Learning idioms can help you sound more fluent, more like a native speaker. They might not seem like a piece of cake (that means easy) at first because the meaning doesn’t always make sense. However, learning idioms is a great way to expand your vocabulary. And they can even be fun and enjoyable to learn! Keep reading to find out about 10 of the most common English idioms.
Last Updated: 06/29/2022
Without further ado (with no more delay), let’s take a look at 10 common idioms used in English. I hope you find them interesting and you have the chance to use them in real-life situations.
Meaning: To do something without any planning or preparation.
Don’t make a decision yet – play it by ear.
I’m not sure what to do this weekend. I think I’ll just play it by ear.
This idiom might be useful if you are someone who doesn’t like to plan ahead. Some people like to “play it by ear” when they travel to other countries, while others prefer to plan their whole trip.
Meaning: To criticize or shout at someone.
The teacher had a go at me for being late.
My mom always has a go at me for being lazy.
When was the last time someone “had a go” at you? If someone “has a go” at you, they are criticizing you repeatedly, usually because you have done something wrong. This is a common idiom primarily in British English.
Meaning: To not value or appreciate something or someone as much as you should because you assume you will always have it/them in your life.
Make sure you appreciate your friends and never take them for granted.
I always take my health for granted.
Every time I get ill, I realize that I always take my health for granted every time I don’t feel ill! What do you take for granted?
Meaning: To share the same opinion or perspective as someone.
I’m glad we’ve discussed this and we are on the same page.
Before we go ahead with this business deal, I want to make sure we are on the same page.
When you are dating someone new, it is good to make sure you are on the same page so that you don’t end up in a bad or awkward situation because you don’t want the same thing as each other.
Meaning: To empathize with someone by imagining yourself in their situation and trying to understand their opinion or perspective.
Put yourself in his shoes. If that happened to you, how would you feel?
Before judging them, you should try to put yourself in their shoes.
Are you good at putting yourself in other people’s shoes?
Meaning: To do something cheaply or badly.
They cut corners when they built their house. That’s why they always have problems with it.
I’d rather complete a job properly than cut corners just to save time and money.
If you cut corners, you don’t complete a job to a high standard. This might be to save time or to save money. I remember we once had a plumber who cut corners while working on our bathroom. Our shower leaked for months afterward! Do you ever cut corners when you are working?
Meaning: To avoid talking about something important by talking about other, unimportant things because you feel awkward or nervous.
Stop beating around the bush and tell me what you want to say!
You keep beating around the bush. Just answer my question.
Another word for this is to “deflect.” If you beat around the bush, you are avoiding talking about something by talking about other, insignificant or irrelevant things.
Meaning: Not knowing something is better than knowing and worrying about it.
Sometimes, I prefer not to read the news. Ignorance is bliss.
I don’t always want to know all the facts as I believe ignorance is bliss.
Would you rather know about something terrible that’s happened or be oblivious to it? If you’d rather not know and be oblivious, you might use this idiom.
Meaning: To release strong emotions such as stress or anger by taking part in an enjoyable activity.
On the weekend, I like to drink at a bar with my friends to blow off steam.
After work, I went on a run to blow off steam.
Many people like to blow off steam by drinking alcohol, exercising, or seeing their friends. How do you blow off steam?
Meaning: To be very expensive or to spend a lot of money.
I only go out for dinner once a month as it can break the bank.
I like buying second-hand clothes. It’s better for the environment and they don’t break the bank.
Have you ever bought something that’s broken the bank?
It’s a comprehensive 10-module course designed to help you improve every aspect of your spoken English – fluency, confidence, pronunciation, and more – step by step, and enjoy doing it.
So, there you have it. Now you know 10 common idioms in English that will help you sound more fluent and like a native speaker. Whether you are learning English to prepare for an exam, for work, or for travel, these 10 common English idioms will come in handy when you want to express yourself in a clever, interesting way. Can you think of any idioms in your native language that share a similar meaning to any of the ones mentioned in this article?
Learning idioms is definitely not a walk in the park (this is another idiom that means easy). In fact, many learners avoid idioms like the plague (stay away from them) as they can be very difficult and they take time to learn.
However, there are many benefits of learning common English idioms. Let’s take a look at some…
This is because native speakers use idioms a lot in everyday conversation. If you use the language used by native speakers, this will help you to sound more like one yourself, and therefore more natural, when you speak.
