one type of figurative
in the English language.
Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses
An idiom is a commonly
used phrase that does not mean what it says.
Idioms should not be taken literally
That means that you should not
believe it exactly as it is written.
For example, if a teacher wants her students to listen, she might say:
If we understood this phrase with a literal
meaning, it would mean that the teacher
is asking the students to remove their ears and give them to her
be strange! It could never happen.
me your ear
is actually an idiom
, so we do not
use the literal
meaning. Instead, we understand it by its figurative
Lend me your ear
is a way to ask for someone's attention. The teacher
is asking her students to listen when she speaks.
Let us look at another example like this.
He has lost
This is another common American
This phrase does
that he literally
had some marbles and now he cannot find them.
Lost his marbles is figurative
language. It is an idiom that means someone is acting crazy
Idiom examples – American English
Here are a few common American English idioms and their meanings.
- raining cats
(When it is raining heavily, you can say it is
It rained cats
and dogs last night.
- hit the
sack/hit the hay
(If someone is going to
hit the sack or hit
the hay, they are going to bed.)
I'm tired. I'm going to hit
- get over it
(It means to overcome a problem. When someone is complaining about something, you might
tell them to get
over it (stop thinking about it).
It has been a week since I broke your window. It is time to get over it!
- drive someone
up the wall
(If someone is driving
you up the
wall, they are irritating or annoying you.)
It is almost summer break and my friends are driving me up the wall.
- tie the knot
(When people get married, they tie the knot.)
My parents tied
the knot in 1973.
- catch some Zs
(If you want to catch
some Zs, you want to go to sleep.)
After work, I am going to catch
- under the
(When you are feeling ill, you are under the weather.)
Tom missed work. He was feeling under the weather
- a slap on the
(A slap on the
wrist is a very mild punishment.)
After the fight, I was in big trouble, but my brother just got
a slap on
- all Greek to
(If I say something is all
Greek to me, I am telling
you I do not understand it.)
The instructions are all
Greek to me.
- on its last
(If your car is on
its last leg, it needs a lot of
Nick will have to buy a new car soon. His car is on its last leg.
Click here for a longer,
alphabetical list of common American
British English idioms
Idioms can be unique to a language, culture, or area. This means that
an American English idiom may not have the same meaning (or any meaning
at all) in another language or culture.
English and British English
are similar, they do not
always use the same idioms.
To learn more about the differences between idioms in American English
and British English, click on this link:
This was an overview of English idioms. Now that you understand,
time to practice! Get
our ESL Books.