imposing building (like a church), ‘edification’ means ‘moral improvement’ and ‘edified’ means ‘educated’ or ‘informed’.

This idiom now has a wider use in the English language so that an idiomatic phrase mentioning construction or foundation can refer to knowledge and ideas generally. So ideas and theories should begrounded in fact or based on truth, an argument should have aclear structure; we candeconstruct a complex ideain order to explain it, or evendemolish ideaswhich we strongly disagree with.

English Expressions About Knowledge:

  • With so much supporting evidence, the police canbuild a good casefor conviction.
  • He is such an unreliable witness – his entire testimony wasa fabricationof lies and half-truths.
  • I feel like I am on prettysolid groundwhen I’m talking about my thesis.
  • Our products are strong on reliability and we canbuild on this foundationin the future.
  • His essay was terrible – there wasno structure to the argument.
  • His reputation has beencompletely shatteredby these baseless accusations.
  • If she is taking bribes, it completelyundermines her positionon corruption.
  • She won the debate easily – she justdemolished their arguments!
  • I welcome anyconstructive criticismsof my work.

‘Ground’ is the most commonly used word in this context:

  • Being rude to customers isgrounds for dismissal.
  • These allegations arecompletely groundlessand are just intended to disrupt our preparations for the Games.
  • Is any of thisgrounded in fact?

English Expressions About Truth:

In Steven Spielberg’s excellent 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones must find the Ark of the Covenant.

This was a kind of box which was supposed to contain the 10 commandments that were given to Moses. There’s something symbolic in this – if you consider that the commandments represent some kind of universal truth or wisdom, then perhaps you can see the search for the covenant as a search for truth.

I used to work as an archaeologist and watching this excellent movie was more or less compulsory for us ‘diggers’ at the time – we used to joke that Indy was searching for truth itself and that an archaeologist was the ideal person to choose for a search for truth and wisdom!

But you don’t need toget your hands dirtytounearthinteresting information, because in the English language, any kind of discovery can be made under the ground.

It often seems that an investigation is an excavation: information may be hidden from us, perhaps buried deep somewhere; it needs to be dug around for, and finally brought to light.

English Expressions About Truth:

  • I want you todig deepinto your memories and think about your first day at school.
  • The Police have reopened the case after new evidencecame to light.
  • I’ve been working in the archives for the last few months and haveunearthedsome interesting stories about him.
  • Ask Mary – she’sa mineof information on the subject!
  • They have started an investigation and hope toget to the bottomof the problem soon.
  • I don’t want the newspapersdigginginto my private life.
  • She had tried toburythe memory of it for years.
  • New developments in the scandalemergedover the weekend.
  • I think we need to get thingsout in the openand talk about them honestly.
  • The city is home to a vibrantundergroundmusic scene.

When a meaning is obvious and easy to understand we use a reversal of the idiom:

  • We need new financialtransparencyregulations.
  • I understand you – your message iscrystal clear.

Interestingly, if we have an exam to prepare for or a bill to pay, many of us adopt a very interesting strategy – often called the ‘Ostrich method!‘

(Video) 100 Common Idioms Frequently Used in Daily English Conversations

  • This is no way to run a company – whenever there’s a problem you justput your head in the sandand hope it will go away!

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English Expressions About Intelligence

Imagine that you are in a college lecture and that your teacher is trying to explain something that the class have been having difficulty with. Maybe a tough equation, a difficult moral problem or a poem that nobody understands.

Finally the teacher shows, proves or says something that finally makes everybody understand; everything now makes sense! Around the room, people nod in agreement; some raise their eyebrows and smile; the mood in the room lifts – as if some new bright light is now shining.

This is called a ‘light-bulb moment’ and it’s the moment when we conceive or understand a (usually good) idea for the first time. It’s quite a common idiomatic expression; The Oxford Dictionary defines it as ‘A moment of sudden realization, enlightenment, or inspiration’ and it is a powerful image.

For example, we often see cartoon characters with light-bulbs above their heads when they have a new idea, or come to understand something.

The idea that understanding (and, as we will see, intelligence) can be expressed as light is very common in English; people havebright, ideas, becomebrilliant scholars,shine a lighton things when they explain them, andachieve enlightenment.

