100 Common English Idioms

By September 10, 2023May 19th, 2024No Comments

English idioms are extremely common and understanding them is key to understanding the language as a whole. These Engish idioms are widely used and can help make your language more colorful and expressive.

Actions speak louder than words

– what people do is more important than what they say

All ears

– listening carefully and attentively

All that glitters is not gold

– something that looks valuable or attractive on the outside may not be so on the inside.

Add fuel to the fire

– when you do or say something that makes a miserable situation even worse

An arm and a leg

– very expensive

Apple of my eye

– someone or something that is very special to you

To be on the same page

– to have a shared understanding or agreement

The ball is in your court

– it’s your turn or responsibility to take action

Barking up the wrong tree

– pursuing the wrong course of action or making a wrong assumption.

Better late than never

– better to arrive late than not to come at all

Bite the bullet

– to force yourself to perform an unpleasant or difficult action or to be brave in a difficult situation

Beat around the bush

– to treat a topic, but omit its main points, often intentionally,
to delay or avoid talking about something difficult or unpleasant

To bite off more than you can chew

– to try to do something that is too difficult for you

Break a leg

– a way to wish someone good luck, especially before a performance.

Break the ice

– to do or say something that makes people who do not know each other feel more comfortable

Burn bridges

– to destroy all possible ways of going back to that situation

Call it a day

– to stop working on something or end an activity

A cloud on the horizon

– trouble is coming

Comparing apples to oranges

– comparing two things that are fundamentally different and, therefore, shouldn’t be compared

Cry wolf

– to keep asking for help when you do not need it

Curiosity killed the cat

– said to warn someone not to ask too many questions about something

Cut corners

– to save money or time when doing something by not including some parts, actions, or details, so that the result is not as good as it could be

The devil’s advocate

– a person who expresses an opinion that disagrees with others

Don’t cry over spilled milk

– don’t waste time worrying about things that have already happened and can’t be changed

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

– don’t risk everything on the success of one venture

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch

– don’t make plans based on something that might not happen

Don’t judge a book by its cover

– don’t judge someone or something based solely on appearance

Drop in the bucket

– a very small or unimportant amount

Draw the line

– set a limit on what one is willing to do or accept

Easy come, easy go

– said when something, especially money, is easily got and then soon spent or lost

Early bird catches the worm

– being early or punctual leads to success.

The elephant in the room

– the big issue, the problem people are avoiding

Every cloud has a silver lining

– said to emphasize that every difficult or unpleasant situation has some advantage

Face the music

– to accept or confront the unpleasant consequences of one’s actions

Fair and square

– in an honest way and without any doubt

Feeling under the weather

– feeling sick or unwell

Fish out of water

– feeling uncomfortable in a particular situation

Fortune favors the bold

– who take risks often reap great rewards

To get under my skin

– to irritate or upset someone

Get out of hand

– when a situation gets out of control

Give someone the cold shoulder

– to intentionally ignore or treat someone with indifference

Good things come to those who wait

– be patient

Go the extra mile

– to make an additional effort or do more than what is expected

Go round in circles

– to keep doing or talking about the same thing without achieving anything

Go up in smoke

– something has failed or been destroyed

Go with the flow

– be relaxed and accept a situation

Have your back to/against the wall

– to have very serious problems that limit the ways in which you can act

Hit the nail on the head

– find exactly the right answer

In the same boat

– facing the same problems or challenges

It’s not rocket science

– it’s not difficult to understand

It’s raining cats and dogs

– it’s raining heavily.

I’ll/we’ll cross that bridge when I/we come/get to it

– you will not worry about a possible future problem but will deal with it if it happens

Jump on the bandwagon

– to join an activity that has become very popular or to change your opinion to one that has become very popular

Keep an eye on the ball

– telling someone to pay attention to a situation

Keep your chin up

– stay positive and optimistic

Keep eye on the ball

– to give your attention to what you are doing at the time

Kill two birds with one stone

– achieving two goals with a single action

The last straw

– the final, intolerable thing that causes a reaction

Let the cat out of the bag

– accidentally reveal a secret

Look before you leap

– think carefully about the possible risks and effects before you decide to do something

Lose your touch

– to no longer have the ability to do things that one was able to do successfully in the past

Make a long story short

– summarize a lengthy story or explanation

Miss the boat

– this phrase is used to describe when you let an opportunity or deadline pass by.

Needle in a haystack

– something very difficult to find

No pain, no gain

– you have to work for what you want

On thin ice

– in a dangerous or risky situation with much margin for error

Once in a blue moon

– this phrase is used to describe something that doesn’t happen often.

Once bitten, twice shy

– said when you are frightened to do something again because you had an unpleasant experience doing it the first time

Out of the frying pan into the fire

– said when you move from a bad or difficult situation to one that is worse

Over the moon

– extremely happy or delighted

A penny for your thoughts

– used to ask someone what they are thinking about

People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones

– you should not criticize other people for bad qualities in their character that you have yourself

A perfect storm

– the worst possible situation

Piece of cake

– something very easy to do

Piece of pie

– a share of something, especially profits or success

The pot calling the kettle black

– a situation in which somebody comments on or accuses someone else of a fault which the accuser shares

Put the cart before the horse

– to do things in the wrong order

Put your foot in your mouth

– to say or do something that you should not have, esp. something that embarrasses someone else

Put your money where your mouth is

– to show by your actions and not just your words that you support or believe in something

Read between the lines

– understand a deeper or hidden meaning in something

Rome wasn’t built in a day

– important things take time to accomplish

Rule of thumb

– a general guideline or rule

To run in the family

– a trait or characteristic shared among family members

See eye to eye

– agreeing with someone

To sell like hot cakes

– to be bought quickly and in large numbers

Skeleton in the closet

– a hidden or embarrassing secret

Spill the beans

– to tell people secret information

Shoot the bull

– have a casual conversation or chat

Sit on the fence

– avoid making a decision or choice

A snowball effect

– a situation in which something increases in size or importance at a faster and faster rate

Steer clear of

– avoid something or someone

A storm in a teacup

– a lot of unnecessary anger and worry about a matter that is not important

Take it with a pinch of salt

– believe only part of something

Time flies

– time passes quickly

Time is money

– you should not waste time, because you could be using it to earn money

When pigs fly

– something that is highly unlikely to happen

A watched pot never boils

– time seems to pass more slowly when you’re waiting for something

When in Rome, do as the Romans do

– adapt to local customs and behaviors

You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs

– achieving something often involves sacrifice or difficulty

You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours

– used to tell someone that if they help you, you will help them

Your guess is as good as mine

– neither of us knows the answer

Zero tolerance

– no acceptance or forgiveness for a particular behavior or action