20 Idioms With Their Meanings and Sentences (That You Really Need To Know)

20 Idioms With Their Meanings and Sentences (That You Really Need To Know)

In order to really hold meaningful conversations with native language speakers, you need to go beyond the surface.

Do you know what “go beyond the surface” means?

Well, it’s an idiom that is used to say you need to look at things closer and deeper. In this case, you need to go beyond the meaning of each word and rather focus on the whole entity. 

Idioms: What Are They and Why Do I Need Them?

Idioms are phrases that don’t really mean what they say. An idiom has a meaning that goes beyond the meaning of the words in it.

Idioms are kind of like slang, in the sense that they are used by native language speakers to “color” their everyday speech. Idioms and slang are two concepts you need to understand to really hold a conversation with a native speaker.

An idiom is an expression that native language speakers use often or even daily. It has a meaning for them that is obvious and easily understood. However, for people who are trying to learn a language, the idioms are often confusing.

When trying to understand idioms, context is key, so below we’ve listed 20 idioms with their meanings and included some example sentences. 

20 Idioms With Their Meanings and Sentences

1. Adding insult to injury – Make things worse

When you add insult to injury, you have done something “bad” and compounded your mistake with another mistake. 

Think of it this way: You accidentally bumped into someone, but instead of saying “sorry” you accidentally used the wrong word and said, “you don’t care”. Bumping into them was the initial “injury” and not apologizing properly was the “injury”.

It can also mean, something bad already happened and then something else happened to make it worse.

Example:

You got her title wrong then called her old! You added insult to injury.

I wore the wrong shirt and then spilled coffee on it. Talk about adding insult to injury.

2. Beat around the bush – Avoid saying something

When you beat around the bush, you are avoiding answering a question or giving your opinion. The reason for your hesitancy can be that you are not sure your answer is correct or you are afraid that your opinion will not be well received.

Example:

Quit beating around the bush, if you don’t like it say so.

They beat around the bush for a while before eventually telling me I didn’t get the job.

3. Blessing in disguise – An unexpectedly good thing

When you refer to something using this idiom, you are saying that something that seemed to be bad turned out to be good. 

Example:

It was a blessing in disguise that I missed the train, it broke down for two hours.

Losing that job was a blessing in disguise because she went to culinary school and is now a chef.

4. Birds of a feather flock together – People with a lot in common become good friends

This is a rather poetic way of explaining why some people get along. Shared or common interests make conversations easier and allow you to make friends quicker.

Example:

They all went to the same high school, birds of a feather flock together.

We bonded over our interest in learning languages, birds of a feather flock together.

5. Biting off more than you can chew - Be overwhelmed

Some idioms actually describe a situation that, when you think about it, makes sense. When you bite off more than you can chew, you have too much in your mouth and it makes it hard to swallow.

When you use this phrase as an idiom, you are implying that you can’t finish a task because it is too much for you.

Example:

Trying to memorize 100 idioms and their meanings with sentences in an hour was biting off more than I could chew.

You bit off more than you could chew, try asking for a deadline extension, 

6. Costs an arm and a leg – Expensive

If you have your heart set on buying that new phone, you don’t want to find out it “costs an arm and a leg”. When you hear someone say this, they are saying that something costs too much.

Example:

It costs an arm and a leg to get the latest iPhone.

I was going to order steak, but I saw it would cost an arm and a leg.

7. Devil’s Advocate – Offer another point of view

When someone plays devil’s advocate they are offering you an alternate perspective. This could be valuable as it will allow you to make a better decision.

Example:

I played devil’s advocate and pointed out that online learning allows you to choose your own schedule.

I was devil’s advocate, told them the stock might be cheap but it was also risky.

8. Don’t judge a book by its cover – Appearances can be deceiving  

When you are trying to decide on a book to read, can you really tell if you will like it by looking at the cover? Or is it better to look at the description in the back and maybe read a few pages?

The idea behind this idiom is that you shouldn’t make judgments too quickly and just based on first appearances. Try to hold a conversation with someone first, before you decide you won’t get along. 

Example:

Don’t judge a book by its cover, he may dress sloppy but he’s a tech genius. 

I thought my husband was a snob, am I glad I didn’t judge a book by its cover.

9. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch – Don’t make assumptions

When someone is telling you not to “count your chickens”, they are cautioning you about making assumptions. Just because you have an egg doesn’t necessarily mean it will hatch, and just because it looks like something is going your way doesn’t mean things can’t change.

When you are told something like this, the assumption is that you should still put an effort into ensuring a situation works out.

Example:

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch, make a follow-up call to the customer.

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch, practice the speech one last time with your tutor.

10. Give someone the cold shoulder – Ignore

When you say this, it sounds like you are turning your back on someone and that is what you are doing – metaphorically. You are ignoring someone or not paying them any attention.

Example:

They gave Karen the cold shoulder and ignored her invitation to lunch.

