20 Idioms You Should Know

English can be exciting and full of surprises. Have you heard someone say something like "break a leg" or "bite the bullet"? These are called idioms. Idioms are special phrases that are different from the actual words used. In this lesson, we will learn 20 exciting idioms. These idioms will help you sound more natural and confident in your conversation.

Idioms you should know
1. Under the weather

If you are or feel under the weather, you feel slightly ill and not as well as usual. 
For example:
  • It's hard to be productive when you're under the weather, so it's important to take some time to rest and recover.
  • I won't be able to make it to the party tonight; I'm feeling a bit under the weather.

2. Spill the beans

Have you ever heard someone say "Don't spill the beans" or "They spilled the beans"? Well, this idiom carries an interesting meaning. When we say "spill the beans", we mean revealing or disclosing secret or confidential information that was supposed to be kept hidden. 
For example:
  • Despite their best efforts to keep it a secret, someone in the office spilled the beans about the upcoming layoffs.
  • During the interrogation, the suspect finally broke down and spilled the beans about his involvement in the crime.

3. Break a leg

Contrary to what it may sound like, "break a leg" is a well-wishing phrase used in the theater world to convey good luck and best wishes to performers before they go on stage. 
For example:
  • Before the theater performance, the director gathered the cast backstage and said, "Break a leg, everyone! Give it your all and enjoy the show!"
  • As the actress stepped onto the stage, her fellow actors whispered, "Break a leg, you've got this!"

4. Sit on the fence

The idiom "sit on the fence" means to remain undecided or neutral in a situation where a choice or decision is expected. It refers to the act of not taking a side or committing to a particular viewpoint, or a desire to avoid conflict. 
For example:
  • He didn't want to offend anyone, so he chose to sit on the fence and remain neutral during the heated debate.
  • The teacher encouraged the students to express their opinions and not to sit on the fence when discussing important topics.

5. See eye to eye

The idiom "see eye to eye" means to agree with someone or have the same opinion as them. It suggests that both people involved have a similar understanding or viewpoint on a particular topic. 
For example:
  • John and Mary always see eye to eye on important financial decisions.
  • It took a while, but eventually, the couple learned to see eye to eye on how to balance their work and personal lives.

6. As right as rain

The idiom "as right as rain" means to feel perfectly fine or to be in good health. It is used to describe someone or something that is in a satisfactory or optimal condition. 
For example:
  • Even though she was feeling under the weather yesterday, today she's as right as rain and ready to tackle her tasks.
  • He had a minor injury, but after receiving proper treatment, he's back on his feet and feeling as right as rain.

7. Miss the boat

The idiom "miss the boat" means to miss an opportunity or to be too late to take advantage of something. It's like watching a boat leave a dock without being able to get on board. 
For example:
  • She had the opportunity to study abroad, but she missed the boat by not applying before the deadline.
  • They didn't buy tickets in advance, so they missed the boat to see their favorite band perform live.

8. Through thick and thin

The idiom "through thick and thin" means to support or stay loyal to someone or something in both good times and bad times. Just like the phrase suggests, "thick" refers to difficult or challenging times, while "thin" refers to easier or more favorable times. 
For example:
  • Our friendship has endured through thick and thin, and I know I can always count on you.
  • I promised to stand by my sister through thick and thin, and I will always be there for her.

9. By the skin of your teeth

The idiom "by the skin of your teeth" means to succeed or survive in a situation by a very narrow margin or with minimal effort. The idiom originates from the concept of teeth having no skin. 
For example:
  • He managed to pass the exam by the skin of his teeth, earning the minimum required score.
  • The project was completed by the skin of their teeth, with the team working day and night to meet the deadline.

10. Come rain or shine

The idiom "come rain or shine" means that something will happen no matter what the circumstances are. It is used to express a commitment or promise to do something regardless of any obstacles, difficulties, or changes in the weather. 
For example:
  • I will be there for your birthday party come rain or shine.
  • I promise to support you, come rain or shine, in good times and bad.

