Idioms 上級英会話 Intermediate English Conversation Lesson 1
What are idioms?
A phrase or expression. It’s meaning is different from the meaning of the individual words.
ex: Raining cats and dogs.
Are cats and dogs falling from the sky?! Nope. It’s just raining a lot more than usual.
Why do we use idioms?
Idioms are used for many different reasons. They can be short ways of saying something, add emphasis, or be humorous. Idioms help make English fun and interesting, but they can also make things very frustrating for those learning English.
Do you know any idioms? Do you know what they mean?
Common English Idioms
Let’s look at 10 common English idioms, what they mean, and how we can use them.
1) Beat around the bush
When someone is being indirect or circling around what they want to say or ask.
In Japanese culture, if you want to ask someone for a big favor, do you directly ask them? Probably not, right? You might circle around, ask questions, and eventually get to the question you want to ask. Most likely you aren’t going to jump right out and ask the question. This is an example of beating around the bush.
When I asked my brother if he broke my camera, he kept beating around the bush and wouldn’t just say if he did or not.
2) Get to the point
This is often used with beat around the bush. “The point” is the purpose or main idea.
Stop beating around the bush and get to the point!
I have to go soon. Get to the point.
This can be used as a command, or you can use it to describe how someone spoke.
I like his speeches because he knows how to get to the point.
3) Sweep under the rug
There’s a problem, but instead of dealing with it, you ignore it or try to hide it. This is similar to when you tell your kid to clean their room, but they just push the mess under the bed. The mess is still there, it’s just hiding. This can be used for serious problems or trivial (not serious) problems.
He wants to sweep it under the rug, but that won’t make the problem go away.
I wish you would have told me what happened instead of just sweeping it under the rug.
4) Turn a blind eye
If you have a blind eye, it means you cannot see out of it. Turning a blind eye means you are turning an eye that cannot see to look at something. In other words, something is happening in front of your eyes, but you are not seeing it. To turn a blind eye means you are intentionally ignoring something. This can be something serious or something trivial.
Bullying is a problem in schools, but many people turn a blind eye to it.
The police often turn a blind eye when they see people texting and driving.
My dad turned a blind eye when he saw me steal a cookie.
5) Bury head in the sand
This idiom comes from the belief that ostriches bury their heads in the sand when they see danger. (In truth, this isn’t the case, but we’re not focusing on ostrich behavior here, we’re focusing on idioms.) To bury your head in the sand means to avoid reality or to avoid a bad situation. This is typically used for more serious issues, not trivial ones.
I knew I was failing math, but I kept my head buried in the sand all quarter.
Don’t bury your head in the sand. Find out why your company is losing money and fix the problem.
6) Benefit of the doubt
This is a difficult one to understand. Even as a native speaker, it took me a long time to figure out what this meant. The benefit of the doubt is when you decide to accept or believe something, even when you have doubts about how true it is.
My coworker told me he was late because he was in a car crash. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but this is the third time he’s been late this week.
My friend said she was chased by bears in Alaska. I had a hard time believing that, but I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt.
To read more about benefit of the doubt, take a look at this post on StackExchange.
7) Once in a blue moon
For something to happen very rarely. Only shows up a lot in sentences with this idiom to emphasize how little it happens.
I only go to karaoke once in a blue moon.
I bought a guitar, but I only play it once in a blue moon.
8) Living under a rock
When you don’t know what is happening outside your own life, especially with current events.
I’ve been living under a rock, so I don’t know how the Mariners are doing this season.
A: Did you hear about what Trump did yesterday?
B: No, I’ve been living under a rock.
9) Take with a grain/pinch of salt
This means to recognize that something may not be completely true or accurate. The idiom comes from the idea that food is easier to eat with a little salt.
He was pretty drunk, so take what he says with a grain of salt.
I know most people believe beer is bad for you, but I’ll take that with a grain of salt.
10) On the bright side
To ignore the bad parts and think about the good.
My friend was in a car accident. On the bright side, she wasn’t hurt, and she’s getting a new car.
I have to bike to work every day because I don’t have a car. But on the bright side, I’m getting exercise every day.