My boyfriend and I argued over where we would go for the holidays so I am giving him the cold shoulder. 

11. Hit the books –  Go study

This is a common expression used by students and teachers. When someone “hits the books” they are not beating up or damaging books, rather they are going to study, 

If your language learning tutor tells you that you need to “hit the books” more, they are saying that you need to study.

Examples:

You seem confused about the different pronouns; you need to hit the books more.

I have an exam tomorrow; I need to go hit the books

12.  Hit the sack – Go to sleep

This idiom sort of describes what it says. When you hear “hit the sack”, you probably think of a sack falling because of a blow. However, what it really means is YOU are hitting or falling onto your bed.

When you say that you are going to hit the sack, you are saying that you are tired so you are going to bed.

Examples:

I have a meeting early tomorrow; I need to hit the sack.

You seem very tired; maybe you should hit the sack?

13. Jumped at the chance – Acted on an opportunity

When you jump at the chance, you acted swiftly when presented with an opportunity. The implication is that your quick action yielded good results.

Example:

I jumped at the chance to work here when it was just a promising startup.

She jumped at the chance to spend a summer learning Italian in Florence. 

14. Lose your touch – No longer good

When you say that someone has “lost their touch” or that you have “lost your touch”, you are saying that you have lost the ability that you used to have.

Someone has lost their touch if they were acknowledged to be an expert in something but have been left behind or surpassed by someone else.

Example:

I used to be unbeatable at beer pong, but I’ve lost my touch.

They used to be good with crying children, but they seem to have lost their touch.

15.  Missed the boat – Lost an opportunity

When you are traveling, you don’t want to miss your boat. Same when someone offers you a good opportunity in life.

When you “miss the boat” you lost an opportunity to get into something good, maybe due to procrastination. This is actually the opposite of the previous idiom we discussed “jumped at the chance.”

I missed the boat and didn’t enroll while there was a discount.

They missed the boat and didn’t buy into the company earlier this year.

16. Through thick and thin – Loyal

If someone stays at your side “through thick and thin”, then they are promising to help you no matter what. You are basically pledging your loyalty when you use this idiom.

Example:

My grandparents stuck together through thick and thin and now they are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

You deserve that promotion for staying with the company through thick and thin.

17. Twist someone’s arm – Convince 

This idiom sounds rather threatening, but it’s not really referring to being physically violent to someone. Rather it means that you are trying to convince someone to agree to something.

Someone can also say “you’ve twisted my arm” or “you don’t need to twist my arm” to say that you’ve been convinced or that you will be happy to do something.

Examples:

I had to twist his arm to get him to agree to sell.

I love Star Wars! You don’t need to twist my arm, I’ll watch the movie with you.

18. Sit tight – Just wait

When someone tells you to sit tight, they are telling you to wait. You could literally sit down to wait, but that’s not necessary.

Examples:

Sit tight, I’ll get us drinks.

I am looking into the issue. Sit tight and wait for my e-mail.

19. Stab someone in the back – Betray someone

This may sound rather violent, but like many of the idioms with meanings that we have on this list, it doesn’t really refer to physical damage. 

You are not literally going to use a knife on someone if you say this, but you will hurt or damage them as it means that you are betraying their trust.

Examples:

Rob and Ben were best friends until Rob stabbed Ben in the back and stole his girlfriend.

Mary stabbed me in the back and told them I wasn’t right for the job.

20. Under the weather - Sick

When you use this idiom the meaning is that you are not feeling well. Someone who is under the weather is sick.

Example: 

I need to postpone our tutoring session; I’m feeling under the weather.

She was under the weather, coughing and sneezing, so I told her to stay home.

Language learning textbooks can tell you a lot about the proper meanings of words and how to string them together into understandable sentences, but native language speakers don’t speak like textbooks.

Most native language speakers use idioms daily, almost without thinking so you are bound to hear these phrases and more. 

What are idioms and why do I need them?

Idioms are phrases that don’t really mean what they say. An idiom has a meaning that goes beyond the meaning of the words in it. Idioms are kind of like slang, in the sense that they are used by native language speakers to “color” their everyday speech. Idioms and slang are two concepts you need to understand to really hold a conversation with a native speaker. An idiom is an expression that native language speakers use often or even daily. It has a meaning for them that is obvious and easily understood. However, for people who are trying to learn a language, the idioms are often confusing. When trying to understand idioms, context is key, so below we’ve listed 20 idioms with their meanings and included some example sentences.

What are the most useful idioms?

Adding insult to injury – Make things worse, Beat around the bush – Avoid saying something, Blessing in disguise – An unexpectedly good thing, Birds of a feather flock together – People with a lot in common become good friends, Biting off more than you can chew - Be overwhelmed, Costs an arm and a leg – Expensive, Devil’s Advocate – Offer another point of view, Don’t judge a book by its cover – Appearances can be deceiving, Don’t count your chickens before they hatch – Don’t make assumptions

What does Lose your touch mean?

No longer good

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