A Final Set of Common English Idioms


This week we’re going to wrap up our lessons on idioms with a final eleven commonly-used English idioms. An idiom is a phrase whose meaning is different from the dictionary definitions of the words that comprise it. Idioms pose a special challenge for non-native English speakers precisely because you can’t determine their figurative meanings from their literal meanings.


English has thousands of such idioms, and we’ve only covered a small portion throughout our various idioms lessons. If you need additional help with idioms or any other aspect of the English language, contact the English Island in Atlanta. Our passionate, experienced ESL teachers can create a customized class that fits your busy schedule and individual needs.


Best thing since sliced bread: An amazing, revolutionary idea or innovation.

“I don’t believe the new iPhone is much of an improvement over the previous version. However, my daughter thinks it’s the best thing since sliced bread.”


A blessing in disguise: An apparent misfortune that eventually has good results.

“Our broken water heater turned out to be a blessing in disguise. While installing the new unit, the plumper found and fixed a cracked pipe that could have burst at any time.”


Drastic times call for drastic measures: Extreme situations can only be resolved by equally extreme actions.

“Jim hated to lay off so many veteran employees. However, it was the height of the economic recession, and drastic times called for drastic measures.”


A far cry from: Very different from.

“Eileen is a far cry from her sister. Angela is outgoing and active, but Eileen rarely leaves the house or gets off the couch.”


Hear it on the grapevine: To learn of something (which is not necessarily true) through rumors.

“I heard it on the grapevine that Jenny is being considered for the position that Rebecca always wanted.”


Kill two birds with one stone: Accomplish two different goals with a single action.

“If the new agent works out, we can assign both of those accounts to her and kill two birds with one stone.”


Your guess is as good as mine: A way of saying that you do not know the answer to a question.

“Do you know who is being considered for the open position?”

“Your guess is as good as mine.”


You could have knocked me over with a feather: Incredibly surprised or stunned by something.

“You could have knocked me over with a feather when I learned that Kelly scored a perfect 1600 on the SAT.”


When in Rome, do as Romans do: Follow all local customs, laws, and practices.

“He thought his fiancé’s family’s Thanksgiving traditions were somewhat unusual. However, he decided that when in Rome, do as Romans do.”


Wet behind the ears: Young and without much life experience.

“The wet behind the ears sales associate was totally unprepared for the chaos of Black Friday.”


With flying colors: To easily accomplish a task and to do very well at that task.

“Having studied since the beginning of the semester, Erica passed the AP History exam with flying colors.”