English Idioms: Top 30 Helpful Expressions for Daily Conversation

English Idioms: Top 30 Expressions for Daily Conversation

Understanding English idioms can be a challenging task, especially for non-native speakers. These unique phrases, often rooted in cultural and historical contexts, can perplex even the most fluent learners. If you are unfamiliar with idioms, just continue reading as we will delve into the interesting world of English idioms, exploring their meanings, usage, and role in language learning. At the end of this article, you’ll be equipped with a comprehensive understanding of some commonly used idiomatic expressions.

What you need to know about idioms

What are Idioms?

In English, idioms or idiomatic expressions are words that do not have a literal meaning. We cannot deduce the meaning of a word or phrase simply by understanding every word. English idioms are creative, and their meanings are not easily inferred especially when they are not used in specific contexts.

Idioms in Literature and Everyday Language

Idioms are deeply ingrained in the English language and are used in both formal and informal settings to convey specific ideas or emotions. Mastery of idioms is crucial for effective communication in English, as they add color, depth, and nuance to conversations. These expressions are not only limited to spoken language but have also found a prominent place in literature.

Renowned authors, such as Shakespeare and Dickens, have incorporated idiomatic expressions into their works, giving characters distinctive voices and adding richness to their narratives. In modern literature, idioms continue to play a vital role in capturing the essence of characters and settings.

Using Idioms in Conversations

Idioms permeate our everyday conversations, making them an integral part of our daily lives. Whether we realize it or not, idiomatic expressions effortlessly slip into our discussions, creating a sense of familiarity and camaraderie with those around us.

When incorporating idioms into your conversations, it is essential to consider the context and audience. Idioms can add depth and flair to your speech, but using them inappropriately may confuse or alienate your listeners. To familiarize yourself with idiomatic expressions, try reading English books, watching movies, or engaging in conversations with native speakers or with teachers from language schools.

English Idioms: Top 30 Helpful Expressions for Daily Conversation

The Role of English Idioms in Language Learning

Idioms play a crucial role in language learning by enhancing communication skills and deepening cultural understanding. Below are some of the significance of English idioms in language learning and how they contribute to your fluency development.

Enhancing Fluency and Natural Expression

When learning a new language, incorporating idiomatic expressions into your vocabulary helps you communicate more fluently and naturally. Idioms allow you to express complex ideas concisely, making conversations more engaging and enjoyable. By using idioms appropriately, language learners can sound more like native speakers.

Building Cultural Competence

Idioms are closely linked to the culture and history of a language. By understanding and using idiomatic expressions, language learners gain insight into the cultural context behind the language. This cultural knowledge fosters a deeper appreciation and understanding of the people who speak the language, leading to more meaningful connections.

Developing Critical Thinking Skills

Idioms often require learners to think critically and decipher their intended meanings. This process helps develop analytical skills and trains the brain to approach language from different angles. By unraveling the figurative layers of idioms, learners become more adept at understanding context, recognizing nuances, and improving overall comprehension.

Overcoming Language Barriers

Idioms can be a challenge for language learners due to their non-literal nature. However, mastering idiomatic expressions allows learners to overcome language barriers and fully engage in conversations. Understanding idioms helps learners decipher intended meanings accurately and respond appropriately, facilitating smoother communication.

Incorporating idioms into language learning is an effective way to enhance fluency, deepen cultural understanding, and develop critical thinking skills. By studying English idioms and their cultural contexts, language learners can bridge the gap between mere vocabulary acquisition and true language mastery. Embrace the world of English idioms, and unlock the full potential of your language-learning journey.

Top 30 English Idiomatic Expressions for Daily Conversation

Let us read some helpful English idiomatic expressions that are commonly used in our daily conversations, along with their meanings and sample usage.

Common English idioms for everyday use

1- Actions speak louder than words

Meaning:

This means that a person’s words do not match their actions. What they do and how they act are contrary to what they say.

Example:

Celebrities usually do not admit to their romantic relationship, but many people see them having intimate moments. Their actions speak louder than words.

2- Once in a blue moon

Meaning:

This means something happens very rarely.

Example:

I am not really fond of watching movies in the theater. If I did, it would just be once in a blue moon.

3- Beat around the bush

Meaning:

You are not getting to the main point of a specific topic or argument. You keep repeating unnecessary points.

Example:

The CEO was irritated with the presenter’s discussion on the analysis of the current financial status of the company. The presenter was beating around the bush because he could not clearly analyze and deliver the main point of his presentation.

4- To pull a rabbit out of the hat

Meaning:

It means you do something unexpectedly or surprisingly. If it is about a problem, it means you are able to solve it ingeniously.

Example:

The firefighters took too long to put out the fire, but one of them pulled a rabbit out of his hat. He was able to save the child before the whole building was ruined.

5- The grass is greener on the other side

Meaning:

Things are better when we don’t have them. Sometimes, we mean this to refer to people who are in a good situation in  society where they live a more luxurious and better life than we do.

Example:

Usually, people in poor areas think that the grass is greener on the other side because of their financial status in life.

The English idioms expressions 11-15

6- To hit the books

Meaning:

This means to studying harder and being determined

Example:

Mr. Nakamura had to hit the books during his university years. Today, he is a successful millionaire and has a lot of businesses around the world.

7- Cost an arm and a leg

Meaning:

To say something costs an arm and a leg means it is too expensive that you cannot afford to pay for it.