11. Beat around the bush

The idiom "beat around the bush" means to avoid talking about something directly or to not get to the main point of a conversation. Imagine you ask a friend if they can lend you some money, and instead of giving a clear answer, they start talking about unrelated things or avoid the question altogether. In this case, they are "beating around the bush" by not directly addressing the request for money. 
For example:
  • Please don't beat around the bush. Just tell me honestly if you're not interested in going to the party.
  • When I asked my boss about a raise, she started beating around the bush and didn't give me a clear answer.

12. Bite the bullet

The idiom "bite the bullet" means to face a difficult or unpleasant situation with courage and determination, even though it may be painful or uncomfortable.
The origin of this phrase dates back to the 19th century when soldiers in battles had to undergo surgeries without anesthesia. To endure the pain, they were given a bullet to bite down on to prevent them from screaming or crying out. So, "biting the bullet" became a symbol of enduring pain or hardship. 
For example:
  • John knew he had to bite the bullet and apologize to his friend for his mistake, even though it was difficult to admit he was wrong.
  • Despite the criticism and doubts from others, he decided to bite the bullet and pursue his dream of becoming an artist.

13. Burn the midnight oil

The idiom "burn the midnight oil" means to work or study late into the night. It suggests putting in extra effort and dedicating extra time to a task or activity that requires concentration and focus. 
For example:
  • The programmer had to burn the midnight oil to fix a critical bug in the software before it could be released.
  • With final exams approaching, I had to burn the midnight oil to study for all my subjects.

14. Cat got your tongue

The idiom "cat got your tongue" is used to ask someone why they are not speaking or why they are suddenly silent. It is often used when someone is expected to respond or speak up but remains quiet without any apparent reason. 
For example:
  • I expected Susan to share her opinion during the meeting, but it seemed like the cat got her tongue.
  • While giving a speech in front of a large audience, the speaker suddenly froze, as if the cat had got their tongue.

15. Get cold feet

The idiom "get cold feet" means to suddenly feel nervous, anxious, or scared about something that was previously agreed upon or planned. The feeling of "getting cold feet" can arise before events like a big performance, an important decision, a wedding, or any significant undertaking. 
For example:
  • After months of planning, Jenny got cold feet about moving to a new city and decided to stay where she was.
  • He wanted to propose to his girlfriend, but he got cold feet and postponed the idea for another time.

16. Ring a bell

The idiom "ring a bell" means that something sounds familiar or reminds you of something you have heard or experienced before. It's often used when you hear or see something that triggers a vague memory or recognition but you can't quite remember the details. 
For example:
  • His name sounds familiar, but it doesn't ring a bell. I can't recall where I've heard it before.
  • I can't place her face, but her voice rings a bell. I think we may have spoken on the phone before.

17. A dime a dozen

The idiom "a dime a dozen" means that something is very common, abundant, or easy to find. The phrase is often used to express that the item or person is not rare, special, or distinctive in any way. 
For example:
In this city, coffee shops are a dime a dozen; you can find one on almost every corner.
During the summer, ice cream trucks are a dime a dozen in our neighborhood.

18. Cut to the chase

The idiom "cut to the chase" means to get to the main point or the most important part of a conversation or situation without wasting time on unnecessary details. It's a figurative expression that originated from early silent films, where action scenes would often build up to a climax involving a chase. So, when someone says "cut to the chase," they want to focus on the essential or crucial information or action without any further delay or distractions. 
For example:
  • I don't have much time, so let's cut to the chase and get to the point.
  • Instead of beating around the bush, let's cut to the chase and address the main issue.

19. In a nutshell

The idiom "in a nutshell" means to summarize or describe something in a concise and brief manner. It's as if the information is packed into a nutshell. 
For example:
  • Can you explain the theory of relativity in a nutshell? I'm not familiar with all the details
  • In a nutshell, the company's financial situation is not as good as we had hoped.

20. The elephant in the room

The idiom "the elephant in the room" refers to a significant and obvious issue or problem that everyone is aware of but avoids talking about or acknowledging.
For example:
  • It was obvious to everyone that the project was failing, but the team leader chose to ignore the elephant in the room and proceeded as if everything was fine.
  • The elephant in the room during the debate was the candidate's controversial past, which no one wanted to mention directly.