/ Aron Thode

Twenty-Four Common Idioms with Meanings and Examples

Although Common Idiom Conversation Questions is a relatively new page on Print Discuss, I think ESL students should gradually learn idioms from soon after they start learning English. There are so many idioms, and it’s not easy to learn many at once, so it makes sense to build knowledge of them bit by bit. They should focus on the most common ones first, with the goal of recognizing their meaning long before being able to use them accurately (which can be difficult).

Below are the idioms I used to make the question set, along with their meanings and examples:

Hit the sack - to go to bed

Well, I’m ready to hit the sack.

Pull someone’s leg - to tease someone, to say something that isn’t true for the purpose of humor

You won the lottery?! Are you pulling my leg?

Under the weather - to feel a little sick

I’m feeling under the weather, so I think I’ll stay home today.

Spill the beans - to reveal a secret

Diago already spilled the beans - I know you’re pregnant!

Through thick and thin - over time and through difficult periods

He supported me through thick and thin.

Once in a blue moon - not very often

We only go out for dinner once in a blue moon.

A side view of several pieces of sliced multigrain bread.

The best/greatest thing since sliced bread - a really great thing or person, or a great new invention

ChatGPT is the best thing since sliced bread!

See eye to eye - to agree or have the same opinion as someone else

I’m glad we see eye to eye on this issue.

Jump on (get on, climb on) the bandwagon - to start doing something or liking something that has become popular already

One fast food company came out with healthy options, and pretty soon all the fast food chains were jumping on the bandwagon.

A piece of cake - something that is easy to do

The first quiz was a piece of cake.

Beat around the bush - to not speak directly, to talk around an issue and avoid the main point

Stop beating around the bush and tell me what happened!

Hit the books - to study

The test is next week. I need to hit the books.

Twist someone’s arm - to persuade someone to do something they don’t want to do

I was going to stay home, but Maria twisted my arm.

Stab someone in the back - to betray someone who trusts you

I heard what you said about me. How could you stab me in the back like that?

Quit cold turkey - to quit something completely and at once

It was hard, but I quit smoking cold turkey.

Blow off steam - to do something to use up energy and relax, like talking, exercise, or drinking

I go for a run when I need to blow off steam.

Pay an arm and a leg - to pay a lot

She paid an arm and a leg for her new phone.

Go dutch - to share the cost of something, usually food

We were poor students, so we always went dutch in those days.

Keep one’s chin up - to stay positive and hopeful when times are difficult

Nothing gets him down. He always keeps his chin up.

Not one’s cup of tea - not what someone likes

My family is into sailing, but it’s not my cup of tea.

Cut corners - to do something in an easy or cheap way which might lead to results of lower quality

I was running out of time, so I cut a few corners.

Have a sweet tooth - to like sweet foods a lot

My grandma had a sweet tooth, so she was always baking cakes and slices.

Break the ice - to do something that makes people relax when they are meeting for the first time

To break the ice, I just ask people questions.

Give someone the cold shoulder - to ignore or be unfriendly toward someone

She’s giving me the cold shoulder because she’s mad at me.

For more on what idioms are and how I teach them, go here.