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A List of Idioms with Examples


Idioms are expressions in a language that have a different meaning than the literal definition of the words used.They add depth and nuance to language, allowing for more vivid and descriptive communication. Idioms are an essential part of a language and are used frequently in everyday conversations, writing, and literature.

What is an Idiom?

An idiom is a phrase or expression that cannot be interpreted literally. The meaning of an idiom is often figurative and requires an understanding of the cultural or social context in which it is used. Idioms can be difficult to learn for non-native speakers because their meanings are often not obvious from the words used. Some idioms are more commonly used than others, and many are regional or cultural in nature.

Why Use Idioms in Sentences?

Idioms can be used to add color and variety to language. They can also convey a lot of information in a single phrase. Idioms can make language more interesting and engaging, and can be used to convey humor, sarcasm, or irony. Idioms can also be used to express emotions or feelings that might be difficult to express in other ways. Learning idioms is also a way to enhance vocabulary skills in everyday life.

100 common Idioms with Examples

A blessing in disguise –  Something that initially seems bad, but turns out to be good in the end. Example: Losing my job was a blessing in disguise because it gave me the opportunity to start my own business.

A dime a dozen –  Something that is very common and easy to find. Example: Restaurants in the city are a dime a dozen.

A piece of cake –  Something that is very easy to do. Example: That exam was a piece of cake, I knew all the answers.

A chip on your shoulder –  Holding a grudge or feeling angry about something in the past. Example: He has a chip on his shoulder about not being promoted last year.

Actions speak louder than words – What you do is more important than what you say. Example: He promised to clean up after the party, but actions speak louder than words.

An arm and a leg –  Something that is very expensive. Example: The new car cost him an arm and a leg.

(Read More: What is a simile? What are its uses?)

Don't cry over spilled milk – Don't get upset over something that can't be changed. Example: Yes, we lost the game, but don't cry over spilled milk.

Every cloud has a silver lining – There is something positive to be found in every difficult situation. Example: Losing my job allowed me to travel more, every cloud has a silver lining.

Give the benefit of the doubt – Believe someone's words or actions without proof or evidence. Example: Even though she was late, I gave her the benefit of the doubt that she had a good reason.

Hit the books – Study hard or read intensively. Example: I need to hit the books if I want to pass my exams.

Let sleeping dogs lie – Avoid stirring up old conflicts or problems. Example: Even though we disagreed, we decided to let sleeping dogs lie and move on.

Make a long story short – Summarize a lengthy story or explanation. Example: To make a long story short, we ended up taking the wrong train and got lost for hours.

No pain, no gain – You have to work hard and endure difficulty in order to achieve success. Example: The training was tough, but no pain, no gain.

On the ball –  Alert and efficient. Example: The new employee is really on the ball, she's finished all her tasks already.

Piece of cake –  Something that is very easy to do. Example: The assignment was a piece of cake, I finished it in 30 minutes.

Note: Mastering such areas would benefit the exams like IELTS, TOEFL, and PTE. You can also choose to opt for TOEFL training classes to get a better knowledge of idioms.

Pull someone's leg – Playfully tease or trick someone. Example: Are you serious or are you just pulling my leg?

Put the cart before the horse – Do things in the wrong order. Example: Don't start cooking before you buy the ingredients, you don't want to put the cart before the horse.

Speak of the devil – When the person you were just talking about shows up unexpectedly. Example: Speak of the devil, there's John now.

Hit the nail on the head – Accurately identify or describe something. Example: You hit the nail on the head with your analysis of the situation.

In hot water – In trouble or difficulty. Example: I'm in hot water with my boss for missing the deadline.

Jump on the bandwagon – Join in on a popular trend or movement. Example: Everyone is going vegan these days, so I've decided to jump on the bandwagon too.

(Read More: Homophones vs. Homographs vs. Homonyms)

Keep your chin up – Stay positive and hopeful. Example: Don't worry, things will get better. Keep your chin up.

Let the cat out of the bag – Reveal a secret that was supposed to be kept hidden. Example: I wasn't supposed to tell anyone about the surprise party, but I let the cat out of the bag.

Miss the boat – Miss an opportunity. Example: I forgot to submit my application on time, I really missed the boat on that one.

Once in a blue moon – Something that happens very rarely. Example: I only see my old friend once in a blue moon.

Put all your eggs in one basket – Rely too much on one thing or person. Example: I wouldn't put all my eggs in one basket and invest all my money in one stock.

Shoot the breeze – Have a casual conversation. Example: We sat on the porch and shot the breeze for a while.

(Read More: Figures of speech: Examples and Usage)

Spill the beans – Reveal a secret. Example: I accidentally spilled the beans about the surprise party.

Take a rain check – Postpone an invitation or offer. Example: I can't make it to the movies tonight, can I take a rain check and go with you next week instead?

