150 Idiomatic Expressions and How to Use Them Effectively.

Letter blocks illustrating Idiomatic Expressions in english

What are Idiomatic Expressions?

Idiomatic expressions are phrases whose meaning can not be determined by the literal definition of the words that make them up. In other words, you can’t “figure it out” just by knowing what the individual words mean.

Idioms are often culture-specific. For example, in English, we might say “it’s raining cats and dogs.” This means it’s raining very hard. Someone from a different culture hearing this idiomatic expression for the first time would be very confused! These phrases can be fun to use and can spice up your language.

Are you wondering how you can implement fun and interesting idioms into your daily speech? This blog will give you an extensive list of the most common idioms in the English Language. It will also show you how you can learn these phrases more effectively.

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Top 150 Idiomatic Expressions For English Learners

Idiomatic Expressions For Daily Life:

1. “Kill two birds with one stone”

Meaning: To accomplish two tasks at once.

2. “Break a leg”

Meaning: Good luck (usually said to performers before a show).

3. “This costs an arm and a leg”

Meaning: The item is expensive.

4. “Bring home the bacon”

Meaning: To earn a living.

5. “That’ll be the day!”

Meaning: I don’t believe it!

6 .” He’s dragging his feet”

Meaning: To move slowly.

7. “8-ball”

Meaning: A problem that is impossible to solve.

8. “I’m all ears”

Meaning: I’m listening.

9. “Elementary, my dear Watson”

Meaning: It’s obvious to the person.

10. “In the doghouse”

Meaning: In trouble (usually with a romantic partner)

Idiomatic Expressions About Finances:

11. “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

Meaning: This means that it’s just as important to save money as it is to earn it.

12. “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”

Meaning: This means that money is something that needs to be earned and should not be taken for granted.

13. “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

Meaning: This means that nothing in life is truly free – even if something appears to be, there will usually be some sort of cost involved.

14.” He’s rolling in dough.”

Meaning: He has a lot of money.

15. “A fool and his money are soon parted.”

Meaning: This means that someone who isn’t wise with their spending is likely to lose their money quickly.

16. “Scrape the bottom of the barrel.”

Meaning: To use what little resources you have left.

17. “I’m feeling cash poor.”

Meaning: I don’t have any money at the moment.

18. “She’s a penny pincher.”

Meaning: She saves every penny she can.

19. “He’s living from hand to mouth.”

Meaning: She barely has enough money to support herself day to day.

20. “On a shoestring budget.”

Meaning: I have very little money to spend.

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Idiomatic Expressions About Learning:

21. “Learning the ropes”

Meaning: Learning the basics of something. ex. I’m a new employee here, so I’m still learning the ropes.

22. “Teach someone a lesson.”

Meaning: To punish someone for doing something wrong ex. After he insulted my food, I stopped cooking for him to teach him a lesson.

23. “School of hard knocks.”

Meaning: Learning through experience, especially tough experiences ex. After growing up on the streets, she learned everything from the school of hard knocks.

24. “From scratch”

Meaning: Starting from the beginning ex. I don’t know how to cook, so I’ll have to learn from scratch.

25. “Hit the books.”

Meaning: To study hard ex. I have a test tomorrow, so I need to hit the books tonight.

26. “Learn by heart”

Meaning: Memorize something ex. The names of all Moyer Academy’s administrators are expected to be learned by heart by every student who attends here.

27. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

Meaning: This idiom suggests that it’s difficult for people to learn new things as they age.

28. “Practice makes perfect.”

Meaning: The more you practice something, the better you will become at it.

29. “Knowledge is power.”

Meaning: This idiom suggests that being knowledgeable gives you an advantage over others.

30. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

Meaning: This idiom suggests that networking is important for learning new things.

Idiomatic Expressions About Love:

31. “All’s fair in love and war”

Meaning: This means that anything is acceptable in a situation where you are fighting for something you want or trying to win someone’s affection.

32. “Love is blind”

Meaning: This means that people in love often do not see the faults of the person they love.

33. “Love is a battlefield”

Meaning: Love is a difficult and dangerous thing, full of conflict.

34. “Love conquers all”

Meaning: This means that love will eventually overcome all obstacles.

35. “Love Hurts”

Meaning: This means that love often brings pain as well as happiness.

36. “Love at first sight”

Meaning: This means that you can fall in love with someone the first time you see them.

