Ah, the idiom. If you’re not up to date on your English class vocabulary, the idiom is the phrase that makes no literal sense but we use all the time anyway. So let’s catch up! No – that doesn’t mean we should run like the wind to join the rest of the group – it means we should talk. See? No sense at all. Oh, and run like the wind is *technically* a simile – just saying.
Idioms have a pretty substantial place in writing, especially if you’re trying to take on a casual, conversational tone. But to use idioms correctly, they have to be worked in naturally and they have to be used correctly – no small feat for someone who didn’t grow up immersed in our nonsensical English language.
If you’re trying to brush up on some conversational English, including idioms, I highly suggest a trip to the book store. Skip the guidebooks and dictionaries. Instead start grabbing popular teen series. Not only will you be more entertained than you would with some dry guide to the English language, you’ll also get a very real feel for how people speak, and you can see it in print – not the case for movies and television watching. If you’re between teen novels, here are a few other idioms you can try working into your writing. It will be hard to tell if they sound natural at first, so ask opinions of native speaking friends or use the examples I included below.
Common Idioms in American English (And How to Use Them)
“A blessing in disguise” – Something great has happened, and you didn’t realize it at first. Getting fired was a blessing in disguise as it allowed Harvey to start his own freelancing business.
“A dime a dozen” – It’s cheap and easy. $5 articles are a dime a dozen.
“Dog days of summer” – The hottest, yuckiest days of the summer. I hate working outside in the dog days of summer.
“Flipped the bird” – A personal favorite, this means to extend your middle finger in an insulting way. When he cut me off, I flipped him the bird.
“Go out on a limb” – Putting yourself in a tough spot, usually to help someone else. I’m going out on a limb here, but I think you’ve got a shot at making it.
“Good Samaritan” – A Biblical reference to the stranger who stopped to lend a hand to an injured man, today the good Samaritan is someone who unquestioningly helps others. She’s such a good Samaritan – it’s nice to see such nice people today.
“Go the extra mile” – Completing more that is required. He really goes the extra mile to deliver value to his clients.
“New kid on the block” – Someone new to a particular group. Or a member of the strangely popular boy band from the 1990s. Everyone say hello to Tommy! He’s the new kid on the block, but we’re all going to help him out.
“Not playing with a full deck” – An individual who isn’t very smart. Love him to death, but Huey’s just not playing with a full deck.
“Off the hook” – Removed from a situation, usually one with responsibility. It can also be praise. We hired a new secretary, so you’re off the hook. ~ That party was off the hook!
“Pass the buck” – Moving responsibility up the food chain (to someone else) – There’s nothing I like better than being able to pass the buck on administrative tasks.
“Pig out” – To eat. A lot. Mmmmmm…ice cream! Let’s pig out!
“Sitting shotgun” – Sitting in the front passenger seat. (The expression came from the days stagecoaches needed to be protected in the Wild West.) Get out of my way! I’m sitting shotgun!
There are only about 3,245 more – any favorites?