20 Common English Idioms People Use Today

20 Common English Idioms People Use Today-min

Introduction

Every language uses idioms or idiomatic phrases — and English is no different.

But I have found that many English learners use outdated idioms that are not so commonly used today.

Below I have outlined 20 common idioms people use today.

Check every one of them and you will find the idiom, what it means and how to use it in the right context.

Let’s go!

20 Common Idioms People Use Today (1)

Let The Cat Out Of The Bag

To reveal a big secret or confidential information.

 

Example 1: Sarah accidentally let the cat out of the bag and told everyone about the surprise party for Mark.

 

Example 2 (Dialogue):

A: “Did you hear? Karen let the cat out of the bag about the new product launch.”

B: “Oh no, that was supposed to be a secret until next week!”

20 Common Idioms People Use Today (2)

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

What someone does is far more important than what they say.

 

Example 1: Don’t just promise to help; show them by volunteering — actions speak louder than words.

 

Example 2 (Dialogue):

A: “He keeps saying he’ll change, but I haven’t seen any real effort from him.”

B: “Exactly! Actions speak louder than words.”

20 Common Idioms People Use Today (3)

Break A Leg

This means best of luck or try your best.

This idiom was first used in theatres. But it is now used when anyone has to do something in public.

It could be a speech or an interview or making a presentation.

 

Example 1: Before going on stage, the theatre director told the actors to break a leg.

 

Example 2 (Dialogue):

A: “I’m so nervous about the interview tomorrow.”

B: “Don’t worry, you’ll do great! Just go out there and break a leg!”

20 Common Idioms People Use Today (4)

A Piece Of Cake

Something very easy to do.

 

Example 1: After studying hard, the test felt like a piece of cake.

 

Example 2 (Dialogue):

A: “Was the maths exam difficult?”

B: “Not at all, it was a piece of cake!”

Cost An Arm And A Leg

To describe something as being very expensive.

If you had to pay for something with one arm and one leg, do you think it is good value?

 

Example 1: The new smartphone looks great, but it costs an arm and a leg.

 

Example 2 (Dialogue):

A: “Did you see that designer bag?”

B: “Yes, it’s beautiful, but it probably costs an arm and a leg.”

Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Pursuing the wrong course of action or accusing the wrong person.

 

Example 1: The police were barking up the wrong tree when they arrested the innocent man.

 

Example 2 (Dialogue):

A: “I think Jack stole my phone!”

B: “I don’t think so. Jack is very honest. You must be barking up the wrong tree. You probably just lost it.”

A Penny For Your Thoughts

Asking someone to share their thoughts or opinions.

 

Example 1: You seem lost in thought — a penny for your thoughts?

 

Example 2 (Dialogue):

A: “You look worried. Can I help?”

B: “Oh, it’s nothing serious. Just thinking about some personal issues.”

A: “Well, if you want to talk, a penny for your thoughts.”

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

A visual representation can convey a complex idea more effectively than words.

 

Example 1: Instead of explaining the process in words, I showed them a picture – a picture is worth a thousand words.

 

Example 2 (Dialogue):

A: “Can you describe the scenery from your vacation?”

B: “It’s breathtaking, but I’ll show you the pictures later. You know, a picture is worth a thousand words.”

20 Common Idioms People Use Today (9)

Spill The Beans

To reveal a secret.

 

Example 1: Mark couldn’t keep the surprise any longer and spilt the beans about the engagement ring.

 

Example 2 (Dialogue):

A: “Tell me what happened! I saw you talking to Sarah.”

B: “I promised not to say.”

A: “Come on, spill the beans!”

B: “Well, okay — we’re planning a surprise party for John.”

Kill Two Birds With One Stone

To accomplish two things at the same time.

 

Example 1: By shopping at the supermarket near work, Jane killed two birds with one stone — she bought groceries and saved time.

 

Example 2 (Dialogue):

A: “I need to exercise, but I also want to spend time with friends.”