37. “Can’t live with them, can’t live without them”

Meaning: Even though the person you love drives you crazy, you cannot imagine life without them.

38. “A match made in heaven”

Meaning: This means that two people are perfect for each other.

39. “Till death do us part”

Meaning: You will remain married to your partner until one of you dies.

40. “The course of true love never did run smooth”

Meaning: True love is never easy, it always has difficulties.

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Idiomatic Expressions About Family:

41. “A chip off the old block”

Meaning: Used to describe someone very similar to a parent or other relative.

42. “A black sheep”

Meaning: This idiom is used to describe someone different from the rest of the family, often negatively.

43. “Blood is thicker than water”

Meaning: This idiom means that family bonds are stronger than any other kind of bond.

44. “The apple of my eye”

Meaning: This idiom is used to describe someone who is greatly loved and cherished, often a child.

45. “To tie the knot”

Meaning: This idiom means to get married.

46. “To keep up with the Joneses”

Meaning: To compete with others, especially in terms of material possessions.

47. “(My) old man/woman”

Meaning: Used to refer to one’s father or mother, often in an affectionate way.

48. “Son of a gun!”

Meaning: This idiom is used to express surprise, shock, or admiration.

49. “In-laws”

Meaning: This term refers to the parents of one’s spouse or fiancé/fiancée.

50. “The family jewels”

Meaning: This term refers to a man’s reproductive organs.

Idiomatic Expressions About Thoughts:

51. “I’m just thinking out loud.”

Meaning: This expression is often used when someone is trying to figure something out, or when they are musing aloud about a problem.

52. “I can’t get it out of my head.”

Meaning: This idiom is used to describe a thought that is persistent and won’t go away.

53. “It’s on the tip of my tongue.”

Meaning: Used when someone can’t quite remember something.

54. “Hold that thought…”

Meaning: To continue to think about something, a pause in thought.

55. “That’s food for thought.”

Meaning: This idiom is used to describe something worth considering.

56. “I have mixed feelings about it.”

Meaning: This expression is used when someone has both positive and negative thoughts about something.

57. “I can’t wrap my head around it.”

Meaning: This idiom is used to describe a concept or idea that someone finds confusing or difficult to understand.

58. “Just an educated guess.”

Meaning: To make a suggestion based on prior knowledge and experiences.

59.” It’s all Greek to me.”

Meaning: This idiom means that something is incomprehensible, or too difficult to understand.

60. “She’s in two minds about it.”

Meaning: Someone can’t make up their mind about something.

Idiomatic Expressions About Honesty:

61. “Honesty is the best policy”

Meaning: This means that it is always better, to be honest than to lie or cheat.

62. “Keep it real”

Meaning: This idiom means to be honest and true to yourself.

63. “Tell it like it is”

Meaning: To tell the truth, even if it is not what people want to hear.

64. “The truth hurts”

Meaning: This idiom means that sometimes the truth can be difficult to hear.

65. “Don’t sugarcoat it”

Meaning: Don’t try to make something sound better than it is, just tell the truth.

66. “No harm, no foul”

Meaning: This idiom means that as long as no one was hurt and there was no damage done, then there is no need to worry or apologize.

67. “Honesty is the best medicine”

Meaning: This means that sometimes the best way to deal with a problem is just, to be honest about it.

68. “The truth will out”

Meaning: Eventually, the truth will be revealed.

69. “I’m going to level with you.”

Meaning: To be honest with someone.

70. “Come clean.”

Meaning: To confess or admit to something, usually after hiding it.

Idiomatic Expressions About Humanity:

71. “The human touch”

Meaning: This idiom refers to the idea that we are all connected and that even the simplest interactions can have a profound effect.

72. “To err is human”

Meaning: Acknowledges that we are all fallible and that mistakes are a part of life.

73.” There’s nothing new under the sun”

Meaning: Reminds us that everything has been done before and that we are all part of a long history.

74. “A stitch in time saves nine”

Meaning: Advises us to take action quickly to avoid more problems down the road.

75 .” No man is an island”

Meaning: We are all interconnected and we need each other to thrive.

76. “Necessity is the mother of invention”

Meaning: This idiom suggests that challenging situations often lead to creative solutions.

77. “That will be the death of me”

Meaning: I can’t cope with this anymore.

