Idioms – English Language Exercise

Have you bitten off more than you can chew by learning English? Are you in over your head?
These phrases may be confusing because they are idioms! You may have noticed similar phrases in a book, or spoken on television, or probably even as a lyric in a song. An idiom is a phrase that doesn’t make sense when translated literally, but has a figurative meaning. They are often used to add imagery to a description. They are a favorite of many writers and musicians because they create opportunities for creative word play. Most languages have idioms, and some of them are shared, can you think of any in your native language?

After this lesson you will find idioms a piece of cake! Unfortunately, there are many of them and each one will have to be learned separately. If you want to be fluent in English you will just have to bite the bullet, there’s no way to cut corners here. Hopefully, learning these idioms is like riding a bicycle because they are each unique and time flies while you think of the meaning for each of them. If you haven’t noticed I’m in my element as I’m writing these though they may drive some people up the wall. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Idioms Quiz

Match the idiom with its meaning.


5 More Interesting Classic British Idioms

Do you want to spice up your English with some idiomatic expressions that will make you sound more like a native speaker? Then look no further and consider these classic British idioms. They follow our series of idioms from before and there are some real classics here. Enjoy!

Treading on thin ice

“I was late again to work today. I think I’m treading on thin ice with my boss at the moment!”

Here is a very common idiom that means you are in great danger with your current path. Imagine a frozen lake with a very thin sheet of ice on the top. Now imagine walking across that thin ice knowing that at any moment you might fall into the freezing water. Be careful as you’re treading on thin ice!


Get off your high horse

“I know you think you’re too good to play with us, but get off your high horse and get involved!”

If someone thinks they are very smart or very good at something, sometimes they act in a very arrogant and dismissive way. If this happens then tell them to get off their high horse and start being more humble! For this idiom I always imagine a cowboy or sheriff on a big tall horse thinking he’s better than everyone else.


Making a mountain out of a molehill

“Sorry I lost your pen, but don’t make a mountain out of a molehill!”

This idiom is used for when someone makes a big problem out of something that is really a small problem. Consider the difference in size between a mountain and a molehill. A molehill is a tiny little hill no higher than your ankle, whereas a mountain is hundreds of meters tall! If someone is making a small problem seem like a really big one, then try using this one on them.

Putting the cat amongst the pigeons

“He’s moving from Milan to Inter? That will put the cat amongst the pigeons for sure!”

We use this when we want to say that an action will cause a stir, mayhem and pandemonium. For this one try to imagine a room full of pigeons and then letting a cat into the room. Can you imagine the chaos?!

Bob’s your uncle!

“…add two spoons of sugar and bob’s your uncle, you’ve got a perfect cup of tea”

This is a classic. Nobody knows who Bob is but his name is famous because of this idiom. We use the expression as a way to finish instructions. After giving the instructions you can use this to say everything will be done and ready!

How well did you understand these idioms? Find out below with our quiz

Interesting Idioms Quiz

How well do you know the idioms above? Try this quiz to find out


5 More Classic British Idioms

After wetting your appetite with our last 5 classic British idioms, we thought we would give you 5 more to wrap your head around. These next five are equally as popular as the last and have been said by people living in the British Isles for years. Level up your English by including these classic idioms in your speech and writing and you will be well on the way to feeling like a true Brit…

An arm and a leg

“I really like my new car, but it cost an arm and a leg!”

As we can see from the example here, I am very happy with my new car, but it cost…what?! In English we often talk about something costing an arm and a leg. This means the thing was very expensive and not at all cheap! Imagine someone is selling you a car, but what they want is one of your arms and one of your legs! Seems a high price to pay to me… and that’s why we use this classic idiomatic expression.

Barking up the wrong tree

“It wasn’t my fault. You’re barking up the wrong tree if you think it was me!”

So someone is accusing you of something they think you did but you want to tell them they’ve got the wrong idea? Then simply tell them they are barking up the wrong tree! Another classic idiom that needs a bit of explanation. Imagine a dog at the bottom of a tree barking at something up high in the leaves… but actually there is nothing there! The dog got the wrong idea and if you think someone else has got the wrong idea, then that is the perfect moment to use this idiom.

Beating around the bush

“This story has gone on forever. Stop beating around the bush!”

Imagine someone is telling a very long and boring story. You know they could easily finish the story by telling you the main point but they just keep going on and on and on. Tell them to stop beating around the bush and they should hurry up! Here’s another classic British idiom that can be used to ask someone to kindly arrive at the point of their story. The origin of this expression comes from medieval times when hunters used to beat bushes with sticks to force any animals quickly out.

Kill two birds with one stone

“We can kill two birds with one stone in town today. We’ll get you some shoes and me some trousers.”

Every so often a brilliant opportunity arrives where you can do two things with just one action. This is your moment to declare that you are able to kill two birds with one stone. Animal and bird lovers, don’t worry that it sounds a bit cruel, this idiom is used all the time in English as an expression for when we are able to conveniently complete two tasks in one go.

Put all your eggs in one basket

“A career in music sounds great, but you might be putting all your eggs in one basket.”

Indeed, a career in music would be fantastic, but wannabe singers and musicians are probably used to hearing this idiomatic expression. We say this when we want to warn someone that they may be putting all their hopes and efforts into a single opportunity, when really it’s better to put equal amounts of effort into more than one thing. If the music career doesn’t work out, then what will you do! The idea here is that if your basket is taken away from you, you will lose all your eggs.

Finished reading about these idioms? Now try the quiz below to test your knowledge!

5 British Idioms quiz

Think you know your idioms? Read the example and then fill in the gap with the correct answer!