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English Idioms, American & British Idiomatic Expressions

Learn English in New York at GEOS Language School.

An idiom is a phrase understood by many people in a specific culture or subculture, and that phrase has a different meaning from the meaning it appears to have.

A very good example of this is “to bend over backwards.” This phrase is understood in English speaking culture to mean “to work very hard to do / get something.” The meaning it appears to have (the literal meaning), however, is the physical act of bending over in the opposite direction. Very few people can actually do this physical act.

Idioms are used in both spoken and written English, and often appear in newspaper articles.

Idioms with the same meanings and use in your own language may use a different word than the English idiom. Do not try to change any word / vocabulary in an English idiom!  Also be careful when you use idioms in your writing exercises. They can be very effective if used carefully and sparingly, but the writing becomes very unnatural if too many idioms are used in one paragraph or essay.

Definitions and Examples (We have made lists of some very popular idioms for you. See below.)

Choose a group of idioms below, to see definitions and examples for idioms in this collection. (For example, choose “Animal” for all animal idioms)


We recommend the following English Idioms Books for further study or the ESL schools below.

English language schools & courses: Location
Australian International College of Language, Gold Coast Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
Stanford English Academy, Navi Mumbai Navi Mumbai, India
Kaplan International Seattle Seattle, Washington, USA
PC TECH ESL School New York New York City, New York, USA
English Language Company, Sydney Sydney, NSW, Australia
Kaplan International Colleges Toronto Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Eton Institute, Dubai Dubai, UAE
English Village Homestay Valletta, Malta
Omnicom School of Languages, Toronto & Calgary Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Kaplan International New York - Empire State New York City, New York, USA
ELS Universal English College, Sydney Sydney, NSW, Australia
Metropolitan College, Toronto Toronto, Ontario, Canada
English Language Institute, Paris American Academy Paris, France
BSN Language Centre, The Hague The Hague, Netherlands
Kaplan International Colleges Canada Vancouver, BC, Canada
Kaplan International New York - SoHo, Lower Manhattan New York City, New York, USA
Harvest English Institute, Newark Newark, New Jersey, USA
Kaplan International Miami Miami, Florida, USA
Future Focus School Of English Floriana, Malta
Kaplan International Colleges Cambridge Cambridge, England, UK & England