Idioms Examples for Students! Idioms can be a tricky concept to understand and remembering them all can seem almost impossible! Thankfully, with enough practice, this doesn’t have to be the case. It’s important for students/kids learning English – or any language – to gain an understanding of idiomatic expressions as they are used in everyday conversation. To aid your studies, we’ve provided 100 useful examples of English idioms along with their meanings plus a downloadable PDF that covers these common phrases and much more!
So grab your pens and paper ready and get prepared for a journey through some classic idioms!
100 Idioms Examples for Students
Related: 500 Idioms and Meaning
1. Cut to the chase
To get straight to the point.
Can we cut to the chase and get down to business?
2. Break a leg
To wish someone good luck.
I’m so nervous about my audition, but thanks for wishing me to break a leg!
3. Piece of cake
Something that is easy to do.
I thought the math test was going to be hard, but it was a piece of cake!
4. Beating around the bush
To avoid saying what you mean.
Stop beating around the bush and tell us what’s really going on.
5. Let the cat out of the bag
To reveal a secret accidentally.
Oops! I didn’t mean to let the cat out of the bag about your surprise birthday party.
6. Barking up the wrong tree
To be completely wrong about something.
If you think she’s going to help you, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
7. Cost an arm and a leg
Something that is very expensive.
That designer dress cost me an arm and a leg, but it was worth it!
8. Once in a blue moon
Rarely; not often.
We don’t go out to dinner together once in a blue moon, but it’s nice when we do.
9. Hit the nail on the head
To get something exactly right.
You hit the nail on the head with that idea! It’s perfect.
10. When pigs fly
Something that will never happen.
I’ll believe it when pigs fly! That’s just not going to happen.
11. When push comes to shove
When things get difficult or serious.
When push comes to shove, we know you can be relied on to do the job.
12. Hit the hay
To go to bed and sleep.
It’s getting late, so I’m going to hit the hay soon.
13. Go with the flow
Accept what is happening and adapt.
Things aren’t going as planned, but it’s best to just go with the flow and see what happens.
14. Out of the frying pan and into the fire
To go from a bad situation to an even worse one.
I thought changing jobs would make my life easier, but I just went out of the frying pan and into the fire.
15. Throw in the towel
To give up on something.
After months of trying, she finally threw in the towel and accepted defeat.
16. Put your money where your mouth is
To actually do what you say you will do.
If you really believe it, put your money where your mouth is and invest in the company.
17. Get cold feet
To become scared or nervous about something.
He was all set to propose, but then he got cold feet and changed his mind.
18. Jump on the bandwagon
To join in with something that is popular or fashionable.
Everyone’s buying it so I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and get one too.
19. Across the board
Affecting everyone or everything.
The new policy will have across-the-board implications for everyone in the company.
20. Style over substance
To prioritize how something looks over how it works or functions.
I don’t care if it’s stylish, I want something with substance – not just style!
21. Add insult to injury
To make a bad situation even worse.
They fired me without warning – to add insult to injury, they didn’t even give me a reference.
22. The best of both worlds
To get the advantages of two different situations.
I get to work from home and go into the office whenever I need to – it’s the best of both worlds!
23. Take with a grain of salt
To consider something carefully and skeptically before accepting it as true.
She said she’d help me, but I’m taking her offer with a grain of salt until she actually does something.
24. Put all your eggs in one basket
To put all of your resources into one option or plan, leaving no backup.
He invested all his savings in the stock market – he’s putting all his eggs in one basket and taking a big risk.
25. Catch 22
A situation in which there are two choices, but both are bad.
It’s a catch-22 – I can stay here and be miserable or leave and risk not finding another job.
26. Pulling your leg
To joke and tease someone.
I’m not serious – I was just pulling your leg!
27. Make hay while the sun shines
To take advantage of an opportunity or favorable conditions while they last.
The market is booming right now, so we should make hay while the sun shines and invest as much as we can.
28. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch
To not become too confident or make assumptions about something which is yet to happen.
We’ve made a lot of progress on the project, but we shouldn’t count our chickens before they hatch – there’s still a lot more to do.
29. That’s the last straw
An expression is used when one negative event pushes someone over the edge.
