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Do you want to learn how to speak English like a native speaker?
Well if you really want to gain fluency, you are going to have to build up the number of idiomatic expressions that you understand and know how to use.
Idiomatic expressions are basically phrases where the meaning of the entire phrase doesn’t necessarily perfectly match the meanings of the words that make up the phrase.
Confused? Well, if you want to learn more, you can check out this post of 20 idioms in English with their meanings and sentence examples.
Want to learn more? We’ve compiled a list here of 100 idiomatic expressions and their meanings.
When you are at a crossroads, you are at a point in your life where you need to make a decision. The implication is that the decision you make will have big, life-altering consequences.
You can use this idiom to describe someone who is not nice and maybe even criminal.
When you “bark up the wrong tree” you are pursuing the wrong solution to your problems.
If you are being “closefisted”, you don’t want to spend a lot of money.
If you decide to be “cold-hearted”, you are making a deliberate decision not to care about someone or something.
When you are “on solid ground”, you are confident in your position or feel that you are safe.
When you do this, you are taking a long time to say what you really need to say. You may be doing this because the “truth” is embarrassing or your unsure about how the listener will take it.
When you are “behind” someone, you are saying that they have your support.
When you have to choose between two options, neither of which are ideal or “good”.
When you are stressed or upset about something, sometimes you need to do something to keep you from thinking about it.
This idiomatic expression is used to describe someone who was born into a wealthy family.
When you “break the bank”, you spend a lot of money on something. If something will “break the bank”, then it’s expensive.
A “bright spark” is someone who is smart and valuable to an organization.
When you “build a case” for something, you are preparing to argue a point or convince someone that your opinion is the right one.
When you fantasize about something you hope to have or achieve.
When you “burn your bridges” you end a relationship permanently.
When you “butter” someone up, you are telling them nice things about themselves.
If something you bought is a “lemon” it is a bad product. In a sense, you wasted your money on it.
When you start a conversation strangers with the end goal of making new friends.
When you use this to describe your state of being or mind, you’re talking about a quiet period before anticipated trouble comes your way.
When you try to follow your dreams. The implication here, however, is that you might be better off forgetting your dreams.
When you are confused about something or a situation.
This idiomatic expression is meant to describe someone who is calm and relaxed.
A couch potato is a lazy person. Specifically, someone who sprawls on their couch watching TV almost all day.
When you say this, you are telling someone that you will think about something later. The implication is that it’s a problem or a decision that can be put off for now.
This idiom implies that you need to make an important decision and can’t afford to be hasty about it.
When something “comes to light” something that was originally concealed from you is revealed.
When you use this idiom, you are reducing something.
When you tell someone to “cut to the chase”, you are expressing impatience. This is usually used when someone feels someone else is taking to long to deliver important news.
When you say that something is “crystal clear”, you are saying that it is understood.
When you are stuck in a “dead-end job”, you are in a career situation where there is no more room for advancement.
When you “dig deep” you put a lot of effort into a task.
When you “dig into” something, you are looking for more information.
This is a descriptive idiom, it’s meant to make you think about how a baby needs to learn how to walk before they can run. It’s supposed to caution you about assuming you can just do something without learning the basics.
This describes someone who is known for being sensible and practical.
This is used to describe someone who doesn’t eat a lot.
If you eat like a horse, you are eating a lot. You can “eat like a bird” most of the time but “eat like a horse” at a specific time because you are either very hungry or you really like the food.
When you “eat your words” you are admitting that something you said earlier turned out to be wrong.
When you say this, you are telling yourself or someone else that you will get through your troubles.
When you “face the music”, you are owning up to a mistake and trying to make amends.
When you are “finding your feet” you are learning how to adapt to a new situation, like a new job.
This idiom is often used between children and their parents, but it can also refer to a mentor or someone you admire. If you “follow in someone’s footsteps”, you do the same thing that they did.
If you are given “food for thought” you have been given something to think about.
If you received a “frosty reception”, you are not welcome.
You can use this idiom to describe someone who is visibly angry over a situation. Often this means that someone is shouting and maybe gesturing violently and even causing damage to property. It also implies that the angry reaction is disproportionate to the situation.
This is something you can say and should do after going through some problems.
If you are competing with someone, you are giving them a “run for their money.”
You can use this idiomatic expression when dining out with friends.
When you “go with the flow” you keep calm and just go along with whatever is happening around you.
When you “get off scot-free”, you managed to escape any consequences for your actions.
