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Specialist Language Courses

The strange and wonderful world of English idioms

Do you know when in your language you use an expression that, when read literally, seems to make no sense at all, or it’s used to express another meaning altogether? That expression is an idiom or common saying. Every language has many of them.

Since coming to England, I’ve come across many surprising and funny expressions. Here’s a list of some of them. I hope it can be helpful in your life in the UK or during your trip abroad or to anyone learning the wonderful English language.

  • It’s only a storm in a teacup: there is nothing to worry about, when something seems a big problem but actually it isn’t.
  • Nothing ventured nothing gained: you must try something new if you want to obtain more and get a good result.
  • To be full of beans: to have a lot of energy or enthusiasm.
  • To bite your tongue: when you would like to say something but you realize it’s better to keep your mouth closed.
  • To tighten your belt: to economize, not to spend money and save it for the future.
  • Someone who knows the ropes: someone who has experience and knowledge in a particular environment.
  • To be in bits: to be very upset.
  • It blows your mind: it’s fantastic/amazing.
  • To grab a bite: to go and eat something quickly, like a snack.
  • A dog-eat-dog world: a cruel world.
  • To get the sack: to be fired from your job.
  • To be on the same page: to agree with someone, to understand each other.
  • To cost an arm and a leg: it’s very expensive.
  • Once in a blue moon: when something happens rarely.
  • Bob’s your uncle: “and there it is”, “and there you have it”, “et voilà”.
  • To lose the plot: to go crazy/mad.
  • To give someone a ring: to make a phone call.
  • To burn the midnight oil: to work until late into the night.
  • A piece of cake: something that is very easy to do.
  • To dig your heels in: to refuse to change your opinion/position.
  • To hit the roof: to be very angry.
  • Rome wasn’t built in a day: the best things take time!

These are difficult to learn, but you can hear them very often. So, when you hear something that doesn’t make sense, look it up or ask the person using it to find out what it means. Perhaps try it out for yourself and see what reaction you get. Have fun with these expressions!

About the Writer

Paola Alghisi graduated in Law from Brescia University on July 2016. She is currently in the UK, improving her English. She attended an English course in Brighton and now she is undertaking a 6-week internship at SLC. For these reasons she can understand difficulties of learning and communicating in a different language.