After yet another delay he shouted, “That’s the last straw – this project is canceled!”
30. Hit rock bottom
To reach the lowest point.
After losing his job, he felt like he had hit rock bottom and nothing could make it better.
31. Jumping through hoops
To do a lot of unnecessary tasks to achieve something.
I’ve been jumping through hoops for months trying to get this project approved.
32. A blessing in disguise
When something bad turns out to be good.
Losing her job ended up being a blessing in disguise – she found an even better one shortly afterward.
33. The grass is always greener on the other side
Thinking that things are better elsewhere, when they may not be.
She was always wishing she had a different job, but the grass is not always greener on the other side.
34. Killing two birds with one stone
To achieve two things at once.
I went for a run and did my grocery shopping – killing two birds with one stone!
35. Two heads are better than one
To collaborate or work with someone to achieve something, as two people working together can be more productive than one.
We want to finish the project quickly so we should work together – two heads are better than one!
36. Money doesn’t grow on trees
Reminding someone that money is not easily obtained.
He asked me to buy him the latest game console, but I told him money doesn’t grow on trees.
37. Off the top of my head
To give a quick answer without thinking too much.
Off the top of my head, I’d say there are about fifty people in our office.
38. In one ear and out the other
Information that is heard, but not retained.
I told him the instructions, but it was like they went in one ear and out the other – he didn’t remember any of it.
39. A leopard doesn’t change its spots
Someone who has a basic nature that doesn’t change.
I’ve known her for years and she’s still the same – a leopard doesn’t change its spots.
40. It takes two to tango
Both parties are responsible for a situation or argument.
I’m not going to take all the blame – it takes two to tango!
41. It’s not rocket science
Something that is easy to understand or do.
Setting up the WiFi isn’t hard – it’s not rocket science!
42. Read between the lines
To find a hidden meaning in something someone said or wrote.
His comment seemed innocent at first, but when I read between the lines, I realized he was criticizing me.
43. Keep your chin up
To stay positive and keep going in difficult times.
Don’t worry – just keep your chin up and things will get better soon.
44. Put a pin in it
To stop discussing something for now with the intention of returning to it later.
We can discuss this more next week – let’s put a pin in it for now.
45. Take the bull by the horns
To take control of a situation and deal with it directly and bravely.
She was nervous, but she took the bull by the horns and presented her proposal to the board.
46. Don’t cry over spilled milk
To not get upset about something that happened in the past and can’t be changed.
I messed up the report, but there’s no point crying over spilled milk – let’s just focus on fixing it now.
47. Put all your eggs in one basket
To put all of your resources into one option or plan, leaving no backup.
He invested all his savings in the stock market – he’s putting all his eggs in one basket and taking a big risk.
48. Put two and two together
To use logic and understanding to work out something.
When I saw him with another woman, I put two and two together and realized he was cheating on me.
49. A picture paints a thousand words
A single image often conveys more meaning than hundreds of words.
Instead of writing a long description, I just included a picture – it paints a thousand words and conveys the message better.
50. All’s well that ends well
A situation where everything turns out okay in the end.
We had a few hiccups during the project, but all’s well that ends well – it was completed on time and to a high standard.
51. Let sleeping dogs lie
To not disturb something that has been peaceful or undisturbed for some time.
I was tempted to bring up an old argument but decided to just let sleeping dogs lie.
52. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
To not rely too much on one thing or person.
I’m investing in a few different projects – I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket.
53. Best foot forward
To make a good impression.
I’m meeting the CEO tomorrow – I need to put my best foot forward!
54. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you
To not be ungrateful or hurt someone who has been generous or helpful to you.
He gave me a great opportunity, so I shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds me – I should be thankful for his help.
55. Bite off more than you can chew
To try to do or take on too much.
I was so ambitious with my goals that I bit off more than I could chew – it was too much for me to handle.
56. Rome was not built in a day
Big projects or tasks take time and effort to complete.
I’m working on an ambitious project – Rome wasn’t built in a day, so I know it will take some time to complete.
57. When in Rome, do as the Romans do
To behave and act like people around you when in a different place or situation.
I’m studying abroad this semester – when in Rome, do as the Romans do!
