American Idioms

Gang up on: join to attack

e.g. They all gang up on the new student with verbal attacks.

 Handwriting on the wall: a warning

e.g. If the Governor had seen the handwriting on the wall, he would not have adopted those unpopular proposals.

Go through the roof: very angry

e.g. When he found out that you took his money, he went through the roof.

Fork out: pay

e.g. I like this computer, but I don’t want to fork out a lot of money.

That’s the ticket: what is needed

e.g. That’s the ticket! If you do as I tell you, you will succeed.

Rule the roost: be the boss

e.g. Who rules the roost at your house?

 Get a grip on: have control over

e.g. Get a grip on yourself; everybody is staring at you.

 Get a handle on something: get control or understanding of a situation

e.g. As soon as he heard the crisis, the President tried to put all the facts together to get a handle on the underlying cause of the crisis.

Had better: ought to, should

e.g. You had better finish your homework before going to bed.

Then and there: on the spot

e.g. As soon as the candidate finished his speech, he was shot then and there.

Make or break: succeed or fail

e.g. This book will make or break my career as a writer.

 Half a mind: a thought about something but without specific details

e.g. I have half a mind to close the store since the business has not been good.

Everyday American Idioms for ESL Learners

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Learn American Idioms 3

After all: in spite of everything

e.g. She didn’t get a good score; after all, it was her first attempt

Late in life: in old age

e.g. It was only late in life that he became a famous writer.

You bet: yes, of course

e.g. “Are you hungry?” “You bet!”

 Act one’s age: behave maturely

e.g. Stop behaving like a teenager! Act your age.

 All of it: the best

e.g. From the way he presented him at the debate, he was all of it.

 Vicious circle: a series of events that create more problems

e.g. You take drugs to remove the symptoms, but the drugs also cause symptoms that require more drugs; you are ony creating a vicious circle.

 Lead someone astray: cause someone to do something wrong or illegal

e.g. If you are always in the company of lawbreakers, you  may be easily be led astray.

Abide by: accept and follow

e.g. If you wish to become a citizen of the United States, you must abide by U.S. immigration laws.

 Pass the hat: collect money for

e.g. He is always passing the hat for something.

Actions speak louder than words: do something about it, not just talking about it

e.g. Show me what you have done! Actions speak louder than words.

Bag your face: shut up!

e.g. You and your loud mouth! Go and bag your face!

Live beyond one’s means: spend more than one can earn

e.g. You are in debt because you are living beyond your means.

Down and out: very poor

e.g. He is down and out without a job and a roof over his head.

Tail end: the last part

e.g. His speech was long, and only the tail end was interesting.

Ball of fire: an energetic and enthusiastic person

e.g. We all want his presence; he is a ball of fire.

 No flies on: very alert, smart

e.g. You cannot trick her; there are no flies on her.

Add insult to injury: make things worse

e.g. Enough is enough! Don’t add insult to injury.

Ball of fire: an energetic and enthusiastic person

e.g. We all want his presence; he is a ball of fire.

Stephen Lau

Copyright© 2018 by Stephen Lau

 

Learn American Idioms 2

Learn American Idioms 2 

 More than meets the eye: there is a hidden meaning

e.g. What the Mayor mentioned in the speech implied more than meets the eye.

Turn over a new leaf: begin again

e.g. After the divorce, he decided to turn over a new leaf.

 Pay the piper: receive the punishment due

e.g. You just can’t keep on spending without paying the piper.

 Turn the tide: reverse the situation

e.g. After years of deficit, the company finally turned the tide, and made some profit.

 In fine feather: in good condition; in good health

e.g. With a good night sleep, I am in fine feather today.

After all: in spite of everything

e.g. She didn’t get a good score; after all, it was her first attempt.

Name of the game: the main goal

e.g. The name of the game is winning; we must win this election no matter what.

Face the music: confront danger; accept a bad situation

e.g. There are many circumstances in life in which you have to face the music.

 Stuff and nonsense: total nonsense

e.g. Come on! Don’t give me that stuff and nonsense! I don’t want to hear it anymore!

 Late in life: in old age

e.g. It was only late in life that he became a famous writer.

Act one’s age: behave maturely

e.g. Stop behaving like a teenager! Act your age.

All of it: the best

e.g. From the way he presented him at the debate, he was all of it.

 Lead someone astray: cause someone to do something wrong or illegal

e.g. If you are always in the company of lawbreakers, you  may be easily be led astray.

Abide by: accept and follow

e.g. If you wish to become a citizen of the United States, you must abide by U.S. immigration laws.

 Pass the hat: collect money for

e.g. He is always passing the hat for something.

Stephen Lau

Copyright© 2018 by Stephen Lau

 

 

 

Learn American Idioms

In fine feather: in good condition; in good health

e.g. With a good night sleep, I am in fine feather today.

After all: in spite of everything

e.g. She didn’t get a good score; after all, it was her first attempt.

Pass the buck: put the blame on someone else not responsible

e.g. It was all your fault! Don’t try to pass the buck!

 On board: participating

e.g. We try to get as many people as possible on board this important project.

 Make oneself at home: feel comfortable

e.g. Please make yourself at home; take off your shoes if you want to.

 Pass the hat: collect money for

e.g. He is always passing the hat for something.

 Late in life: in old age

e.g. It was only late in life that he became a famous writer.

Act one’s age: behave maturely

e.g. Stop behaving like a teenager! Act your age.

No flies on: very alert, smart

e.g. You cannot trick her; there are no flies on her.

Bad sort: an unpleasant person

e.g. He is a bad sort; nobody likes him.

 Bag your face: shut up!

e.g. You and your loud mouth! Go and bag your face!

 Dance to another tune: change to a different attitude or behavior

e.g. If your parents were here, you would dance to another tune.

A little bird told me: somehow I knew

e.g. “How  did you know what I did?” “Well, a little bird told me.”

Add insult to injury: make things worse

e.g. Enough is enough! Don’t add insult to injury.

Stephen Lau

Copyright© 2018 by Stephen Lau