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100 most common idioms for English learners

A piece of cake
Something that is very easy to do.
Example: Don't worry about the test; it's a piece of cake.
A dime a dozen
Something that is very common and easy to find.
Example: Those cheap souvenirs are a dime a dozen in the tourist area.
Back to the drawing board
To start over again because a previous attempt failed.
Example: The first design was not accepted, so it's back to the drawing board for the team.
Bite the bullet
To endure a difficult or unpleasant situation without complaining.
Example: The dentist told me I need a root canal, so I guess I'll have to bite the bullet.
Break a leg
A way to wish someone good luck, especially before a performance or event.
Example: Break a leg! I know you'll do great in the audition.
Burning the midnight oil
Working late into the night.
Example: He has been burning the midnight oil to finish his research paper.
Cost an arm and a leg
To be very expensive.
Example: The new smartphone costs an arm and a leg, but people still buy it.
Cry over spilled milk
To be upset about something that has already happened and cannot be changed.
Example: I made a mistake, but there's no use crying over spilled milk.
Cutting corners
To do something in the easiest or cheapest way, often resulting in lower quality.
Example: They finished the project quickly by cutting corners, and now it's full of errors.
Don't cry wolf
To not make false alarms or give false warnings.
Example: He keeps complaining about small issues, but we have to tell him not to cry wolf.
Don't put all your eggs in one basket
To not rely too much on one thing or one plan.
Example: Invest wisely and diversify your portfolio; don't put all your eggs in one basket.
Every cloud has a silver lining
There is something positive in every negative situation.
Example: She didn't get the job, but she's still optimistic because every cloud has a silver lining.
Fish out of water
Someone who feels uncomfortable or out of place in their surroundings.
Example: Being in a foreign country made him feel like a fish out of water.
Get a taste of your own medicine
To experience the same treatment or negative consequences that one has given to others.
Example: He's always making fun of people. I'm glad he finally got a taste of his own medicine.
Get cold feet
To suddenly become afraid or anxious about something one was previously enthusiastic about.
Example: He got cold feet and canceled the wedding at the last minute.
Hit the nail on the head
To describe or do something exactly right.
Example: You hit the nail on the head with your analysis of the situation.
In the same boat
Facing the same challenge or difficulty as others.
Example: We're all in the same boat, dealing with this difficult situation.
It's a small world
Used to express surprise or amusement when encountering someone unexpectedly.
Example: I ran into my old friend in a foreign country. It's a small world!
Jump on the bandwagon
To follow a popular trend or join a cause that is already successful.
Example: After the team won the championship, everyone started jumping on the bandwagon.
Keep an eye on
To watch or monitor something closely.
Example: Keep an eye on the children while they play in the park.
Kill two birds with one stone
To accomplish two tasks with a single action.
Example: By shopping on the way home, she killed two birds with one stone.
Let the cat out of the bag
To reveal a secret or confidential information.
Example: I accidentally let the cat out of the bag about the surprise party.
Miss the boat
To miss an opportunity or chance.
Example: I missed the boat to apply for that scholarship.
On the ball
Being alert, competent, and quick to understand or respond.
Example: She's always on the ball in meetings; she never misses any important details.
Out of the blue
Something that happens unexpectedly or without any warning.
Example: He received a job offer out of the blue.
Piece of work
Used to describe someone who is difficult, unusual, or eccentric.
Example: She's quite a piece of work; you never know what to expect from her.
Put a sock in it
To tell someone to be quiet or stop talking.
Example: He was talking loudly in the library, so I told him to put a sock in it.
Rain cats and dogs
To rain heavily.
Example: Bring an umbrella; it's raining cats and dogs outside.
Saved by the bell
To be saved from a difficult situation by a timely intervention.
Example: He was about to get into trouble, but the phone rang and he was saved by the bell.
Sit on the fence
To be undecided or neutral in a dispute or controversy.
Example: I can't decide which car to buy; I'm sitting on the fence for now.
Take a rain check
To decline an invitation or offer but suggest doing it another time.
Example: I can't make it to the party tonight, but can I take a rain check?
Under the weather
Feeling unwell or not in good health.
Example: I won't be able to come to the meeting; I'm feeling a bit under the weather.
Vanishing act
To disappear or be absent without a trace.
Example: He pulled a vanishing act after the party and no one knew where he went.
