As we all know, learning and understanding idioms is an essential part of the English language, whether we like it or not! Much like phrasal verbs, oftentimes students have a hard time with them because there are so many, with such disparate meanings and uses.
Truth be told, idioms are simple and can actually be pretty fun! If you think about it, they are just silly-sounding expressions that have different meanings. As we all know, we can’t ever take an idiom literally word for word. An idiom will always have a particular meaning that is different from the meanings of each word on its own.
A lot of the time they can sound pretty strange, and be warned that not all idioms are okay to be used in all kinds of situations and contexts. Some idioms are pretty colloquial or informal, whereas others can also be used in more formal settings too.
The trick to finally being able to wrap your head around idioms lies in the beauty of context and lots and lots of examples.
In today’s post we are going to take a look at some of the most common idioms sentences, their meaning and of course, lots of examples to understand them in context. Ready when you are!
Beat around the bush:
This means to avoid saying what you mean, usually because it is uncomfortable, or talking about everything but what you should be talking about or mentioning.
- My mum always beats around the bush when she wants to ask me for a favour
- Stop beating around the bush and just tell me what happened at the party!
- She was beating around the bush because she didn’t want me to get angry
- Ben wasn’t sure of what to say to Mary, so he began to beat around the bush
Bite the bullet:
This means to get something over with because it is inevitable.
- You don’t want to do your English homework, but you’ll have to bite the bullet and get it done!
- Francesca was afraid to confront her boss, but she decided to bit the bullet and went into the meeting
- I’ll bite the bullet when I have to, but in the meantime, I’m not going to study for my maths exam.
- The accused woman bit the bullet as the judge handed down her sentence.
Cost an arm and a leg:
This is a veeeery typically used idiom and it means that something costs a lot of money, so much so that you’ll need both your arm and your leg to pay for it, and you can’t put a price on your arm and leg.
- Living in London costs an arm and a leg!
- How much was that T-shirt? It must have cost an arm and a leg
- Sheila lives in a small apartment that costs her an arm and a leg in rent each month
- I never come to this restaurant, each and every dish costs an arm and a leg
Cut somebody some slack:
So when you Cut somebody some slack, what you are doing is trying not to be so critical of them or trying to give them more of a chance to do something.
- Had he explained the situation to me, I would have cut him some slack and not have been so hard on him.
- I could have cut her some slack, but I was so sick of hearing her complain
- My bank cut me some slack when I couldn’t pay my loan on time
- Ben cut his mum some slack after she couldn’t make it to another one of his birthdays.
- Can’t you cut me some slack? I have been sick all week so I am behind on my work
Get your act together:
This idiom basically means that you need to do better. This could be in your job, personal life, or any area really. When we tell someone to get their act together, it means that they need to get organized and obtain results, in whichever area that may be.
- My mum is always telling my brother to get his act together, but he is such a bad student!
- He told Sam that if he didn’t get his act together, he wouldn’t be able to play next season
- If I don’t get my act together I could end up in trouble with my boss
- We all warned her that if she didn’t get her act together she’d never be able to move out of her parents’ house
Give someone the benefit of the doubt:
This means to decide that you will believe someone, even though you are not sure that what the person is saying is true.
- She said she was late because her flight was canceled, and we gave her the benefit of the doubt.
- I don’t believe that he didn’t steal the exam papers, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt until I can prove my suspicions
- Carol doesn’t know whether to give her husband the benefit of the doubt, he has been acting strange lately
- I’m prepared to give her the benefit of the doubt just this once! Next time I’ll call the police
Hang in there:
To hang in there means to not give up and keep trying, we often say this to someone if they are having a tough time with something, it is a way of encouraging someone in a sense.
- My best friend keeps arguing with her boss, but I told her to hang in there.
- I’m sure your mum will stop feeling so angry with you soon, just hang in there
- Susan told me I should hang in there, but I don’t know how much more I can take!
- Our class is going through tough times, but we’re hanging in there
Hit the sack
: This is a funny one and it actually means to go to bed. When we hit the sack, we are going to bed to sleep. We often use this idiom when we are really tired.
- I can’t wait to hit the sack tonight, I’m so tired!
- She didn’t hit the sack until late last night
- Yesterday I hit the sack before 9 O’clock! I got such a good night’s sleep
- When was the last time you hit the sack so late?
Be on the ball:
when someone is on the ball, it means that they are quick to understand and react to things, it can also mean that they are on top of their work.
- I’m on the ball today! I have managed to get through all my paperwork
- Look at Sue, she is totally on the ball, I had no idea what our manager was talking about, but she answered immediately
- I couldn’t sleep at all last night, so I am not really on the ball today
- The new teacher is really on the ball!
Pull someone’s leg:
To pull someone’s leg means to joke with them. This is a very common idiom in Great Britain, you’ll hear people using it a lot.
- I didn’t believe my dad’s story, as it turned out, he was pulling my leg all along!
- Are you pulling my leg? I don’t believe your crazy anecdote
- When the store clerk told me the bag was 5,000$ I asked if he was pulling my leg
- Mark must have been pulling my leg, he can’t earn so much money each month
Get bent out of shape:
This idiom means to get upset, angry or agitated about something. We often tell people not to get bent out of shape over a certain issue or problem.
- They stopped inviting him to their parties, and he really got bent out of shape about it.
- Don’t get so bent out of shape over nothing!
- Kim always gets bent out of shape over the silly arguments she has with her sister
- I try not to get bent out of shape when my boss yells at me for no reason
Up in the air:
This means that the situation being planned is still undecided and that everything is still uncertain/unsure
- Our birthday plans are still up in the air
- I wish you could organize your timetable, I can’t understand how you get everything done with your appointments up in the air
- Everything is still up in the air, so I don’t know if we have dinner plans tomorrow
- Have you managed to order the cake or is dessert up in the air?
We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it:
this is an expression that means you should not worry about a possible future problem, but will deal with it if and when it actually happens
- We think that there may be too many guests to fit into the cinema, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
- I’m not sure about what to wear on Friday, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it
- Sarah keeps wondering what her job interview will be like, she just needs to cross that bridge when she comes to it
- I’m pretty certain that it’ll rain on our wedding day, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it
Wrap your head around something:
This means to manage to understand something that may be strange or complicated to understand.
- She finally managed to wrap her head around the instructions manual!
- I can’t ever wrap my head around his emails
- Did you eventually wrap your head around your dad’s health issues?
- He couldn’t wrap his head around it! She left him for no reason
If you enjoyed this idioms post, you can also check out our Wannalesson on YouTube, a great way to hear the pronunciation of some of these idioms.
If you want to learn more idioms like these, spoken by your favorite movie stars and singers, you’ll love our free Wannalisn app. The perfect way to learn English while having fun, you’ll be able to learn real, fast-spoken English with tiny clips from your favorite movies, series and songs.
You can check out the Wannalisn app by clicking right here, and give it a go for free – It won’t disappoint!