Last updated: Jul 28, 2016 by Jennifer Inwood
If you are new to speaking English and you find it difficult to understand what English-speaking people are trying to say, chances are they have used an idiom. Because of idioms, understanding a new language can be complicated. An idiom is a way of speaking that is natural to a native speaker and that has developed a figurative meaning over time. Not only does each language have their own unique idioms, they may vary based on different regions of a country, people’s interests and social groups.
The more idioms you study, hear and understand, the easier they will be to incorporate as a natural part of your English conversations. There are also lots of internet sites and phone applications that will help explain the meaning of common idioms. In my opinion, the phone apps are the most effective way of learning various idioms as you can easily access a variety of useful idioms based on the level of difficulty. Many of the apps are also games which can make learning much more fun. If you need a break from learning grammar rules, sentence structure and other more tedious lessons, switching over to practicing idioms can help keep you motivated and can quickly improve your conversation abilities.
Here are some of the idioms I frequently use:
Give it a shot – Try — “I think you should give it a shot because you might win the game.”
Can’t judge a book by its cover – Cannot judge something primarily on appearance — “You can’t judge a book by its cover because someone may look pretty on the outside but may not have a pretty heart.”
Speak your mind – Say what you really feel — “I wish my friend would speak her mind and tell me how she really feels.”
A piece of cake – Very easy — “The homework we had to do was a piece of cake to finish.”
Slipped my mind – Forgot — “It slipped my mind that I had an appointment at 1:00 today.”
It cost an arm and a leg – Very expensive — “That toy you want costs an arm and a leg.”
It’s in the bag – Certain to get or achieve it — “When we scored the fifth goal, we knew we had the game in the bag.”
Get cold feet – Be suddenly afraid to do something — “We are getting married next week if the bride doesn’t get cold feet.”
A rip off – Normally used to refer to something being overpriced — “Those shoes are a rip off because they are cheaply made.”
Get a kick out of – Enjoy — “The grandfather got a kick out of watching the grandchildren play together.”
Draw a blank – Can’t remember — “Once I get in front of the audience, I try to think of my speech but I draw a blank.”
Have a change of heart – Changed your mind — “I wanted to go to the festival but I have a change of heart.”
Be second to none – Be the best — “The food at that restaurant is second to none.”
Play it by ear – Improvise or make decisions as one goes along — “Instead of planning all of our activities, let’s play it by ear.”
See eye to eye – Agree — “I am glad that we see eye to eye.”
Call it a day – Time to quit — “It was 5:00 in the afternoon so he decided it was time to call it a day.”
Feel a bit under the weather – Feeling slightly ill — “She decided to cancel her plans because she was feeling a bit under the weather.”
By studying these commonly used idioms, you will quickly feel more confident when having a conversation in English. I hope you find this post helpful with your journey to learn English.
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