This idiom also works in reverse; in English, darkness often refers to different types of ignorance. We getkept in the darkwhen people don’t tell us a secret; we makedim-witted mistakes, and we walk out ofdullmovies.

Examples of English Expressions about Intelligence:

  • John came top of his class in all of his tests again – he’s a realbright spark!
  • People come from all over the world to findenlightenmentat the meditation centre.
  • The recent discovery of King Richard’s body hasthrown lighton his actual cause of death.
  • This film is reallydull– when is something interesting going to happen?
  • He was always abrilliantstudent and it was no surprise when he won the scholarship.
  • New evidence has recentlycome to lightthat could lead to further charges in the case.
  • Let’s keep Sarahin the darkabout it for now – she loves a good surprise.
  • I think that his political supporters are prettydim-witted, they don’t seem to know much about the world.
  • These kinds of injuries were more common back in theDark Agesof NFL concussion awareness.
  • Well that was a veryilluminatinglecture – I think I really get it now!

English Expressions About Opinions

What is a political map and why might we need one? In some countries there seem to be so many different political parties and points of view that things can become rather confusing for voters at election time – so maybe some kind of map would be useful.

But why a map – why not a list, or a diagram?

Perhaps the reason is that we imagine a political landscape wherepeople stand in particular places thatindicate their opinions on particular issues. For example, in most democratic parliaments the political parties sit together in particular parts of the room that they meet in.

The prime minister sits in a seat at the front of his grouping with his supporters behind him and with the opposition politicians sitting opposite. The minor parties usually sit according to whether they support the government or not – which side they are on. This is why we can talk about right – or left-wing politics, and how we can take a position on an issue, stand behind someone we agree with, or change sides in an argument.

Interestingly, if I express my opinion by standing in a particular location then this will effect what I can see, what my view of the world is. So I cansee things differentlyfrom other people, have apositive outlook,look up to– ordown onpeople, or describe mypoint of viewof a situation or issue.

Examples of English Expressions About Opinions:

  • I don’t want him to come to dinner – he has veryright-wingviews.
  • I think the royal familylook down onus all.
  • How are things on yoursideof the politicalfence?
  • There has always been a complexpolitical landscapein the country.
  • Artists and musicians oftenlook at lifein new and interesting ways.
  • We’ll give you all the support you need – we’rebehind you all the way.
  • From mypoint of view, I think that it’s a very good deal.
  • We need more information to give us abetter perspectiveof this situation.
  • It’s not fair – whenever there’s an argument you alwaystake his side!

Notice that ‘stand’ can be used in both senses:

  • Fromwhere I standit looks like the economy is going nowhere.
  • Where do youstandon nuclear energy?

Perhaps it’s not surprising to note that altitude affects morals:

  • I’ve alwayslooked up tomy Mum; she’s been an inspiration to me.
  • I think we hold themoral high groundon this issue.

Also, the two sides of an argument are often separated by some kind of barrier:

  • He’s alwayssitting on the fencewhenever there’s an argument.

Whether your an ESL student, teacher or just someone curious about the language, wehope you found that helpful! If you keep these concepts in mind, English idiomatic expressions should be easy for you.

If you’ve got any questions, feel free to add them in comments and we’ll respond. If you want to take your English further,try a live, online English class with LOI.

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100+ Idiomatic Expressions: The Ultimate Guide to Learning Them (6)About the Author:Peter Ball has been teaching English for 15 years and has taught in Poland, Thailand, Malaysia, Egypt, Pakistan, Britain and Ireland, he still really enjoys the challenge – each student is unique. Peter has a Cambridge certificate in teaching (CELTA) and a Cambridge diploma (DELTA).

He’s also an FCE and Cambridge examiner. He works with students of all levels from beginner to advanced and has taught professionals from all walks of life. Peter loves teaching pronunciation, explaining grammar, learner-training and better conversation. In his free time he has his own radio show in Connemara, Ireland and he swims, juggles and plays guitar – but not all at the same time!


