40 Common English Idioms
Common English Idioms
- 24/7: Twenty-four hours a day; seven days a week; all the time; constantly. My little sister irritates me 24/7!
- A short fuse: A quick temper. Jamie is known for his short fuse; just a few days ago he screamed at his coach for not letting him play.
- A taste of your own medicine: Bad treatment deservedly received for treating other people badly. After constantly being prank-called, Julian decided to give Juan a taste of his own medicine and ordered twenty-seven pizzas to be delivered to Juan’s house.
- Butterflies in my stomach: To be nervous. Liam had butterflies in his stomach before he went on stage to play the violin.
- By the skin of your teeth: To just barely get by or make it. Lester made the dance team by the skin of his teeth; you can tell he hasn’t been dancing jazz for very long.
- Cat got your tongue?: Can’t you speak? (Usually said to embarrass the other person). I just saw you kissing my boyfriend. What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?
- Crying wolf: To ask for help when you don’t need it. You have cried wolf so many times that no one believes you when you’re really hurt.
- Cut someone some slack: To not judge someone too harshly. Hey. Cut me some slack. I was really busy with my frog hunting business last week and forgot to call. I’m sorry!
- Down for the count: Tired; giving up; unable or unwilling to participate any longer. No, you can’t take my dog for a walk—she’s down for the count after chasing cats all day.
- Draw the line: To stop; to know the point where something goes from okay to not okay. Now I draw the line at speaking in front of 34,000 people.
- Easier said than done: Not as easy as it appears to be. You want me to come to work at 6:00 AM? Easier said than done!
- Every cloud has a silver lining: You can find good in every bad situation. Even though you just got fired, remember that every cloud has a silver lining—at least you don’t have to work for that grouchy boss anymore!
- Finding a needle in a haystack: Virtually impossible to find. Trying to get a new job these days is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
- Fish out of water: To be out of place. Tom felt like a fish out of water at the Star Trek convention his new girlfriend begged him to attend.
- Get something off your chest: To talk about something that has been bothering you for a long time; to admit something you have done wrong. I have to get this off my chest—I copied your answers on the SAT. Thanks for the 15th percentile score, by the way.
- Give it a whirl: To try something. I’ve never gone kite-boarding, but I’m prepared to give it a whirl!
- Go down in flames: To fail suddenly and spectacularly. The football player’s career went down in flames after the media learned he’d been losing on purpose to settle gambling debts.
- Go the extra mile: To make an extra effort. My dentist always goes the extra mile, offering free back massages at the end of a stressful tooth extraction.
- Hang in there: Be patient. Wait it out. I know you’re struggling right now in school but just hang in there. It’ll get easier. I promise.
- In the fast lane: A life filled with excitement. When Curtis turned forty, he decided he needed to live life in the fast lane, so he quit his job as a dentist and decided to tour Europe by motorcycle.
- In the nick of time: Almost too late. You gave me that main idea help in the nick of time—my teacher just gave us a quiz on that reading skill and I passed it!
- Let the cat out of the bag: Tell a secret. Brady’s surprise party is going to be great if you don’t let the cat out of the bag.
- Let the chips fall where they may: To let something happen, no matter if it’s good or bad. Look. I’m going to just try out for the cheerleading squad and let the chips fall where they may.
- Lose your marbles: To go crazy; insane. Mom has really lost her marbles; she’s making me practice writing the ACT Essay seven times this week!
- Once in a blue moon: Rarely. In Florida, the temperature drops below freezing only once in a blue moon.
- Plain as day: Obvious; clear. It’s plain as day that you’re in love with her, so just admit it.
- Play second fiddle: To be less important. I hate playing second fiddle to my sister; she always does things better than I do!
- Put your foot in your mouth: Saying something you shouldn’t have. Jessica really put her foot in her mouth when she asked about John’s job right after he lost it.
- Pull yourself together: Calm down and behave normally. Pull yourself together, man! Sure, your girlfriend just dumped you and then you got hit by a car, but you can’t let those things get you down.
- Sick and tired: To be bothered or annoyed by. She is sick and tired of her dog chewing up her shoes every day.
- Sleep on it: To think about something for a while before making a decision. Don’t tell me whether you’ll move to Texas with me or not today. Sleep on it, and get back to me tomorrow.
- Snug as a bug in a rug: Warm and cozy; content. That baby looks as snug as a bug in a rug cuddled up next to his mother.
- Step up your game: To start performing better. Listen, Jen. You’d better step up your game if you want to get all A’s in Miss Finch’s Physics class. She isn’t easy!
- Stick your nose into something: To interfere. Sharon always sticks her nose into everyone else’s business.
- Straight from the horse’s mouth: Directly from the person involved. Listen to the news straight from the horse’s mouth; we’re all getting bonuses this week!
- Take it easy: Relax. I know you’re not feeling well, so try to take it easy today.
- Tip of the iceberg: The small easily visible part of a larger problem. The fact that Carrie is dating a member of the mafia is just the tip of the iceberg; she’s also smuggling contraband into the country.
- To not see the wood for the trees: To be so involved with the details that you don’t get the most important facts. She always argues about the silliest things; it’s like she can’t see the wood for the trees.
- Up a creek without a paddle: In an unlucky/bad situation. If you don’t have any money to pay for the repairs we just made to your car, I guess you’re up a creek without a paddle because you can’t have your car back.
- You rock!: You are great. Dude. You rock. Thanks for offering to watch my pet iguana all week.
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