Walk on eggshells
To be very cautious in one's words or actions to avoid upsetting someone.
Example: He's so sensitive; I feel like I have to walk on eggshells around him.
You can't judge a book by its cover
You cannot form an opinion about someone or something based solely on appearance.
Example: He may seem shy, but you can't judge a book by its cover; he's actually very talented.
Zip one's lip
To keep quiet or stop talking.
Example: He was about to reveal the surprise, but we asked him to zip his lip.
A blessing in disguise
Something that appears to be bad but turns out to be beneficial in the end.
Example: Losing the job was a blessing in disguise as it led to better opportunities.
A penny for your thoughts
Used to ask someone what they are thinking about.
Example: You seem lost in thought; a penny for your thoughts?
Actions speak louder than words
What people do is more important than what they say.
Example: He promised to help, but his actions speak louder than words; he hasn't done anything.
All ears
Listening attentively and with interest.
Example: I'm all ears; tell me your story.
All thumbs
Clumsy or awkward, especially with one's hands.
Example: I'm all thumbs when it comes to fixing things.
At the drop of a hat
Without any hesitation or delay.
Example: He's always ready to help at the drop of a hat.
Back to the salt mines
Returning to work or a routine after a break or vacation.
Example: Vacation was great, but now it's back to the salt mines.
Barking up the wrong tree
To pursue a mistaken or misguided course of action.
Example: If you think I'm the one who took your book, you're barking up the wrong tree.
Beat around the bush
To avoid getting to the point or being direct.
Example: Stop beating around the bush and tell me what you really think.
Best of both worlds
To have the advantages of two different things at the same time.
Example: Living in the suburbs gives you the best of both worlds - city access and peacefulness.
Better late than never
Doing something late is better than not doing it at all.
Example: He finally apologized for his behavior, but better late than never.
Bite off more than one can chew
To take on more responsibility or work than one can handle.
Example: He volunteered for three committees, but I think he's bitten off more than he can chew.
Bless you
A common expression of well-wishing after someone sneezes.
Example: Bless you! I hope you feel better soon.
Burning the candle at both ends
To exhaust oneself by working or being active late into the night and early in the morning.
Example: He's been burning the candle at both ends to finish his project on time.
By hook or by crook
By any means necessary, even if they are illegal or unethical.
Example: He was determined to win by hook or by crook.
Burning bridges
To take actions that destroy one's relationships or opportunities.
Example: Quitting the job without notice was like burning bridges with the company.
Can't judge a fish by its scales
To not judge someone or something solely based on outward appearances.
Example: She may seem quiet, but you can't judge a fish by its scales; she's actually very talented.
Catch someone red-handed
To catch someone in the act of doing something wrong or illegal.
Example: The police caught the thief red-handed with stolen goods.
Chew the fat
To have a casual and leisurely conversation.
Example: We sat by the fireplace, chewing the fat over old times.
Cold shoulder
To treat someone with intentional coldness or indifference.
Example: After the argument, she gave him the cold shoulder.
Cost an arm and a leg
To be very expensive.
Example: The new smartphone costs an arm and a leg, but people still buy it.
Cry over spilled milk
To be upset about something that has already happened and cannot be changed.
Example: I made a mistake, but there's no use crying over spilled milk.
Curiosity killed the cat
Being too curious can lead to trouble.
Example: He couldn't resist opening the package, but curiosity killed the cat when the alarm went off.
Cut the mustard
To meet expectations or perform satisfactorily.
Example: He thought he could join the team, but he didn't cut the mustard.
Cut to the chase
To get to the main point without wasting time.
Example: Let's cut to the chase and discuss the most important issue.
Don't count your chickens before they hatch
To not make plans based on something that may not happen.
Example: He's already planning his victory speech, but don't count your chickens before they hatch.
Don't cry over spilled milk
To be upset about something that has already happened and cannot be changed.
Example: I made a mistake, but there's no use crying over spilled milk.
Don't give up your day job
To not rely on a particular activity or talent to make a living.
Example: He tried singing, but his voice was terrible. Don't give up your day job, they said.
Don't put all your eggs in one basket
To not rely too much on one thing or one plan.
Example: Invest wisely and diversify your portfolio; don't put all your eggs in one basket.
Drop in the bucket
A small and insignificant amount compared to what is needed.
Example: The money he donated was a drop in the bucket compared to the total cost of the project.
