Learning English has been a goal for every second non-English speaker for different reasons. Some learn to become good at it, some learn it for career growth and some learn it for expanding their business to the next level. We always learn grammar rules but we forget that there is something else also which we have to learn to be a good English speaker. Grammar is an integral part of learning English but it is not everything.
There are many other things because when your profession requires good English communication, you are not going to speak Basic English. Idioms are mostly ignored by people who wish to speak English. However, they are one of the best things to be learned as they cut our sentences short and we can communicate our thoughts in less time, and in our native languages also we speak many idioms throughout the day. Here are some useful idioms which will help you sound like a native speaker.
1. To hit the nail on the head
Meaning: To do exactly the right thing (in the most efficient of ways).
Example: I truly believe you’ve hit the nail on the head with this song.
2. To blow smoke
Meaning: To purposely confuse, delude someone; to say fallacious things to somebody else about them with the intention to make them feel better.
Example: The lawyers on the other end never actually had any proof against our client. They were just blowing smoke this entire time.
3. Once in a blue moon
Meaning: (To occur) extremely seldom.
Example: The fact that Atul had eaten his slice of the wedding cake was so fascinating to us because he only eats chocolate once in a blue moon.
4. It takes two to tango
Meaning: Used to say that only one person is not enough to make something happen, but that joint forces are required and both of them are equally responsible.
Example: Somebody needs to tell my boss that I cannot do everything by myself around here – it takes two to tango.
5. To blow someone away
Meaning: To thoroughly impress, enthuse somebody with a certain action.
Example: I actually didn’t expect a birthday cake. This small but unique gesture by my students has really blown me away.
6. (To do) by heart
Meaning: To do something fairly effortlessly because it has been thoroughly memorized, practiced, and mastered.
Example: He knows that entire book by heart. He must have read it at least a hundred times!
7. Actions speak louder than words
Meaning: Anyone can make promises, but only a few can or actually do what is required to fulfill them.
Example: Quite frankly, Anmol… I am so sick and tired of your fake promises. Actions speak louder than words and I haven’t seen you do anything yet!
8. To kill two birds with one stone
Meaning: To achieve two goals or solve two problems with a single action.
Example: By driving the costs up, both parties got what they wanted. Hence, they were able to kill two birds with one stone.
9. A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush
Meaning: An opportunity in hand, currently, is better than a prospect in the future, because time never repeats itself.
Example: The policemen detained 3 criminals and saw another one running away but he didn’t chase him, because he knew a bird in one hand is better than two in the bush.
10. Don’t cry over spilled milk
Meaning: Don’t cry over what has happened as it cannot be fixed.
Example: Zakir failed his examination but his dad came and said just one thing, “Son, Don’t cry over spilled milk.”
11. A black sheep
Meaning: Being a disgrace for the family.
Example: They don’t talk about Amit anymore, turns out he was the Black sheep for the family, and he married someone else while he was still engaged to his fiancé.
12. Down for the count
Meaning: Tired; giving up.
Example: My pet dog is down for the count after playing the whole day with the Frisbee.
13. Fish out of water
Meaning: To be out of your comfort zone.
Example: Tanveer felt like a fish out of water when his girlfriend took him to a convention center in New Delhi.
14. Step up your game
Meaning: To start performing better
Example: Ananya better steps up her game if she wants to make it big in Hockey.
15. Crying Wolf
Meaning: To ask for help when you don’t need it.
Example: You have cried Wolf so many times that no one believes you now.
16. Look before you leap
Meaning: Calculate the risks before advancing towards a possibility.
Example: You can’t just sell all of your shares when the market is low, look before you leap, Trump is coming tomorrow, and there is a possibility that shares will grow.
17. On thin ice
Meaning: In a precarious or risky situation.
Example: Gagan played hooky from work for a week saying he was sick, now his boss said that he is on very thin ice.
18. Beating around the Bush
Meaning: To talk about unnecessary things.
Example: When I asked my secretary about the missing file and documents, she was beating around the bush.
19. At the 11th Hour
Meaning: At the last moment.
Example: While leaving for Shimla, Harshit kept his mobile phone charger in the bag at the 11th hour.
20. To Bell the Cat
Meaning: To face a risk.
Example: He belled the cat when he was trying to escape the prison.
Start using all these idioms in your daily life and improve your vocabulary.