10 Common English Idioms: Explained to ESL Students
English Idioms or idiomatic expressions can be very difficult to learn for students of ESL or English as a Second Language.
This is because English idioms are used in informal English conversations that native English speakers make with one another. Because many students of ESL do not have the chance to listen to, much less participate in, such conversations, then they tend to be baffled by these idioms.
English idioms are also difficult to learn because their definitions are so different from the literal definitions of the words that make them up. Definitions of the individual words in an idiomatic expression just do not give any hints about the idiom’s meaning.
Just the same, many native English speakers understand idioms because they have been immersed in an environment wherein almost everybody understands English idioms.
Idioms have colorful, cultural, and curious origins in native English speaking countries. People who grew up in these countries can understand these idioms even if they do not exactly know the idioms’ origins.
Below are 10 of the most common English idioms used in the English language and their definitions. Of course, ESL students must strive to learn as many idioms as possible. Doing so would just ease the language barrier between them and native English speakers.
1. Add Insult to Injury
Add insult to injury is an English idiomatic expression that means “to make a situation worse.” This expression is used when an already bad situation is made even more problematic. Usually, a person or persons are the ones who add insult to injury.
She shocked the guests in her hideous wedding dress. To add insult to injury, her make-up artist made her look 10 years older than her real age.
2. Costs an Arm and a Leg
Costs an arm and a leg is an English idiom that means “absurdly expensive.” It is often used to describe disbelief about the price tag of a thing or things.
He skimped on wedding expenses because he had bought her the diamond engagement ring that cost him an arm and a leg.
3. Cut Corners
Cut corners is an English idiom that refers to “doing something badly.” The reason for cutting corners is usually to save on money. The result of cutting corners is a thing or a situation that is distasteful, shoddy, and/or cheap.
They tried to cut corners so they could honeymoon in Western Europe. They saved on their wedding cake and foods for the reception, which the guest definitely did not enjoy.
4. Feeling a Bit under the Weather
Feeling a bit under the weather is an idiom that tells that somebody might be “feeling sick.” If a person is feeling a bit under the weather, then he or she is not in the pink of his or her health (good health condition).
After spending 60 days in planning for the wedding and 12 hours in preparing for the ceremony, she felt a bit under the weather. She wasn’t able to leave for Western Europe.
5. Kill Two Birds with One Stone
Kill two birds with one stone is an idiom that means “do two things simultaneously.”
The enterprising celebrity couple killed two birds with one stone by hosting a wedding and cashing in on it.
6. Once in a Blue Moon
Once in a blue moon is an English idiom that describes an event that happens “infrequently.”
Once in a blue moon, the celebrity wife steps out in public without make-up, causing a stir about her exceptionally clear skin.
7. See Eye to Eye
See eye to eye is an idiom that means “agree.” Oftentimes, two people see eye to eye on certain issues.
They didn’t see eye to eye on having kids and staying at home. After two years of marriage, they sought divorce.
8. Speak/Talk of the Devil
Speak of the devil is an English idiomatic expression that people say when somebody they are taking about suddenly arrives.
She just cannot come on time, can she? Well, speak of the devil, here she comes.
9. Take What Someone Says with a Pinch of Salt
Take what someone says with a pinch of salt is an idiom that warns somebody not accept another person’s or people’s words as complete truth or very seriously.
She needs to take what her critics say about her with a pinch of salt. They are out to trash her not to support her.
10. The Best of Both Worlds
The best of both worlds is an idiom that pertains to the “advantages or good points of two different things.” A person or people can have the best of both worlds.
Actually, she has the best of both worlds. She has a happy marriage and a hot career.
Copyright © 2011 Kerlyn Bautista
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