Some Common ESL Idioms

Some Common ESL Idioms (Common Idioms in English)

by Cheema Beckham

Idioms are one of the most strange yet most interesting parts for students while learning English as a secondary language.

The word “Idiom” means “Special property” in Latin and “Special feature” in Greek. Idioms are known as the expressions, words or phrases that are unusual in the English language. They are different because of their abnormal grammar or because of their oddness in use. These idioms are used so commonly by people that they become an integral part of the language.

As per Wikipedia, there are approximately 25,000 idiomatic expressions being used in English language today.

The example of the first type can be “Long Time No See!”

--that is not correct grammatically but is still used commonly in all English speaking countries. It means we haven`t seen each other in a very long time.

The example of the second type of idioms can be “It’s raining cats and dogs”

Meaning: It is raining very hard. A large amount of rain is coming down now.

- Although the cats and dogs can not fall during rain, but the phrase is still used to express that it is raining very hard. The phrase may come from mythology - Odin the God of storms. Cats are thought to have ridden the wind by witches in mythology. Dogs were attendants to Odin.

“Don’t Count Your Chickens”. It means that you should not assume that a positive outcome will happen until you are very sure. The complete phrase says, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch!”

Keep Your Cool. This idiom suggests, “to remain cool and calm during adverse situation”


Give Me A Break! You can use this idiom when you are being attacked or saturated. It may also be used in response to something very ridiculous.

“Crocodile Tears”. “Crocodile Tears” signify “False Tears” or “pretending to be upset by something”.

“Butterflies in the Stomach”. Butterflies cannot fly inside the stomach but the phrase is used to denote the “nervousness of a person”.

“Hold Your Horses”. It is a commonly used ESL idiom, which is spoken to slow down someone, when the person is in a hurry.

“A Big Fish in a Small Pond”. It is used for people who are content to have a lot of influence in a relatively small group of people or at a small place.

9. “Beggars can’t be Choosers”. This idiom is used for someone, who is not in a position to negotiate.

Every language has idioms and although they create a lot of interest in teaching English, they can make the lives of the ESL students really miserable.

In this article, I have tried to gather a few resources, sharing some common ESL idioms in English, so that you can learn from them without wasting your time in finding them.

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So here are some of the best websites that are specially designed to teach common idioms in English language:-

ESL Cafe. Dave’s ESL Café is one of the best websites for teachers and students handling common idioms in English. It has arranged some common ESL idioms in two different ways. Firstly it shows a complete list of idioms in English language and secondly it has arranged them alphabetically, along with their meanings and explanation.

Rong Chang Idioms. Rong Chang’s ESL website is becoming increasingly popular among the ESL teachers and students alike. In order to teach idioms, it offers different categories like business idioms, slangs and exercises.

One Language Idioms. 1-Language proffers a large collection of thousands of idioms to help you in teaching idioms to your students in a fun way. Each idiom is accompanied by interactive exercises

English Club. English Club has compiled a nice list of resources that can prove helpful in teaching common idioms in English.

English Test. English Test offers a number of different tests to make you proficient in teaching some common idioms in English. It has many multiple choice questions that can help you in teaching your class. In this article, I have made an endeavor to compile a list of resources that can prove beneficial for yourself and your ESL class as well. I hope it helps - enjoy!

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