Mastering a language takes much more than just memorizing vocabulary and conjugating verbs. In order to use English like a native speaker, it's also a good idea to learn some idioms. An idiom is a phrase that is unique to one language and that cannot be easily understood or translated just based on the combination of words used. Understanding and employing some of these key expressions will impress your colleagues and demonstrate your superior English skills!
Here is a list of some common English idioms with definitions and examples:
- Bend over backwards
- Definition: To go out of one's way to do something, to try hard to impress. "When Jack first arrived at his internship, his colleagues bent over backwards to make him feel comfortable."
- Jump the gun
- Definition: To do something prematurely or too soon. "We all had to start the race over since Tom jumped the gun and ran too soon."
- Feel like a million dollars
- Definition: To feel great, to be very happy. "She felt like a million dollars when she wore her new dress for the first time."
- Play it by ear
- Definition: To deal with a situation as it develops, to improvise according to the circumstances. "John had no plans for the weekend; he decided to just play it by ear and see what happened."
- Drive someone up a wall
- Definition: To drive someone crazy, to annoy. "His mother drove him up a wall with all of her nagging."
- To jump down someone's throat
- Definition: To scold, to chastise harshly. "Mark's boss jumped down his throat when he missed the big deadline."
- Make ends meet
- Definition: To have just enough money to survive, to only make enough to cover your expenses. "Sheri was barely making ends meet with her low-paying waitressing job."
- Go back to the drawing board
- Definition: To start again, to go back to the beginning of a project. "When none of the company's new products were selling, the team went back to the drawing board to design a better marketing campaign."
- Happy camper
- Definition: Someone who is happy or satisfied. "After her day at the spa, Mia was a happy camper."
- Piece of cake
- Definition: Easy or simple. "Justin finished the crossword puzzle in 15 minutes; it was a piece of cake."
- Dime a dozen
- Definition: To be common or easy to find. "Starbucks in Manhattan are a dime a dozen, there is one of every block!"
- Rain check
- Definition: To reschedule or postpone an event or meeting. "Jessica had to ask Amy for a rain check since she could not make it to her birthday party."
- Under the weather
- Definition: To be sick, to not feel well. "Stanton was feeling under the weather, so he called in sick from work."
- Out of the blue
- Definition: Unexpected, something that occurs suddenly. "Scott's brother arrived out of the blue one morning without any warning."
- Hit the books
- Definition: To study. "Samantha went to the library to hit the books before her exam."
We hope that you have learned some new expressions from this list of idioms. Try to remember a few and use them in a sentence sometime soon! This is just a sampling of the many idioms in the English language. For even more idioms to learn, click here. Do you have any favorites we left out?
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Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Ani is a fan of exploring new places through photography and the local cuisine. After earning her BFA in photography from NYU and gaining communications experience at International Planned Parenthood Federation, she joined InterExchange in 2012, and worked as the Marketing Producer until 2016.