10 Idioms every English learner should Know
Written by Lilian Ndongmo. ESL Teacher
Here’s a list of ten of the most common English idioms and idiomatic expressions. Familiarize yourself with them if you didn’t already, and use them accurately in your spoken and written English practice.
1. Love at first sight
Meaning: Fall in love with someone from the moment you or meet them for the first time.
Ex. It was love at first sight for this couple who have been married for over 50 years now.
I believe / don’t believe in love at first sight
2. To have a soft spot for someone / something
Meaning: To be fond of or have a strong liking for someone or something
Ex. My brother has a soft spot for this classmate, Clara.
3. To be a mother hen
Meaning: To pamper, spoil, act in a way to protect or care for someone
Ex. My teacher is a mother hen. She treats all her students as if they were her own children.
Do you know someone who is a mother hen?
4. To be born with a silver spoon in your mouth
Meaning: to be born into a rich family. To be rich right from the day you were born.
Ex. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth.
Stop asking me for money. Do you think I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth?
5. To let the cat out of the bag
Meaning: to involuntarily or voluntarily reveal a piece of information
Ex. Mark let the cat out of the bag when he revealed he was already married.
My parents do not know about this, but I plan to surprise them for Christmas. Please don’t let the cat out of the bag.
6. To come out of nowhere
Meaning: something unexpected
Ex. The attacker came out of nowhere and struck down his opponent.
The ball seemed to come out of nowhere and hit him in the face.
7. To take no prisoners
Meaning: To act in a ruthless, merciless, and uncompromising manner in order to reach an objective.
Ex. I intend to have an A in that test, so I’ll be taking no prisoners.
You are the best lawyer to win this case, so please take no prisoners.
8. Your hands (or one hand) behind your back
Meaning: do /accomplish something easily, with little effort
Ex. This professional boxer can beat his opponent with his hands behind his back because he is much stronger.
You’re so good at cooking you can bake this cake with one hand behind your back.
9. No chance in hell
Meaning: absolutely impossible to achieve something.
Ex. She hasn’t got a chance in hell of being re-elected.
10. To show your true colours
Meaning: to reveal who someone really is / what someone can be when put on the spot
Ex. He seems to be a very nice and kind person, but it’s only a matter of time before he shows us his true colours.
She’s a very patient person, but if you step on her toes she’ll show you her true colours.