Language Lab

15 common English idioms and phrases with their meaning

Here are 15 common English idioms and phrases that will enrich your English vocabulary and make you sound like a native speaker in no time.

1. ‘The best of both worlds’ – means you can enjoy two different opportunities at the same time.

“By working part-time and looking after her kids two days a week she managed to get the best of both worlds.”

2. ‘Speak of the devil’ – this means that the person you’re just talking about actually turns up at that moment.

“Hi Tom, speak of the devil, I was just telling Sara about your new car.”

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3. ‘See eye to eye’ – this means agreeing with someone.

“They finally saw eye to eye on the business deal.”

4. ‘Once in a blue moon’ – an event that happens infrequently.

“I only go to the cinema once in a blue moon.”

5. ‘When pigs fly’ – something that will never happen.

“When pigs fly she’ll tidy up her room.”

6. ‘To cost an arm and a leg’– something is very expensive.

“Fuel these days costs and arm and a leg.”

7. ‘A piece of cake’– something is very easy.

“The English test was a piece of cake.”

8. ‘Let the cat out of the bag’ – to accidentally reveal a secret.

“I let the cat out of the bag about their wedding plans.”

9. ‘To feel under the weather’ – to not feel well.

“I’m really feeling under the weather today; I have a terrible cold.”

10. ‘To kill two birds with one stone’ – to solve two problems at once.

“By taking my dad on holiday, I killed two birds with one stone. I got to go away but also spend time with him.”

11. ‘To cut corners’ – to do something badly or cheaply.

“They really cut corners when they built this bathroom; the shower is leaking.”

12. ‘To add insult to injury’ – to make a situation worse.

“To add insult to injury the car drove off without stopping after knocking me off my bike.”

13. ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover’ – to not judge someone or something based solely on appearance.

“I thought this no-brand bread would be horrible; turns out you can’t judge a book by its cover.”

14. ‘Break a leg’ – means ‘good luck’ (often said to actors before they go on stage).

“Break a leg Sam, I’m sure your performance will be great.”

15. ‘To hit the nail on the head’ – to describe exactly what is causing a situation or problem.

“He hit the nail on the head when he said this company needs more HR support.”

To test your new-found knowledge here are some sentences to practice with. Fill in the blank!

A) I can’t afford this purse! It _______. I won’t be able to pay my rent!

B) His birthday was supposed to be a surprise! I can’t believe you _____. Now he knows!

C) Ha! John has been promising to paint the house for five years…. Maybe when _______.

D) Yeah, it’ll _______. I need to sign some papers at Jenny’s school anyway so i’ll pick her up for you too.

E) I don’t really like going out to bars anymore. I only go _______.

F) I’m sorry I can’t come into work today. I’m ________. I have a sore throat and runny nose.

G) They tried ________ when installing the pipes for the house and now we have leaks only one month after purchasing it!

H) We missed our flight to Paris because the connecting flight was late and to ______ they made us pay for a new ticket as if it was our fault!

I) I can’t wait to see you perform on stage tonight! ______!

J) Jane is just never on time to work, it’s really annoying. O wow, ______ here she comes…

K) So we’re going to London, then Munich, then we will fly out of Athens, right? Great. I’m so glad to be traveling with someone I _______ with.

L) Wow, she found her dream man and has now landed an amazing job. She really does have ______.

M) OK, she might not be the most attractive but _________. I’m sure she is a sweetheart.

N) I have been trying to figure this out for ages. Thanks so much, you’re right. You _______.

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

So how did you do? Don’t forget to try and use these idioms and phrases when practicing your English. And do let us know if you need further clarification on commonly used idioms by leaving a comment below.

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Answers: 6, 8, 5, 10, 4, 9, 11, 12, 14, 2, 3, 1, 13, 15, 7

Wil is a writer, teacher, learning technologist and keen language learner. He’s taught English in classrooms and online for nearly 10 years, trained teachers in using classroom and web technology, and written e-learning materials for several major websites. He speaks four languages and is currently looking for another one to start learning.

Wil

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