What are the 100 idiomatic expressions? ›

100 Idiomatic Expressions That You'll Use All the Time (+PDF)
  • At a crossroads – Needing to make an important decision. ...
  • Bad apple – Bad person. ...
  • Barking up the wrong tree – Pursuing the wrong course. ...
  • Be closefisted – Stingy. ...
  • Be cold-hearted – Uncaring. ...
  • Be on solid ground – Confident. ...
  • Beat around the bush – Avoid saying.
15 Oct 2020

How can I learn idiomatic expressions? ›

Visualize them - When learning idioms, trying to visualize their meanings and connecting those mental images to their meaning can go a long way in helping you learn them quickly. Explore the history - Finally, you can try exploring how an expression came to be.

What are the 200 idioms? ›

200+ Common Idioms [With Meaning and Example]
  • Stir up a hornets' nest. Hornets are the largest eusocial wasps, and their sting can be really painful. ...
  • An eye for an eye. ...
  • Back against the wall. ...
  • Barking up the wrong tree. ...
  • Bite off more than you can chew. ...
  • Pigs might fly. ...
  • Upset someone's applecart. ...
  • Not enough room to swing a cat.
4 Nov 2022

What are the 50 idiomatic expressions and their meaning? ›

50 popular idioms to sound like a native speaker
Be a good catchBe someone worth marrying/having
Beat around the bushAvoid the main topic or not speak directly about the issue
Bend over backwardsDo whatever it takes to help. Willing to do anything
Bite off more than you can chewTake on a task that is too big
46 more rows
20 Mar 2017

Can you give me a list of idioms? ›

Common English idioms & expressions
It takes one to know oneYou're just as bad as I amby itself
It's a piece of cakeIt's easyby itself
It's raining cats and dogsIt's raining hardby itself
Kill two birds with one stoneGet two things done with a single actionby itself
55 more rows

Did a 180 idiom? ›

Meaning of 180 in English

a sudden change from a particular opinion, decision, or plan to an opposite one: Jack's done a 180 and agreed to come on the trip.

Is a 360 an idiom? ›

Do a 360 means to end up in the same place that one started. Rarely, one may see the expression do a 360 to mean someone has changed his mind twice–once when he embraced the opposite of what he espoused, and then again when he came back to his original opinion.

How many idioms are there? ›

How many idioms are there? Wikipedia suggests that there are over 25,000 idiomatic expressions in the English language.

What is an idiom Class 7? ›

An idiom is a group of words, or in other words, a phrase that has a meaning different from the literal meaning of the words in it.

What is the idiom of A to Z? ›

idiom. including everything: This book tells the story of her life from A to Z. Complete and whole.

What are the 25 examples of idioms? ›

Let us now learn about the 25 most common and useful Idioms in the English language:
  • Under the weather. Meaning - To feel sick. ...
  • The ball is in your court. ...
  • Spill the beans. ...
  • Pull someone's leg. ...
  • Sit on the fence. ...
  • Through thick and thin. ...
  • Once in a blue moon. ...
  • The best of both worlds.
26 Jun 2021

What is an idiom Class 10? ›

A set expression of two or many words that mean something together, instead of the literal meanings of its words individually.

What is the best idiom in the world? ›

Top 10 idioms of the world
  1. “Into the mouth of a wolf” Language: Italian. ...
  2. “Not my circus, not my monkey. Language: Polish. ...
  3. “To have a wide face” Language: Japanese. ...
  4. “To have the midday demon” Language: French. ...
  5. “To feed the donkey sponge cake” Language: Portuguese. ...
  6. “A cat's jump” ...
  7. “To give someone pumpkins” ...
  8. “To ride as a hare”
25 May 2015

What are 50 examples of idioms? ›

60 Idioms To Teach Kids and Use in “Idiom of the Day” Lessons
  • A fish out of water. Meaning: Someone in an uncomfortable position or situation. ...
  • Add insult to injury. ...
  • All ears. ...
  • Ants in your pants. ...
  • Anything but. ...
  • Barking up the wrong tree. ...
  • Be a fly on the wall. ...
  • Beat around the bush.
28 Sept 2021

What are the 20 English idioms? ›

Here are 20 English idioms that everyone should know:
  • Under the weather. What does it mean? ...
  • The ball is in your court. What does it mean? ...
  • Spill the beans. What does it mean? ...
  • Break a leg. What does it mean? ...
  • Pull someone's leg. What does it mean? ...
  • Sat on the fence. What does it mean? ...
  • Through thick and thin. ...
  • Once in a blue moon.
23 Feb 2022

What are the 20 idioms with meaning? ›

20 Idioms With Their Meanings and Sentences
  • Adding insult to injury – Make things worse. ...
  • Beat around the bush – Avoid saying something. ...
  • Blessing in disguise – An unexpectedly good thing. ...
  • Birds of a feather flock together – People with a lot in common become good friends. ...
  • Biting off more than you can chew - Be overwhelmed.
15 Oct 2020

What does 365 mean? ›

Definitions of 365 days. a year that is not a leap year. synonyms: common year. type of: twelvemonth, year, yr. a period of time containing 365 (or 366) days.

