English Idioms and Idiomatic Phrases

    Beginner+ English - Level A2


    This module introduces some common idioms and idiomatic phrases in English. Idioms are expressions whose meaning is not literal but figurative. For example: "The early bid gets the worm."


    English-idioms and idiomatic pairs

    The Convention Center and Riverwalk at night in Tampa, Florida.

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    English A2

    Idioms and Idiomatic Phrases

    There are many idioms and idiomatic phrases used in everyday American English. Some of these can stand on their own, and some function as part of a sentence. Idioms don't make sense if you look at each of the words individually, and they aren't meant to be taken literally. Let's look at some common idioms:

    hit the nail on the head
    twist (someone's) arm
    piece of cake
    easy does it
    better late than never
    make a long story short
    take with a grain of salt
    pull (someone's) leg
    on the fence

    To "hit the nail on the head" means to be exactly right. It doesn't literally mean that someone is striking a nail with a hammer. When you "twist someone's arm," you are forcing them to do something. Something that's "a piece of cake" is very easy. "Easy does it" means to be careful. "Better late than never" is often said to reinforce the idea that doing something, even if it is (too) late, is better than not doing anything at all. To "make a long story short" is to give a quick summary of something. When you "take it with a grain of salt," it is expressing that something just said (advice or information) should not be taken too seriously. When someone "pulls" another's "leg," this means that they are joking and not serious. And finally, when someone is "on the fence," it means they are undecided about something.
    There are many more idioms than is possible to list here, but try guessing the meaning of these before looking them up:

    speak of the devil
    kill two birds with one stone
    a bird in hand is worth two in the bush
    look a gift horse in the mouth
    raining cats and dogs
    that's the last straw
    under the weather
    the early bird gets the worm
    add insult to injury
    pour salt in the wound
    at the drop of a hat
    walk on eggshells
    beat around the bush
    every cloud has a silver lining
    every dog has his day
    see eye to eye
    stand/be on top of the world
    on cloud nine

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