The idioms and expressions below are some of the most common in English. The example sentences show how idioms are used in context.
1. as easy as pie means “very easy” (same as “a piece of cake”)
Example: He said it is a difficult problem, but I don’t agree. It seems as easy as pie to me!
2. be sick and tired of means “I hate” (also “can’t stand”)
Example: I’m sick and tired of doing nothing but work. Let’s go out tonight and have fun.
3. bend over backwards means “try very hard” (maybe too much!)
Example: He bent over backwards to please his new wife, but she never seemed satisfied.
4. bite off more than one can chew means “take responsibility for more than one can manage”
Example: John is so far behind in his studies. Besides classes, he plays sports and works at a part-time job. It seems he has bitten off more than he can chew.
5. broke means “to have no money”
Example: I have to borrow some money from my Dad. Right now, I’m broke.
6. change one’s mind means “decide to do something different from what had been decided earlier”
Example: I was planning to work late tonight, but I changed my mind. I’ll do extra work on the weekend instead.
7. cut it out! means “stop doing something bad”
Example: That noise is really annoying. Cut it out!
8. drop someone a line means “send a letter or email to someone”
Example: It was good to meet you and I hope we can see each other again. Drop me a line when you have time.
9. figure something out means “come to understand a problem”
Example: I don’t understand how to do this problem. Take a look at it. Maybe you can figure it out.
10. fill in for someone means “do their work while they are away”
Example: While I was away from the store, my brother filled in for me.
11. in ages means “for a very long time”
Example: Have you seen Joe recently? I haven’t seen him in ages.
12. give someone a hand means “help”
Example: I want to move this desk to the next room. Can you give me a hand?
13. hit the hay means “go to bed” (also “hit the sack”)
Example: It’s after 12 o’clock. I think it’s time to hit the hay.
14. in the black means “the business is making money, it is profitable”
Example: Our business is really improving. We’ve been in the black all year.
15. in the red means “the business is losing money, it is unprofitable”
Example: Business is really going poorly these days. We’ve been in the red for the past three months.
16. in the nick of time means “not too late, but very close!”
Example: I got to the drugstore just in the nick of time. It’s a good thing, because I really need this medicine!
17. keep one’s chin up means “remain brave and keep on trying”
Example: I know things have been difficult for you recently, but keep your chin up. It will get better soon.
18. know something like the back of your hand means “know something very, very well”
Example: If you get lost, just ask me for directions. I know this part of town like the back of my hand
19. once in a while means “sometimes, not very often”
Example: Have you been to the new movie theater? No, only see movies once in a while. I usually stay home and watch TV.
20. sharp means “exactly at a that time”
Example: I’ll meet you at 9 o’clock sharp. If you’re late, we’ll be in trouble!
21. sleep on it means “think about something before making a decision”
Example: That sounds like a good deal, but I’d like to sleep on it before I give you my final decision.
22. take it easy means “relax”
Example: I don’t have any special plans for the summer. I think I’ll just take it easy.
23. to get the ball rolling means “start something, especially something big”
Example: We need to get this project started as soon as possible. I’m hoping you will help me get the ball rolling.
24. up to the minute means “the most recent information”
Example: I wish I knew more about what is happening in the capital city. We need more up to the minute news.
25. twenty-four/seven means “every minute of every day, all the time”
Example: You can access our web site 24/7. It’s very convenient!
26. all of a sudden means “unexpectedly”, used to describe something that happens very quickly
Example: He had just gone to bed when all of a sudden the phone rang.
27. be all ears means “eager and ready to listen”
Example: Go ahead and speak. I’m all ears!
28. be fed up with means “to hate something now, even though I may have liked it before”
Example: I’m fed up with my job! I think I should start looking for a new one.
29. to bug means “to bother someone”. (American English)
Example: Hey, stop tapping your fingers. It’s really bugging me!
30. a cinch means something that is very easy to do
Example: I didn’t think I could run five kilometers, but with the right preparation, it was a cinch.
31. cost an arm and a leg means “very expensive”
Example: I’d really like a new car, but they all cost an arm and a leg.
32. to cram means “to study hard a few days before a test”
Example: If you had studied hard for the past four months, you wouldn’t have to cram so much this weekend.
33. fresh out of something means “to have no more of something”
Example: I have to go buy some more milk. It seems we’re fresh out now.
34. to get it (often negative) means “to understand”
Example: What did the teacher say? I didn’t get it. Did you?
35. got a minute? means “Do you have time right now?”
Example: Hey, Joe, got a minute? I have something to show you.
36. give someone a hand means “help someone”
Example: Could you give me a hand moving this table? It’s quite heavy.
37. grab a bite to eat means “quickly go get something to eat”
Example: I’m going to go grab a bite. I’ll be back in a few minutes.
38. drive someone up a wall (or “drive someone crazy”) means “to make someone very angry”
Example: My neighbor practices the piano every night, but he’s terrible. It’s driving me up the wall!
39. to hang on means “to wait”
Example: Hang on a few minutes. I have to make a phone call and then I’ll be able to join you for lunch.
40. hard headed means “stubborn” or “unwilling to change an opinion or idea
Example: I can’t work with Joe any more. He’s so hard headed!
41. have a change of heart means “change a previous decision”
Example: I thought I would change jobs, but now that my boss is treating me with more respect, I’ve had a change of heart.
42. have mixed feelings about something means “to be uncertain”
Example: I have mixed feelings about Joe. He’s a very good teacher, but he has a very strange sense of humor!
43. head out for means “to start on a long trip” (but it could be within a big city)
Example: We’re heading out for the countryside to pick some apples. Would you like to join us?
44. How come? means “Why?”
Example: How come we don’t go to the movies anymore? I guess we’re too busy to enjoy ourselves these days.
45. keep in touch (or “stay in touch”) means “do not stop communicating – send letters or call sometimes”
Example: Don’t forget to keep in touch. I want to know how you’re doing while you’re away.
46. be kidding means “to joke or tease someone in a playful way”
Example: No, I don’t really have three wives – I was just kidding!
47. look down on means “think somone or something is not good enough”
Example: We shouldn’t look down on people just because they don’t have as much money as we do.
48. make ends meet (often used negatively) means “to have enough money to buy everything we need”
Example: Even though I make more money than last year, we just can’t seem to make ends meet.
49. miss the boat means “to miss an opportunity”
Example: The sale ends today at noon. If we don’t hurry, we’re going to miss the boat!
50. next to nothing means “to cost very little”
Example: I went to the new discount store and bought these new shoes for only five dollars. That’s next to nothing!
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