Learn the useful list of common English idioms with their meanings and example sentences.
Table of Contents
- A mama’s boy
E.g. I thought I loved him until I realized he was a momma’s boy who can’t do anything without his mother’s permission or approval.
- At your mother’s knee
E.g. I learned how to bake at my mother’s knee when I was just a girl.
- Everyone and his mother
E.g. I’m so jealous, everyone and his mother is going on a vacation this summer except for me.
- A mother hen
E.g. Jenny can be a bit of a mother hen when we’re out at the bars.
- Be tied to (one’s) mother’s apron strings
E.g. Can you make a decision on your own, or are you tied to your mother’s apron strings?
- Like mother, like daughter
E.g. My mother loved sweets, and everytime my father saw me with a cookie in my hand, he would sigh, “Like mother,like daughter.
- The mother of all (something)
E.g. Wow, that is the mother of all sandwiches.It’s a foot high!
- Mother Nature
E.g. Look at all the wonders that Mother Nature provides, from fruit and vegetables to beautiful mountains and oceans.
- A face only a mother could love
E.g. The poor baby has a face only a mother could love.
- Expectant mother
E.g. I know the subway’s crowded, but you should really give your seat to the expectant mother standing by the door…
- Born optimist
Eg: I admire Jamal because he always sees the sunny side of life. He’s a born optimist.
- Culture vulture
Eg: John spends most of his weekends reading books or attending art exhibitions. He’s a real culture vulture.
- Eager beaver
Eg: She always does her English grammar homework and even asks for extra exercises on the weekend. What an eager beaver!
- Early bird
Eg: In her senior years, when she finally had the luxurious freedom to sleep in, Delores became an early bird and got up every morning at 5:00 am.
- Earth mother
Eg: Even as a young girl, Ida showed herself to be an earth mother. She always helped her mother to look after her younger brothers and sisters.
- Family man
Eg: Since the birth of his twins, Harvey has become a family man. He spends all of his spare time with his children.
Eg: It isn’t surprising that Isaac has made it to the top of the corporate world. He was always someone who went after what he wanted, a real go-getter.
- Good egg
Eg: Marry was the type of person who would have helped anyone – a real good egg.
Eg: From auto repair to hairdressing, Frank can do it all. He is a jack-of-all-trades.
- Man of his word / woman of her word
Eg: You can trust Samuel. He is a man of his word…
- The apple of your eye
E.g. She has three children, but her youngest son is the apple of her eye.
- Go bananas
E.g. She’ll go bananas if she sees the house in this (dirty) condition.
- A bite at the cherry
E.g. He definitely wants a bite of the cherry.
- Not give a fig
E.g. You can do what you want. I don’t give a fig.
- Apples and oranges
E.g. My mom and my mother-in-law are just apples and oranges.
E.g. The car dealer sold me a lemon.
E.g. You brought me coffee? Ah, you’re a peach.
- Go pear-shaped
E.g. What are we going to do this weekend if our plans go pear-shaped?
- A plum job
E.g. He got a plum job in an insurance company.
- The apple never falls far from the tree
E.g. Her daughter soon showed her own musical talent, proving that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
- Bad apple (especially US)
E.g. It is hoped the inquiry will pick out the bad apples in the police force…
- Fall In Love With Somebody
Eg: I think I’m falling in love with my best friend. What should I do?
- Love At First Sight
Eg: My wife and I met at a party. It was love at first sight.
- Be An Item
Eg: I didn’t know Chris and Sue were an item. They didn’t even look at each other at dinner.
- Match Made In Heaven
Eg: “Do you think Matt and Amanda will get married?” – “I hope they will. They’re a match made in heaven.”
- Be Head Over Heels (In Love)
Eg: Look at them. They’re head over heels in love with each other.
- Be Lovey-Dovey
Eg: I don’t want to go out with Jenny and David. They’re so lovey-dovey, I just can’t stand it.
- Blinded By Love
Eg: She is so blinded by love that she can’t see him for who he truly is. He is not a good person, he is rude and disrespectful to everyone around him, including her.
- Blind Date
Eg: My sister keeps organising blind dates for me. She’d just love to fix me up with someone.
- Tie The Knot
Eg: “When are you and Jenny going to tie the knot?” – “This year, but we haven’t set a date yet.”
- Love Rat
Eg: Don’t even think about asking Jane out. How could you look your wife in the eye? Don’t be a love rat…
- A closed book
Eg: I’m a scientist, so art will always be a closed book to me.
- An open book
Eg: Ask me anything, I’m an open book.
- Read someone like a book
Eg: There are a number of books on the market which suggest that it is possible to learn to read a person like a book.
- The oldest trick in the book
Eg: Look, you can fix it by threading a paper clip through the hole. Oldest trick in the book!
- In someone’s good books
Eg: I cleaned the bathroom yesterday so I’m in Mum’s good books.
- By the book
Eg: The lawyers want to make sure we’ve done everything strictly by the book.
- Bring someone to book
Eg: Police should be asked to investigate so that the guilty can be brought to book soon.
- Take a leaf out of someone’s book
Eg: I think I’m going to take a leaf out of your book and start going for a run first thing in the morning.
- Don’t judge a book by its cover
Eg: The candidate did not look very intelligent, but you can’t judge a book by its cover.
- Cook the books
Eg: My partner had been cooking the books for years, but because I was the CEO, I got the blame for our company’s collapse…
- Has the cat got your tongue?
