Idioms and Phrases in English, 200+ Examples with Meaning

Idioms and Phrases 

Idioms and Phrases: Idioms and Phrases are an integral part of the English language and are commonly used to make sentences fascinating. Idioms are often used in stories, poems and even in spoken words. The origins of these idioms are not always known, but they are said to originate from stories and creative writing and are modified over time. Phrases are unlike idioms, they are actually direct and to the point. They do not have figurative meanings, the expression means what the words indicate. Idioms and Phrases questions are frequently asked in many national-level exams such as SSC CGL, SSC CSHL, Banking exam, and other competitive exams with English language subjects.

Idioms Definition 

Idioms are the combination of words that convey a separate meaning altogether. Idioms are an expression or way of speaking that is used in the common vocabulary. For example, If you say you “Smell a rat” you don’t literally mean that you are smelling a rat. “Smell a rat” is an idiom that means “to sense that someone has caused something wrong.”

Idioms Examples

Let’s understand Idioms with a few examples as below-

1. Be hand and foot means to complete any task In all possible ways or by all means

2. Be in the swim means To keep oneself informed and up-to-date

3. Can’t cut the mustard means Someone who is not adequate enough to compete or participate.

4. Beat around the bush means Trying to avoid a subject/person/situation

5. Kill two birds with one stone means Accomplish two things with the same effort

6. Beating a Dead Horse means Giving time or energy to something that is ended or over

7. Costs an Arm and a Leg means Something that is overpriced or very expensive

8. Variety is the spice of life means New and exciting experiences make life more interesting.

9. Wag the dog means to change the topic from something that is more important to something that is not.

10. Thumb one’s nose means a gesture of disrespect.

Phrases Definition

Phrases could be defined as a collection of words that stands together as a single unit in a sentence, typically as part of a clause or a sentence. Phrases are just a unit of a sentence, hence they do not express a complete statement. In English Grammar, there are different types of Phrases namely Noun, verb, infinitive, gerund, appositive, participial, prepositional, and absolute Phrases.

Phrases Examples

Let’s understand Phrases with a few examples as below-

1. The glass of water was on the shelf.

2. The employees were giggling and laughing when the manager left the room

3. The nice neighbour offered him a glass of juice.

4. There’s a chemist around the corner.

5. My English teacher teaches the English language proficiently. 

6. It has been raining heavily for the last few days.

Idioms and Phrases Examples

In the following table, we have enlisted some Idioms and Phrases along with the meaning of the idiom/phrase.

Tie the knotto marry a mate
The ball is in your courtone needs to take some action to keep something going
A piece of cakesomething easily achieved
A picture paints a thousand wordsan image of a subject conveys its meaning or essence more effectively than a description does.
Bed of rosesan easy, comfortable situation.
To make a long story shortused to end an account of events quickly
Smell a ratto sense that someone has caused something wrong
Sixth sensea supposed power to know or feel things that are not perceptible by the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch.
Rome was not built in a dayImportant work takes time
Turn a blind eyepretend not to notice.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basketa piece of advice which means that one should not concentrate all efforts and resources in one area.
Through thick and thinunder all circumstances, no matter how difficult
Rise and shineWake up and get out of bed promptly
Wet one’s whistlehave a drink
Put the best foot forwardStart impressively
Stick one’s neck outTo take a risk
Bear the palmBe victorious 
From the horse’s mouthFrom a reliable source
Fool’s errandUseless undertaking 
Be hand and footIn all possible ways; by all means
Gray matterIntelligence
Hear it on grapevineTo hear rumours about something or someone
Bend over backwardsDo whatever it takes to help, willing to do anything
Get your walking papersGet fired from the job 
For the time beingTemporarily
Lock and keyIn safe place
Cast a shadow onSpoil or let down
In the face ofRegardless
Whole bag of tricksMake use of all the possibilities or techniques to achieve something.
Dog eat dogRuthlessly competitive
Vote with one’s feetTo show disapproval
Wipe the nose ofTo Cheat
Cork something upTo stop up one’s mouth and be quiet 
Cook someone’s goose Spoil other person’s chances of success
Sink or swimFail or succeed
Hit the road runningStart something and proceed at a fast pace with enthusiasm
To toe the lineTo accept the authority or policies of a particular group, especially unwillingly
Spelled Outexplain something explicitly
Throw caution to the winddo something without worrying about the risk or negative results
On thin icein a precarious or risky situation
a wild goose chasea search that is completely unsuccessful and a waste of time
head over heelsfalling deeply in love with another person
at eleventh hourlast moment or almost late
On cloud ninebeing extremely happy making the sentence contextually incorrect.
A sitting ducka person or thing with no protection against an attack or other source of danger
Spilling the beansreveal secret information unintentionally or indiscreetly
Scot-freewithout suffering any punishment or injury
An arm and a legphrase is used to refer something that is very expensive
Bread and butterin reference to something every day or ordinary
Grow intobecome as a result of natural development or gradual increase
Put Offto postpone or arrange a later date
Iron outto resolve by discussion
Tear upTo destroy or severely damage something
Clam upTo refuse to speak
Think backrecall a past event or time
Wear off lose effectiveness or intensity
Catch upan act of catching up or matching someone or something in a particular activity
Easy come, easy gosaid when something, especially money, is easily got and then soon spent or lost
To spin one’s wheelswaste one’s time or efforts
To be pushing up daisiesdead and buried
All good things must come to an endeverything that one is fond off comes to an end, eventually
Blood is thicker than waterfamily relationships and loyalties are the strongest and most important ones
All bark and no bitethreatening, aggressive, but not willing to engage in a fight
An axe to grindTo have a complaint or dispute that one feels compelled to discuss
All in the same boatin the same situation; having the same problem
All Greek to meexpressing that something is not understandable
To bend over backwardsto work very hard to accomplish something for someone
No man is an islandto require help from other every now and then because of one’s limitations
Tongue-in-cheekJocular or humorous, though seeming or appearing to be serious
Wear your heart on your sleeveto display one’s feelings openly and habitually, rather than keep them private
When it rains, it pourssomething good or bad occurring multiple times within a short span of time.
A slap on the wristmeans a mild reprimand or punishment.
A blessing in disguisean unfortunate event or situation that results in an unforeseen positive outcome.

