50 Most Common English Idioms and Phrases (With Examples) - Justlearn (2023)

You are looking to take your English skills to another level?

English idioms and phrases are the way to do it.

By combining words that have completely different individual meanings, we get idioms.

English idioms are extremely common in everyday conversation and, therefore, essential for language progression.

"An idiom (also called idiomatic expression) is an expression, word, or phrase that has a figurative meaning..."

Learning new words is not sufficient to become a fluent English speaker but idioms and proverbs can truly boost your knowledge.

In the following lines, you will find some of the most common English idioms with their meanings and sentences:

1. A hard nut to crack

Explanation: usually a person who is very difficult to deal with

Example: I gave my best to be friendly with her, but she is simply a hard nut to crack.

2. All ears

Explanation: very concentrated or keen to listen to the other person who has your full attention.

Example: Children are all ears when the teacher tells them fairytales.

3. A picture is worth a thousand words

Explanation: It’s better to show than to tell; illustration conveys a stronger message than words.

Example: Such a beautiful portrait of a little girl represents how a picture is worth a thousand words.

4. A piece of cake

Explanation: something easily done, simple task, or work.

Example: Anne said the test would be difficult, but it was a piece of cake. I’ll pass with no problem at all.

5. Better late than never

Explanation: It’s better to arrive late than not to come at all.

Example: We’ve been waiting for you for three hours, but better late than never.

6. Born with a silver spoon in mouth

Explanation: Someone who is born in a very wealthy family.

Example: He does not need this job as much as I do; he is born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

7. Bread and butter

Explanation: earnings of a person; indicate when a person earns for a living.

Example: You have to earn your own bread and butter.

8. Break the ice

Explanation: to try to become friends with someone; to make a start of something.

Example: It’s always easiest to break the ice after I’ve had a few drinks.

9. Break a leg

Explanation: Good luck, best wishes.

Example: You have a test tomorrow? Break a leg!

10. Can judge a book by its cover

Explanation: you can’t judge something just by its appearance.

Example: The candidate doesn’t look very promising, but you can't judge a book by its cover.

11. Chasing rainbows

Explanation: to follow your dreams, trying to do something that can’t be achieved.

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

Example: I understand you want to be a famous singer, but don’t chase rainbows. You are not a good singer!

12. Cool as a cucumber

Explanation: to be very calm and relaxed

Example: How could the murderer be as cool as a cucumber after doing such serious crimes?

Related article: 8 Good Reasons Why English Is Important To Learn

13. Costs an arm and a leg

Explanation: when something costs too much money, it’s way too expensive.

Example: The show is excellent, but the tickets cost an arm and a leg.

14. Cry over spilled milk

Explanation: to be upset about something that is already done or a mistake that can’t be changed.

Example: It’s no use crying over spilled milk. It was a bad investment.

15. Draw a longbow

Explanation: to exaggerate, to lie.

Example: Anne is drawing a longbow. Do you believe her at all?

16. Easier said than done

Explanation: not as easy to do as it seems harder than you think.

Example: It's a lot tougher than that. It's one of those things that are easier said than done.

17. Eat like a bird

Explanation: to eat very little.

Example: Look at you! You have to eat more. You are eating like a bird.

18. Feeling under the weather

Explanation: to feel ill, sick, having a hangover.

Example: I have my final test, but I’m feeling under the weather. I think I have a fever.

19. Find your feet

Explanation: become confident in what you are doing, or familiar with some new situation or experience.

Example: I'm new to this city, so I'm still finding my feet.

20. Food for thought

Explanation: an idea to think about; think about things that can arise from an event or situation.

Example: My daughter has given me some food for thought about how she organizes her toys.

21. Forty winks

Explanation: sleep a while mainly during the day; take a nap.

Example: My dad always likes to catch forty winks after lunch.

22. Give a shot

Explanation: to try something you are not quite familiar with.

Example: I’m not prepared for my exam today. I will give it a shot.

23. Go cold turkey

Explanation: to suddenly stop or quit some bad or addictive behavior, like stop smoking.

Example: He had been trying to quit smoking for a year but couldn't, so he decided to go cold turkey.

24. Hit the hay/sack

Explanation: when someone is really tired and wants to go to sleep.

Example: Sorry guys, I have to hit the hay now!

(Video) Learn the 50 Most Common British Idioms and Expressions in 20 Minutes

25. Hold one’s peace.

Explanation: be silent.