What's the 411 idiom? ›

"Directory assistance" came to be known as "Information," and by the early 1980s, 411 (usually pronounced "four-one-one") was being used as a slang term for just that—information—and usually in the phrase "give me the 411 (on)."

What is the meaning of 143? ›

143 means I love you. 143 is an internet slang numerical expression that conveys a message of love. Home. Teen Slang Meanings.

Is it doggy dog or dog eat dog? ›

Doggy dog is an example of an eggcorn in linguistics (“a misheard word or phrase”). The original saying (dog-eat-dog) is misheard or spoken so quickly, it sounds like something else. Using eggcorns in conversation (whether you know it or not) often isn't a big deal, but it becomes problematic in writing.

Is on the dot a idiom? ›

Exactly on time, as in We had to be there at eight on the dot. The dot in this idiom is the mark appearing on the face of a watch or clock indicating the time in question. It may come from the earlier to a dot, meaning “exactly” since the early 1700s but no longer heard today. [c.

What does 180 turn mean? ›

or 180° turn

a reversal of direction. a complete reversal in thinking or behavior.

Can an idiom be 1 word? ›

An idiom cannot be one word. A word with many meanings means a word with many meanings. The word "hot" for example has many meanings.

What is the weirdest idiom? ›

10 unusual expressions in English and where they come from
  • to kick the bucket. A euphemism for 'to die'. ...
  • Break a leg! ...
  • to have two left feet. ...
  • to make a (right) pig's ear of something. ...
  • to have a butcher's. ...
  • under the weather. ...
  • to play it by ear. ...
  • the bee's knees.
3 Nov 2015

Is English full of idioms? ›

As with any language, American English is full of idioms, especially when spoken. Idioms add color and texture to language by creating images that convey meanings beyond those of the individual words that make them up.

What is the idiom of fun? ›

from: 'more fun than a barrel of monkeys' to: 'the world is your oyster' If something is very amusing or enjoyable, you can say that it is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. "The TV quiz was more fun than a barrel of monkeys!"

What are idioms kids? ›

An idiom is essentially a common phrase with a meaning that can't be understood by looking at its individual words. They are those funny parts of our everyday speech that we use to communicate thoughts, ideas, and feelings without referring to them literally.

What are the 3 types of idioms? ›

According to Palmer in his book: Semantic: A New Outline (1976), idioms could be divided into three types: phrasal verb, prepositional verb, and partial idiom.

What are the 1000 most common words in English? ›

Here's the List of the 1000 Most Common English Words
  • be – “Will you be my friend?”
  • and – “You and I will always be friends.”
  • of – “Today is the first of November.”
  • a – “I saw a bear today.”
  • in – “She is in her room.”
  • to – “Let's go to the park.”
  • have – “I have a few questions.”
  • too – “I like her too.”

What is the most famous idiom? ›

The most common English idioms
Beat around the bushAvoid saying what you mean, usually because it is uncomfortable
Better late than neverBetter to arrive late than not to come at all
Bite the bulletTo get something over with because it is inevitable
Break a legGood luck
33 more rows

How many idioms are there in English PDF? ›

Here you can download our free PDF document that includes hundreds of popular expressions to take your English to the next level. There are an estimated 25,000 idiomatic expressions in English so it's vital to learn idioms if you want to understand native English speakers and reach a high level of English.

What break a leg means? ›

If you were to tell the actor to “break a leg,” you were wishing them the opportunity to perform and get paid. The sentiment remains the same today; the term means “good luck, give a good performance.” No matter which version you choose to believe, well-wishes are always appreciated.

