11 popular idioms in English and how to use them to boost your fluency
Updated: May 9
Idioms are very useful to help us sound more natural in our English. They help us with speaking, but also with listening. If we know and understand a wide variety of idioms, then we will be much better equipped to really know what is being talked about. That in turn, will allow us to contribute to conversations in a much more meaningful way.
What are some examples of idioms in English?
Below you will find lots of examples of idioms for students in English, and also how to use them to enhance communication. You will see the idioms, their meanings and example sentences. This should help any student of English with learning how to use idioms.
What does this idiom mean?
It means to bring something to another place. It can also be a kind of meal style, which we buy at a restaurant of other food outlet, and bring it home or to some other place.
What are some examples of take out?
I just bought a shiny new car, so I am very eager to take it out for a spin! Would you like to come along with me?
I would like to take my son out to the shopping mall this weekend to pick up some new trainers, and also some stationery for school. The new term is starting soon, so I will not have much time to take him out after it has begun.
Do you often get take-out? No, not really, as it is quite expensive where I live. I also feel that a lot of take-out food is unhealthy, for instance cheeseburgers and fries. I don’t enjoy eating it sometimes though, especially when i do not have time to cook after work!
Other words which are similar to take out (for food and drinks) are: to-go and carry-out
An example of to-go:
Customer: Hi. I’d like a cheeseburger and French fries, please. Also, could I have a strawberry milkshake?
Cashier: Sure. Is that to-go?
Customer: No, I will be eating here.
Cashier: OK. That comes to $8, please.
Customer: Here you are.
What does this idiom mean? To work out means to exercise. It can also mean a plan or idea that went ahead successfully.
Examples of to work out:
Paul: Hey, Timmy, how often do you work out at the gym?
Timmy: to be honest Paul, I don’t work out very often these days. I have been far to busy with work and whatnot. I would like to work out more in the future. Maybe I will make it my new year’s resolution this year!
Paul: That sounds like a great idea, Timmy!
I have to admit, I didn’t think my plan for a vegetable garden would work out. The allotment I am using is just too shaded. I didn’t think there was enough sunlight. But actually, this veggie garden has worked out really well! I now have tomatoes, onions, potatoes, cucumbers and corn! And they are big and healthy too! I think the reason the garden worked out so well is that I frequently watered and fertilized the vegetables when they were very small. Job well done!
What does knock out mean?
It means to make someone unconscious
It means to impress someone or shock them
It means to beat a team in a competition
Examples of knock out:
Mum: That last rugby tackle nearly knocked jimmy out. If he had hit is head any harder, he would have been unconscious. I think in the future he should wear a head protector when he is playing.
Dad: Yes, I agree. Rugby is a very fun and exciting sport, but it is so physical. Head injuries are, unfortunately, a real risk. I would hate to see him get knocked out.
The way charlotte sang in the audition really knocked me out. I can’t believe she is such a good singer! Just a few years ago she could barely sing, she almost gave me earache when we went to karaoke. But now, she is a much bette singer than I could ever hope to be!
And now, for sports news: The leopards have knocked the Pistons out of the championship. This is the first time in recorded history that the Pistons have been knocked out in the first stage of the competition. The manager will surely be dismissed before the next season.
What does lash out mean?
The idiom lash out means to act angrily towards a person. It is often very sudden. Sometimes the person later regrets lashing out at someone, because it was so sudden, they did not take the time to consider whether their actions were reasonable or not.
Examples of lash out:
Mike: Why did tony lash out at you like that? He was shouting so much!
Tom: I am not sure. I think he has been having a lot of stress at work recently. When I mentioned to him that I had just gotten promoted and received a large pay rise, I think he felt very jealous.
Mike: I can understand that, but calling you an overweight idiot is completely unfair. Not to mention untrue.
Tom: Yeah, I know. I was pretty taken aback by his words. I didn’t know what to say to him.
Mike: Don’t worry too much about it. I am sure that once he has calmed down, he will say sorry to you.
Tom: I hope so!
The school bully lashed out at four of his classes mates, calling them all kinds of foul words! He was put in detention for three hours, and he apologized the next day. I doubt he will be lashing out at anyone again, at least anytime soon. He hates going to detention.
What does go out mean?
The idiom go out means to leave your home temporarily for some reason
It means a fire dies
The tide of the sea recedes
A company stops operating, due to lack of money
To date someone
What are some examples of go out?
Janet went out to the shops and earlier on. I think she is also staying out with her friends for dinner tonight. Should we go and join them?
Paul: I lit the candle in the jack-o-lantern, but I think it may have gone out already. Would you like me to go and check?
Andrew: Yes please. Those candles we use don’t last very long, and tend to go out quickly if there is a breeze like today.
The rain made the forest fire go out, thank goodness.
Tracey: I’d like to go for a swim, but it is a long walk to the water. Is it normally like this?
Tim: Well, only at this time of the day, because the tide has gone out. If you wait a few hours, it will start to come in again.
Unfortunately, Mr. Smith’s shop has gone out of business. He couldn’t get enough customers to visit the shop. Hopefully he will open a new shop in the future, in a better location with more people walking by.
What does "chill out" mean?
To chill out means to relax, calm down or take it easy. It is a casual expression which we used when we want to tell someone to realax, or we want to express our desire to unwind and take it easy.
What are some examples of chill out?
A: Our manager really needs to chill out. She keeps micro-managing. We aren’t allowed to do anything without her say-so.
B: I know what you mean. She really needs to take a holiday!
A: I’m so stressed about the exam tomorrow. What am I going to do if I fail?
B: Chill out! You’ve studied quite a lot for it, so you should be fine. And even if you don’t pass, you can always take it again next term.
A: You’re right, I should chill out!
What does “call up” mean?
To call up means to telephone someone. Call up is also separable – meaning that you can put something in the middle of it. So, you could say: "I will call up Jimmy" or you could also say "I will call Jimmy up". Both are fine to use and sound natural in English. It is a fairly easy idiom to use and will make you sound a little bit more natural in a variety of English situations.
Examples of call up
I forgot to call up John last night. He was expecting my call!
If you are feeling unwell, you should call up the doctor.
Examples of call up as a separable phrasal verb
I called my friend up last night while she was at work, and she wasn’t too happy!
I think it’s nice to call your grandfather up every once in a while, don’t you?
What does “to break the ice“ mean?
It means to get a conversation started in a comfortable way. This avoids any long or anxious silences. It is always a good idea to use "ice breakers" when we are first meeting someone, or when we have not seen a person in a long while. Why do we need to use ice breakers? Well, simply put, it can give the conversation a more relaxed feeling. This puts people at ease and makes them feel more comfortable. An added bonus of this is that if we are feeling more relaxed, we are far more likely to open up and talk about things in a more open and honest way.
What are some examples of breaking the ice?
Say you are in a lift (elevator for our American audience!) and people are all standing still looking straight ahead. If you are looking right at them, it could be a little uncomfortable. A simple comment such as: “It’s hot out today, isn’t it?” can really help to break the ice, and get a simple conversation started.
Another example of breaking the ice:
You are meeting a business client and want to make the atmosphere warm and friendly. A simple enquiry such as “how was your trip?” or “I hope the traffic wasn’t too bad?” can do wonders for setting a relaxed tone to proceedings. Good luck with breaking the ice!