Any student of the English language willing to tread down the path of hard work and toil in order to attain proficiency similar to that of native speakers soon realizes that life is not a bed of roses, but a shambled road full of thorns and pickles. This has been stressed more often than not- but indeed, regular practice and a sense of curiosity is extremely essential to make yourself more skilled in this field. From curiosity arises the desire to make your English sound more eloquent, through idiomatic expressions, popular phrases and proverbs. Using idioms in your daily English not only reflects a sound understanding of the language, but also enriches your verbal skills- written or oral with a distinctive panache.

So here goes, a list of 20 popular English idioms to equip your vocab armoury and which will help you sound more like a native speaker-

  1. To hit the nail on the head- to do exactly the right thing; to do something in the most effective and efficient way; to describe exactly what is causing the problem. Example-
    1. Meenakshi hit the nail on the head when she found out the bug in the program code.
    2. Rohan hit the nail on the head in the meeting when he described the staffing crunch that the company was facing.
  2. Leave no stone unturned- to make every possible effort; to do everything possible in order to achieve or find something. Example-
  1. The oil company vowed to leave no stone unturned to boost their research and exploration project.
  2. John Hammond left no stone unturned in order to ensure that Jurassic Park, his dinosaur theme park, was a major success.
  1. Cut somebody some slack- allow someone some leeway in their conduct; go easy on someone to allow them something usually not permissible under standard conditions. Example-
  2. The government officials were asked to cut the poor people some slack in submitting their income tax documents.
  1. By the skin of your teeth- barely, by a very narrow margin. Example-
  1. I passed the board exams just by the skin of my teeth.
  2. We escaped the marauding pack of coyotes just by the skin of our teeth
  1. Tar someone with the same brush- to incorrectly believe that someone or something possesses the same negative qualities as someone or something that is similar. Example-
  2. It is unfair to tar an entire community with the same brush, because of the misdeeds of some miscreants.
  1. Shoot from the hip- speak bluntly in a frank manner without careful consideration of the possible effects; react to a situation very quickly and with a lot of force, without thinking about the repercussions. Example-
  1. Divya was angry with the nonchalant attitude in the office and started shooting from the hip in a discussion with her superior.
  2. The political leader is known for shooting from the hip when unable to provide a cogent answer.
  1. A stone’s throw- a very short distance. Example-

Rohit’s apartment was just a stone’s throw away from the metro station.

  1. Hear on/through the grapevine- to hear news from someone who heard the news from someone else. Example-

I heard through the grapevine that Ananya was leaving the organization, but I can’t confirm it.

  1. Cost an arm and a leg- to be very expensive. Example-

The new iPhone cost me an arm and a leg, but it was well worth it.

  1. Bite off more than you can chew- attempt to do something which is way too difficult for you. Example- Shyam bit off more than he could chew when he attempted to appear for the CAT and Civil Services exam simultaneously.
  2. When pigs fly/pigs might fly- Usually used as a sarcastic/dismissive remark to indicate how unlikely an event is or to mock others credulity. Example-

Karan: I think that Salman Khan and Vivek Oberoi will become best friends by the end of 2016.

Arjun: Yeah, when pigs might fly!

  1. Scrape the bottom of the barrel- to use the worst or last set of things or people available. Example- When Parthiv Patel was included in the national team, it was evident the selectors were scraping at the bottom of the barrel to include have-beens.
  2. Jump on the bandwagon- to support something that is popular. Example-

Celebrities are usually a vacuous lot. They jump on the bandwagon wherever they think the trend is favorable.

  1. The devil is in the detail- used to indicate small aspects of grand plans which when overlooked can lead to serious, unforeseen problems later on. Example-

Pooja double checked her software code for any errors, as her boss told her that the devil is in the detail.

  1. Burn your bridges- to act in an unpleasant manner that will permanently remove the possibility of any return; make decisions which cannot be changed in the future. Example-

Timothy had burned his bridges so badly with his company that he was on a permanent black list with them.

  1. My two cents worth- a spoken opinion, usually unsolicited and unwelcome. Example-

Despite no one asking him to speak, Robert anyway gave his two cents worth on the topic.

  1. Take the bull by the horns- to confront a difficult problem head-on in a determined manner. Example- Sandhya was fed up of her husband’s drinking and decided to take the bull by the horns.
  2. Through thick and thin- through good times and bad times. Example-

Rishi had a very dedicated support structure at home, with both his family and friends sticking with him through thick and thin.

  1. Till the cows come home- for a very long time. Example-

Those two media anchors can go on and on about politics till the cows come home.

  1. The lowest common denominator- something of very small intellect and the lowest sophisticated level of taste, sensibility, or opinion among a group of people; a group having such taste, sensibility, or opinion. Example-

Donald Trump’s demagoguery appealed to the lowest common denominator in the U.S.

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