31 English Idioms About Life to Impress Everyone Around You

31 English Idioms About Life to Impress Everyone Around You

English is a great language to learn as it is spoken by people all over the world. It can also be a confusing language, however, as it’s filled with interesting and unique slang words, as well as expressions and idioms.

Idioms are phrases commonly used by native speakers that have a different, deeper meaning that might not be immediately apparent to non-native speakers.

The English language is filled with idioms and, if you want to gain fluency, you need to learn the real meaning behind many common idioms

1. The best things in life are free

Meaning: Material possessions aren’t always the most valuable

This is one of those English idioms about life that talk about what truly makes life meaningful. When an English speaker tells you this, they are reminding you that sometimes your most treasured “possessions” are not anything you bought or paid for. Examples of these are love and friendship.

2. Money can’t buy happiness

Meaning: Happiness isn’t always based on material possessions

This idiom is similar to the idea that “the best things in life are free”. It’s reminding us once again that it’s not always material possessions that are the most valuable.

3. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

Meaning: Treat people like you want to be treated

This is an English idiom that can be traced back to the Bible. It’s advice about how to treat people and is often referred to as “The Golden Rule”. Basically, it is reminding us that if we want kindness from others, we should be kind as well. 

4. Get a taste of your own medicine

Meaning: Bad behavior brings bad results

This idiom is used to admonish someone who didn’t follow “The Golden Rule”. If you treated someone badly, the idiom implies, then you shouldn’t be surprised if they treat you badly. 

5. Hang in there

Meaning: Don’t give up, don’t quit

This English idiom is used if you want to encourage someone. You are telling them they just need to endure or work harder and things will turn out okay.

6. Live and learn

Meaning: Learn from your mistake

This is an optimistic English idiom that reminds us that, just because you made a mistake or things have gone bad now doesn’t mean they can’t get better. Just pick yourself up, learn from your mistake, and try again.

7. No pain, no gain

Meaning: You need to work hard

This is another idiom that is meant to encourage someone and tell them not to quit. It’s a reminder that, unless you work hard and endure, you are not going to reach your goal.

8. The light of my life

Meaning: Someone I love very much

This is a very sweet English idiom that you can use to say that you love someone. When you say someone is the light of your life, you are saying that they make you very happy and you treasure them very much. Of course, many people say this about their romantic partner, but it’s not exclusive to those in a romantic relationship. A parent might say this about their child, for example.

9. Bite off more than you can chew

Meaning: Taking on too many responsibilities

This English idiom serves as both a caution and a description of one’s state of being. If an English speaker tells you this, they are cautioning you about taking on too many responsibilities. If, however, your friend responds to “how are you” with “I’ve bitten off more than I can chew at work” they are saying that they are very busy.

10. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch

Meaning: Don’t assume something good will happen

This English idiom is used to give advice, not about poultry rearing but about life. Basically, an English speaker will use this to caution you about assuming something good is going to happen before it’s happened. For example, if you say you will treat everyone to lunch because you got a good job and you haven’t got an offer yet, your English-speaking friend might say this. They basically mean that you should maybe save the celebration for when the actual offer has pushed through.

11. Larger than life

Meaning: Charismatic

If an English speaker talks about someone being “larger than life”, they are describing someone as “famous” or well-known. This person may not necessarily be a celebrity, but they are someone who attracts a lot of attention and admiration. 

12. Risk life and limb

Meaning: To be daring, do something difficult and possibly dangerous

When you “risk life and limb”, you engage in an activity that could be considered dangerous. It can also be used as a sort to exaggerate the risks or difficulty of a situation. So, you could say that rock climbers or skydivers “risk life and limb” in their hobbies. You can also say that “you risked life and limb” to traverse a very crowded bar to bring back beers for everybody.

13. So far, so good

Meaning: Things are going okay

If you ask a coworker how a project is going along, and they say “so far, so good”, they are saying that things are progressing. The implication is that they have been following a set plan and it seems like it will indeed lead towards a desired outcome or goal.

14. Life in the fast lane

Meaning: Have an interesting life

This is similar to “risk life and limb” as an English speaker will say that someone who lives “life in the fast lane” basically has an exciting or interesting life. They are daring and possibly risk-takers.

