30 useful English idioms and expressions

English idiomsLike any language, English is full of idioms and phrases that give it life and colour. Understanding them will help you follow conversations in all sorts of settings and situations, while being able to use them – appropriately – will impress your native-speaker friends and make your own conversation sound that much more natural and fluent. There are far too many to list in one article, but here we look at 30 useful English idioms and phrases in various contexts. A literal definition (in italics) precedes each one.

30 useful English idioms and expressions:

Do you have something really difficult and challenging to do at work? If so, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Or maybe you’ve taken on far more work than you can practically do. If so, you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. In either case, the worst thing to do is to procrastinate, you need to tackle the difficult situation you’re in and start work immediately; that is, don’t drag your feet but take the bull by the horns and get a move on.

Meanwhile, does it annoy you when your boss constantly checks that you’re doing your work, so that if feels as if he’s always standing behind you, looking over your shoulder? If so, then it gets up your nose that he’s always breathing down your neck. If you try to talk to him about it, does it become clear that you both have very different opinions about the issue? If so, then when you have a word with him about it, it becomes clear that you don’t see eye to eye.

Or is a friend or colleague ignoring you for some reason, maybe because you’ve said something to offend them? If so, they’re giving you the cold shoulder. Whatever the problem, it’s always better to talk about it rather than ignore it. If there’s a very obvious problem that everyone pretends is not happening because they don’t want to address it, it ends up being the elephant in the room, which is one of my favourite of all English idioms and phrases.

The last time you took an exam, did you stay up all night the night before, studying until the very last minute? If so, then you pulled an all-nighter. But maybe it was worth it and you got perfect, or nearly perfect marks, in which case you can say you passed with flying colours. Or maybe during the exam you couldn’t remember anything you’d learned as your mind went blank. When you finally got into bed the next night, exhausted from all that studying, did you fall asleep immediately and then sleep undisturbed until morning? If so, you were out like a light and you slept like a baby.

The last time you went on holiday, did it cost you an incredibly large amount of money? If so, it cost you an arm and a leg. In fact, after spending all that money you probably had no money at all, in which case you were flat broke. Hopefully it was worth it, however, and you had an absolutely wonderful time, because then you can tell your friends, in another one of our useful English idioms and phrases, that you had the time of your life.

Or is your life going nowhere, always the same old boring routine? Then you’re stuck in a rut and you need a change. Are you tired of living in a very isolated area, far away from the nearest town or village? No wonder! Nobody likes being stuck in the middle of nowhere or the back of beyond. Maybe you know you should move elsewhere, but are unable to decide whether or not to do so, in which case you’re in two minds about moving.

Perhaps all you need to feel better is to meet up with friends, head into the city and enjoy yourself flamboyantly; that is, paint the town red. If you’re feeling incredibly hungry and could eat a horse, find a nice restaurant. But don’t get too drunk, however; if you get wasted, bladdered, plastered, tanked or any of the other dozens of synonyms for inebriated, you’ll only end up with a nasty hangover, in which case you might have to resort to a hair of the dog to feel better. And if you don’t know what that last one is, you can look it up here.

See below the video ‘#33 English idioms and expressions explaines … quite literally’, by Pearson ELT.

You might also be interested in…

– 21 idioms from the world of sport

– 21 unusual English expressions from around the world

– 10 unusual expressions in English and where they come from

– 12 surprising facts about the English language

– 50 of the most useful English abbreviations and acronyms

– 20 words and phrases English owes to Shakespeare

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