Meaning: Why are you not saying anything?
- Put the cat among the pigeons
Meaning: Say or do something that causes trouble or controversy
- Like the cat that got the cream
Meaning: Looking particularly self-satisfied, often to the annoyance of others
- Let the cat out of the bag
Meaning: Mistakingly allow a secret to be known
- Fight like cat and dog
Meaning: Continually arguing with each other
- When the cat’s away, the mice will play
Meaning: When the person of authority is away, people will behave badly
- Fat cat
Meaning: A negative description of a rich and powerful person
- Curiosity killed the cat
Meaning: Being too curious can get you into trouble
- Not have a cat in hell’s chance
Meaning: When some something has no chance of success, it doesn’t have a cat in hell’s chance.
- Look like something the cat dragged in
Meaning: When someone looks very untidy and messy, they look like something the cat dragged in…
- A storm in a teacup
Eg: Our argument was no big deal – just a storm in a tea cup
- It never rains but it pours
Eg: I lost my wallet and now I’ve lost my phone. It never rains but it pours!
- Take a rain check
Eg: No thanks. I’ll take the rain check. Enjoy the party!
- Be snowed under
Eg: I’m snowed under with work. I’ve got so much to do.
- Be/feel under the weather
Eg: I can’t finish my work today. I feel under the weather.
- Have your head in the clouds
Eg: I can’t talk sense into him. He has his head in the cloud.
- Soak up the sun
Eg: Let’s go out and soak up some sun
- Catch some rays
Eg: yesterday, I lay on the beach and catch some rays.
- Dog days of the summer
Eg: It has been at least 50 degrees every day this week!. The dog days of summer are here!
- On cloud nine
Eg: When my boyfriend proposed to me, I was on cloud nine.
- In the dark
Eg: I was kept in the dark about the intervention until a few minutes before it was a reality.
- Heavens open
Eg: Let’s come back soon before the heavens open!…
- Take French leave
Eg: The driver had taken French leave
- To go Dutch
Eg: Sally said she wouldn’t let a man pay for her meal on a first date. She prefers to go Dutch.
- Dutch courage
Eg: I think I’ll have a glass of whiskey for Dutch courage before I ask that girl if she wants to dance with me.
- It’s all Greek to me
Eg: I tried to watch a TV show about physics last night, but I gave up. It was all Greek to me.
- Chinese whispers
Eg: All this talk about the President resigning is just Chinese whispers. There’s no truth to this rumour at all.
- A Mexican Standoff
Eg: There seems to be a Mexican standoff in the talks as neither the buyer or seller can agree on a price.
- When in Rome (do as Romans do)
Eg: I don’t love cotton candy, but we are at a carnival. When in Rome, right?
- Talk for England
Eg: I’m so sorry I’m late. I couldn’t get away from Linda. She can talk for England!
- Indian Summer (UK)
Eg: Much as I love this Indian Summer, I wish we had this warm weather in the summer rather than in October…
- All in one piece
E.g. He got home from the party all in one piece.
- Back to square one
E.g. The project failed, we’re back to square one.
- Have one too many
E.g. I can’t drive, I had one too many.
- On cloud nine
E.g. When my mom bought me a computer, I was on cloud nine.
- One for the road
E.g. Let’s have one for the road!
- Six feet under
E.g. I’m going to be six feet under by 2100.
- Ten to one
E.g. Ten to one I’m going to win.
- Kill two birds with one stone.
E.g. I’ll drop you off on the way to work, we’ll kill two birds with one stone.
- A million and one
E.g. I have a million and one ideas…
HUMAN BODY Idioms
- Head start
E.g. You’ve got a head start over / another’s trying to get the job because you’ve got relevant work experience.
- Sight for sore eyes
E.g. You’re a sight for sore eyes!
- A weight off your shoulders
E.g. Talking over my problem with my close friend was a weight off my shoulders.
- Pain in the neck
E.g. This calculus homework is a real pain in the neck.
- Gut feeling
E.g. Jennifer’s mother had a gut feeling that something was wrong when her daughter wasn’t home by 10 o’clock.
- Hands are tied
E.g. I’d like to raise people’s salaries but my hands are tied.
- Joined at the hip
E.g. Amy and her boss were joined at the hip; you never saw one without the other.
- Week at the knees
E.g. The thought of kissing him made me go weak at the knees.
- Achilles heel
E.g. Maths has always been my achilles heel.
- Find your feet
E.g. Did it take you long to find your feet when you started your new job?
- Buy time
E.g. She is just stalling to buy time.
- Do time
E.g. He did time in a California prison.
- A race against time/the clock
E.g. It’s a race against time to complete the construction.
- A whale of a time
E.g. The kids had a whale of a time at the theme park.
- Time flies
E.g. Look how fast our children grew up, how time flies.
- It’s high time
E.g. It’s high time he met with me to resolve this issue.
- Third time’s a charm
E.g. I had to ask her out three times before she said yes. Well you know… Third time’s a charm.
- Beat the clock
E.g. Although she was late to the exam, she managed to beat the clock and finished all of it 10 minutes before the end.
- Better late than never
E.g. Well hello John. Better late than never, huh? Class started half an hour ago.
- At the eleventh hour
E.g. We barely made the deadline, there was so much to do in this project we turned it in at the eleventh hour…