Example:

Jane was disappointed when she found out that the gown she had been dreaming of wearing cost and arm and a leg.

8- A piece of cake

Meaning:

Something is done easily. The work is very simple.

Example:

English teachers who have worked in our company for many years consider English language teaching a piece of cake.

9- To hit the nail on the head

Meaning:

This phrase can be used when someone is able to find answers or solutions to a problem, or he is right about something.

Example:

The employees have been talking about their manager’s plans and Mark hit the nail on the head when the manager was ousted.

10- To kill two birds with one stone

Meaning:

It means achieving two aims or goals at once.

Example:

It was a busy day for bank tellers but they were able to kill two birds with one stone: their tasks were done earlier than usual and they were able to cater to a lot of clients despite being too busy.

English Idioms: Top 30 Helpful Expressions for Daily Conversation

11- To break a leg

Meaning:

We say break a leg when we want to cheer up someone when they do a performance. It means “good luck”.

Example:

Chiara is going to perform on the British Got Talent stage. I told her to break a leg!

12- Feeling under the weather

Meaning:

We use this expression when we are feeling unwell or sick.

Example:

I was not able to report to work on Monday because I was feeling under the weather. I just took a rest.

13- The ball is in your court

Meaning:

This idiom means that it is your turn to decide something. It is your responsibility to make a decision.

Example:

After their parents passed away, John was tasked with taking the ball in his court to make their business survive.

14- Spill the beans

Meaning:

To spill the beans means to reveal a secret.

Example:

My friend unintentionally spilled the beans when she was asked about the relationship between her parents.

15- Through thick and thin

Meaning:

This is a famous line, especially at a wedding. It means that they vow to love each other unconditionally for better or for worse.

Example:

Many families are broken because couples failed to fulfill their promise that they would love each other through thick and thin.

English Idioms: Top 30 Helpful Expressions for Daily Conversation

16- Take it with a pinch of salt

Meaning:

If you take something with a pinch of salt, you do not completely believe what you were told. You only believe a part of it.

Example:

Chris told his mom that he went to a friend’s house for a research project, but she took that statement with a pinch of salt because she knew her son better.

17- Cry over spilled milk

Meaning:

This idiomatic expression means that it is useless to be worried or sad about something that has already happened and cannot be changed.

Example:

There is no use to cry over spilled milk. The damage has been done.

18- Get cold feet

Meaning:

You suddenly become anxious or afraid about something especially when you feel that it is going to fail.

Example:

Jane is getting married, but before her wedding, she gets  cold feet thinking that it is a new chapter in her life.

19- A blessing in disguise

Meaning:

This English idiom means that something is terrible or unlucky at first, but later on, it turns out to be good and has positive results.

Example:

I thought I did not have the chance to get my dream job because I failed the teaching demonstration, but I received an email instructing me to process my documents and start my job next week.

20- Bite the bullet

Meaning:

It means forcing yourself to do something unpleasant or do something bravely.

Example:

Monica had to bite the bullet because her dad is in the hospital and nobody is going to help them with their finances.

English Idioms: Top 30 Helpful Expressions for Daily Conversation

21- Good things come to those who wait

Meaning:

The idiom means that when you patiently wait for something, you will be rewarded with good results.

Example:

My best friend had been praying to be promoted to a manager position in her company. After 5 years, she became Senior Vice President. Good things really come to those who wait.

22- On cloud nine

Meaning:

When you are on cloud nine, you are extremely happy.

Example:

The company president was on cloud nine when he saw a big improvement in their product sales in the past two quarters.

23- Left out in the cold

Meaning:

Left out in the cold

Example:

Kelly is often left out in the cold by her colleagues because they envy her.

24- Eat like a horse

Meaning:

You eat a lot of food because you always have a good appetite.

Example:

Why do you always eat like a horse? You are too thin.

25- One step at a time

Meaning:

You do something slowly and carefully, and not rushing things.

Example:

You can achieve better outcomes when you do your tasks one step at a time.

English Idioms: Top 30 Helpful Expressions for Daily Conversation

26- To be at a crossroads

Meaning:

It is a crucial time or a turning point to make a very important decision.

Example:

Opportunities knock and when there is a lot to choose from, you sometimes feel you are at a crossroads.

27- Take someone’s side

Meaning:

It means you agree with someone and not with another (esp. when they are arguing about something).

Example:

My parents have been arguing whether I should study abroad or not but I took my mom’s side – to stay with them and study at one of the prestigious universities in the country.

28- Break the ice

Meaning:

It is like doing something to make people feel more comfortable (e.g. in meetings, conferences, or discussions).

Example:

Jack was tasked with breaking the ice on their first day of school.

29- Stab someone in the back

Meaning:

This does not literally mean hurting someone or killing them, but this means you talk bad about somebody without them knowing or you betray them.

Example:

You are not a true friend if you stab your best friend in the back.

30- Take a rain check

Meaning:

To take a rain check means to not accept an invitation or offer now, but you would likely do it at a later time.

Example:

Before accepting a higher position, make sure to take a rain check first.

You have just read and learned 30 of many English idioms that we can use in our daily conversations. Let’s see if you remember some of them by answering our Practice Test below.

You have just read and learned 30 of many English idioms that we can use in our daily conversations. Let’s see if you remember some of them by answering our Practice Test below.

English idioms are not only fascinating linguistic constructs but also important tools for effective communication. Don’t hesitate to incorporate them into your everyday conversations. Unlock the world of English idioms, and watch your language skills soar!