Example: Just hold your peace if you don’t have anything smart to say.

26. It’s not rocket science

Explanation: It’s not difficult; it’s not complicated.

Example: Driving a car isn’t rocket science. I don’t understand why people don’t drive better.

27. Keep your chin up

Explanation: be brave and courageous in a tough situation.

Example: Don't let the difficulties intimidate you; keep your chin up.

28. Kill two birds with one stone.

Explanation: accomplish two different things, jobs, or actions; solve problems at the same time.

Example: Cycling to work kills two birds with one stone. It saves money and gives you some exercise.

For more expressions, contact Justlearn English tutors and book your first trial lesson.

29. Lose your marbles

Explanation: to go crazy, insane.

Example: I’ve been so bad lately that I thought I’m losing my marbles.

30. Make ends meet.

Explanation: make enough money to survive, to manage expenses.

Example: We need to start saving money in order to make ends meet.

31. Make a long story short

Explanation: Tell something briefly.

Example: To make a long story short, I had a wonderful time during my vacation.

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32. Never in a million years

Explanation: Absolutely never.

Example: Never in a million years would I think to fall in love with him.

33. On cloud nine

Explanation: to be extremely happy or cheerful.

Example: Susan is on cloud nine since she got married.

34. Once in a blue moon

Explanation: something happens very rarely, once after a very long time.

Example: I don’t know why she bought that music system. She uses it once in a blue moon.

35. Out of the woods

Explanation: the hardest part of something is over, but the situation isn’t still good.

Example: The surgery went well, but he’s not out of the woods yet.

36. Penny for your thoughts

Explanation: a way of asking someone else’s thoughts.

Example: You seem so serious. A penny for your thoughts.

(Video) Learn 50 popular English Idioms in the United States

Don't forget to work on learning new English words every day, not just idioms.

37. Pull someone’s leg

Explanation: To joke with someone, to trick someone in a humorous way

Example: I think he was just pulling your leg when he said you’ve fallen in the exam.

38. Rain cats and dogs

Explanation: rain heavily, tremendously.

Example: It’s raining cats and dogs when the Monsoon comes.

39. Speak of the devil

Explanation: The person we were talking about showed up.

Example: Did you hear what happened to Anne yesterday? Oh, speak of the devil, there she is.

40. Square peg in a round hole

Explanation: When a person doesn’t fit into society when you find in a surrounding that doesn’t suit you.

Example: That lifestyle really doesn't suit Sally at all; she's like a square peg in a round hole.

41. Takes two to tango.

Explanation: Specific actions can’t be performed alone; it takes two persons to participate; both persons are responsible for an action.

Example: If you want to play that game, you need a partner who plays with you. It takes two to tango.

42. That’s the last straw

Explanation: Someone’s patience has run out, to be the latest in a sequence of unpleasant things that can’t be accepted.

Example: I’m not going to wait for the last straw. I’ll do something about the problem much sooner than you.

43. To cut corners

Explanation: to do something in an easy and very cheap way; to reduce time, money, expenses.

Example: My mom often had to cut corners when we were kids to feed all of us.

44. To go Dutch

Explanation: When everyone pays his bill.

Example: Last night we had a date, but we went Dutch because I’ve paid for my coffee and he paid his.

45. To have sticky fingers

Explanation: to be a thief.

Example: The manager fired his employee because he had sticky fingers. He stole 100$.

46. To sit tight

Explanation: wait patiently and take no action; stay where you are.

Example: Just relax and sit tight; we'll solve the problem for you.

47. Up in the air

Explanation: unresolved, undecided about something; full of doubt.

Example: I am not sure what the plans are. Everything was up in the air when I last spoke to him about it.

48. What goes around, comes around.

Explanation: how you treat and behave to others will eventually come to you, too.

Example: All of his life, he treated his family with no respect, and now his son is doing the same to him. What goes around, comes around.

49. When pigs fly

Explanation: something that will never happen or highly unlikely to happen.

Example: He plans to clean his house every week, but he will probably do it only when pigs fly.

50. Zip your lip

Explanation: To remain a secret or silent.

(Video) 1 hour of common phrases in English (with examples)

Example: I’ll tell you a secret about Marry, but zip your lip about it!

Related article: 20 Idioms With Their Meanings and Sentences (That You Really Need To Know) + PDF

Practice makes perfect

To learn English idioms better, we’ve prepared some exercises that will help you test your knowledge.

