PROVERBS IN ENGLISH
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Idiomatic Expressions Commonly Used in English

1. Accidentally on purpose: If you do something intentionally, but pretend it was an accident, you do it accidentally on purpose.

I accidentally-on-purpose erased his email address so I couldn't contact him again.

2. All ears: To say that you are all ears means that you are listening very attentively.

Of course I want to know - I'm all ears!


3. Apple of your eye: A person, usually a child, who is the apple of your eye is one for whom you have great affection.

My grandson is the apple of my eye.

4. Buckle down: If you buckle down, you apply yourself with determination to hard work and give it hour full attention.

If you want to pass your exams, you'll have to buckle down and do some serious work.

5. Call it quits: When people temporarily stop doing something or put an end to an activity, they call it quits.

OK, we're all exhausted, so let's call it quits for today.

6. Can't hold a candle to: If one person can't hold a candle to another, they are much less competent or do not perform as well as the other.

John is very intelligent but he can't hold a candle to his brother Paul when it comes to sports.

7. Dig in your heels: If you dig in your heels, you refuse to do something, especially if someone is trying to convince you to do so.

My grandfather dug in his heels and refused to move to an apartment.

8. Eagle eyes: Someone who has eagle eyes see or notices things more easily than others.

Tony will help us find it - he's got eagle eyes!

9. Easy does it!: You can 'easy does it!' when you want something to be done slowly and carefully.

"Easy does it" said my husband as the sofa was carried through the hall door.

10. Eat someone alive: If you criticize someone severely because you are angry with them, you eat them alive.

The boss will eat me alive if the report arrives late.

11. Ego trip: If you do something to drive attention to yourself and feel important or superior to others, you are on an ego trip.

His speech about creating an association to help the underprivileged was one long ego trip.

12. Eleventh hour: If something happens at the eleventh hour, it happens when it is almost too late, or at the last possible moment.

Our team won after they scored a goal at the eleventh hour.
She always turned her term papers in at the eleventh hour. 

13. Enough said: This expression indicates that you completely understand the situation and further details aren't necessary.

Your mother-in-law arrived unexpectedly last night?  Enough said!

14. Every dog has its day: This expression means that everyone can be successful at something at some time in their life.

I didn't win this time, but I'll be lucky one day.  Every dog has its day!

15. Excuse my French: This expression is used as an apology for using crude or offensive language.

He's a bloody nuisance, if you'll excuse my French.

16. Get a kick out ofIf you get a kick out of something, you feel enjoyment or excitement from something.

                                                 Tania is a bit strange - she gets a kick out of listening to other people's phone messages.

17. Give a heads up: to give someone information or a warning.

wanted to give you a heads up that I'll be sending you the revised form foryour approval.

Usage notes: sometimes used in the form get a heads upThey promised we'd get a heads up on the newproposal tomorrow.


18. In essence'basically', fundamentally' or 'essentially' and refers to the most important or essential facts.

In essence, lightning is a great big spark of electricity.

19. Join the club!: You say that somebody 'join the club!', to express sympathy for an unpleasant experience you have had too.

"Oh no!  My wallet has been stolen." "Join the club!"

20. Judge a book by its cover'Don't judge a book by its cover' means you shouldn't form an opinion based on appearance only.

He leads a very simple life but in fact he's very wealthy.  You can't judge a book by its cover.

21. Jump to conclusionsA person who jumps to conclusions reaches a decision or makes a judgement too fast, before taking the time to check out all the facts.

We haven't got the full story yet so let's not jump to conclusions.

22. Keep a low profile: A person who keeps a low profile tries not to attract public attention.

The inventor is a discreet man who keeps a low profile.

23. Keep at arm's length: If you keep someone at arm's length, you do not allow yourself to become too friendly with them.

It's not easy to become friends with Sophie; she tends to keep everyone at arm's length.

24. Keep head above water: To keep one's head above water means to try to survive by staying out of debt, for example a small business.

Business has been slow, but we've managed to keep our head above water.

25. Keep postedIf someone asks you to keep them posted, they want you to keep them informed about a situation.

Our agent promised to keep us posted on developments in the negotiations.

26. Keep under your hatTo keep something under one's hat means to keep a secret.

My boss has promised me a promotion, but it's not official yet, so keep it under your hat.

27. Keep your back covered: If you do something in case a problem arises later for which you might be blamed, you keep your back covered.

You'd better make a copy of that letter to keep your back covered.

28. Kick the bucket: To kick the bucket is a not serious way of talking about death. It means "to die". 

He will inherit when his grandfather kicks the bucket.

29. Lay it on the line: If you speak frankly and make something very clear, you lay it on the line.

The boss laid it on the line and told Jimmy that if he arrived late for work again he would lose his job.

30. Learn the hard way: If you learn the hard way, you learn through your own experience, good and bad, rather than from the advice or guidance of others.

His refusal to accept any help meant that he had to learn the hard way.

31. Leave the door openIf you leave the door open, you behave in such a way as to allow the possibility of further action.

Both parties left the door open for further negotiations.

32. Make an ass of yourselfIf you behave so stupidly that you appear ridiculous, you make an ass of yourself. 

Tom made an ass of himself by singing a love song outside Laura's door!

33. Make blood boilIf something makes your blood boil, it makes you really angry.

His condescending attitude made my blood boil!

34. Make blood run cold: If something makes your blood run cold, it shocks or scares you a lot.

The look in the prisoner's eye made my blood run cold!

35. More than meets the eye: When something is more complicated, difficult or interesting than it appears, it is said that there is more (to it) than meets the eye. 

He said that he had simply sold his shares, but I think there's more to it than meets the eye.

36. On the wagonSomeone who is on the wagon is no longer drinking alcohol.

No wine for me please - I'm on the wagon.

37. Play it by earTo play by ear means to improvise or act without preparation, according to the demands of the situation. (Music: to play by remembering the tune, without printed music.)

It's hard to know how the situation will develop.  Let's just play it by ear.

38. Quiet as a mouse: When someone is as quiet as a mouse, they make no noise at all.

The burglar was a quiet as a mouse as he moved around the house.

39. Sell like hot cakes: Things that sell like hot cakes sell quickly or in large quantities.

Her books always sell like hot cakes.


40. Stop at nothing: This means that you are willing to do anything iorder to achieve it, even if it involves dangergreat effort, or harming other people.

She'll stop at nothing to get her revenge.

I'll stop at nothing to pass this test!


Some expressions in images. 

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