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Important Idioms for English Learners

Important Idioms for English Learners
Important Idioms for English Learners

What is an idiom? An expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that has a separate meaning of its own.

Idioms were covered in an earlier book, “American English Idioms.” The following list is a list of important idioms for English learners, to help illustrate the figurative nature of idioms.

Important Idioms for English Learners

  1. A hot potato: an issue (usually current) which people may fear to bring up in conversation because it is sure to cause a dispute.
  2. A penny for your thoughts: a way of asking what someone is thinking.
  3. Actions speak louder than words: People’s intentions can be judged better by what they do than what they say.
  4. Ball is in your court: It is up to you to make the next decision or step.
  5. Beat around the bush: Avoiding the main topic. Not speaking directly about the issue.
  6. Best thing since sliced bread: A good invention or innovation. A good idea or plan.
  7. Blessing in disguise: Something good that isn’t recognized at first.
  8. Burn the midnight oil: To work late into the night.
  9. Can’t judge a book by its cover: Cannot judge something primarily on.
  10. Cross that bridge when you come to it: Deal with a problem if and when it becomes necessary, not before.
  11. Cry over spilt milk: to complain about a loss from the past.
  12. Cut corners: do something badly to save money.
  13. Cut the mustard: to succeed; to come up to expectations; adequate enough to compete or participate
  14. Don’t count your chickens before they have hatched: This idiom is used to express “Don’t make plans for something that might not happen”.
  15. Don’t give up your day job: You are not very good at something. You could definitely not do it professionally.
  16. Every cloud has a silver lining: Be optimistic, even difficult times will lead to better days.
  17. Far cry from: Very different from.
  18. Feel a bit under the weather: feel slightly ill.
  19. Give the benefit of the doubt: Believe someone’s statement, without.
  20. Hear it through the grapevine: hear rumors about something.
  21. Jump on the bandwagon: Join a popular trend or activity.
  22. Let sleeping dogs lie: do not do something to disturb a situation and cause trouble you could avoid.
  23. Let the cat out of the bag: To share information that was previously concealed.
  24. Make a long story short: Come to the point – leave out details.
  25. Method to my madness: An assertion that, despite one’s approach seeming random, there actually is structure to it.
  26. Not playing with a full deck: lacking intelligence, possibly crazy.
  27. Off one’s rocker: crazy, demented, out of one’s mind, in a confused or befuddled state of mind, senile.
  28. See eye to eye: This idiom is used to say that two (or more people) agree on something.
  29. Sit on the fence: This is used when someone does not want to choose or make a decision.
  30. Speak of the devil!: This expression is used when the person you have just been talking about arrives.
  31. Steal someone’s thunder: To take the credit for something someone else.
  32. Take with a grain of salt: This means not to take what someone says too.
  33. Taste of your own medicine: Means that something happens to you, or is done to you, that you have done to someone else.
  34. To hear something straight from the horse’s mouth: To hear something from the authoritative source.
  35. Whole nine yards: All of it.


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