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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
Irish College Of English, Dublin Dublin, Ireland
Private English Teacher, London London, England, UK & England
Metropolitan College, Toronto Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Kaplan International Canada Vancouver, BC, Canada
ABC Languages, San Francisco San Francisco, California, USA
Kaplan International New York - SoHo, Lower Manhattan New York City, New York, USA
English Village Homestay East Sussex, England, UK & England
Sol Schools Toronto Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Crossing Borders Group, LLC, Texas San Antonio, Texas, USA
St Brelade's College, Jersey Saint Helier, Jersey, UK & England
New York Language Center New York City, New York, USA
Omnicom School of Languages Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Irish College Of English, Dublin Dublin, Ireland
ELS Universal English College, Sydney Sydney, NSW, Australia
Kaplan International Colleges New Zealand Auckland, New Zealand
American National College, Atlanta Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Omnicom School of Languages, Toronto & Calgary Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Le Tutor Language School, Phoenix AZ area Mesa, Arizona, USA
Kaplan International San Diego San Diego, California, USA
House Of Tutors - Intensive American English Institute Austin, Texas, USA