Popular English Idioms to Sound Like a Native Speaker


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To understand English as it is spoken in real life, you have to be familiar with idioms. They are used so much in everyday English that it is important to be aware of them. You need to learn what they mean, and how to use them to become an ‘insider’.

This blog post will show you some of the most popular English idioms currently in use. Remember, knowledge is power.  Here we go.

  1. A Chip On Your Shoulder:  No, this doesn’t mean that you’ve dropped part of your snack. To have a chip on one’s shoulder implies that the person is carrying around some grudge or bad feelings about something that happened in the past… like having walked through the wreckage of a building, and ended up with a chip of that building stuck to them for years afterward.
  2. Bite Off More Than You Can Chew:  Like taking a HUGE bite of a sandwich that will fill your mouth up so much that you can’t move your jaw, this idiom implies that you’ve taken on more than you can handle successfully. An example would be agreeing to build ten websites in a week when normally you can only handle five.
  3. You Can’t Take It With You:  You can’t take anything with you when you die, so don’t bother hoarding your stuff or not using it except for “special occasions”. Live now, because all your stuff is going to be around long after you’re gone.
  4. Everything But Your Kitchen Sink:  This implies that nearly everything has been packed/taken/removed. For instance, if someone said: “The thieves stole everything but the kitchen sink!” it meant that they took everything they could carry; it’s damned hard to remove a sink and carry it around.
  5. Over My Dead Body:  When the only way you’ll allow something to happen is if you’re no longer alive to stop it.
  6. Tie The Knot:  To get married. This is left over from the old tradition of handfasting, wherein the hands of the bride and groom would be tied together with a length of ribbon to symbolize that their lives were fastened together permanently.
  7. Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover:  Things aren’t always what they appear to be at first glance, so it’s a good idea to give something a chance, even if its outward appearance isn’t immediately attractive.  The exception to this might be actual books that have hideous covers: those tend to be terrible all around, and in cases such as these, it’s best to contact the author or publisher and recommend a good graphic designer.
  8. When Pigs Fly:  This means “never”. Pigs aren’t about to sprout wings and take flight anytime soon, so if someone says to their kid that they can get a forehead tattoo when pigs fly, it’s not gonna happen.
  9. A Leopard Can’t Change His Spots:  Basically: you are who you are. Just like a leopard can’t concentrate really hard and change the pattern on its skin, people can’t change who they really are at heart.
  10. Bite Your Tongue:  Stick your tongue between your teeth (gently), and then try to speak. You can’t say a word, can you? To bite one’s tongue means to stay quiet: literally to hold the tongue still so it can’t make a sound.

There’s a lot more where these came from.  If you are a diehard about the English language and how it’s spoken by people in English-speaking countries, I fully encourage you to click this link.  It’s absolutely time well invested.  Remember that “learning by doing” is the best way to learn anything.  Good Day.

8 thoughts on “Popular English Idioms to Sound Like a Native Speaker”

    1. Not all of them Desley. Some of them I knew, the others I learned while researching for the post. I usually study English about two to three hours daily, to keep myself from rusting.

      If I lived in an English-speaking country, I’m sure my knowledge of English idioms would a lot better. One thing that worries me is my English pronunciation. I haven’t spoken English for at least two or three years. The tongue loses its ability to pronunciate foreign words. But there’s nothing I can do about it. Writing this blog helps a lot, that’s why I enjoy it so much.

      Best Regards,

      Omar.-

    1. Hi There Barbara:

      Oh yes, Spanish is plagued with idioms as well. Many American go bananas trying to understand their meaning, but after a while it makes sense.

      I wish I could speak English with somebody in Panama. Wishful thinking? I’m afraid I’ll have to invent a make-believe ghost to talk to me.

      It would be great to speak the words on a daily basis, the way you guys do in the States. As you most certainly know, I love the language. In fact both languages: English and Spanish,

      Hasta Luego,

      Omar.-

      1. Hmm, I shall have problems too, with Spanish idioms I’m sure. Once I buckle down and actually put a concerted effort to learn, maybe it will go smoother. My husband is moving right along and learning much. It’s too bad that you have no one to speak English with but we all here get to enjoy your wonderful posts. Have a wonderful rest of your day!

  1. What’s fun is that the U.S. is so big, there are idioms that vary from region to region. Here in Texas, people will say, “Don’t be ugly.” That has nothing to do with physical appearance. It means, “Behave nicely. Be polite.”

    Oh, Texas is rich in idioms. One of my favorites is, “He’s all hat, and no cattle.” In other words, he gives the appearance of being something he has no experience with.

    Idioms are fun! And here’s a tidbit for you. Etymologically, “idiom” and “idiot” come from the same root. Somehow, that makes sense!

    1. Morning Linda:

      Same thing here. Different provinces have different idioms, but since Panama is a such a small country, we know them all. The States of course is a different story.

      Idioms are fun. No doubt about that. It’s one of the subject I love most about the English language. Grammar is a whole different story.

      Thanks for those new Texan idioms. They are new to me.

      Bye,

      Omar.-

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