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20 Useful Sayings (Idioms) for Learning English

Learning English is a challenging journey, but it doesn’t have to be boring. One of the best ways to supplement your English tutoring is to study free resources online. Our favorite way to help English learners get the hang of different idiosyncrasies of the language is by studying English idioms. Idioms are sayings that may not make a ton of sense from the perspective of a non-English speaker, but provide insight into cultural sayings that can make contextual English easier to understand. Studying English idioms can help learners understand sayings that English speakers use regularly without getting lost in translation.

We put together a list of our twenty favorite idioms in English for you to study. Check out our list below!

20 Useful Sayings (Idioms) for Learning English

These useful idioms for learning English are easy and fun to learn. If you want to take your English learning journey a step further, try checking out our list of 10 summer fun book readings to learn English. [insert link when live]

It’ll be a piece of cake.

This idiom is often said before taking on a task that one might be wary of. It refers to the fact that a task is easier than how it might seem. English speakers often use this idiom as a form of encouragement.

To make a long story short...

This ironic idiom is said before summarizing a long story, but often follows an already long telling of the story the speaker has decided to summarize.

No pain, no gain!

This idiom is often said before taking on an intense workout at the gym, but can also be used in other situations. It refers to the idea that you cannot gain something worthwhile without working for it. You can’t build muscle tissue without doing a lot of strength training, which can be a bit painful and exhausting.

She’s feeling a bit under the weather.

This saying is used to refer to someone who is feeling physically ill. Example: Quinn calls out of work and Dan asks Amber where Quinn is. Amber tells him, “Unfortunately, Quinn is feeling a bit under the weather today and is recovering at home.”

Speak of the devil!

When two or more English speakers are talking about a third party who is not part of the conversation, this saying is used if that third party shows up during or immediately after talking about them.

They went bananas!

To go “bananas” means to go crazy or act in an unconventional way. This can be both negative and playful, depending on the context. Example: Claire and Heidi take their young son to a music festival, and their son begins to suddenly dance outlandishly to the music. Claire says, “He’s going bananas!” in a playful way.

You can say that again!

During a conversation, if one party says something that really resonates with another party in the conversation, the second party will say this to reiterate the statement of the first party.

That’s just how the cookie crumbles.

If someone says that they are dealing with something troublesome or experienced some sort of loss, the other person in the conversation will say this phrase. It essentially is a sympathetic but playful statement.

Your guess is as good as mine.

If two English speakers are speculating about something they don’t understand or don’t know the full details of, they will often use this term to reiterate that they do not have any more information than the other person in the conversation.

Let’s call it a day.

This term is used to say that it is time to stop doing something. After performing a difficult task, this is usually said to note that it is time to stop working for the day.

He did that out of the blue.

To do something out of the blue is to do something unpredictable or unexpected.

Give them the benefit of the doubt.

To give someone the benefit of the doubt is to trust what they are saying or doing. Example: Bill is recently hired as a manager and comes up with a business plan that seems a little too difficult to incorporate. Bob tells everyone on their team to give Bill the benefit of the doubt and give the business plan a try.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

This older saying isn’t very common nowadays, but it’s still worth learning. This refers to the idea that what one owns is worth much more than what one might own later on in life.

Once in a blue moon.

To do something once in a blue moon is to do something on a special occasion or rarely. Literally, a blue moon occurs when there is a second full moon in a month, which is rare.

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Sometimes, it’s better to show something than describe it. This idiom is often used to refer to a piece of art that depicts something powerful without using words.

Give me a hand, will you?

To give someone a hand is to help them with something, usually something physical.

They’re a dime a dozen.

Something that is a dime a dozen is considered worthless or not worth stressing over. Example: John buys a pack of pencils from the dollar store, but accidentally misplaces them. Jill tells John that pencils are a dime a dozen, meaning that it will be very easy and cheap to buy another pack of pencils without incident.

Actions speak louder than words.

Similar to “a picture is worth a thousand words,” this idiom refers to the fact that one’s actions are often more honest than what they say.

It’s a blessing in disguise.

When something unfortunate happens, sometimes the repercussions of that unfortunate event may result in something better for the person suffering. Example: Mary’s friend Jessica has recently broken off their friendship. However, Jessica is often very mean to Mary, so the event is a blessing in disguise for Mary, even if she doesn’t feel happy about it at the moment.

Let’s break the ice.

To break the ice is to introduce yourself to someone you haven’t met, usually accompanied by small talk and getting to know the other person.

Did you find our list of English idioms helpful? Let us know in the comments which sayings have helped you learn English in the comments below!

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Jonathan is the VP Growth at TutorOcean. Jonathan previously worked at Klipfolio, Invest Ottawa, Irdeto and IBM. Jonathan is also the Co-Founder of STEAM Foundation who successfully launched a Kids Coding Camp helping inspire students early in their educational development. Jonathan is also an active startup advisor, giving back to help the next generation of entrepreneurs. Feel free to reach out on LinkedIn.

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