- “I have a big exam tomorrow and I’m nervous.” 

- “Oh, really? Break a leg!” 

Have you ever heard someone say this phrase and think “Why would you tell someone to break a leg??” 

Well, it’s because they are actually using a phrase called an idiom. Idioms are expressions with a figurative meaning that differs from the literal meaning. Idioms can help to express something in a different and more interesting way and can give a visual representation to what is being said.

So, “break a leg” actually means “good luck”. They are used very commonly in conversation and they are a great way to sound more native. There are hundreds of idioms, but here are twenty examples of the some of the most commonly used English idioms: 

1. A blessing in disguise: something good that seemed bad at first

  • Example: Being fired from her job was a blessing in disguise for Maria because she found her true passion for photography. 

2. A dime a dozen: something common

  • Example: Empanada shops in Santiago are a dime a dozen. 

3. Beat around the bush: avoid saying what you mean, usually because it is uncomfortable 

  • Example: I wanted to talk to my boss about giving me a raise, but I was too nervous. So, I beat around the bush and asked him about the weather instead. 

4. Bite the bullet: get something over with because it is inevitable 

  • Example: I’m going to bite the bullet and finish my essay so I can enjoy the weekend.  

5. Call it a day: to stop working (on something) 

  • Example: We’ve been working on the business proposal since 8am. Let’s call it a day and go home. 

6. Hang in there: don’t give up

  • Example: Learning English can be challenging and frustrating, but it’s important to hang in there! 

7. Hit the sack: go to sleep 

  • Example: It’s been a long day and I’m very tired. It’s time to hit the sack. 

8. That’s the last straw: to no longer have any patience

  • Example: She forgot to do her chores again for third time this week. That’s the last straw! 

9. So far so good: things are going well so far

  • Example:

    - “How is the project going?

- “So far, so good.” 

10. Under the weather: sick 

  • Example: I can’t come to the office today because I’m feeling under the weather. 

11. On the ball: doing a good job

  • Example: The new employee we recently hired is really on the ball. 

12. Pull yourself together: calm down

  • Example: We can figure out this problem. Pull yourself together! 

13. It’s not rocket science: it’s not complicated

  • Example: I’ll show you how to fix the problem. It’s not rocket science. 

14. Get out of hand: get out of control

  • Example: We need to talk to the director about the accounting problem before it gets out of hand. 

15. Go back to the drawing board: start over, look for a new solution

  • Example: Since our first plan didn’t work, we need to go back to the drawing board. 

16. Easy does it: slow down 

  • Example: Easy does it! We have plenty of time to finish the activity. 

17. Get your act together: work better or leave, you need to improve something

  • Example: This report is missing a lot of important information. Get your act together. 

18. To make matters worse: make a problem worse 

  • Example: I just missed the bus. To make matters worse, I forgot my wallet at home. 

19. You can say that again- that’s true, I agree

  • Example:

    - “I’m so glad we have a long, holiday weekend.

- “You can say that again!” 

20. Your guess is as good as mine: I have no idea 

  • Example: - “Do you know where the subway station is?” 

- “Your guess is as good as mine.


Written by: Ian Kennedy