Idioms & Phrases Questions

Practise Idioms & Phrases with a few questions asked in the previous year’s competitive examinations. 

Q1. Wet behind the ears 

(a) skillful 
(b) young and rich with experience 
(c) young and without much experience 
(d) hearing impaired

Ans. (c) Wet behind the ears means young and without much experience 

Q2. Blood is thicker than water

(a) relations are more important than merit 
(b) all crimes are not equal so punishment for murder is not the same as that for theft 
(c) family relationships and loyalties are the strongest and most important ones 
(d) deceit from a family member hurts more than being cheated by strangers

Ans. Blood is thicker than water means family relationships and loyalties are the strongest and most important ones

Q3. to bite off more than you can chew

(a) to take on a commitment one cannot fulfil
(b) to grab a share more than what one rightfully deserves
(c) to hog more than what one needs
(d) a greedy person can easily be identified from the way one eats

Ans. to bite off more than you can chew: to try to do something that is too difficult for you.

Q4. to bite your tongue

(a) to cause self-inflicting harm
(b) to make a desperate effort to avoid saying something
(c) harsh words once spoken can never come back
(d) to be astonished

Ans. to bite your tongue: to stop yourself from saying something that you would really like to say

Q5. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch

(a) Not to live in a fancy imaginary world, where everything happens as per your wish
(b) Counting your wealth repeatedly will not make it grow
(c) One should be optimistic but be ready for failures
(d) Not to be too sure that something good you hope for will really happen It might not happen after all.

Ans. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch: you should not make plans that depend on something good happening before you know that it has actually happened.

Q6. barking up the wrong tree

(a) One should ignore those who keep harassing them
(b) To say something wrong to a person who has always been kind to you
(c) Scolding a thick-skinned person will cause no improvement
(d) To be pursuing a misguided line of course of action

Ans. barking up the wrong tree means to attempt or pursue a futile course of action, often by making some kind of suggestion or request.

Q7. If you can’t beat ‘them, join ‘them

(a) Many times those who fight eventually become best of friends
(b) If one has to give up fighting with some group because one can’t win, band together with them
(c) Not to hurt others. Instead, be friends with them.
(d) To fight till you get accepted to a group which does not initially accept you as a member

Ans. If you can’t beat ‘them, join ‘them means if you have to give up fighting some group because you can’t win, band together with them.

Q8. All good things must come to an end

(a) Even enjoyable experiences cannot last for ever
(b) A good story should always have a happy ending
(c) The world will be destroyed one day
(d) Only bad things can continue forever. Life of good things feels short.

Ans. All good things must come to an end means everything that one is fond off comes to an end, eventually.

Q9. once in a blue moon 

(a) an imaginary situation 
(b) feeling sad 
(c) a beautiful sight 
(d) to happen very rarely

Ans. once in a blue moon means very rarely.

Q10. Water under the bridge 

(a) To create solutions to overcome any problem 
(b) Past events are no longer important 
(c) Young days can never be brought back again 
(d) Time keeps flowing endlessly

Ans. Water under the bridge means a prior issue that is now resolved or considered resolved.

Q11. Too many cooks spoil the broth

(a) it is always better to do a job independently 
(b) asking many people for advice will cause confusion, and the decision will never be made 
(c) if too many people are involved in a task or activity, it will not be done well 
(d) food is always cooked better if one person cooks it

Ans. Too many cooks spoil the broth means if too many people are involved in a task or activity, it will not be done well.

Q12. To jump ship

(a) Climbing the career ladder
(b) To jump to grab an opportunity
(c) To leave an organization
(d) To renounce great wealth

Ans. To jump ship means a sailor leave the ship on which one is serving without having obtained permission to do so.

Q13. To kick the bucket

(a) to get angry
(b) to die
(c) to fall ill
(d) to get hurt

Ans. To kick the bucket means to die.

Q14. Two heads are better than one

(a) having a partner reduces risk in a business 
(b) to be lonely is a curse 
(c) it’s helpful to have the advice of a second person 
(d) a married life is better than living as a bachelor

Ans. Two heads are better than one means it’s helpful to have the advice or opinion of a second person.

Q15. The squeaky wheel gets the grease

(a) the most noticeable problems are the ones most likely to get attention 
(b) one unfortunate child always keep getting punished 
(c) the person who complains the most is hated the most 
(d) the favourite child or student gets the most attention

Ans. The squeaky wheel gets the grease means the most noticeable (or loudest) problems are the ones most likely to get attention.


Ganesan Arumugam is a seasoned journalist with a passion for uncovering stories that resonate with readers worldwide. With a keen eye for detail and a commitment to journalistic integrity, Ganesan has contributed to the media landscape for over a decade, covering a diverse range of topics including politics, technology, culture, and human interest stories.

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