78. “Every cloud has a silver lining.”

Meaning: Every bad situation has a good aspect to it.

79. “It takes all kinds”

Meaning: This idiom is often used to describe the diversity of humans, and how we’re all unique in our way.

80. “Home is where the heart is”

Meaning: Highlights the importance of emotional attachments in our lives.

Idiomatic Expressions About Art:

81. “Art is a labour of love.”

Meaning: Artists pour their heart and soul into their work.

82. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Meaning: This means that everyone perceives beauty differently.

83. “Art imitates life.”

Meaning: This idiom means that artists often draw inspiration from the world around them.

84. “Less is more.”

Meaning: Minimalistic designs can be just as impactful as complex ones.

85. “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Meaning: This idiom means that a single image can communicate a great deal of information.

86. “Art for art’s sake.”

Meaning: This idiom means that art should be appreciated for its own sake, without regard for its practical applications.

87. “The proof is in the pudding.”

Meaning: The quality of something can only be judged after it has been experienced or used.

88. “A brush with greatness”

Meaning: This idiom suggests that artists often have close encounters with famous or influential people.

89. “Creative juices flowing”

Meaning: Suggests that artists are at their best when they are feeling inspired and motivated.

90. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”

Meaning: Artists need time to relax and have fun in order to stay creative.

Idiomatic Expressions About Skills:

91. “Jack of all trades.”

Meaning: Used to describe someone who is good at many different things.

92. “Master of none.”

Meaning: Describes someone who is good at one thing but not others.

93. “Skilled hands.”

Meaning: This idiom is used to describe someone who has the ability to do something well with their hands.

94. “Light touch.”

Meaning: Without force, a light handling of something.

95. “Golden touch.”

Meaning: Used to describe a person where everything they do turns out well or becomes successful.

96. “Sure hand.”

Meaning: This idiom is used to describe someone who has the ability to do something with great accuracy or precision.

97. “Deft touch.”

Meaning: Used to describe someone who has the ability to do something with great skill or dexterity.

98. “Nimble fingers.”

Meaning: Someone who has the ability to do something quickly and easily with their fingers.

99. “Quick-minded.”

Meaning: Someone who has the ability to think quickly and easily on their feet.”

100. “Gift of the gab.”

Meaning: Someone who is adept at speaking and making conversation.

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Idiomatic Expressions About Sports:

101. “He’s on the ball.”

Meaning: This means he’s attentive and working hard.

102. “That really put me in the game.”

Meaning: This means it really motivated me.

103. “I’m throwing in the towel.”

Meaning: To give up or stop a task.

104. “She’s a real dark horse.”

Meaning: This means she’s a surprise contender.

105. “I need to get my game face on.”

Meaning: I need to get serious and focus.

106. “We’re in the home stretch.”

Meaning: This means we’re nearing the end.

107. “She’s a real team player.”

Meaning: She’s cooperative and supportive.

108. “He’s got a lot of heart.”

Meaning: This means he’s brave and determined.

109. “They’re playing chicken.”

Meaning: They’re daring each other to do something risky.

110. “That was a close call.”

Meaning: A narrowly avoided disaster.

Idiomatic Expressions About Nature:

111. “Under the weather.”

Meaning: Feeling sick or unwell.

112. “Make a mountain out of a molehill.”

Meaning: To overreact to a situation.

113. “Like two peas in a pod.”

Meaning: To be similar or in sync.

114. “On cloud nine.”

Meaning: To be very happy.

115. “The grass is always greener on the other side.”

Meaning: Everything seems better when it’s not yours.

116. “Barking up the wrong tree”

Meaning: Going after the wrong thing.

117. “Weathering the storm”

Meaning: Often used during difficult times, symbolizing the strength and resilience of nature.

118. “Feeling blue”

Meaning: To feel sad.

119. “Cabin fever.”

Meaning: To feel cooped up and not free.

120. “Springing into action.”

Meaning: To jump quickly to begin something.

Idiomatic Expressions About Travel:

121. “I’m feeling homesick.”

Meaning: This means that you are feeling Nostalgic about your home and longing to be there.

122. “I’m jet-lagged.”

Meaning: Describes the fatigue and disorientation that can occur after a long flight.

123. “We’re on a tight schedule.”

Meaning: This means that we have a limited amount of time and need to stick to our schedule.

124. “I need a change of scenery.”

