Popular English Idioms

In English, there are many, many idioms (also called idiomatic expressions). An idiom is an expression or phrase which has a meaning that is different from the literal meaning of the words. In other words, idioms don’t mean exactly what they say.

a bun in the oven

Common English Idioms

(..to have) a short fuse
Meaning: to have a bad temper / be a person who gets angry quickly
“Be careful what you say to John, he has a very short fuse”

(..to have / to get) butterflies in your stomach
To be nervous / anxious
“I always get butterflies in my stomach before a job interview.”

(..to do something / to succeed) ..by the skin of your teeth
Meaning: to do something, but be close to failing.
“He scored 64% in the exam and the pass-mark was 65% so he passed by the skin of his teeth”

..to be down for the count
Meaning: to be too tired to do anything
“Your father’s down for the count. He’s been working in the garden all day and now he’s asleep on the sofa”

..to draw the line
Meaning: to decide when to stop something – when something changes from acceptable to unacceptable
“You can’t let your boss call you stupid, even if you make a mistake. You have to draw the line somewhere.”

..like finding a needle in a haystack
Meaning: very difficult or impossible to find
“Finding a decent job these days is like finding a needle in a haystack.”

..to feel like / ..to be a fish out of water
Meaning: to be out of place
“I felt like a fish out of water when I went for dinner with my wife’s friends. They drink beer, smoked and talked about rugby all night. I don’t drink, don’t smoke and don’t know anything about rugby!”

..to spit it out
Meaning: say what you are thinking (usually an instruction)
“Come on, spit it out! What’s the problem?”

..to get something off your chest
Meaning: to speak about something that troubles you, or something you wanted to say for a long time
“Come on, get it off your chest! What’s the problem?”

..to give it a whirl
Meaning to try something.
“Seriously, skateboarding is very easy. You should give it a whirl one day.”

..to let the cat out of the bag
Meaning: to reveal a secret
“The party was a secret until Barbara let the cat out of the bag by telling my mum. Now everybody knows about it.”

..to lose your marbles:
Meaning: To go crazy
“My father has really lost his marbles… he paid £5000 for an old car because somebody told him it would be valuable in the future.”

(..to happen) ..once in a blue moon
Meaning: it happens rarely.
“I live in Australia and my sisters live in the UK so I only see them once in a blue moon.”

..to be as plain as day
Meaning: something is obvious
“It’s plain as day that you don’t like your job, so why don’t you find another one?”

..to play second fiddle (to someone..)
Meaning: to be less important than somebody else
“I hate playing second fiddle to my elder brother; my parents think he does everything better than me.”

..to put your foot in your mouth / ..to put your foot in it
Meaning: To say something you shouldn’t have said – usually by accident.
“Paul really put his foot in his mouth when he asked Jane what she was going to call her baby. Her husband had promised not to tell anybody she was pregnant…”

(..I will… / Let me …..) sleep on it
Meaning: to take a little time (overnight) to consider something before making a decision
“Thank you for offering me this job, but I don’t want to make a decision now. Do you mind if I sleep on it?”

..to stick your nose into something
Meaning: to interfere or ask questions about things that are private
“Paola is always sticking her nose into other people’s business, telling them what they should so, and so on.

(..to get / ..to hear something) straight from the horse’s mouth
Meaning: to be told something by the person involved
“The company is going bankrupt. I spoke to the owner this morning and he told me, so I heard it straight from the horse’s mouth”

..to be up a creek without a paddle
Meaning: to be in a situation where you have very limited options or can’t do anything
“I can’t afford to buy a new one, so if somebody steals my car I’ll really be up the creek without a paddle…”

These English idioms can be used to mean that someone is pregnant

..to have a bun in the oven
..to be up the duff
..to be up the spout
..to be in the family way
..to be knocked up
..to be expecting
..to be in the Pudding Club
..to be eating For Two