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Five idioms every English student should know

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Idioms are one of the hardest parts of learning a language. For those of you who don’t know, an idiom is a phrase which has a meaning, but the meaning is not clear from the words themselves. If you translate an idiom word for word, it sometimes makes no sense at all. They are like puzzles and even native speakers can get confused when someone uses a phrase that they’ve never heard of.

With that in mind, here are five common English idioms that you can use in a variety of situations.

1. Get your act together (Meaning: you need to improve your behaviour/work)

This might be something your teacher says to you if you score badly in an exam or if you misbehave in class. You can also use it to talk about people in general. For example, if your friend is being mean or nasty for no reason, then you can tell them that they need to get their act together.

2. Pull yourself together (Meaning: calm down)

This is a somewhat impolite way of telling someone that they are overreacting and that they need to relax. Only use this if you think the person you are speaking to is getting upset over something insignificant. If your friend tells you that their close relative has died, it is NOT the time to tell them to pull themselves together.

3. I’m feeling under the weather (Meaning: I’m sick) 

Yes, it’s longer and more difficult to say than ‘I’m sick’, but if your English teacher asks you why you haven’t done your homework, he or she is more likely to forgive you if you say that you were feeling under the weather. You may not have done your English homework, but your teacher might be impressed that you know how to make eloquent excuses in a foreign language.

4. It’s a piece of cake (Meaning: it’s easy) 

I don’t know why this means what it does, but sometimes you just have to accept that English people use weird phrases.

5. Break a leg (Meaning: good luck!) 

This is perhaps one of the most confusing yet well-known English idioms. If someone says this to you, do not take offence or think they are threatening you; they are just wishing you luck. It is most often used for people wishing success to actors and actresses before they perform on the stage, but it can be said in other situations, too.

All in all, learning a new language can be challenging. It’s definitely not a piece of cake, especially when there are so many confusing idioms. However, with enough hard work and interest, you will succeed in no time. Break a leg!


Do you have any favourite idioms in your language? Can you translate them into English?


Ken's picture
Ken 3 February, 2018 - 12:38

There are similar idioms with a slight difference.
For example, neck and neck (shouldr and shoulder), take something to heart, have a loose tongue , off the top of my head, guilty (secrete) pleasure, hope is high (enough), I've got your back !
╭( ・ㅂ・)و ̑̑

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