Don’t be shy. Try and find out.

Please note that you will not need all listed idioms in the following exercises, so focus and pay attention.

I can’t wait to see you on premiere tomorrow night! __________________ !

I can’t believe that was our test. I think it was easier than some of our homework! It was a ______.

They were discussing the girl who was his new crush when she walked in. ____________________.

The earthquakes hits _________________ in this part of the earth, we never felt it.

He showed up for the wedding when they were already cutting the cake. __________________, I suppose.

To_______________________________, he still stays in the apartment but now it is owned by someone else.

You can't be serious about that! Stop ___________________.

Such a beautiful portrait of a little girl - represents how ________________________.

I am really tired after all that exercise. I am going to_______________.

John asked Sarah whether she would go to the movies with him. Sarah replied that would happen __________________.

It is sad to see that people always wait until ________________before they start to take any action in this country.

It’s not right to blame only the other woman for his adulterous affair -__________________.

I have never eaten Mexican food, but I will ______________ .

She has just returned from her vacation, but is feeling _______________and has a sore throat and running nose.

I have to go to the bank, and on the way back, I'll pick up the groceries also, ____________________.

He really wants to go to that event. He's willing to pay __________________ for it.

When drug addicts go ___________________ they experience a period of extreme suffering.

He has never worked hard for anything because he was________________________. His parents brought everything to him instead.

Shall we _____________? No, not this time I’m paying the bill.

Peter is still new in his job; give him some time to ______________.


9, B. 4, C. 39, D. 34, E. 5, F. 31. G. 37, H. 3, I. 49, J. 42, K. 41, L. 22, M. 18, N. 28, O. 13, P. 23, Q. 6, R. 6, S. 44, T. 19.


What are 50 examples of idioms and their meanings? ›

50 popular idioms to sound like a native speaker
Jump on the bandwagonJoin a popular trend or activity
Kill two birds with one stoneSolve two problems at once / with one action
Leave no stone unturnedDo everything possible to achieve a goal
Let the cat out of the bagAccidentially reveal a secret
46 more rows
Mar 20, 2017

What are the 100 idioms and their meanings? ›

List of 100+ Common Idioms, Their Meanings and Examples of Their Usage in Sentences
Under the weatherFeeling ill / Getting a cold
Let the cat out of the bagReveal a secret carelessly
Elephant in the roomA controversial problem or a major issue
To say in a nutshellTo sum up the points and be brief
80 more rows

What are the 200 idioms? ›

Without further ado, here are 200+ popular idioms, each followed by its meaning and an example sentence (marked 'S').
  • Stir up a hornets' nest. ...
  • 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.
Dec 27, 2022

How can I learn idioms and phrases easily? ›

  1. Try to devise its visual meaning by putting it in a sentence. Eg. ...
  2. Read the idiom again and again and try to draw a connection between the words used. ...
  3. While reading the idioms try to understand the context for which they are used, this will help you in memorizing them.
Dec 1, 2020

What is the most popular idiom? ›

The most common English idioms
Speak of the devilThe person we were just talking about showed up!
That's the last strawMy patience has run out
The best of both worldsAn ideal situation
Time flies when you're having funYou don't notice how long something lasts when it's fun
33 more rows

What is a list of words and phrases used? ›

Expert-Verified Answer

A list of words and phrases used in a particular subject area is called Index.

What are the 5 common sayings? ›

In this lesson, you will learn five useful English sayings including, Practice makes perfect , Don't judge a book by its cover , Two heads are better than one , Don't put all your eggs in one basket , and No man is an island . Sayings are also called proverbs.

What are the 25 idioms? ›

25 Commonly used Idioms and their Origins
  • White Elephant. Meaning: ...
  • Fly off the handle. Fly off the handle. ...
  • Close but no cigar. Meaning: ...
  • Give the cold shoulder. Give the cold shoulder. ...
  • Let the cat out of the bag. Let the cat out of the bag. ...
  • Heard it through the grapevine. Meaning: ...
  • An arm and a leg. Meaning: ...
  • Hands down. Meaning:

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.
Oct 15, 2020

What is common idioms and phrases? ›

Common English idioms & expressions
A penny saved is a penny earnedMoney you save today you can spend later
A perfect stormthe worst possible situation
A picture is worth 1000 wordsBetter to show than tell
Actions speak louder than wordsBelieve what people do and not what they say
55 more rows

What is very rare in idioms? ›

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

What is the idiom of A to Z? ›

Idiom: From A to Z

from A to Z: the entire range of something. including every step from start to finish. completely, to include everything and every detail.