Sometimes, idioms are the perfect way of expressing something, using fewer words and context. You might want to express a particular feeling or situation. Rather than adding a lot of detail and context to express yourself, you could use an idiom to express the same thing in a much simpler way.
Picture this situation: you went for a job interview at a company but you were unsuccessful. A few months later, the company is facing financial problems and is forced to lay off new members of the staff. How would you feel? Relieved perhaps? Or, you might say you “dodged a bullet.”
This common English idiom is used to express when you manage to avoid a difficult or stressful situation. If you had been successful in the interview, you would have faced a lot of stress months later when the company fired people. This is a great example of how an idiom can describe a situation perfectly.
Evidently, it is much easier to say “I dodged a bullet” than to explain the situation and how it made you feel in lots of detail.
Some idioms come from past events or experiences. Therefore, learning about them and their meanings can help you to understand more about the language’s culture.
Learning about the culture of the country where the language is spoken will help you understand the true meaning of what people say to you. If you understand the culture, you have more context.
When you learn a language in context, you are usually more likely to understand what you learn and remember it more easily. As a result, learning about the culture at the same time as learning a language is not only fun and interesting, but it also helps you understand more about the language and vocabulary, helping you make progress.
Idioms are an enjoyable way of learning a language. Sometimes, idioms are funny. Also, often, idioms are similar in other languages and it can be interesting to compare idioms between languages.
For example, in English, we have the idiom “to kill two birds with one stone.” This means: to complete two tasks at once; to be efficient.
In Spanish, they say “matar dos pájaros de un tiro” which translates as “to kill two birds with one gun” and in French, it is “faire d’une pierre deux coups” which has the same translation as in English.
If you have fun learning a language, you are more likely to stay motivated. So, learning common idioms is a great way to have fun while learning useful vocabulary.
Well, for a number of different reasons. First, the meaning of idioms is not always clear. Therefore, we must learn the meaning of idioms if we have never heard them before, to fully understand what the speaker is saying.
Secondly, idioms are often related to culture or have some historical context. Sometimes it is necessary to understand where the idiom has come from; what time period it comes from; what its meaning was in the past and how, when, and in what situations we use it today.
This depends on the individual learner as everyone finds different ways of learning new vocabulary to be the most effective for them. However, it is important to have fun and enjoy learning new idioms and phrases. Idioms are often enjoyable to learn as they are usually funny or interesting.
Also, it can be interesting to compare them to idioms you have in your native language. They may share similarities, or even translate directly.
In order to have fun while learning idioms, a great way is by watching popular TV series or films. Some examples of TV series that contain many common English idioms and are a great place to start are Friends, How I Met Your Mother, or The Office.
Language apps can also be a great way to learn new vocabulary, including idioms. Make sure you don’t try to learn too many new idioms at once. It can be overwhelming to learn lots of new phrases and you are less likely to remember them. Limit the number of new idioms you learn. This will be different for everyone but as a general rule, try not to learn more than 5 idioms in one study session.
The flashcards in your MosaLingua app come with images, another great memorization technique. When you create your own flashcards, you can even add your own pictures, like the ones in the list above!
Finally, it is important to learn common English idioms in context. It is far more difficult to learn idioms on their own. If you see an idiom used in context, it will not only make more sense but will also be more memorable.
When we first start learning a language, we focus on grammar, pronunciation, and basic phrases. As we progress, we want to start using different phrases and expressions. We want to communicate with native speakers or even sound like native speakers. Knowing slang and idioms is crucial at this stage, as they are used by native speakers all the time.
Although they are often a difficult aspect of language learning, they are also a fun thing to learn. But what’s the difference between idioms and slang?
Slang is used in informal situations, often amongst family or friends, rather than in a work or professional environment. Slang is interesting as it varies depending on age, location, and time period. For example, the slang I use now with my friends in Scotland is different from the slang my Mum used with her friends in England when she was my age.
Idioms share some similarities with slang. They can also vary depending on who is using them and what part of the world they are from. Idioms can be used in informal situations but some are also appropriate for more formal situations. Idioms are expressions that do not mean what they literally say. It is usually not possible to translate an idiom directly unless you have that same idiom in your own language.
Idioms are usually used by a wider group of people. It is more likely that more people will understand idioms. Slang is usually used by a much smaller group of people. So, unless you are from the area where the slang is used, the chances are you won’t understand the meaning.