Meaning: You are bored with your current surroundings and would like to go somewhere new.

125. “This place is a second home to me.”

Meaning: You feel very comfortable and familiar with a place.

126. “This place is a dump.”

Meaning: This is used to describe a place that is dirty or run-down.

127. “On the go.”

Meaning: to be busy traveling.

128. “Rough it”

Meaning: To travel without luxuries or comforts.

129. “See the world.”

Meaning: To travel extensively.

130. “Drop everything and go.”

Meaning: To stop what you’re doing and start traveling immediately.

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Idiomatic Expressions About Language:

131. “Lost in translation.”

Meaning: When something is not understood because it was expressed in a language that is different from the one being used to interpret it.

132. “Cold Shoulder.”

Meaning: To ignore someone, especially when you think you have been treated unfairly.

133. “Double-speak”

Meaning: Deliberately confusing or ambiguous language.

134. “Mother tongue.”

Meaning: The first language that a person learns, typically from their parents or caregivers.

135. “Talk the hind leg off a donkey.”

Meaning: Talk for a long time about something.

136. “Lost for words.”

Meaning: Surprised/shocked I don’t know what to say.

137. “Sounds like a broken record.”

Meaning: The same thing over and over again.

138. “A way with words.”

Meaning: To express yourself well.

139. “On the same wavelength”

Meaning: To have a common understanding with someone.

140. “Now you’re talking my language!”

Meaning: To have something that the other person wants.

More Common Idioms:

141. “I called it a day”

Meaning: Quit working (for the day).

142. “Too close to home”

Meaning: Too personal/not appropriate for public discussion.

143. “The ball is in your court”

Meaning: It’s up to you to make the next move.

144. “We don’t see eye to eye”

Meaning: To not agree with someone else’s opinion.

Meaning: That’s life! Things don’t always go our way.

146. “Once in a blue moon.”

Meaning: Very rare or somewhat uncommon.

147. “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

Meaning: There are many ways to do something.

148. “That’ll be the day!”

Meaning: I will never believe that!

149. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”

Meaning: If something is working well, there’s no need to change it.

150. “Time will tell”

Meaning: Suggests that only time will reveal the truth of a matter.


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10 Ways to Learn and Understand English Idioms:

1. Identify Your Favourites

One way is to simply identify your favourites. Why do you like them? What do they remind you of? Once you have a better understanding of the idioms that resonate with you, it’ll be easier to remember them and use them correctly.

Another tip is to look for patterns in the idioms you’re learning. Are there any common themes or word associations that you can use as memory triggers? By taking the time to really understand the idioms you’re learning, you’ll be able to use them more effectively – and maybe even make up a few of your own.

2. Check their Meanings

One way to learn the meaning of an idiom is to check the dictionary. This will give you the literal meaning of the words, as well as the figurative sense. Another way to learn idioms is to listen to native speakers using them in conversation. This can help you to understand how they are used and what they mean.

3. Gage Your Level of Understanding

Understanding idiomatic expressions can be difficult for non-native speakers of English because these phrases often have no literal connection to their meaning. However, there are some ways to gauge your level of understanding of idioms and learn them effectively.

Start by familiarizing yourself with common idioms and their meanings. Then, try using them in conversation with native speakers. Pay close attention to their reactions to see if you are using the idiom correctly. With practice, you’ll be able to effectively use idiomatic expressions in your everyday speech.

4. Avoid using translation tools

Idiomatic expressions are used in a particular language and are not easily translated into another language. For example, the English idiomatic expression “I’m pulling your leg” cannot be literally translated into Spanish. It would be more accurate to say “te estoy tomando el pelo.”

However, even though the literal translation is not accurate, a good translation tool will often provide a close approximation of the meaning of the idiomatic expression. This can be helpful for understanding the general meaning of what is being said, but it is not an effective way to learn idiomatic expressions.

Idiomatic expressions are often culture-specific, and they can be difficult to understand without a detailed understanding of the culture in which they are used. Translation tools can be a useful resource for understanding idiomatic expressions, but they should not be relied upon to learn them effectively.

5. Listen to Native Speakers

By finding the presence of idioms used in everyday conversation, you’ll get a feel for how they’re used and what they mean. You can also try watching movies or TV shows in your target language. Not only will you hear idiomatic expressions, but you’ll also see them used in context, which can be helpful in understanding their meaning. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask a native speaker for help if you’re having trouble understanding an idiom. They’ll be happy to explain it to you!

