Common English Idioms Explained

English idioms are expressions that typically present a figurative, non-literal meaning attached to the phrase; however, some phrases become figurative idioms while retaining the literal meaning of the words. Below are some common English idioms explained along with their meanings and example sentences to help you understand their context better.

A piece of cake
This idiom is used to describe a task or job that is very easy to complete.
The math test was a piece of cake, I finished it in no time.

Break a leg
This is a way to wish someone good luck, especially before a performance or something that involves an audience.
You’re going to do great in the play tonight! Break a leg!

Hit the books
This means to begin studying in a serious manner, usually used when exams or deadlines are approaching.
I can’t go out tonight, I need to hit the books for my final exams next week.

Let the cat out of the bag
To reveal a secret or disclose something that was supposed to be kept confidential.
I accidentally let the cat out of the bag about Sarah’s surprise party.

Miss the boat
This idiom means to miss an opportunity or to be too slow to take advantage of a situation.
He missed the boat on investing in that company while it was still cheap.

When pigs fly
This is a sarcastic way to say that something will never happen.
Yeah, right, he’ll clean his room when pigs fly!

Cost an arm and a leg
This expression is used when something is very expensive.
That designer dress cost me an arm and a leg!

Bite the bullet
To decide to do something difficult or unpleasant that one has been putting off or hesitating over.
I finally bit the bullet and started my diet this Monday.

The ball is in your court
It is up to you to make the next decision or step.
I’ve done all I can, now the ball is in your court.

Feeling under the weather
Feeling ill or sick.
I’m feeling under the weather, so I think I’ll stay home today.

Spill the beans
To give away a secret or disclose something prematurely.
Who spilled the beans about the upcoming merger?

Kick the bucket
A euphemistic or slang term meaning to die.
I hope it’s many years yet before I kick the bucket.

Barking up the wrong tree
To be mistaken, or to be looking for solutions in the wrong place.
If you think I stole your watch, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

Go the extra mile
To do much more than is required or expected, to make a greater effort.
She always goes the extra mile to ensure her customers are happy.

Cry over spilled milk
To be upset about things that have already happened and cannot be changed.
It’s no use crying over spilled milk, what’s done is done.

Beat around the bush
To avoid talking about what is important.
Stop beating around the bush and tell me what the problem is.

Take with a grain of salt
To view something with skepticism or not to take it literally.
I heard what you said but I’m taking it with a grain of salt.

Understanding these idioms can greatly enhance your comprehension and fluency in English, as idioms are often used in everyday conversations, literature, movies, and television. By learning idioms, you not only gain insight into the culture of English-speaking communities but also improve your ability to communicate more naturally and effectively.

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