The most common idioms in English are worth learning because they are used so frequently, in business settings as well as casual conversation.
Idioms are groups of words that express a thought that’s different from the meanings of their individual words. Some are like short proverbs, expressing the values and experience of generations in a few words.
Some of the most common idioms of all are phrasal verbs— verbs followed by a preposition (technically a particle). English speakers use them much more often than the one-word verbs that express the same thought.
(We say ‘keep on’ more frequently than ‘continue,’ ‘I got over’ a cold-- or a love affair-- rather than ‘I recovered.’ We almost never ‘enter’ cars; we ‘get in.’)
Some phrasal verbs mean what they say: ‘to look up’ can be to fix your eyes on the sky. More often, the meaning of the expression is not the meaning of the individual words. ‘To look up’ usually means to search for a word in a dictionary or other text.
See Phrasal Verb Use for a full explanation, including the difference between separable and inseparable phrasal verbs-- important if you want to use phrasal verbs with pronouns.
Probably more than half the English idioms listed on this website are phrasal verbs, both because they are so common and because they're not always obvious.
In addition to phrasal verbs, there are many other English idioms, often based on familiar activities or observations of our bodies and human or animal behavior. Some of these, especially those based on proverbs, are fairly obvious, others are not.
The pages on EnglishHints mainly discuss very common, useful idioms that might not be obvious. You can easily look up colorful, less common idioms (like "raining cats and dogs"-- which means raining hard) online. Just put the phrase or expression you want in a search box.
Examples of common idioms that might not be easy to guess:
You can find a more complete explanation of idioms and their use in English in What is an Idiom?
See also Sports Idioms for many idioms used frequently in business and ordinary conversation.
There are two Memory (also called Concentration, or Pelmanism) games practicing idioms at Memory Game 1 )for Phrasal Verbs A-L) and Memory Game 2 (M-Z), as well as a more complete explanation of the rules at Concentration Games for Idioms.
If you would like to test your ability to guess idioms in common use which were introduced by Shakespeare, see Idioms from Shakespeare: a Matching Game.
Home > Common Idioms.