58. Don’t judge a book by its cover
To not make assumptions about someone or something based on appearance.
He looks intimidating, but don’t judge a book by its cover – he’s actually really friendly.
59. Fortune favors the bold
To be brave and take risks, as success often comes to those who do this.
She was nervous, but she took a risk and applied for the job – fortune favors the bold!
60. You can’t have your cake and eat it too
To not be able to enjoy two benefits or advantages at once.
He wants to stay in college but also work full-time – you can’t have your cake and eat it too. He’ll have to make a choice.
61. Strike while the iron is hot
To take advantage of an opportunity or favorable condition quickly.
The company is hiring, so let’s strike while the iron is hot and apply today.
62. You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs
To achieve something, you may have to take risks or cause some disruption.
We want to revamp the website, but we can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs – there will be some disruption while we update it.
63. Every cloud has a silver lining
Even in bad situations, there is usually something positive.
I lost my job, but every cloud has a silver lining – it gave me the chance to pursue my dream career.
64. Elevator music
This idiom refers to background or ambient music that is often played in public places such as shopping malls, airports, or elevators. It is usually considered to be dull and uninteresting.
I was so bored waiting for the elevator that I could barely focus on anything other than the elevator music playing in the background.
65. Paint the town red
This idiom means to have a wild night of partying and celebrating with friends.
After getting good grades on their finals, the college students decided to paint the town red!”
66. Hit it out of the park
This idiom is used to describe a situation where someone does something exceptionally well or achieves great success.
My presentation went really well – I think I hit it out of the park!”
This idiom is used to describe an injury from being beaten or hit.
After getting into a fight, he was left black and blue all over his body.
68. Call the shots
This idiom is used to describe someone who has control over a situation and makes important decisions.
The team leader was calling all the shots and making sure everyone was on track.
This informal phrase is used when someone wants something done quickly.
We need this report finished as soon as possible, so chop-chop!”
70. Pie in the sky
This idiom refers to something that is unlikely or impossible to achieve.
He kept talking about becoming a millionaire but it seemed like just pie in the sky.
71. Cry over spilled milk
This idiom means to dwell too much on something that cannot be undone or changed.
There’s no point crying over spilled milk – you should focus on what you can do now.
72. Red-light district
A red-light district is an area within a city where prostitution and other sexually oriented businesses are concentrated.
He decided to take a walk through the city’s red-light district despite his parents’ warnings.
73. Square the circle
This idiom can mean either an attempt to accomplish something impossible or finding a practical solution to an otherwise intractable problem.
She thought she could square the circle by doing both jobs at once, but it turned out it wasn’t possible.
74. Hold one’s peace
This phrase means to remain silent and not say anything about a situation.
Even though he disagreed with her decision, he held his peace and stayed quiet.
75. Big brother
This idiom is used to describe a powerful authority figure or organization that makes sure people comply with rules or laws.
With all the surveillance cameras, it was almost like Big Brother was watching us.
76. A cat nap
This idiom refers to taking a short nap, usually no more than 30 minutes long.
After lunch, she took a quick cat nap before getting back to work.
77. Agree to disagree
This phrase is used when two parties cannot come to an agreement but still respect each other’s opinion.
We had very different opinions on the matter so we decided to agree to disagree and move on.
78. Not give a fig
This idiom means not caring at all about something.
He said he wasn’t interested in joining our club but I could tell he didn’t give a fig either way.
79. Pipe dream
This term refers to an unrealistic goal or hope.
To be honest, his plan for success was just a pipe dream – it had no chance of working out.
80. Throw the match
This phrase is used figuratively as a way of saying that someone intentionally does something bad or gives up on trying altogether.
The team was so far behind that their captain basically threw the match at the end of the third quarter.
81. Cash in one’s chips
This phrase can mean either retiring from business or gambling or giving up on something completely.
After years of working hard on his career, he finally cashed in his chips and retired early.
82. Dance to someone’s tune
This idiom is used when someone allows another person to control them and decide what they do and how they act.
She was always dancing to her husband’s tune so no one ever got to see her true potential.
83. Take the edge off (of something)
This idiom means to make something less intense or lessen the strength of something.
Going for a walk took the edge off the stress I was feeling.