How to master English idioms? ›

Hear it - First, you need to hear or read a new expression or come into contact with it in any other way. In order to spice your vocabulary up with idioms and phrases, you first have to constantly be on the prowl for them. Write it - Next up is writing the new phrases or idioms down, lest you forget them.

How can I practice English idioms? ›

But the ideas below can be used with any list of idioms that you want to practice in class!
  1. Posters. When you hang our idioms posters (or ones your students have created) around your class, your learners will be exposed to them daily. ...
  2. Make Your Own Posters. ...
  3. Skits. ...
  4. Matchup. ...
  5. Speaking. ...
  6. Writing. ...
  7. Quizzes. ...
  8. TV Shows.
Mar 12, 2015

What is the idiom for do something impossible? ›

"Boil the ocean" is an idiomatic phrase that means to undertake an impossible task or project or to make a job or project unnecessarily difficult.

What is the easiest idiom? ›

10 expressions to Use In Speaking And Writing:
  • It's a doddle.
  • Easy peasy.
  • It's a cinch.
  • There's nothing to it.
  • Anyone can do it.
  • It's childsplay.
  • It's a walk in the park.
  • It's not rocket science.

What is the idiom all the best? ›

used to say goodbye, or to end a letter to someone you know well, or to send good wishes to someone: All the best to your parents! Hope to see you soon. All the best, Rod.

What is the oldest idiom still used today? ›

Beach got very excited about the phrase: 'No one can step twice in the same river'. These words were almost certainly composed (in Ionic Greek) by Heraclitus of Ephesus and preserved thanks to Plato.

What is the fastest way to memorize a sentence? ›

Simple memory tips and tricks
  1. Try to understand the information first. Information that is organized and makes sense to you is easier to memorize. ...
  2. Link it. ...
  3. Sleep on it. ...
  4. Self-test. ...
  5. Use distributed practice. ...
  6. Write it out. ...
  7. Create meaningful groups. ...
  8. Use mnemonics.

How to memorize 40 vocabulary words? ›

10 simple tips on how to memorize English vocabulary
  1. Use flashcards (in moderation!)
  2. Try learning example sentences.
  3. Use it or lose it.
  4. Look up new words (the right way!)
  5. Write words down.
  6. Keep a notebook handy.
  7. Try using the plural form or different tenses.
  8. Use mnemonics.
Feb 3, 2023

What are the 12 powerful words? ›

What are the twelve powerful words? Trace, Analyze, Infer, Evaluate, Formulate, Describe, Support, Explain, Summarize, Compare, Contrast, Predict. Why use the twelve powerful words? These are the words that always give students more trouble than others on standardized tests.

What are the 100 common words? ›

Do you know the most common English words?
1. the21. at61. some
7. is27. one67. into
8. you28. had68. time
9. that29. by69. has
10. it30. word70. look
15 more rows

What is the most said phrase in the world? ›

In 2020, “now more than ever” had been the most used phrase, this changed to “new normal” in 2021. The phrase was revealed by the tech giant with the help of its tool called Ngrams, which had been launched way back in 2009. The tool showed how phrases and words fell and rose in terms of popularity over time.

What are the most powerful phrases? ›

  1. 21 Of The World's Most Powerful Quotes, Updated For Today. ...
  2. “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” ...
  3. “Everybody is a genius. ...
  4. “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” ...
  5. “He who fears he will suffer, already suffers because he fears.”

What is the most common saying in English? ›

Top 10 English phrases and sentences you need to know
  • Good morning. Sometimes, all you need to start the day right is a good coffee and someone greeting you smiling. ...
  • Good afternoon. ...
  • My name is Mondly. ...
  • I'm pleased to meet you. ...
  • How are you? ...
  • Fine, thanks. ...
  • I'd like a beer. ...
  • I'm sorry.

Can you give me 10 examples of 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.

