40+ Idioms & Idiomatic Expressions: The Ultimate Guide to Learning Them

Idioms are used in all areas of the English language but can be considered important when it comes to learning English through speaking. Every language has idioms, and learning them can be challenging if you’re not a native speaker of that particular language.

If English isn’t your native language, then the best thing once can do is have conversations with others or native speakers and ask them about phrases that you don’t understand. Since idioms are influenced by the culture, learning the idioms of a language can be very interesting and enlightening!

What Are Idiom & Idiomatic Expressions?

An idiom is a short phrase with its own specific meaning, and learning idioms can help you understand and become more like a native speaker. An idiom is a particular word or expression whose meaning cannot be readily understood by either its grammar or the words used.

Whereas, idiomatic expressions are an informal language that has a meaning different from the meaning of the words in the expression. Idiomatic expressions cannot be translated word for word without causing confusion.

What Are Idiom & Idiomatic Expressions

List of Common English Idioms & Their Meanings

Below is a list of common idioms and their meanings.

Idiom Meaning Sentence
To Break Down To go out of order  Our car broke the way.
To Break Into To enter forcibly The robbers broke into his house looted cash.
To Break Out To begin suddenly A war broke out between England & Spain.
To Break Up To come to an end The meeting broke up at 4 PM.
To Call At To visit a place I called your house but you were not there.
To Call In To send for We should immediately call in the doctor.
To Call On To visit a person If I get time, I may call on you in the evening.
To Call Out To speak loudly The teacher called out the names of the prize-winners.
To Come Across To meet by chance While walking in the park, I came across an old friend.
To Come By To obtain How did you come by such a beautiful pen?
To Come Off To succeed We had a very good offer for our house but the deal did not come off.
To Come Out To develop These pictures of the waterfall have come out extremely well.
To Get At To suggest I do not understand what you are trying to get at.
To Get Away To escape The thief got away under the cover of darkness.
To Get On To fare How are you getting on in your new flat?
To Get Through To pass Sumi got through the examination with good marks.
To Give Away To distribute The Chief Guest gave away the prizes to the prize-winners.
To Give In To surrender The enemy had to give in at last.
To Give Up To leave I give up the idea of learning french.
To Keep Away To avoid Mehak was down with malaria; so she kept away from the school for a week.
To Keep Back To hide I shall not keep back anything from you.
To Keep Off To remain at a distance Kindly keep off the grass.
To Keep On To continue He was tired but he kept on doing his work.
To Look After To take care of The nurse will look after the children.
To Look Down Upon To regard with contempt We must not look down upon others even if we do not agree with them.
To Look For To search I am looking for a decent swimming costume.
To Look Forward To Wait eagerly for The students are looking forward to the summer vacation.
To Look Into To examine The Principal is looking into the whole matter.
To Look Up To search for and find Please look up this word in the dictionary.
To Make Out To discover, to find out I could not make out the meaning of what she said.
To Make Up To supply what is lacking You must work hard so that you can make up for your weakness in English.
To Put Off To postpone Her marriage has been put off until next year.
To Put On Dress oneself She put on a new dress and went to the fair.
To Put Out To annoy, to upset We felt put out when our trip to the hills was canceled.
To Put Up With To bear Who can put up with such an insult?
To Set In To begin Rains have set in.
To Set Out To begin the journey Very soon Sindbad set out on a new journey.
To Set Up Start, Begin My father is setting up a factory.
To Take After To resemble In looks, Pooja takes after her mother.
To Take Down To write down The speaker spoke so fast that I could not take down anything.
To Take In To deceive I could not be taken in by her sweet words.
To Take Off To remove Please take off your shoes before you enter the temple.

7 Ways to Make English Idioms and Phrases Easier to Understand

  1. Listen to context
  2. Check to see if you understood
  3. Be honest when you don’t understand
  4. Never translate idioms
  5. Listen to how native speakers use idioms
  6. Take notes
  7. Tolerate your mistakes

1. Listen To Context

Idioms are unusual expressions. So ask yourself, ‘Why is that person using an unusual expression?’ The answers are likely to be connected with exaggeration, emphasis, or a high state of emotion. So check the context – and the facial expression!

2. Check To See If You Understood

Use expressions like; ‘so you’re pretty sad about that, right?’ or ‘OK, you mean that you’re too sleepy at the moment.

3. Be Honest When You Don’t Understand

Try using, ‘I’m sorry, but I don’t know what you mean.

4. Never Translate Idioms

Idioms from your own language may use the same imagery or concepts (and it is always fascinating to notice these similarities). Still, they are unlikely to translate word-for-word into English expressions.

5. Listen To How Native Speakers Use Idioms

A native English speaker NEVER says it’s raining cats and dogs? Instead, Listen to what native speakers actually say in a given situation and copy.

6. Take Notes

Keep a notebook of your favorite expressions and add anything new that you hear. Try to use new phrases soon after you learn them, and this is called ‘use it or lose it.

7. Tolerate Your Mistakes

You will definitely make mistakes and create confusion when you use idiomatic expressions, so be brave and allow yourself the space to try, fail, and try again.

Whether you are a student, teacher, or just someone curious about the English language, we hope you found that helpful! If you keep these concepts in mind, English idiomatic expressions should be easy for you. If you’ve got any queries, feel free to add them in the comments below.

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