If someone told you something that you just can’t believe, they told you something that is “hard to swallow”.
Someone who has their whole life in front of them is young and full of promise.
When you do this, you try to make amends or peace with someone you’ve hurt or angered.
This idiomatic expression can be used to say that you are in a less than ideal situation.
When you say this, you’re saying things are proceeding slowly.
When you say this, you are implying that you are going to live in a morally correct way.
Even if you’re going through a hard time, you should keep thinking positive.
This is an irreverent phrase to say that someone has died. Be careful how you use it.
You “let the cat out of the bag” when you accidentally let someone in on a secret that they weren’t meant to know.
When you “look up to” someone you are acknowledging that you respect them and value their opinion.
When you call someone “loaded” you are saying that they are rich.
If a situation is making you feel confused or lost, this is the idiom to use.
If you. don’t have much money, you need to “make ends meet”. This means you carefully budget what you do have to meet your needs.
This idiom is used to say that someone is being over-dramatic with their complaints or concerns.
When you “make waves”, you change a situation dramatically. This can also mean that you caused trouble.
When you do this, you take action to keep a situation from getting worse.
When you say “no sweat” you are saying that a task was easy
If you say that something is “not your cup of tea” you are saying it’s not something you particularly like or enjoy.
This implies something that either won’t happen or rarely happens.
When something is “out in the open”, it is a matter of public knowledge.
You can use this to describe the feeling of getting something you’ve been looking forward to for a long time.
Similar to being over the moon.
If people are “packed like sardines” in a venue, they are standing very close together in a small space.
If you say something is a “piece of cake” you are saying that it is easy.
When you “pitch-in”, you work with a group of people to reach a common goal.
Your “point of view” is what you think about someone or a situation.
If you are paying back a debt, you are “ponying up” the money.
This basically means that you played peacemaker and kept an argument from developing into a physical fight.
When you have your “head in the sand”, you are deliberately ignoring a bad situation.
Someone who went from “rags to riches” was born poor or underprivileged, but is now in a better social position.
This idiomatic expression is used to express the idea that nothing will stop you.
When you “reap the rewards”, you are getting the benefits of your good work.
When you think that you’ve heard a piece of information before but are not so sure.
A “rule of thumb” is an unwritten rule that is followed by the majority.
This picturesque idiom refers to how, when you harvest wheat, you need to separate it from the stalks and leaves. So, it means that you pick out or choose what is valuable to keep.
When you “shell out money”, you pay for an item.
When you “sit on the fence” you are avoiding making a decision. Often, this is a decision between two people with different opinions.
You can use this idiom to describe someone intelligent.
When you “spice things up” you do something to break out of your normal routine.
When you do this, you tell someone something they didn’t know. It may or not have been a secret previously.
If you accuse someone of having “sticky fingers” you are basically calling them a thief.
When you “take a side” in an argument, you are agreeing with one of those arguing.
When you “throw light on” a situation, you help make sure that it is understood.
This is another idiomatic phrase that’s meant to paint a picture. A snail moves slowly, so to move at its pace means things are going slowly.
This implies that a situation is fraught and it might be easy to offend those involved.
When you do something “under the table”, you are trying to do something so that only a small amount of people are aware of it. It’s commonly used to describe something that is possibly unscrupulous. For example, bribes are given “under the table”.
When you behave in a way that makes you and your opinion seem untrustworthy.
When you say something is “up in the air”, you are saying that you are not sure that an event is happening.
When you “weather the storm”, you endure a bad situation.
This refers to the fact that sometimes, many bad things happen to people at one time.
So there you have it, 100 idiomatic expressions and their meanings. These idioms are used by native English language speakers to add some color to their daily speech.
If you want to be able to hold conversations with native language speakers, you need to memorize these idioms and their meanings. To help you out, we’ve also provided this 100 idiomatic expressions PDF that you can download.
While memorizing idioms and their meanings are all well and good, the only way that you can be sure that you are using them correctly is to use them around native English speakers. You should take this list and go over them with a native language speaking tutor.
At a crossroads – Needing to make an important decision, Bad apple – Bad person, Barking up the wrong tree – Pursuing the wrong course, Be closefisted – Stingy, Be cold-hearted – Uncaring, Be on solid ground – Confident, Behind you – Supportive, Between a rock and a hard place – Facing difficulties, Blow off steam – Try to relax
It means to be born wealthy. This idiomatic expression is used to describe someone who was born into a wealthy family.
It means to end a relationship. When you “burn your bridges” you end a relationship permanently.
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