6. Compare to the Literal Meaning

Because these multiword expressions are not literal sentences, they can be difficult to understand if you don’t know the idiomatic meaning. That’s why it’s often helpful to compare an idiom to its literal meaning.

For example, if you didn’t know that “raining cats and dogs” was an idiom for heavy rain, you might be confused when someone said it was raining cats and dogs outside. But it becomes much easier to understand if you compare the idiomatic expression to its literal meaning. So the next time you come across an idiom, try to think about what it would mean if it were taken literally.

7. Learn a Wide Variety

Idiomatic expressions can be frustrating for learners, as they can often be difficult to understand. That’s why it’s important to learn a wide variety of idiomatic expressions. By doing so, you’ll be able to better understand the meaning of idioms, and you’ll also be able to use them more effectively in your own conversations. So next time you’re struggling to understand an idiom, remember that practice makes perfect. The more idioms you learn, the better you’ll become at understanding them.

8. Keep a Journal

If you’re having trouble understanding this structure of language, one helpful technique is to keep a journal. Whenever you hear an idiomatic expression that you don’t understand, write it down in your journal along with a brief explanation of what it means. Then, when you have some free time, you can review your journal and learn the idioms more effectively.

9. Use Them in Daily Life

There are many ways to learn idioms and use them effectively in daily life. One way is to pay attention to idiomatic expressions when you hear them spoken. Make a note of the expression and look up the meaning later. Another way is to find resources that explain the meaning of common idiomatic expressions.

Finally, try using idioms yourself in conversation. This will help you to better understand how they are used, and will also help you to remember them more easily. With a little effort, you can start using idiomatic expressions like a native speaker in no time!

10. Have Fun with Idiomatic Phrases

One of the best things about learning a new language is discovering all of the idiomatic expressions that are unique to that language. These idiomatic expressions are often the most challenging for language learners, but they can also be the most fun to learn. There are a few effective strategies that you can use to learn non-literal expressions more effectively.

First, try to find examples of the idiomatic expression in use. This could be through watching movies or TV shows in the target language, reading books or articles, or even listening to native speakers conversations. Once you have found some examples, try to memorize them and practice using them yourself. It can also be helpful to create your own example sentences using the idiomatic expression.

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Idiomatic expressions are a great way to add some flavour and figurative meaning to your language. They can help you communicate more effectively and can even make you sound more like a native speaker. This blog has given you all of the tools you need to learn idiomatic meaning effectively from the comfort of your home. With a little practice, you’ll be able to put down your literal phrases and use your favorite expressions in your everyday conversation. Thanks for reading!


What are the most common idiom types?

There are several different types of idioms, and some are more common than others. For example, similes are a type of idiom that uses the words “like” or “as” to compare two things. For example, you might say “She’s as slow as a snail.” Metaphors are another type of idiom that uses comparison, but without using the word “like” or “as.” For example, you might say “He’s a couch potato.” Personification is another type of idiom where human characteristics are attributed to non-human things. For example, you might say “The Sun is smiling down on us.” There are many other types of idioms, but these are some of the most common.

What are common English expressions?

There are many expressions in the English language that are used in everyday conversation. Some of these expressions are very common, such as “I’m sorry” or “thank you”. Others are more specific to certain regions or dialects, such as “d’you mind?” in Ireland or “mint tea” in Morocco. Still others are more colloquial, such as “ain’t” in the United States. No matter what the expression is, it can be a helpful way to communicate with others and make your meaning clear.

What is the most popular idiom people use?

The phrase “insult to injury” is often used to describe a situation in which someone suffers a second wrong after already experiencing a first one. The expression is thought to have originated in the late 1600s, and it is first found in print in 1692 in George Herbert’s poem “Jacula Prudentum.” In Herbert’s poem, the phrase is used to describe how someone who has been insulted might react if they were also to suffer a physical injury. The phrase has since become a common idiomatic expression in both British and American English. When used today, the phrase typically conveys a sense of frustration or anger at having to endure additional hardship on top of an already difficult situation.

Where can I find lists of idioms?

Dictionaries and schools keep track of idioms in circulation. This includes academic press sources like the Cambridge University Press, the M.I.T. Press, and The Oxford University Press

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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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