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Student Information


Learning English Grammar with Idioms

When you hear an expression that doesn’t seem to fit the sentence and is clearly not meant to be taken literally, you’ve probably encountered an idiom.  The definition of an idiom is a phrase that has meaning not necessarily apparent from its individual words.  Learning idioms is a great way for you to build up your English language skills.

15 Common English Idioms

Here are some of the more common idioms used today, and their meanings. 

A drop in the bucket: A smaller piece of something bigger.  This can also mean a small amount of money.

Blow me away: To shock, surprise or impress someone.

High as a kite: These days, people most often use this phrase to describe someone who is inebriated. 

Costs an arm and a leg:  Indicates something is expensive.

Bite off more than you can chew: When you take on a job or task that is too much for you to handle.

You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours: This is used to indicate that if someone helps you, you will, in turn, help them.  The two favours need not be exactly the same.

Adds insult to injury: To create a situation that’s worse by adding indignity or ridicule.

Back to the drawing board: Starting over when you are less than successful at a task.

The ball is in your court:  Indicates that it’s up to you to make the next decision.

Blessing in disguise: When something positive occurs from an experience that traditionally implies an inconvenience or misfortune.

Cutting corners: When something is done cheaply or hastily to save money or time.

To play the devil’s advocate: To suggest an opposing argument.

At the drop of a hat: At a moment’s notice.

Barking up the wrong tree: Looking for the answer in the wrong place.

Can’t judge a book by its cover: Indicates that you can’t always tell a lot about someone or something by the way it looks. 

Often, there is an equivalent of idioms from one language to the next.  See if you can find similar idioms in your own language.  This may help you to better remember English idioms.