Idioms for Fluent English | Speak New York

If you want to sound like a native speaker of English, one thing you need to master is the use of idioms. Idioms are expressions that have a figurative meaning different from their literal meaning. They can be a challenge to understand for non-native speakers, but once you get the hang of them, they can add color and flair to your language. In this article, we’ll look at 25 idioms that will help you sound like a native.

Break a leg

This expression is used to wish someone good luck before a performance. It originated in the theatre world, where saying “good luck” was considered bad luck. If you tell someone to break a leg, you’re actually wishing them success.

Cut to the chase

This idiom means to get to the point or the most important part of something. It’s often used in conversations or presentations to avoid wasting time.

Hit the nail on the head

If someone hits the nail on the head, they’re exactly right about something. This expression comes from carpentry, where hitting the nail on the head is the correct way to drive a nail into a piece of wood.

Keep your chin up

This means staying optimistic or to remain positive in a difficult situation. It’s a way of encouraging someone who is feeling down.

Let the cat out of the bag

This idiom means to reveal a secret. The origin of this expression is uncertain, but one theory is that it comes from the practice of selling pigs in bags at markets. If a seller tried to pass off a cat as a pig, they would be letting the cat out of the bag and revealing their deception.

Put all your eggs in one basket

This expression means to risk everything on one plan or idea. It’s often used as a warning against taking unnecessary risks.

A piece of cake

If something is a piece of cake, it means it’s very easy. This idiom comes from the idea that a cake is a simple dessert that’s easy to make.

Bite the bullet

This means facing a difficult situation or making a difficult decision. The origin of this expression comes from the practice of giving soldiers a bullet to bite down on during medical procedures to distract them from the pain.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

This is similar to idiom #6 but is expressed in the negative form, meaning to avoid putting all your resources into one thing.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

This idiom means that it’s better to have a sure thing than to risk it for something better that may not materialize. It comes from the idea of a hunter who has caught a bird in his hand but sees two more birds in a nearby bush. If he lets go of the bird he has, he may not be able to catch any of them.

A blessing in disguise

This means that something that appears to be a problem or a setback can actually be a good thing in the long run. The idea is that the setback is a disguise for a blessing that will come later.

A picture is worth a thousand words

This idiom means that a visual image can convey more information or emotion than words. It’s often used in advertising and design.

Actions speak louder than words

This expression means that what a person does is more important than what they say. It’s often used to encourage people to back up their words with action.

All ears

If someone says they’re all ears, it means they’re paying close attention and listening attentively. This expression comes from the idea that ears are the organs of hearing.

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch

This means that you shouldn’t assume something will happen before it actually does. The idiom comes from the idea of a farmer who counts his chickens before they’ve hatched and then ends up disappointed if some of the eggs don’t hatch.

Get off your high horse

This means to stop being arrogant or self-important. The expression comes from the idea of a person on a high horse, which would make them physically above others and therefore more important.

Hit the jackpot

This means to be very lucky or successful. It comes from the idea of winning the jackpot in a game of chance, such as a slot machine or lottery.

Kill two birds with one stone

This idiom means to accomplish two things with one action. The origin of this expression is unclear, but it’s believed to have come from the practice of hunting birds with stones.

Pull someone’s leg

This means to tease or play a prank on someone. The origin of this expression is unclear, but one theory is that it comes from thieves who would trip people by pulling their legs to steal from them.

The ball is in your court

This means that it’s someone else’s turn to take action or make a decision. The expression comes from the game of tennis, where the ball is hit back and forth between players.

The early bird catches the worm

This idiom means that the person who acts early or quickly will have an advantage. It comes from the idea of a bird that wakes up early to catch a worm before other birds have a chance.

Time flies

This expression means that time passes quickly. It’s often used to express surprise or regret about how quickly time has passed.

A penny for your thoughts

 This means that you’re asking someone what they’re thinking about. The expression comes from the idea of offering someone a penny in exchange for their thoughts.

On the ball

If someone is on the ball, it means they’re alert and aware of what’s going on. The expression comes from sports, where being on the ball means being able to control and direct the ball.

You can’t judge a book by its cover

This means that you can’t judge someone or something based on appearance alone. The expression comes from the idea of a book having a plain or unappealing cover, but still containing valuable or interesting content inside.


Learning and using idioms can make your English more colorful, expressive, and effective. However, it’s important to remember that idioms are often specific to certain cultures or regions, and may not always make sense in other contexts. As you practice using idioms, pay attention to their context and meaning, and don’t be afraid to ask native speakers for clarification if you’re not sure. With practice and patience, you’ll be sounding like a native in no time!

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