84. Call a spade a spade
This idiom is used to refer to someone who speaks frankly and openly about issues, even if what they say may be uncomfortable for others.
He always calls a spade a spade and never sugarcoats anything he says.
85. A hair’s breadth
This idiom means an incredibly small amount of time or space.
My pencil just missed winning the contest by a hair’s breadth!
86. Fed up with
This phrase means to have reached a level of frustration with something.
I’m fed up with this project – I want to move on to something else!
87. Close, but no cigar
This phrase is used when someone almost succeeds at doing something but ultimately fails.
The team was so close to victory, but in the end, it was close, but no cigar.
88. Jump the shark
This phrase is used to describe when something has become so over-the-top that it loses its credibility or relevance.
After adding so many unnecessary gimmicks, I think we’ve jumped the shark on this project.
89. Put in one’s two cents
This phrase is used when someone shares their opinion on an issue and offers their perspective on it.
Everyone else has shared their thoughts, let me put in my two cents before we make any decisions.
90. Blow the whistle
This idiom means to reveal or disclose something, usually something illegal or unethical.
The whistleblower blew the whistle on the company’s corruption and now they are being investigated.
91. Fish out of water
This idiom means feeling uncomfortable in a new unfamiliar environment.
John felt like a fish out of water at his new job as he wasn’t used to corporate culture.
92. Jim Crow
This is a racist term referring to segregation laws that were enforced in the Southern United States after the Civil War until they were overturned by the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
Under Jim Crow laws, African Americans were forced to use separate facilities from white citizens.
93. See eye to eye
This idiom means two people agreeing with one another or having a shared viewpoint on an issue.
My parents didn’t always see eye to eye but they managed to come to a compromise in the end.
94. All bark and no bite
This idiom typically refers to someone who talks about doing something but never actually does it.
John was all bark and no bite – he made big promises but nothing ever came of them.
95. Pipped to the post
This idiom means defeated narrowly or just missing success at the last minute.
Jason was pipped to the post for promotion by his colleague.
96. All rights reserved
A legal phrase meaning that all intellectual property rights are protected for certain materials such as books, music and movies, etc.
All contents of this website are copyright © 2023 John Smith – All rights reserved.
97. Swim against the tide
This idiom means to do something that goes against what the majority of people are doing, or trying to make a change against the general opinion.
The activist decided to swim against the tide and campaign for women’s rights in her community.
98. Make a break for it
This idiom means to suddenly run away or escape from somewhere or someone, typically done in a panic or hurry.
When their parents caught them sneaking out, the children made a break for it and ran down the street.
99. Set the world on fire
This idiom means to accomplish something impressive or remarkable.
John has set the world on fire with his design work – he just won an Oscar!
100. Apple of one’s eye
This idiom is used to refer to someone who is very loved and cherished by someone else.
My daughter is the apple of my eye; I love her more than anything else in this world.
10 Easy Idioms Examples For Kids
1- “Time flies when you’re having fun.”
Meaning: time seems to pass more quickly when you’re enjoying yourself.
2- “That’ll be the day!”
Meaning: to express disbelief, often in response to something that someone has said.
3- “I’m pulling your leg.”
Meaning: I’m joking with you.
4- “Break a leg.”
Meaning: that people use to wish someone good luck, especially before a performance.
5- “I’m all ears.”
Meaning: I’m listening.
6- “I have butterflies in my stomach.”
Meaning: to feel nervous or anxious about something.
7- “It’s raining cats and dogs.”
Meaning: it’s raining very hard.
8- “I can’t stand him!”
Meaning: I don’t like him at all.
9- “I’m feeling under the weather.”
Meaning: I’m feeling ill.
10- “That was a close call.”
Meaning: that was nearly a bad thing that happened, but didn’t happen in the end.
These are just a few examples of common idioms. There are many, many more out there. If you hear an idiom that you don’t understand, ask someone what it means. And, next time you’re having a conversation with someone, try using an idiom yourself!
Idioms for Students and Kids – Pictures
Download this list of idioms in PDF. (Download)
Educational Idioms – Video Lesson
80 Idioms in English With Meaning
50 Idiomatic Expressions Examples Meaning