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American English Idioms

Learning American English Idioms or Whatnot

Has someone ever said, “The cat’s in the bag”? Or how about “Drop it like it’s hot”? If so, you have already felt the influence of idioms. Idioms are phrases whose meaning differs from the words they contain. They are extensively used throughout the English-speaking world. Frequently, they are employed in casual speech.

Idioms are expressions whose meaning is not immediately clear from their component words. Understanding them is a fundamental part of mastering the language. Idioms are cultural, and some do not translate into other languages. This makes them particularly interesting for language learners and students of English. Idiomatic phrases can help you improve your vocabulary and impress native speakers.

Slang, idioms, allusions, and figurative expressions used in the United States have distinctive styles and flavors. This is due to the historical and cultural background of the country.

In our courses, we will focus on American English idioms. We talk about idioms because they are expressions consisting of a group of words whose meaning differs from the literal meaning. Idioms are also called clichés, proverbs, or maxims.

Whatnot: used to refer to an item or items that are not identified but are felt to have something in common with items already named.

Idioms from Activities

I’m going to call it a day means I’m going to quit and go home now. If you hear someone say catch you later, it means goodbye and it can also be used when leaving work or school at the end of the day.

A person who’s going on vacation might say to their co-workers, “Don’t worry about me!” because they will be out of town. Americans often use this expression to let others know that they’re away from their workplace and phone while on vacation. Some people say “it’s been nice knowing you.” It could indicate a relationship has just ended, ended some time ago, or worse, is just about to end. Others might say I feel so blessed right now! meaning that they’re happy right now and grateful for what they have in life.

Sports can be a great way to learn about idioms. When someone says they’re rooting for the home team, it means that they’re cheering for the team that represents the city or state where they live. The New England Patriots are often referred to as the Pats. They’re the home team for residents in Boston, Massachusetts.

Idioms from Celebrities

We all know that the best way to learn a new language is by immersing yourself in it. But what if you’re not able to travel? One way you can still learn is by using current events. You can read articles or watch television programs that use them. That way you will be able to see how idioms are used in context and get a better understanding of their meaning.

The following are some of the most common idioms using celebrities:

  1. to backstab – When someone tries to hurt someone else’s reputation by saying bad things about them. Backstabbing is done behind someone’s back.
  2. To make up – When two people stop fighting with each other.
  3. To stick out like a sore thumb – When someone sticks out it looks like they don’t belong in a group.
  4. On cloud nine – Extremely happy; high of life; or very satisfied.

Idioms from Healthcare

There are many idioms related to healthcare. For example, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is a great idiom to use when discussing the importance of preventative care. Another idiom that can be used is better safe than sorry, which stresses the importance of being cautious.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater expresses wisdom about making sure not to waste anything or take any steps without considering all consequences. Some idioms have even been borrowed from other cultures and adapted for use in American English!

In order to create fluent speakers, it’s important for students to become familiar with these expressions so they can express themselves in a variety of contexts.

These expressions will give people insight into how Americans communicate about their culture and values. They also offer people who speak other languages the opportunity to gain a new understanding of America’s unique cultural vernacular.

People often use these phrases to try and relate one thing to another so they can show that they understand what they mean. Some people use these phrases when speaking as well as when writing, so as not only to be understood but also to impress their audience. Idioms are an interesting part of every culture because there is no universal meaning for any one idiom because each country has its own cultural history.

Idioms by Holiday

There are many American English idioms that can be taught using current events. For example, Memorial Day is a good time to teach the idiom to go above and beyond. Veterans Day is a good time to teach the idiom to fight tooth and nail. Labor Day is a good time to teach the idiom to break a sweat. The 4th of July is a good time to teach the idiom to give 110%. The Ides of March is a good time to teach the idiom to put all your eggs in one basket. Christmas is a good time to teach the idiom to someone who has been naughty or nice. New Year’s Eve is a good time to learn how you’re going over somebody’s head with something.

Saint Patrick’s Day is a good time to learn how someone might have done something green-handed. Valentine’s Day is a good time to learn about love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Presidents’ Day is a good day to use historical events from Presidents’ past as an introduction to learning about idioms like giving somebody their walking papers.

Other Examples

A drop in the bucket

This expression is used to describe a very small amount of something. For example, if you are trying to save a lot of money, it may seem like a drop in the bucket if you only save $10.

Example: We have worked for many years and have only saved a drop in the bucket. We need to save more money.

A piece of cake

Imagine eating a cake. It’s easy! You don’t need to chew. It’s just a piece of cake! This expression is used to describe something easy or that requires little effort.

Example: The class was really easy. It was a piece of cake!

A penny for your thoughts

In this expression, you ask someone what they are thinking about.

Example: “What are you thinking about?” “Oh, I was just thinking about my project and how I will present it tomorrow in school.” “A penny for your thoughts!”

A close call

This expression is used when someone almost got hurt or if something almost happened. For example, it’s a close call if you almost hit someone but didn’t.

Example: Today, I took a close call. My car almost hit another car when I was driving.

Idioms that can only be negative

“I’m in the dog house.”

If one says this (usually a man), it means you’ve done something unforgivable with your marriage mate or partner. Don’t worry though because it’s likely that your time ‘in the doghouse’ will only last for a short time, maybe for one night.


“The ugly stick has hit me.”

An exaggerated statement or claim that is not meant to be taken seriously. It refers to a fictional item striking you that results in your physical unattractiveness.

There’s so much to learn!

If you stick with it (or continue to use) our course, you’ll get to know a rich variety of idioms in a way that no one else is teaching. There are plenty of grammar lessons on the net. Additionally, has a comprehensive pronunciation course. However, your source to understand news and conversation idioms is Digital Media Studio. Here is a resource to do a quick check of your level.

Why Check Your Level?

After you View the levels available, the Guide will tell you what material is best for you. Scroll down for individual rates.

Take the Grammar and Listening Tests. Your results will be received in an email. With a speaking level of at least A1, you will qualify for a 12-week class.  Receive a discount by signing up with Business Associates or Friends. Now the cat is out of the bag!


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