English Idioms for Language Students

A Guide to English Catch Phrases and their Usage!

In order to sound proficient in English, it’s important to have the basics down. In every language spoken all around the world, there are catchphrases. There are “sayings” that don’t necessarily make grammatical sense, but they have gained significance over time.

Today we will be exploring the use of Idioms in the English language, and how something literal can become figurative under the right circumstances. These are intermediate phrases that can help supplement the vocabulary of a non-native speaker. Impress your English-speaking friends with a few of these thrown into casual conversation!

What is an English Idiom?

Knowing the meaning of idioms is a sign that you are an advanced student. An idiom is a phrase or expression that has a meaning that is different from the literal meaning of the individual words that make it up. English speakers use idioms all the time, and they can be a great way to add personality and flavour to your language. Learning a few common themes can help you seem relatable and charming when conversing with friends.

Here are a few common English idioms:

“That’s the last straw!” – This idiom is used to express frustration or anger. It comes from the idea of a camel being overloaded with straw, and then finally breaking under the weight.

“I’m pulling your leg!” – This idiom means that someone is joking with you.

“I’m all ears!” – This idiom means that someone is ready and willing to listen.

“Let’s not beat around the bush” – Avoid saying what you mean to say because it is uncomfortable.

“Break a Leg!” – Good Luck from a supportive friend.

“I have to bite the bullet.” – I have to do something I’ve been avoiding.

“I’m hitting the hay.” – I’m going to bed

“I’ll let you off the hook.” – You don’t have to do this for me anymore.

“Speak of the devil!” – I was just talking about you.

“I’m feeling under the weather.” – They are not feeling very well, a sick feeling,

“Cross that bridge when you come to it.” – You can deal with that bad situation later.

“I’ll quit cold turkey” – Nothing to do with uncooked turkey, it means “I’ll quit straight away”.

“He’s giving me the cold shoulder” – He’s ignoring me.

“That adds insult to injury” – That makes a bad situation worse.

“The best rules of thumb are” – a non-scientific rule, a guideline.

“The silver lining is” –  A good outcome from a bad situation

“Back to the drawing board”  – Stop work and go back to brainstorming

“It’s a blessing in disguise” – Something good that looks as if it is bad for you.


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How to Learn More English Idioms

Learning these catchphrases is a surefire way to sound proficient in English. Plugging these into conversation shows that you are not only an avid English speaker but an expert English listener. Looking to beef up your common idiom vocabulary? Here are a few examples of idiom research:

Read, read, read!

The more exposure you have to English, the more likely you are to encounter idioms. Try reading English books, articles, and blogs. This can range from popular book series to formal English exams. 

Listen to English podcasts and shows.

Idioms are often used informally, so they’re more likely to pop up in casual conversation than in formal writing. This can also be applied to music videos, and movies from the 20th century.

Practice, practice, practice!

Try using English idioms yourself in conversation with learners. The more you use them, the better you’ll become at understanding and using them yourself, with friends or fellow English learners!

Check out English idiom dictionaries and books.

These can be a great resource for learning about common English idioms.

Use English idiom quizzes and games to test your knowledge.

This is a great way to see how much you’ve learned and to challenge yourself to learn more.

Learn some English Idioms Today!

Learning English idioms can be a fun and rewarding experience. By expanding your English vocabulary, you’ll be able to better communicate with English speakers and understand the nuances of the language. This blog has given you examples of common idioms and the meaning of these expressions. Want to know more? Additional resources like reading books, listening to inspiring talks, and watching American movies can help you brush up on your figurative language. So don’t be afraid to give it a try!

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do you teach idioms to English language learners?

When teaching idioms to English language learners, it is important to provide both verbal and written explanations of the meaning of the idiom. It can also be helpful to give examples of how the idiom is used in a sentence. Additionally, it is useful to provide context clues about the origins of the idiom.

Why idioms are important for English language learners?

Idioms are an important part of any language, and that includes English. For English language learners, idioms can be a great way to become more proficient in the language. They can also help to make the conversation more natural and expressive.

Why are idioms difficult for English language learners?

Idioms are one of the most difficult aspects of learning English as a second language. An idiom is an expression that has a meaning that is not literal. For example, the idiom “it’s raining cats and dogs” means that it is raining very hard. This can be confusing for English language learners because the phrase does not make sense when taken literally. In addition, idioms often vary from region to region. What may be a common idiom in one area of the country may be completely unfamiliar in another.

How do you teach idioms in a fun way?

There are many ways to teach idioms in a fun way. One way is to have students create their comic strips using idioms. This activity allows students to be creative and provides an opportunity for them to use idioms in context. Another fun way to teach idioms is through songs and games. Songs can help students to memorize the meaning of an idiom, and games can provide a more interactive way for students to learn.

How do you explain idioms to children?

Idioms are expressions that cannot be taken literally. For example, the phrase “it’s raining cats and dogs” is an idiom that means it is raining very hard. Children often have difficulty understanding idioms because they are used to taking phrases literally. When children encounter an idiom, they may stop and try to figure out what it means, which can disrupt the flow of conversation.

To help children understand idioms, adults can provide a brief explanation of the meaning of the phrase. For example, you could say, “When we say ‘it’s raining cats and dogs,’ we mean that it is raining very hard.” By providing children with this context, adults can help them to better understand and use idioms.

How do you learn idioms and phrases?

For learners of a second language, acquiring idiomatic expressions can be one of the most challenging aspects of mastering the new language. However, there are several ways to learn idioms and phrases. One approach is to memorize common expressions and practice using them in conversation. Another method is to look up the meaning of unfamiliar phrases when they are heard or encountered in reading.

What is the purpose of using idioms in language?

Idioms are words, phrases, or expressions that have a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from the literal definition of the words. They can be used to express emotions, add colour to writing, or convey a message more creatively. In many cases, idioms can also help to clarify the meaning of a sentence by adding additional context. For example, the idiom “it’s raining cats and dogs” is often used to describe heavy rain. However, it can also be used to convey that someone is very upset and crying uncontrollably.

What is the purpose of teaching idioms?

By teaching idioms, teachers can help their students to become more proficient in the language and to better understand the culture of the people who speak it. Additionally, idioms can provide a fun and challenging way for students to practice their language skills. By learning about the various meanings and origins of idioms, students can develop a deeper understanding of the language and its many nuances. 

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Bethany MacDonald

Bethany MacDonald

Bethany MacDonald has contributed articles LillyPad.ai since 2020. As their Blog Lead, she specialises in informative pieces on culture, education, and language learning

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