Time flies – Time passes very quickly. Example: I can't believe it's already been a year, time flies.

Under the weather –  Feeling sick or unwell. Example: I can't come into work today, I'm feeling under the weather.

A penny for your thoughts –  Asking someone what they are thinking. Example: You seem deep in thought, a penny for your thoughts?

Barking up the wrong tree –  Looking for something in the wrong place. Example: If you're looking for the keys in the kitchen, you're barking up the wrong tree.

Cut corners – Do something poorly or cheaply in order to save time or money. Example: I wouldn't cut corners on building the foundation of your house, it's too important

Drive someone up the wall – Irritate or annoy someone greatly. Example: Her constant tapping on the desk is driving me up the wall.

Every dog has its day – Everyone will have their moment of glory or success. Example: Don't worry about not winning this time, every dog has its day.

Go the extra mile – Put in extra effort or work. Example: If you want to impress your boss, you should always go the extra mile.

(Read More: What is the difference between affect and effect?)

Hit the hay – Go to bed. Example: I'm exhausted, I think I'll hit the hay early tonight.

In the same boat –  In the same difficult situation as someone else. Example: We're all struggling to meet the deadline, we're in the same boat.

Jump the gun – Do something too soon, without enough planning or information. Example: Don't jump the gun and invest all your money in the first thing you see.

Keep your eyes peeled – Be vigilant and watchful. Example: Keep your eyes peeled for the thief, he's wearing a red shirt.

Let bygones be bygones – Let go of past conflicts or disagreements. Example: I don't hold a grudge, let bygones be bygones.

Make ends meet – Make enough money to cover one's expenses. Example: It's tough to make ends meet on a minimum wage job.

No man is an island – No one can survive or succeed completely on their own. Example: Even if you're an independent person, remember that no man is an island.

On the fence –  Undecided about something. Example: I'm still on the fence about whether to take the job or not.

Penny-wise, pound-foolish –  Saving small amounts of money while wasting larger amounts. Example: Buying a cheap car might save you money in the short term, but it could end up being penny-wise, pound-foolish.

(Read More: Best Tips for IELTS writing, General Training)

Quick on the draw –  Reacting quickly to a situation. Example: The police officer was quick on the draw and apprehended the suspect.

Run out of steam – Lose energy or enthusiasm for something. Example: After working on the project for hours, I ran out of steam and needed a break.

Slow and steady wins the race – Consistent effort and persistence will lead to success. Example: Don't give up, slow and steady wins the race.

Take it with a grain of salt – Don't take something too seriously or literally. Example: His comments were meant as a joke, so take them with a grain of salt.

Under the gun –  Under pressure or on a deadline. Example: We're under the gun to finish this project by the end of the week.

Venus and Mars – Men and women are different. Example: There are often misunderstandings between Venus and Mars.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do – Follow the customs and practices of a new place or environment. Example: I know it's different here, but when in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Note: These are a few examples to remember while preparing for IELTS exam. Using them during the exam will escalate your score.

You can't have your cake and eat it too – You can't have everything you want. Example: If you want to save money, you can't buy everything you see, you can't have your cake and eat it too.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush – It's better to have something that is certain than to risk losing it for something that is uncertain. Example: I might get a better job offer, but I don't want to quit my current job just yet, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Bide your time – Wait patiently for the right opportunity. Example: Don't rush into anything, bide your time and wait for the right moment.

Cross that bridge when you come to it – Deal with a problem when it arises, not in advance. Example: Don't worry about the exam until you have to take it, cross that bridge when you come to it.

Don't count your chickens before they hatch – Don't assume that something will happen before it actually happens. Example: Don't celebrate the promotion until you actually get it, don't count your chickens before they hatch.

Every cloud has a silver lining – Even in bad situations, there is a positive aspect. Example: Losing my job was tough, but I found a better one soon after, every cloud has a silver lining.

From rags to riches –  Going from being poor to becoming wealthy. Example: Oprah Winfrey went from rags to riches, from growing up in poverty to becoming a billionaire.

(Read More: Take a look at TOEFL various tests)

Get off on the wrong foot – Start a relationship or situation on a bad note. Example: I got off on the wrong foot with my new boss when I showed up late for the interview.

Hammer it home – Emphasize something repeatedly. Example: The coach hammered it home that we needed to focus on defense.

In hot water –  In trouble or in a difficult situation. Example: I'm in hot water with my boss for missing the deadline.

Jump through hoops – Do something difficult or time-consuming to achieve a goal. Example: I had to jump through hoops to get my visa approved.

Kill two birds with one stone – Accomplish two things at once. Example: If we stop at the grocery store on the way home, we can kill two birds with one stone.

(Read More: Get a professional training for PTE exam)

Let the cat out of the bag – Reveal a secret. Example: I accidentally let the cat out of the bag and told her about the surprise party.

