Every language has idioms that are hard to directly translate to another language. Idioms are a cultural part of any language. But sometimes even people who speak the same language but are in different countries can get confused! Take the example of the British idiom “pop his clogs.” Americans might wonder who would pop clogs, but almost all Brits know that this is a euphemism for dying.
So if you’re new to the English language, you’re sure to come across idioms that might confuse you. To prevent that, here are a handful of common English idioms you’re bound to come across.
1. Costs and arm and a leg.
No, English speakers don’t routinely hack their limbs off to purchase something. Saying something costs an arm and a leg means that it’s extremely expensive.
Example: The repairs on my car are going to cost me an arm and a leg!
2. Break a leg.
English speakers tend to have a preoccupation with limbs in their idioms, don’t they? But unlike with the previous limb-related idiom, this one’s actually quite pleasant. When someone tells you to break a leg before an exam, a performance, or any important event, they’re actually wishing you luck.
Example: Oh, your recital is today? Break a leg!
3. Let the cat out of the bag.
We don’t routinely stuff cats in bags either; don’t worry. Letting the cat out of the bag actually means allowing a secret to be known. So if someone exclaims that you’ve let the cat out of the bag, it means you’ve just shared a piece of info that was supposed to be a secret!
Example: She finally told her parents she lost her job. I guess the cat’s out of the bag.
4. Hit the nail on the head.
Hitting a nail on the head means you’re doing your carpentry work correctly. As an idiom, it means you’ve done or said something that’s exactly right.
Example: That was a great analysis of the director’s intentions! You’ve hit the nail on the head!
5. Piece of cake.
When someone says a task is a piece of cake, don’t go assuming that they’re a baker. If someone says something is easy, they mean it’s super easy to do.
Example: Who’d have thought differential calculus was a piece of cake?
The more English media you consume, the more idioms you’ll come across. So arm yourself well by knowing the meanings behind them!