15. Lead a double life

Meaning: Hide certain activities

When someone is leading a “double life”, they are hiding certain parts of their life from other people. For example, a married man who is having an affair is living a double life. You can also use it to express surprise at learning something you didn’t know. For example, if your friend Pete didn’t tell you that he was studying Russian on the weekends, you could say “you are leading a double life” when you find out that’s why he hasn’t been showing up to play football in the park on Saturdays. 

16. The ball is in your court

Meaning: It is up to you

This is an example of one of those English idioms about life that don't seem to be talking about life. This isn’t an idiom about sports, even if it is talking about “balls” and “courts”. An English speaker will say this if they are saying that you have an important decision to make. They are saying that, what happens next, depends on what you say or do now.

17. Go back to the drawing board

Meaning: Begin again

If a plan isn’t working, you might hear your English-speaking co-worker say this. They mean that you need to stop what you are doing because it isn’t effective and come up with a new plan or course of action. 

18. Time flies when you’re having fun

Meaning: I’m having a good time

When someone says this, they are saying that they have been enjoying themselves. The implication is that they are so caught up in the “good time” that they didn’t realize how much time had gone by. So, if you met your friend for lunch and you ended up staying at the café till dinner time, “time flew” because you were enjoying yourselves so much.

19. Through thick and thin

Meaning: To remain loyal, at someone’s side

If someone stays with someone “through thick and thin”, they are basically committed to someone. They are saying that they will remain in this person’s life through the good and the bad.

20. Come rain or shine

Meaning: To remain loyal

This is similar to saying that you are with someone “through thick and thin”. Families and really good friends will stay committed to one another even though the bad times.

21. Sat on the fence

Meaning: To remain undecided

If you are asking an English speaker to give an opinion or make a decision, they might use this idiom. What they are trying to say is that they are undecided or neutral. They don’t have a strong opinion or don’t want to make a final decision yet.

22. Miss the boat

Meaning: Missed a good opportunity

This English idiom about life is used when someone feels that they missed out on a good opportunity that might have changed their life or current situation.

23. Get your act together

Meaning: Get yourself in control

If you hear this idiom used with regards to your work or your conduct, it’s a bit of a warning or some friendly advice. The speaker is basically saying that you need to modify your behavior as it is leading you towards a bad end. For example, if you don’t do “get your act together” and take your coursework seriously, you might fail.

24. A blessing in disguise

Meaning: Something that turned out good

When an English speaker says this, they are saying that something that they thought was a bad thing turned out to be a good thing. 

25. There are other fish in the sea

Meaning: There are other opportunities

This English idiom about life is often used when talking about someone’s love life. In general, it means that there are other opportunities. However, it’s often now used specifically to talk about romantic opportunities. So, if you are trying to learn English with movies, you might hear this in a romantic comedy where the best friend of the lead is trying to comfort them after a breakup. 

26. Get out of hand

Meaning: Get out of control

If someone says that something has gotten out of hand, they are saying that a situation is getting out of control. 

27. A penny saved is a penny earned

Meaning: Don’t spend too much

If you hear this idiom, the speaker is trying to remind you that sometimes you need to be careful with your spending. 

28. Save it for a rainy day

Meaning: Be careful with money

This is similar to “a penny saved is a penny earned” because it’s often used if someone wants to remind you to be careful with your money. It’s basically saying that you should have some savings in case of an emergency. 

29. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it

Meaning: That’s a problem for another time

This is a rather wise English idiom about how you should live your life. It’s a reminder that you need to focus on the tasks at hand and solve the problems that you have now and not be too caught up in worrying about the future.

30. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

Meaning: Appreciate what you have

This is another wise English idiom that reminds us that we need to appreciate what we have now. It’s a warning about being too covetous or envious.

31. A stitch in time saves nine

Meaning: Fix the problem now, take precautions

This old-fashioned sounding English idiom is a reminder that you need to take quick action to solve a problem before it becomes bigger. It can also serve as a reminder to plan ahead.

If you’re interested in expanding your English vocabulary even further, consider these excellent online learning resources: Kick off your journey with Babbel, offering user-friendly, engaging lessons tailored to fit seamlessly into your daily schedule. If you want something more in-depth, there's a great English course on Coursera that covers everything from the basics to more advanced topics. For a more personalized learning experience, connect with native English tutors on Preply, enhancing your speaking and comprehension skills. Take advantage of a 50% discount on your first Preply session by using this link.

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