Make a long story short – Summarize a long story or explanation. Example: To make a long story short, I ended up getting lost on my way to the airport and missed my flight.

No pain, no gain – You have to work hard to achieve something. Example: If you want to get in shape, you have to exercise regularly, no pain, no gain.

Once in a blue moon –  Rarely or infrequently. Example: I only see my old friend once in a blue moon.

Put all your eggs in one basket – Risk everything on one venture or investment. Example: Don't put all your eggs in one basket by investing all your money in one stock.

Read between the lines – Understand what is not explicitly stated. Example: She didn't say it outright, but I could read between the lines and tell she was upset.

Shoot for the moon – Set high goals for yourself. Example: I'm going to shoot for the moon and try to get into the best college possible.

The ball is in your court – It's your turn to make a decision or take action. Example: I've given you all the information you need, now the ball is in your court.

Up in the air –  Uncertain or undecided. Example: Our vacation plans are up in the air because we haven't decided where to go yet.

When push comes to shove – When it's time to take action or make a decision. Example: When push comes to shove, we'll have to decide whether to invest in the project or not.

Note: It takes great effort and time to understand and memorise the examples. In order to remember them, plan a schedule, segregate the topics and study them for long hours.

A chip on your shoulder –  Holding a grudge or feeling angry about something. Example: He has a chip on his shoulder about not getting the promotion.

Back to the drawing board –  Start over from the beginning. Example: We thought we had the perfect design, but it didn't work out, so it's back to the drawing board.

Cut to the chase – Get to the point quickly. Example: Let's cut to the chase and talk about what needs to be done.

Don't put the cart before the horse – Don't do things out of order. Example: We need to finish the planning before we start the construction, don't put the cart before the horse.

Every dog has its day – Everyone gets their chance to succeed or be recognized. Example: She worked hard for years, and now she's finally getting her big break, every dog has its day.

Fish out of water –  Uncomfortable in a new or unfamiliar situation. Example: He felt like a fish out of water at the fancy party.

Get your act together – Organize yourself or your thoughts. Example: You need to get your act together if you want to pass this exam.

Hit the nail on the head – Be exactly right about something. Example: She hit the nail on the head when she said we needed to focus on marketing.

(Read More: How to score high on PTE Speaking?)

In the same boat –  In the same situation or predicament. Example: We're all in the same boat when it comes to dealing with the pandemic.

Keep your chin up – Stay positive during a difficult time. Example: I know things are tough right now, but keep your chin up and keep pushing forward.

Leave no stone unturned – Exhaust all possibilities in a search or investigation. Example: We need to leave no stone unturned in our search for the missing hiker.

Make ends meet – Manage to live within one's means. Example: It's tough to make ends meet on a low salary, but we make it work.

Nine-to-five –  A typical workday. Example: I work a nine-to-five job at the office.

On the ball –  Alert and competent. Example: She's always on the ball and gets things done quickly.

Play it by ear – Make decisions as the situation develops. Example: We don't have a set plan yet, so we'll just have to play it by ear.

Quick on the draw –  Quick to react or respond. Example: He's quick on the draw when it comes to answering questions.

Rub someone the wrong way – Irritate or annoy someone. Example: His constant tapping on the table really rubs me the wrong way.

Spill the beans – Reveal a secret. Example: She spilled the beans about the surprise party and ruined the surprise.

Take the bull by the horns – Take decisive action to tackle a problem. Example: We need to take the bull by the horns and address this issue head-on.

Under the weather –  Feeling unwell or sick. Example: I'm feeling a bit under the weather today and need to rest.

Variety is the spice of life – Having a variety of experiences and activities makes life more enjoyable. Example: I like to try new things and explore different places, variety is the spice of life.

(Read More: PTE vs. IELTS: Pick the easiest)

Wild goose chase –  A fruitless or pointless search. Example: Looking for my lost keys was a wild goose chase, I never did find them.

X marks the spot – A phrase used to indicate the exact location of something. Example: X marks the spot where we buried the treasure.

You can't judge a book by its cover – You can't determine the value or worth of something just by its appearance. Example: She may seem quiet and reserved, but you can't judge a book by its cover, she's actually very outgoing.

Zero hour –  The moment when something important or significant is about to happen. Example: We're all preparing for the zero hour when the big meeting takes place.


These are just a few examples of the many idioms used in the English language. Using idioms can add colour and personality to your speech and writing. Just be sure to use them appropriately and in the right context to avoid confusion or misunderstandings.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, some universities don’t make IELTS scores mandatory and some universities have waivers during admissions through which you can enter the US without IELTS.

It depends on the course you are taking up. For English language proficiency, the best tests to choose from are IELTS, PTE, and TOEFL.

A minimum of 60% is mandatory to be eligible to go abroad. For studying abroad, you may need to submit scores of IELTS, TOEFL, SAT, PTE, GMAT, or GRE.


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