Easier said than done
To be much more difficult to do than to talk about.
Example: He said he would climb the mountain, but it's easier said than done.
Elbow grease
Hard physical effort, especially in cleaning or manual labor.
Example: The car needs a good wash, so get some elbow grease and start scrubbing.
Every cloud has a silver lining
There is something positive in every negative situation.
Example: She didn't get the job, but she's still optimistic because every cloud has a silver lining.
Feather in one's cap
An achievement or honor to be proud of.
Example: Winning the tournament was a feather in his cap.
Fish out of water
Someone who feels uncomfortable or out of place in their surroundings.
Example: Being in a foreign country made him feel like a fish out of water.
Fit as a fiddle
To be in very good physical health.
Example: He exercises regularly and eats well, so he's fit as a fiddle.
Go against the grain
To do something contrary to what is usual or natural.
Example: He's independent and likes to go against the grain.
Go the extra mile
To put in extra effort or go beyond what is expected.
Example: He always goes the extra mile to help others.
Grass is always greener on the other side
Used to describe the belief that others have it better in some way.
Example: She thinks life would be better in a big city, but the grass is always greener on the other side.
Haste makes waste
Doing things too quickly can result in mistakes and waste of time or resources.
Example: Slow down and check your work; haste makes waste.
Hit the nail on the head
To describe or do something exactly right.
Example: You hit the nail on the head with your analysis of the situation.
In the same boat
Facing the same challenge or difficulty as others.
Example: We're all in the same boat, dealing with this difficult situation.
It's a small world
Used to express surprise or amusement when encountering someone unexpectedly.
Example: I ran into my old friend in a foreign country. It's a small world!
Jump on the bandwagon
To follow a popular trend or join a cause that is already successful.
Example: After the team won the championship, everyone started jumping on the bandwagon.
Keep an eye on
To watch or monitor something closely.
Example: Keep an eye on the children while they play in the park.
Kill two birds with one stone
To accomplish two tasks with a single action.
Example: By shopping on the way home, she killed two birds with one stone.
Let the cat out of the bag
To reveal a secret or confidential information.
Example: I accidentally let the cat out of the bag about the surprise party.
Miss the boat
To miss an opportunity or chance.
Example: I missed the boat to apply for that scholarship.
On the ball
Being alert, competent, and quick to understand or respond.
Example: She's always on the ball in meetings; she never misses any important details.
Out of the blue
Something that happens unexpectedly or without any warning.
Example: He received a job offer out of the blue.
Piece of work
Used to describe someone who is difficult, unusual, or eccentric.
Example: She's quite a piece of work; you never know what to expect from her.
Put a sock in it
To tell someone to be quiet or stop talking.
Example: He was talking loudly in the library, so I told him to put a sock in it.
Rain cats and dogs
To rain heavily.
Example: Bring an umbrella; it's raining cats and dogs outside.
Saved by the bell
To be saved from a difficult situation by a timely intervention.
Example: He was about to get into trouble, but the phone rang and he was saved by the bell.
Sit on the fence
To be undecided or neutral in a dispute or controversy.
Example: I can't decide which car to buy; I'm sitting on the fence for now.
Take a rain check
To decline an invitation or offer but suggest doing it another time.
Example: I can't make it to the party tonight, but can I take a rain check?
Under the weather
Feeling unwell or not in good health.
Example: I won't be able to come to the meeting; I'm feeling a bit under the weather.
Vanishing act
To disappear or be absent without a trace.
Example: He pulled a vanishing act after the party and no one knew where he went.
Walk on eggshells
To be very cautious in one's words or actions to avoid upsetting someone.
Example: He's so sensitive; I feel like I have to walk on eggshells around him.
You can't judge a book by its cover
You cannot form an opinion about someone or something based solely on appearance.
Example: He may seem shy, but you can't judge a book by its cover; he's actually very talented.
Zip one's lip
To keep quiet or stop talking.
Example: He was about to reveal the surprise, but we asked him to zip his lip.
A blessing in disguise
Something that appears to be bad but turns out to be beneficial in the end.
Example: Losing the job was a blessing in disguise as it led to better opportunities.
A penny for your thoughts
Used to ask someone what they are thinking about.
Example: You seem lost in thought; a penny for your thoughts?
Actions speak louder than words
What people do is more important than what they say.
Example: He promised to help, but his actions speak louder than words; he hasn't done anything.

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