What sentence uses all 26 letters? ›

An English pangram is a sentence that contains all 26 letters of the English alphabet. The most well known English pangram is probably “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”.

Where use a an? ›

A and an are two different forms of the same word: the indefinite article a that is used before noun phrases. Use a when the noun or adjective that comes next begins with a consonant sound. Use an when the noun or adjective that comes next begins with a vowel sound.

What are 20 phrases examples? ›

20 Phrases That Will Make Learning English Easy For You
  • Back of My Hand. Meaning: To have complete knowledge about something. ...
  • Take It Easy. Meaning: To relax. ...
  • All of A Sudden. Meaning: A thing happened unexpectedly and quickly. ...
  • Herculean Task. ...
  • The Time Is Ripe. ...
  • Double Minded. ...
  • See Eye To Eye. ...
  • When Pigs Fly.
25 Jul 2021

What are some old idioms? ›

Here are the origins of some of the most interesting idioms!
  • Bite the bullet. Meaning: To accept something difficult or unpleasant. ...
  • Break the ice. Meaning: To break off a conflict or commence a friendship. ...
  • Butter someone up. ...
  • Mad as a hatter. ...
  • Cat got your tongue? ...
  • Barking up the wrong tree. ...
  • Turn a blind eye. ...
  • Bury the hatchet.
16 Sept 2022

What are proverbs give 20 examples? ›

22 English proverb examples
  • The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. ...
  • All that glitters is not gold. ...
  • A picture is worth a thousand words. ...
  • Beggars can't be choosers. ...
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. ...
  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away. ...
  • Better safe than sorry. ...
  • Blood is thicker than water.
20 Jun 2022

What is idiom give 5 examples? ›

100 Common Idioms with Examples & their Meanings
IdiomIdioms Meaning
Burn your boats/bridgesDoing something that makes it impossible to go back to the original state.
Break fresh/ new groundDoing something that has never been done before
Sell like hot cakesQuick sellout
17 more rows
2 Nov 2022

What is a idiom example for students? ›

Idioms are a phrase that actually means something different from its literal meaning. For example, it's raining cats and dogs is an idiom. However, it does not mean cats and dogs are falling from the sky. Instead, it means it is raining very hard.

What are the five types of idioms? ›

Generally speaking, there are four types of idioms: pure idioms, binomial idioms, partial idioms, and prepositional idioms. Some people may consider clichés, proverbs, and euphemisms to be types of idioms as well, but we'll explain why they are different from idioms.

What is Java idiom? ›

In computer programming, a programming idiom or code idiom is a group of code fragments sharing an equivalent semantic role, which recurs frequently across software projects often expressing a special feature of a recurring construct in one or more programming languages or libraries.

What is a Python idiom? ›

Idiomatic Python is what you write when the only thing you're struggling with is the right way to solve your problem, and you're not struggling with the programming language or some weird library error or a nasty data retrieval issue or something else extraneous to your real problem.

Why is it called an idiom? ›

An idiom is a widely used saying or expression containing a figurative meaning that differs from the phrase's literal meaning. The word “idiom” comes from the Greek word “idioma,” meaning peculiar phrasing. For example, “under the weather” is an idiom universally understood to mean sick or ill.

What is the rarest idiom? ›

1. Once in a blue moon: This poetic phrase refers to something extremely rare in occurrence.

What is the idiom of happiness? ›

On cloud nine

Extremely happy when something wonderful happens. She's been on cloud nine since she found out she is pregnant.

Which idiom means good luck? ›

Break a leg! Knock 'em dead! Blow them away! Best of luck!

What are the idiomatic expressions in English? ›

Idiomatic expressions are groups of words with an established meaning unrelated to the meanings of the individual words. Sometimes called an expression, an idiom can be very colorful and make a 'picture' in our minds. Some common idiomatic expressions: He let the cat out of the bag (accidentally told a secret).

How do you say beautiful in idiomatic expression? ›

6 Best Idioms to Tell Someone They Are Beautiful
  1. As pretty as a picture. Magazines and advertisements often show you pictures of fine-looking individuals. ...
  2. She is a 10. When someone described a person to be beautiful, we are curious how beautiful that individual is. ...
  3. Look like a million dollars. ...
  4. Drop-dead gorgeous.
6 Apr 2021


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