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Top 10 British and American English Idioms!

4 min read
23 December 2020
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When learning a language, there are so many aspects to consider including accents social codes etc. and very importantly – idioms! They might not make sense literally i.e. talking the hind legs off a donkey even if you don’t happen to live on a farm or seaside resort, but they do in a cultural sense! Kaplan International have clubbed together to bring you some of the most used examples!


British Idioms


1. Talk the hind legs off a donkey

Meaning: this is less surgical than it sounds! This is basically a person who really talks too much.

Example: "Watch out for your phone bill when you call her - she can talk the hind legs off a donkey!"


2. Popping out

Meaning: this is usually mentioned when someone is leaving their spot for a little while.

Example: "I’m just popping out for lunch."

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3. Raining cats and dogs

Meaning: there are a few alternatives to this in other parts of the world – but whatever the animal used, you can assume that it’s raining a lot!

Example: "Don’t forget your umbrella when you go out, it’s raining cats and dogs out there!"


4. Piece of cake

Meaning: This is a simple way of saying something is easy – not requiring much effort.

Example: "I’m glad I used that guide for my revision – the exam was a piece of cake!"


5. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush 

Meaning: this is a very interesting idiom – having one certain thing is better than having two possibilities that might not happen.

Example: "Do you really want to gamble all your money on the car and holiday? A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush!"


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American English Idioms


1. Let the cat’s out of the bag

Meaning: A secret or some hidden information has been revealed!

Example: "Why did he tell everyone? Now that the cat’s out of the bag, I’m in trouble!"


2. Pulling someone's leg

Meaning: You don’t need to grab anyone to do this – it’s a form of light hearted joke.

Example: "Don’t be so angry! She was only pulling your leg!"


3. Bent over backwards

Meaning: no yoga classes needed for this one – where someone goes out of their way or makes an exceptional effort.

Example: "He bent over backwards to get that phone number and in the end he’d written it down wrong!"


4. What’s eating you?

Meaning: Woah! Look behind you! Only kidding – this is a question of concern, asking if something’s bothering you.

Example: "She looked really worried after that class. “What’s eating you?” I asked."


5. Smell a rat!

Meaning: No rodents required! Basically, this is when you suspect something not quite right.

Example: "I don’t like the sound of this idea – I smell a rat!"


  • English

    Secure a deeper understanding of the English language

  • American

    Moving to the USA? Learn more about American English and customs  

  • Idioms

    Discover fun and interesting idioms from around the world

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