Do you know any English idioms? ›

English idioms, proverbs, and expressions are an important part of everyday English. They come up all the time in both written and spoken English.
Common English idioms & expressions.
It's a piece of cakeIt's easyby itself
It's raining cats and dogsIt's raining hardby itself
57 more rows

What are 4 types of idioms? ›

Generally speaking, there are four types of idioms: pure idioms, binomial idioms, partial idioms, and prepositional idioms.
4 types of idioms
  • 1 Pure idiom. ...
  • 2 Binomial idiom. ...
  • 3 Partial idiom. ...
  • 4 Prepositional idiom.
Nov 1, 2022

What are 2 examples of 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.

What are 3 sentences using idioms? ›

Don't jump the gun. He decided to let her off the hook. He missed the boat. I go out for walks once in a blue moon.

What are the 5 examples of idiom? ›

10 Idioms You Can Use Today
  • “Hit the hay.” “Sorry, guys, I have to hit the hay now!” ...
  • “Up in the air” “Hey, did you ever figure out those plans?” ...
  • “Stabbed in the back” ...
  • “Takes two to tango” ...
  • “Kill two birds with one stone.” ...
  • “Piece of cake” ...
  • “Costs an arm and a leg” ...
  • “Break a leg”
Sep 29, 2017

What are 10 examples of idioms and their meanings? ›

English Commonly Used Idioms and Meaning List; Barrel of laugh: someone who is very funny Old as the hills: some who is very old In the doghouse: To have some unhappy with you Up for grabs: Available for anyone Split hairs: Argue or worry about small details Kick The Bucket: Die Oddball: a weirdo or a strange person ...

How many English idioms are there? ›

There are estimated to be at least 25,000 idiomatic expressions in the English language. While we cannot go over every single one of them in one article, we can provide some more English expressions native speakers use in their everyday English.

What is an overused idiom called? ›

A cliché is an expression, idea, or action that has been overused to the point of seeming worn out, stale, ineffective, or meaningless. It especially refers to common phrases and elements of art, such as a movie plot.

What is a perfect idiom that means an extremely bad situation? ›

"to be a perfect storm" / "to be like a perfect storm" Meaning: a rare occurrence or combination of certain events, circumstances, or factors that create an extremely bad situation; a really bad situation caused by the combination of many things.

What's another word for one in a million? ›

Extraordinary, rare, as in She's the kindest soul—she's one in a million, or This ring is one in a thousand. All these terms are hyperbolic.

What does the saying a dime a dozen mean? ›

So plentiful as to be valueless. For example, Don't bother to buy one of these—they're a dime a dozen. The dime was declared the American ten-cent coin in 1786 by the Continental Congress. [ First half of 1900s]

Why do we say once in a blue moon? ›

The concept behind the origination of this idiom is second but rare appearance of the full moon in same month. Blue moon is the full moon that appears second time in same calendar month and this phenomenon happens only once in 32 months.

What is the idiom for monkey? ›

'More fun than a barrel of monkeys' means to have a lot of fun. "You should watch the men's team play cricket. They have more fun than a barrel of monkeys." "We went to watch the romantic comedy last night and it was more fun than a barrel of monkeys."

Where did break a leg come from? ›

In the early days of theater, this is where ensemble actors were queued to perform. If actors were not performing, they had to stay behind the “leg line,” which also meant they wouldn't get paid. If you were to tell the actor to “break a leg,” you were wishing them the opportunity to perform and get paid.

What is an easy example of an idiom? ›

The phrase “kill two birds with one stone” is an example of an idiom. Fluent and native English speakers understand that this doesn't refer to harming birds or using stones, but that someone is completing two tasks at once.

What are the 10 examples of idioms and their meanings? ›

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

What are 5 popular phrases? ›

Top 10 English phrases and sentences you need to know
  • Good morning. Sometimes, all you need to start the day right is a good coffee and someone greeting you smiling. ...
  • Good afternoon. ...
  • My name is Mondly. ...
  • I'm pleased to meet you. ...
  • How are you? ...
  • Fine, thanks. ...
  • I'd like a beer. ...
  • I'm sorry.

What are 5 idiom examples? ›

10 Idioms You Can Use Today
  • “Hit the hay.” “Sorry, guys, I have to hit the hay now!” ...
  • “Up in the air” “Hey, did you ever figure out those plans?” ...
  • “Stabbed in the back” ...
  • “Takes two to tango” ...
  • “Kill two birds with one stone.” ...
  • “Piece of cake” ...
  • “Costs an arm and a leg” ...
  • “Break a leg”
Sep 29, 2017


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