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30 Essential English Idioms to Help You Sound Like a Native

Idioms are used frequently in everyday life by native English speakers, which makes them really useful for English language students who want to sound natural and confident. Idioms are often confusing when translated literally, so make sure you learn the meaning as well as the phrase. Here are some common English idioms which will help you sound like a native.


It's a piece of cake – it’s really easy.
“Don’t worry about the speaking exam, it’s a piece of cake.”

Once in a blue moon ­– very rarely.
Once in a blue moon, I’ll exercise instead of watching TV.

Snowed under – to be really busy.
“I can’t make it tonight, I’m snowed under at work.”

To see eye to eye – to understand each other.
“I’ll ask David to talk to Will, they really see eye to eye.”

Come rain or shine – no matter what.
“Come rain or shine, I’ll be there!”

Through thick and thin – under all circumstances, no matter how difficult.
“My best friend has supported me through thick and thin.”

Give someone the cold shoulder – to ignore someone.
“I think Nilufar is angry at me, she is giving me the cold shoulder.”

Fit as a fiddle – to be perfectly healthy.
“Don’t worry about Grandpa, he’s as fit as a fiddle.”

To sit on the fence - he is undecided.
“Stop sitting on the fence and decide what you want to do!”

On cloud nine – to be ecstatic with happiness!
“Ava is on cloud nine, Silvia just proposed to her!”



Do you understand so far? Here are some slightly more tricky English idioms! 


Barking up the wrong tree – to be looking in the wrong place.
“You’re barking up the wrong tree, I can’t help you.”

Break the ice – to make a situation feel more comfortable.
“Before we begin, let’s break the ice by introducing ourselves and each telling our favourite joke!”

Costs an arm and a leg – to be extremely expensive.
“I want to go on holiday but it would cost an arm and a leg.”

Hit the nail on the head – to get something exactly right.
“You’ve hit the nail on the head there – he is a bit strange.”

The best thing since sliced bread – something amazing!
“I want you to know that I think you’re the best thing since sliced bread.”

Go down in flames – to fail badly at something.
“The performance went down in flames after the lead actor forgot his lines.”

Have your head in the clouds – to not concentrate on something.
“What are you thinking about? You’ve got your head in the clouds.”

Add insult to injury – to make a bad situation worse.
“His husband left him for another man and to add insult to injury, he took their dog with him.”

Weather the storm ­– to get through something difficult.
“Exam season is always hard but if you can weather the storm, it will all be worth it.”

That ship has sailed – that opportunity has gone.
“I asked for my old job back but they said that ship had sailed.”


If you’ve made it this far, you’re definitely ready for some really difficult English idioms!


The elephant in the room – a big issue which is being ignored. 
“Let’s address the elephant in the room – Sadie has been fired and will not return to work.”

It is always darkest before the dawn – things are bad now but they will get better soon.
“I know times are hard at the moment but it’s always darkest before the dawn.”

Like riding a bicycle – something that you never forget how to do. 
“I haven’t been climbing for years but I’m sure I’ll be fine – it’s like riding a bike.”

You can't judge a book by its cover ­– you shouldn’t make a judgement based on appearances. 
“You can’t judge a book by its cover - he may look boring but he’s actually really fun!”

There are plenty more fish in the sea – (consoling your friend when their relationship has ended) there are lots of potential partners in the world.
“I know you loved Kedsaraporn but there are plenty more fish in the sea!”

A perfect storm – a particularly bad situation due to a combination of circumstances.
“I was hungover, my alarm didn’t go off and the train was delayed – it was a perfect storm of bad luck.”

A storm in a teacup – a very big deal made out of a small problem.
“The argument is nothing to worry about, it’s just a storm in a teacup.”

It takes two to tango – both people must have been responsible for something. 
“They argue a lot but it can’t always be Aaron’s fault – it takes two to tango.”

Jump on the bandwagon – to do something because everybody else is doing it.
“Raheem Sterling is a great player! Anyone saying otherwise is just jumping on the bandwagon.”


        And finally, here’s one to celebrate the Wimbledon Tennis Championships…


The ball is in your court – it’s your decision.
“I don’t mind where we go for dinner – the ball is in your court.”


If you can learn all of these English idioms, you’ll sound like a native English speaker in no time! What’s your favourite English idiom?

WSE Team