Idiom and Phrases

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What Are Idioms and Phrases?

Idiom and Phrases are a poetic part of the English language.  A set expression of two or many words that mean something together, instead of the literal meanings of its words individually.

People use idioms to make their language expressive and more poetic. They are used to express subtle meanings or intentions. Idioms are generally used to convey the meaning of an expression or a word. Sometimes, Idioms and Phrases can be very useful in explaining the meaning compared to the literal word. They make the reader understand with a poetic touch to the writing. 

“If natural  language had  been  designed  by  a  logician, idioms would  not exist."

(Philip Johnson-Laird, 1993).


An idiom is an expression or way of speaking that is used in common parlance. They are the amalgamation of words which convey a separate meaning altogether. 

For Example

His patience was put to an acid test.

His patience was not actually put through an acid test but it means that the effectiveness of his patience was checked. 

Most Commonly Used Idioms

A Blessing in Disguise

Meaning: A good thing that initially seemed bad

A Dime a Dozen

Meaning: Something that is very common, not unique

Adding Insult to Injury

Meaning: To make a bad situation even worse

Beat Around the Bush

Meaning: Avoid sharing your true viewpoint or feelings because it is uncomfortable

Beating a Dead Horse

Meaning: Giving time or energy to something that is ended or over

Bite the Bullet

Meaning: To get an unfavourable situation or chore over with now because it will need to get finished eventually

Best of Both Worlds

Meaning: The choice or solution has all of the advantages of two contrasting things at the same time

Biting Off More Than You Can Chew

Meaning: Not having the capacity to take on a new assignment or task that is just too taxing

By the Skin of Your Teeth

Meaning: Just barely making it

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

Meaning: Not judging something by its initial appearance

Doing Something at the Drop of a Hat

Meaning: Doing something at the moment of being asked

Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch

Meaning: Not to count on something happening until after it’s already happened

Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Meaning: Making a choice between two unpleasant choices

Costs an Arm and a Leg

Meaning: Something that is overpriced or very expensive

Cutting Corners

Meaning: Not performing a task or duty correctly in order to save time or money

Devil’s Advocate

Meaning: To take the side of the counter-argument, or offer an alternative point of view

Feeling Under the Weather

Meaning: Not feeling well, or feeling sick

Fit as a Fiddle

Meaning: Being in good health

Getting a Taste of Your Own Medicine

Meaning: Being treated the way that you have been treating others

Getting a Second Wind

Meaning: Having energy again after being tired

Giving the Benefit of the Doubt

Meaning: Believing someone’s story without proof even though it may seem unbelievable

Giving Someone the Cold Shoulder

Meaning: Ignoring someone

Going on a Wild Goose Chase

Meaning: Doing something that is pointless

Heard it on the Grapevine

Meaning: Hearing rumours about someone or something

Hitting the Nail on the Head

Meaning: Performing a task with exactness

Killing Two Birds With One Stone

Meaning: Accomplishing two different tasks in the same undertaking

Letting Someone Off the Hook

Meaning: Not holding someone responsible for something

Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

Meaning: Sharing information that was intended to be a secret

No Pain, No Gain

Meaning: You have to work hard in order to see results

On the Ball

Meaning: Doing a good job, being prompt, or being responsible

Once in a Blue Moon

Meaning: Something that doesn’t happen very often

Piece of Cake

Meaning: A task or job that is easy to complete

Pulling Someone’s Leg

Meaning: Joking with someone

Speak of the Devil

Meaning: When the person you have just been talking about arrives

Stealing Someone’s Thunder

Meaning: Taking credit for someone else’s achievements

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth

Meaning: Reading or hearing something from the source

The Last Straw

Meaning: The last difficulty or annoyance that makes the entire situation unbearable

The Elephant in the Room

Meaning: An issue, person, or problem that someone is trying to avoid

Throwing Caution to the Wind

Meaning: Being reckless or taking a risk

Your Guess is as Good as Mine

Meaning: To not know something

Can’t Make an Omelette Without Breaking Some Eggs

Meaning: You can’t make everyone happy

You Can Lead a Horse to Water, but You Can’t Make Him Drink

Meaning: You can’t force someone to make what is seemingly the right decision

Clouds on the Horizon

Meaning: Trouble is coming or is on its way


A phrase is a collection of words that stands together as a single unit in a sentence, typically as part of a clause or a sentence.

A phrase does not contain any subject and verb as so it cannot convey any thought. 

Examples of Phrases

There are different types of phrases in the English language. 

Noun Phrase

A group of words which consists of nouns and any modifiers.

Verb Phrase

A group of words which consists of nouns and modifiers.

Prepositional Phrase

A group of words that begins with a preposition and helps to explain the relationship between two things. 

Examples of Phrases

The brown hat

Blowing away

In the wind

Example of Phrases Put Together in a Sentence

The brown hat was blowing away in the wind.

Examples of Noun Phrases

The brown hat

My English teacher

The grocery store

Examples of Verb Phrases

Ran quickly

Has been raining


Examples of Prepositional Phrases

On the boat

Above the stove

Around the corner

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What Are the Uses of Idioms?

An idiom is an expression with a figurative meaning that differentiates from the literal meaning. We can hear idioms in our daily lives – both in conversation and in the media. Used correctly, idioms can exaggerate messages in a way that draws readers in and helps to awaken their senses.