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English Idioms and Expressions

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What is an English idiom?

An idiom is a group of words, or an expression, which has a different meaning than the words do on their own. So an expression or phrase may seem to be about one thing, but it’s actually about something completely different. You won’t necessarily be able to understand the meaning of the phrase by reading the individual words. 

English Idioms can be confusing! Especially when you are trying to learn a new language.  But Idioms are also a lot of fun! We use idioms quite a lot in English. We have lots of interesting, and inventive, phrases and expressions we use in our everyday lives.

Here are some great idioms you might hear being used.

Fish Out of Water

An unfamiliar or new situation that makes someone feel awkward  or uncomfortable.

“I’ve never experienced something like that before, I felt a fish out of water.

Fish out of water idiom
hang in there idioms
Hang in There

Don’t give up! If a situation is difficult, keep going and don’t give up.

“I know this is difficult but hang in there, you can do it.”

Let the Cat Out of the Bag

Reveal a secret, often without care or by mistake. 

“Susan let the cat out of the bag so everyone will know now.”

let the cat out of the bag idiom
life in the fast lane
Life in the Fast Lane

A busy life full of excitement and activity. It can also mean lots of stress or pressure in your life.

“David is always so busy, he really does live life in the fast lane

Face the Music

When you face up to a problem, trouble or challenge, that you may have been delaying.

“Well I can’t put it off any longer, it’s time to face the music.

face the music
Sleep on it

To take some time considering a decision overnight.

“Why don’t you sleep on it and let me know your decision tomorrow.”

Draw the Line

To put a limit on what you are willing to do, especially if you think something is becoming unreasonable.

“I was happy to help my boss by working an hour late, but I draw the line at staying longer than that.”

Snug as a bug in a rug idiom
Snug as a Bug in a Rug

When you are in an extremely comfortable, cosy place or position.

“It was snowing outside but I got home and snuggled in front of the fire, as snug as a bug in  rug

Tip of the Iceberg

A small part of a much bigger situation (often a problem).  It may be that you can only see the beginning of an issue you know is actually much bigger.

“We thought the house just needed redecorating but it turns out that was just the tip of the iceberg.

tip of the iceberg
cannot see the wood for the trees
Cannot see the Wood for the Trees

When you cannot see a situation clearly because you are too involved in it. You are so preoccupied with details that you miss the bigger, more important situation.

“When organising my wedding I was so invested in the table cloth colours and cake design, I forgot we hadn’t confirmed the venue booking. I could not see the wood for the trees!”

Go the Extra Mile 

When you are prepared to work extra hard to achieve or do something.

“Joe was such a great worker, he was always prepared to go the extra mile for his team!”

go the extra mile idiom
every cloud has a silver lining
Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

Trying to find something positive in every negative situation, no matter how small. It describes being hopeful and optimistic even though things may feel bad.

“No matter how tough something is every cloud has a silver lining, you just need to find it”

Cry Wolf

Calling for help when you don’t really need it. It may be attention seeking behaviour. When someone is known for crying wolf it can be difficult to believe them if ever they do actually need help.

“Lucy cries wolf so often, no one ever believes her.”

cry wolf
butterflies in your stomach
Butterflies in your Stomach

The fluttering feeling you sometimes get in your stomach when you are nervous or excited.

“Right before I went on stage, all I could feel were the butterflies in my stomach

A Taste of your own Medicine 

When someone experiences the same unpleasant treatment, that that they often inflict on others

“Suzy has been so mean to her colleagues lately, it was good to see her get a taste of her own medicine

a taste of your own medicine
a short fuse
A short Fuse

A tendency to lose your temper quickly. To get cross or angry easily. 

“I was so tired after a long, hard day. I had such a short fuse.”

Raining Cats and Dogs

Particularly heavy rain.

“Oh my goodness have you seen the weather outside? It’s raining cats and dogs!

raining cats and dogs
twist someone's arm
Twist Someone’s Arm

Persuade someone to do something.

“I’m not sure Derek really wanted to come tonight but I twisted his arm”

By the Skin of your Teeth

A close call. If you only just manage to escape or achieve something.

“That was close, I made that deadline by the skin of my teeth.”

by the skin of your teeth
once is a blue moon
Once in a Blue Moon

When something only happens very occasionally.

“We don’t manage to meet up very often, it only happens once in a blue moon.

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