Idioms Unleashed: Fun Examples of Idioms in Sentences
You've likely heard the idiom "It's raining cats and dogs," but have you ever stopped to think about the literal interpretation of it? Or maybe you've been told to "break a leg" before a big performance, which might've felt normal at the time since it's so customary; but it's kind of a strange thing to say, right?
Well, we’d like to welcome you to the wonderful world of idioms. These groups of words may sound odd when you first hear them—or when you interpret them literally—but they can make the English language a lot more fun. So, let's learn more about idioms and explore some common idioms you might want to try when you'd like to add a little entertainment to your messaging.
What on Earth are Idioms?
An idiom is a group of words that collectively means something different than what you might guess from the individual words themselves. In other words, the figurative meaning of the entire phrase is different from the literal meaning of each word. For example, "beating around the bush" means to talk about something without getting to the point, not to actually walk around a bush and beat it with a stick.
Idioms are used to enrich language and make conversations more colorful. And as you're learning a new language, understanding its idioms can feel like you're cracking a secret code.
You can use idioms in a variety of situations, from casual conversations to formal writing.
Here are 7 of the most commonly used idioms in English that you’ve likely heard before:
- Break a leg: This is a phrase that is often used to wish someone good luck before a performance or presentation. It's believed to be rooted in the superstitious theater community. Performers believed saying "good luck" would actually cause bad luck, so they'd take the opposite approach and say "break a leg" instead.
- Piece of cake: This idiom means that something is easy or simple to do. During World War II, British soldiers used it to describe easily accomplished missions.
- Beating around the bush: This phrase means that someone is avoiding getting to the point or not being direct about something. It's believed to come from the 14th-century hunting proverb "one beats the bush, another takes the bird."
- Costs an arm and a leg: This idiom is used to describe something that is very expensive. It originated in America after World War II because, for the servicemen who had lost limbs, the price of war was an arm or a leg.
- Thick and thin: This phrase means to be loyal and supportive through good times and bad. It derives from medieval England, where "through thicket and thin wood" was used to mean perseverance while walking through a dense forest.
- Hit the nail on the head: This idiom means to accurately identify or describe a problem, situation, or solution. Its roots are in carpentry, where hammering a nail on its head produces the desired result and avoids damage or injury.
- Ball is in your court: This phrase means it is your job to take action. It derives from tennis, where players must take action when the ball is on their side of the court to keep the game going.
Once you get the hang of them, idioms are a piece of cake to incorporate into your speech and writing. (See what we did there?) So let’s now take a closer look at three of the most common themes of idioms: animals, food, and weather.
The Cat's Out of the Bag: Animal Idioms in Action
Animal idioms are a fun and popular type of idiom. Some common animal idioms include "raining cats and dogs," which means it's raining heavily, and "the elephant in the room," which means a controversial issue that people avoid acknowledging.
Here are some more examples of animal idioms in sentences:
- Sarah accidentally let the cat out of the bag by mentioning the surprise party.
- Hold your horses, the results will be announced shortly.
- By attending the conference, she was able to network and learn new skills, killing two birds with one stone.
- If you cry wolf about feeling sick, no one will believe you when you actually are.
- Her new job is keeping her as busy as a bee.
- When I first moved to the city, I felt like a fish out of water.
- I always get up at 5 am to exercise because, as they say, the early bird catches the worm.
Food for Thought: Tasty Idioms to Savor
Food-related idioms are another popular type of idiom. Some common food-related idioms include "in a pickle," which means to be in a difficult or troublesome situation, and "spill the beans," which means to reveal a secret.
Here are some more examples of food-related idioms in sentences:
- In a nutshell, the movie is about a detective solving a burglary case in a small town.
- He claimed to have insider information, but I would take it with a grain of salt considering his history of exaggeration.
- Winning the championship was amazing, but receiving a scholarship offer was the icing on the cake for the star player.
- You joined so many committees; did you bite off more than you can chew?
- There's no use crying over spilt milk since we can't change what happened.
- Your project was stellar—definitely the cream of the crop.
- He's great at basketball like his father—the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
A Walk in the Clouds: Weather Idioms for Every Climate
Weather-related idioms are another great way to add color to your conversations. Some common weather-related idioms include "blue moon," which means something that happens very rarely, and "the cloud has a silver lining," which means that there is a positive aspect to a difficult situation.
Here are some more examples of weather-related idioms in sentences:
- Despite the challenges, the small business managed to weather the storm and emerge stronger than ever.
- I’m feeling a bit under the weather and need some rest.
- When he went through a tough period, he realized who were his true friends and his fair-weather friends.
- I told a joke at the party to break the ice.
- I was on cloud nine when I got accepted into my dream school.
- The outdoor concert will happen rain or shine.
- I can't meet you for dinner tonight, but can I take a rain check?
Having Fun with the Elevate App: Idioms Edition
Hopefully these examples show you how idioms can help you add more color and depth to your conversations and writing.
But there’s another way you can learn idioms, too: Playing games on the Elevate app, available on iOS or Android. Elevate’s 40+ fun, interactive games can help you level up in all forms of communication (and math, reading, and memory skills, too), including idioms.
More specifically, Elevate’s Expressions game can help you determine whether a series of idioms are correct or erroneous.
Idiom Fun with Elevate: User Experiences
Many people who use Elevate have learned how to successfully communicate using idioms, as evidenced by this sampling of the app’s reviews:
- "I’ve been using this game for more than a year. The graphics are outstanding. If you’re trying to improve in the basics, this is the game for you. I especially appreciate working on idioms and I suspect that most children who grew up in non-English speaking households may also, so this is a great feature.”
- A quick and fun way to test and improve cognitive skills every day. The "games" allow me to focus on memory or math or English language skills. Whatever I want for as long...or short...as I want. The games for idioms in particular are great. It's easy to use, genuinely helpful, and the voices are pleasant.
- “I've been playing Elevate every morning since I was in high school. It has taught me lots of new idioms and words.”
Practice Using Idioms in Your Speech and Writing Today
Whether you're using animal-related idioms, food-related idioms, or weather-related idioms, each can add color and depth to your conversations and writing.
- Gather some tips to help you pronounce words correctly and improve your confidence in conversations.
- Filler words, like “very,” can make you sound boring. Learn to use more creative alternatives.