15 English idioms that everyone should know

In this blog you will find 15 English idioms that everyone should know. But first, what is an idiom?

Idioms are group of words, or in other words, a phrase that has a meaning different from the literal meaning of the words in it. In other words “Idioms mean something different than the individual words.”

Native English speakers love using them in conversation, and you’ll often find them cropping up in books, TV shows and movies too. To improve your English, you really need to become confident in using idioms and knowing the difference between breaking a leg and pulling someone’s leg.

Ready? Here w go!

1. Under the weather

Meaning: To feel ill

Use: In England we love to talk about the weather and will do so often, but don’t be fooled by this common phrase. If someone says they’re feeling under the weather, your response should be ‘I hope you feel better!’, not ‘Would you like to borrow my umbrella?’.

2. The ball is in your court

Meaning: It’s up to you

Use: It’s your move now, but this idiom refers to life rather than a sport. If you’ve got the ‘ball,’ the decision is yours and someone is waiting for your decision.

3. Spill the beans

Meaning: To give away a secret

Use: If you told someone about their own surprise party, you’d have ‘spilled the beans’ or even ‘let the cat out of the bag’. The secret is out.

4. Break a leg

Meaning: To wish someone luck

Use: This idiom is not at all threatening. Often accompanied by a thumbs up, ‘Break a leg! ’is an encouraging cheer of good luck. It originates from when successful theater performers would to bow so many times after a show that they would break a leg.

5. Pull someone’s leg

Meaning: To play a practical joke

Use: This is the perfect phrase to learn if you’re a fan of practical jokes. ‘Pull their leg’ is similar to ‘wind someone up’. Use it in context: ‘Relax, I’m just pulling your leg!’ or ‘Wait, are you pulling my leg?’.

6. Sat on the fence

Meaning: To be undecided

Use: If you’re sat on the fence, you’ve not decided which side of an argument you agree with. ‘I’m on the fence about hot yoga classes,’ translates as ‘I’m not sure whether I enjoy yoga in a sauna yet.’

7. Through thick and thin

Meaning: To be loyal no matter what

Use: Often used to describe families or BFFs, ‘through thick and thin’ means that you’re by each other’s side no matter what happens, through the bad times, as well as the good.

8. Once in a blue moon

Meaning: Rarely

Use: This charming phrase is used to describe something that doesn’t happen often. Example: ‘I remember to call my parents from my study abroad trip once in a blue moon.’

9. It’s the best thing since sliced bread

Meaning: It’s really, really good

Use: Sliced bread must have revolutionised life in England because it’s since been used as the ultimate benchmark for things that are great. We love it almost as much as tea.

10. Take it with a pinch of salt

Meaning: Don’t take it too seriously

Use: ‘I heard that elephants can fly now, but Sam often makes up stories so I take everything he says with a pinch of salt.’

11. Come rain or shine

Meaning: No matter what

Use: You guarantee to do something, regardless of the weather or any other situation that might arise. ‘I’ll be at your football game, come rain or shine’.

12. Go down in flames

Meaning: To fail spectacularly

Use: This phrase is fairly obvious. ‘That exam went down in flames, I should have learned my English idioms.’

13. You can say that again

Meaning: That’s true

Use: Generally exclaimed in agreement. When a friend says ‘Ryan Reynolds is gorgeous!’, you can reply ‘You can say that again!’

14. See eye to eye

Meaning: To agree completely

Use: We’re not suggesting a staring contest – to see eye to eye with someone is to agree with the point they’re making.

15. Jump on the bandwagon

Meaning: Following a trend

Use: When a person joins in with something popular or does something just because it’s cool. See this brunch-based example: ‘She doesn’t even like avocado on toast. She’s just jumping on the bandwagon.’

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