B: “Why not go for a hike? That way, you can kill two birds with one stone.”

Hit The Nail On The Head

Say or do something exactly right.

 

Example 1: Tom hit the nail on the head when he identified the main issue affecting the team’s productivity.

 

Example 2 (Dialogue):

A: “I can’t believe I failed the exam again.”

B: “Maybe you need to study more efficiently. Sarah hit the nail on the head when she said that.”

When Pigs Fly

Something highly unlikely to happen.

 

Example 1: John said he’ll clean his room when pigs fly, meaning he has no intention of doing it.

 

Example 2 (Dialogue):

A: “I’ll finish this report by tomorrow, I promise!”

B: “Yeah, right! When pigs fly, maybe.”

Raining Cats And Dogs

To describe heavy rain.

 

Example 1: We had to cancel our picnic because it started raining cats and dogs.

 

Example 2 (Dialogue):

A: “We can’t go out without an umbrella. It’s raining cats and dogs outside!”

B: “I know, I didn’t expect the weather to change so quickly.”

20 Common Idioms People Use Today (14)

Bite The Bullet

Face a difficult or unpleasant situation.

 

Example 1: Even though she was nervous, Mary knew she had to bite the bullet and ask for a raise.

 

Example 2 (Dialogue):

A: “I’m dreading the dentist’s appointment.”

B: “It’s better to bite the bullet and get it over with — dental health is important.”

20 Common Idioms People Use Today (15)

The Apple Of My Eye

Someone or something that is cherished above all others.

 

Example 1: His little daughter was the apple of his eye, and he adored her above all else.

 

Example 2 (Dialogue):

A: “Why does he always prioritize her opinion?”

B: “She’s the apple of his eye, that’s why. He cares about her more than anything.”

20 Common Idioms People Use Today (16)

Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining

There is something positive to be found in every negative situation.

 

Example 1: Despite losing her job, Jane remained optimistic, knowing that every cloud has a silver lining.

 

Example 2 (Dialogue):

A: “I failed the audition, and I’m so disappointed.”

B: “Don’t worry, you’ll find another opportunity. Remember, every cloud has a silver lining.”

20 Common Idioms People Use Today (17)

The Ball Is In Your Court

It’s your turn to take action or make a decision.

 

Example 1: I’ve done my part; now, the ball is in your court to decide.

 

Example 2 (Dialogue):

A: “We’ve reviewed your application, and you have the qualifications we need.”

B: “So, do I get the job?”

A: “Almost. We need to hear your salary expectations, then the ball is in your court.”

20 Common Idioms People Use Today (18)

Don't Put All Your Eggs In One Basket

Don’t rely solely on one option or opportunity.

 

Example 1: Instead of investing all his money in one stock, John diversified to avoid putting all his eggs in one basket.

 

Example 2 (Dialogue):

A: “I’m thinking of applying to just one university.”

B: “That’s risky. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Apply to a few others as well.”

20 Common Idioms People Use Today (19)

Caught Between A Rock And A Hard Place

In a difficult situation with no easy solution. Often a dilemma where you have two difficult choices.

 

Example 1: Sarah was caught between a rock and a hard place – she had to choose between attending her best friend’s wedding and an important work conference on the same day.

 

Example 2 (Dialogue):

A: “I can’t decide whether to accept the job offer or stay with my current company.”

B: “Sounds like you’re caught between a rock and a hard place. Consider the pros and cons carefully.”

20 Common Idioms People Use Today (20)

Kick The Bucket

To pass away or die. (This is a very informal phrase — use carefully!)

 

Example 1: Nobody expected him to kick the bucket so suddenly; his death was a shock to everyone.

 

Example 2 (Dialogue):

A: “Did you hear about Mr. Smith?”

B: “Yeah, he kicked the bucket last night. It’s so sad.”

Conclusion

Idioms can be a great way of making you sound more fluent in English.

Idioms add colour to your conversation and everyday English.

Try to practice the above idioms and use them in your English today!

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