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 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.”
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 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.
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 knot
|to marry a mate
|The ball is in your court
|one needs to take some action to keep something going
|A piece of cake
|something easily achieved
|A picture paints a thousand words
|an image of a subject conveys its meaning or essence more effectively than a description does.
|Bed of roses
|an easy, comfortable situation.
|To make a long story short
|used to end an account of events quickly
|Smell a rat
|to sense that someone has caused something wrong
|a 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 day
|Important work takes time
|Turn a blind eye
|pretend not to notice.
|Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
|a piece of advice which means that one should not concentrate all efforts and resources in one area.
|Through thick and thin
|under all circumstances, no matter how difficult
|Rise and shine
|Wake up and get out of bed promptly
|Wet one’s whistle
|have a drink
|Put the best foot forward
|Stick one’s neck out
|To take a risk
|Bear the palm
|From the horse’s mouth
|From a reliable source
|Be hand and foot
|In all possible ways; by all means
|Hear it on grapevine
|To hear rumours about something or someone
|Bend over backwards
|Do whatever it takes to help, willing to do anything
|Get your walking papers
|Get fired from the job
|For the time being
|Lock and key
|In safe place
|Cast a shadow on
|Spoil or let down
|In the face of
|Whole bag of tricks
|Make use of all the possibilities or techniques to achieve something.
|Dog eat dog
|Vote with one’s feet
|To show disapproval
|Wipe the nose of
|Cork something up
|To stop up one’s mouth and be quiet
|Cook someone’s goose
|Spoil other person’s chances of success
|Sink or swim
|Fail or succeed
|Hit the road running
|Start something and proceed at a fast pace with enthusiasm
|To toe the line
|To accept the authority or policies of a particular group, especially unwillingly
|explain something explicitly
|Throw caution to the wind
|do something without worrying about the risk or negative results
|On thin ice
|in a precarious or risky situation
|a wild goose chase
|a search that is completely unsuccessful and a waste of time
|head over heels
|falling deeply in love with another person
|at eleventh hour
|last moment or almost late
|On cloud nine
|being extremely happy making the sentence contextually incorrect.
|A sitting duck
|a person or thing with no protection against an attack or other source of danger
|Spilling the beans
|reveal secret information unintentionally or indiscreetly
|without suffering any punishment or injury
|An arm and a leg
|phrase is used to refer something that is very expensive
|Bread and butter
|in reference to something every day or ordinary
|become as a result of natural development or gradual increase
|to postpone or arrange a later date
|to resolve by discussion
|To destroy or severely damage something
|To refuse to speak
|recall a past event or time
|lose effectiveness or intensity
|an act of catching up or matching someone or something in a particular activity
|Easy come, easy go
|said when something, especially money, is easily got and then soon spent or lost
|To spin one’s wheels
|waste one’s time or efforts
|To be pushing up daisies
|dead and buried
|All good things must come to an end
|everything that one is fond off comes to an end, eventually
|Blood is thicker than water
|family relationships and loyalties are the strongest and most important ones
|All bark and no bite
|threatening, aggressive, but not willing to engage in a fight
|An axe to grind
|To have a complaint or dispute that one feels compelled to discuss
|All in the same boat
|in the same situation; having the same problem
|All Greek to me
|expressing that something is not understandable
|To bend over backwards
|to work very hard to accomplish something for someone
|No man is an island
|to require help from other every now and then because of one’s limitations
|Jocular or humorous, though seeming or appearing to be serious
|Wear your heart on your sleeve
|to display one’s feelings openly and habitually, rather than keep them private
|When it rains, it pours
|something good or bad occurring multiple times within a short span of time.
|A slap on the wrist
|means a mild reprimand or punishment.
|A blessing in disguise
|an 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
(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.