Top 10 British and American English Idioms!

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 English Idioms

1. Talk the Hind legs off a Donkey

This is less surgical than it sounds! This is basically a person who really talks too much e.g. Watch out for your phone bill when you call her - she can talk the hind legs off a donkey!

2. Popping out – the non painful way

This is usually mentioned when someone is leaving their spot for a little while e.g I’m just popping out for lunch.

3. Raining Cats and Dogs

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!

e.g. Don’t forget your umbrella when you go out, it’s raining cats and dogs out there!

4. A piece of cake – unfortunately not as tasty as it sounds!

This is a simple way of saying something is easy – not requiring much effort e.g. 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

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

e.g. 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!

American English Idioms

1. Let the cat out of the bag

A secret or some hidden information has been revealed! E.g Why did he tell everyone? Now that the cat’s out of the bag, I’m in trouble!

2. Pulling someone’s leg

You don’t need to grab anyone to do this – it’s a form of light hearted joke i.e. Don’t be so angry! She was only pulling your leg!

If someone is literally pulling your leg, it’s probably more understandable to be angry!

3. Bend over backwards

No yoga classes needed for this one – where someone goes out of their way or makes an exceptional effort, i.e. He bent over backwards to get that phone number and in the end he’d written it down wrong!

4. What’s eating you?

Ah! Look behind you! Only kidding – this is a question of concern, asking if something’s bothering you. E.g. She looked really worried after that class. “What’s eating you?” I asked.

5. Smell a rat

No rodents required! Basically, this is when you suspect something not quite right: e.g. I don’t like the sound of this idea – I smell a rat!

Be sure to share what idioms you’ve picked up while studying English with us!

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