Learn English » English Idioms

English Idioms

Idiomatic language is the sign of an educated speaker and writer of English. The following idioms in English will help you to raise the quality of your spoken and written English. Read them repeatedly and use them often, so that you internalize them.

  • Apple of one’s eye – a person or thing that is greatly loved and admired
    Joseph is the apple of his mother’s eye.
  • At the drop of a hat – without hesitation or delay
    If you ask Ryan to do this, he will agree to do it at the drop of a hat.
  • Bag (bundle) of nerves – very nervous person
    Today, Grace is a bundle of nerves.
  • Beat about the bush – not to the point
    Teacher asked me to get to the point, and tell him my problem instead of beating about the bush.
  • Cross one’s fingers/ to keep fingers crossed – hope for luck
    We are keeping our fingers crossed for good weather.
  • Cut corners – to save money and effort by finding cheaper ways to do it
    With the inflation, we have to cut some corners to get by.
  • Eat one’s words – to have to take back what one said in a humiliating way
    “You said, ‘I cannot win this race.’ So if I win the race, you will have to eat your words.”
  • Eat out of (some one’s) hand – to do exactly as someone says
    Pey has her friends eating out of her hands.
  • Have one’s hands full – be fully occupied
    With three kids and a hectic job, Allison had her hands full.
  • Hit the nail on the head – do exactly the right thing.
    “You have made an excellent point Amie. You have hit the nail on the head.”
  • Keep at arm’s length/keep at bay – avoiding close contact
    He tried very hard to keep the management at arm’s length from this project.
  • Keep one’s head - remain calm
    Stan is a great sports man because he always keeps his head when others panic.
  • Let the cat out of the bag – reveal something that has been kept a secret before
    Gemma let the cat out of the bag when she admitted to cheating in the test.
  • Make one’s hair stand on end – alarm or horrify someone
    That horror movie made my hair stand on end.
  • On top of the world – feeling extremely happy.
    When her name was announced as the winner, she was on top of the world.
  • Once in a blue moon – rarely
    Sean goes to the theatre only once in a blue moon.
  • Read between the lines – to look for or discover a hidden meaning
    Even though he tried to hide his motive, I could read between the lines.
  • Take to task – to admonish or criticize for something
    The coach took us to task for losing the match.
  • Take with a pinch of salt – not to believe something completely
    He is not always truthful, so we must take whatever he says with a pinch of salt.
  • Put one’s shoulder to the wheel – make a great effort
    If you put your shoulder to the wheel, you will definitely succeed.
  • Without batting an eyelid – showing no concern or surprise
    After she heard the news, she continued working without batting an eyelid.
  • With one’s nose in the air / to turn up one’s nose – in a proud or scornful manner
    He walked past our table, with his nose in the air.

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