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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
Stanford English Academy, Navi Mumbai Navi Mumbai, India
Omnicom School of Languages, Toronto & Calgary Toronto, Ontario, Canada
BSN Language Centre, The Hague The Hague, Netherlands
Kaplan International Canada Vancouver, BC, Canada
ELS Universal English College, Sydney Sydney, NSW, Australia
Kaplan International Chicago Chicago, Illinois, USA
Eton Institute, Dubai Dubai, UAE
Kaplan International Colleges UK London, England, UK & England
Irish College Of English, Dublin Dublin, Ireland
Language Loop English Classes, Chicago Chicago, Illinois, USA
Heritage English Homestay Courses Lymington, England, UK & England
Harvest English Institute, Newark Newark, New Jersey, USA
Rose Mount's Institute of English Language, Dehradun Dehradun, India
Rose Mount's Institute of English Language, Dehradun Dehradun, India
Irish College Of English, Dublin Dublin, Ireland
Heritage English Lymington, England, UK & England
Kaplan International Colleges Dublin Dublin, Ireland
New York Language Center New York City, New York, USA
Sol Schools Toronto Toronto, Ontario, Canada
English Village Homestay East Sussex, England, UK & England