Is your English Plain and non-idiomatic?
The English language is full of idioms (over 15,000). Native speakers of English use idioms all the time, often without realising that they are doing so. This means that communication with native speakers of English can be quite a confusing experience.
Here are soem English idioms with explanations and examples:
- someone who reads a lot
My sister is a bookworm and is always reading a book.
Call/take the roll
- call the names of students on a roll and usually expect them to answer if they are there
Every morning before the class started the teacher called the roll.
- someone who copies the work of another
The children called the girl a copycat when they discovered that she had copied part of the test from another student.
count noses- count the number of people
The teacher stopped to count noses several times during the field trip.
crack a book
- open a book to study (usually used in the negative)
I did very well in the course even though I didn't crack a book until the last week of classes.
cut class- not go to class
I decided to cut class in order to study for my geography test.
drop out of school
- stop attending school
My friend dropped out of school when he was seventeen and began to drive a truck.
- someone who works very hard and is very enthusiastic
The young girl was an eager beaver and always came to class before the other students.
- fail a course or fail out of school
The boy was very smart but he always flunked out of his language class.
- waste time
My sister spent most of the week goofing off and was not prepared for her test.
have one's nose in a book
- be reading a book
The boy loves to read and always has his nose in a book.
hit the books
- begin to study hard
After playing all weekend I had to hit the books on Sunday evening.
learn by rote- learn or memorize something without thinking about it
We learned many verbs by rote in the foreign language class.
- at a different location than the grounds of a college or university
Most of the students went to a restaurant off campus when they had the chance.
- located on the grounds of a college or university
There was a small bank on campus which many of the students used.
pass with flying colors
- pass something easily and with a high score
I was able to pass the science test with flying colors.
put one's thinking cap on
- start thinking in a serious manner
The boys put on their thinking caps and tried to think of a new name for the school newspaper.
school of hard knocks
- the ordinary experience of learning from work and daily life
She left school early and began to learn about life in the school of hard knocks.
show of hands
- raise hands in a classroom or other group to vote or see what people think about something
After a show of hands the class voted to go on a field trip the next week.
(in) single file
- stand in a line with one person behind the other
The students lined up in single file before they entered the auditorium.
teach one's grandmother to suck eggs
- try to tell or teach someone who knows more than you do how to do something
Teaching some of the children how to use a computer is like teaching my grandmother to suck eggs. Many of them know more than I do.
- the teacher's favorite student
My sister was always the teacher's pet when she was in the first grade at school.
the three R's
- the three basic skills for a basic education - reading, (w)riting, and (a)rithmetic
My father studied in a small country school where they studied the three R's and almost nothing else.
university of life
- learning from daily life and work rather than going to university
My grandfather began to work on the family farm when he was fourteen and learned everything from the university of life.
work one's way through college
- work at a job to help pay for your college or university expenses
My brother worked his way through college at the local supermarket
as conceited as a barber's cat
- very conceited, vain
My friend became as conceited as a barber's cat after she won the award at school.
a cat on a hot tin roof
- full of lively activity
The boy was jumping around like a cat on a hot tin roof and we could not make him be quiet.
let the cat out of the bag
- to tell something that is supposed to be a secret
The teacher let the cat out of the bag when she began talking about the plans for the new school.
rain cats and dogs- to rain very hard
It has been raining cats and dogs all day.
one's tail between one`s legs- feeling beaten or humiliated (like a frightened or defeated dog as it walks away)
The man left the meeting with his tail between his legs after he was criticized by the company president.
as stubborn as a mule- very stubborn
My friend is as stubborn as a mule and you can never make her change her mind.
straight from the horse`s mouth- directly from the person who said something, directly from a dependable source
I heard it straight from the horse`s mouth that our supervisor will be leaving the company next week.
rat on (someone)
- to report someone's bad behavior to someone
The little boy ratted on his friend at school.
smell a rat- to be suspicious, to feel that something is wrong
I smell a rat. There is something wrong with the offer of a free credit card.
wolf down (something)- to gulp down something, to eat something quickly
I wolfed down my dinner and left the house for the movie.
Arm, Hand & Finger Idioms
catch (someone) red-handed
- to catch someone in the act of doing something wrong
The teacher caught the boys red-handed when they wrote on the school wall.
closefisted (with money)
- to be stingy with money
My uncle is very closefisted with money.
cost an arm and a leg
- to cost much money
My father paid an arm and a leg for his car and he loves driving it.
first hand- to see/experience/learn about something by direct personal experience
We learned about the car accident first hand when we were driving down the highway.
have a bee in one`s bonnet
- to have a fixed idea that stays in one's mind
My friend has a bee in her bonnet and she will not stop talking about moving to a new apartment.
hive of activity
- somewhere where things are very busy (like the activity around a beehive)
The wedding hall was a hive of activity while everyone got ready for the wedding.
have butterflies in one`s stomach- to have a feeling of fear or anxiety in one's stomach
I had butterflies in my stomach on the day that I received the award.