duolingo, IELTS, PTE, toefl

Idioms are important to make your speech and writing more interesting and naturalistic. They are very useful in English language tests. 

If you have a good knowledge of idioms, scoring high in English language exams will be easy. Getting a high score on the English language exam is very important to secure your place in top universities abroad.

So, to help you secure your place in the top universities and to get a good score in English language exams, I will provide you with the most common advanced-level idioms with examples and meanings.

So let’s start learning some most common and useful idioms along with their meaning and examples.

Most Common Advanced-Level Idioms With Examples

Here, I will list some of the most common and useful advanced-level idioms with examples and meaning that you can use.

Idioms For IELTS
  • Back to the drawing board

Meaning – To start from a new end for any idea or project.

Example – When my last experiment blew up, I had to go back to the drawing board

  • A blessing in disguise

Meaning – A good thing that looks bad in starting.

Example – Losing my previous job was a blessing in disguise in starting, but I got better opportunities later.

  • A dime a dozen

Meaning – Something that is very common

Example – Due to Covid 19, working from home has become a dime a dozen.

  • Beat around the bush.

Meaning – Not saying something because you are uncomfortable saying that.

Example – If you have any query, you can directly ask me do not beat around the bush.

  • Better late than never

Meaning – Better to be late than not to show up at all.

Example – You will face many difficulties when doing a startup, but it is better late than never, so just go for it and fulfill your dreams.

  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Meaning – It is good to hold on to what you have rather than losing it by going after something that you are not sure about.

Example – I once thought of quitting my job and starting a new business to earn more, but my friends warned me, saying, “you have to remember that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

  • A flash in the pan

Meaning – Something that looks good in starting but fails to meet expectations.

Example – The new restaurant in our town’s heart was a flash in the pan and closed down after only a few months.

Keep reading for more idioms with examples and meaning.

  • A leopard can’t change its spots

Meaning – Someone who has a bad habit that is unlikely to change.

Example – It will be hard for Rohan to stop lying, as everyone knows that a leopard can’t change its spots.

  • All bark and no bite

Meaning – Someone who tries to show he is tough but does not take any action toward his or her threats.

Example – Our boss told us that he will fire all employees if they do not complete the work before the deadline, which was impossible, but later we learned that it was all bark and no bite.

  • All ears

Meaning – Listening carefully with full interest.

Example – Tell me more about your foreign trip, I’m all ears.

  • All in a day’s work

Meaning – Doing something that is a routine.

Example – It is hard for some people to work 60 hours a week, but for a doctor, it is all in a day’s work.

  • All thumbs

Meaning – Being awkward.

Example – I tried to host a party but am all thumbs when speaking on the stage.

  • Apple of someone’s eye

Meaning – something or someone that is very precious.

Example – Ram is the apple of his parent’s eye.

  • As the crow flies

Meaning – The most common or directed path between two points.

Example – The town is only a few miles away as the crow flies, but it takes more than an hour to drive there because of the potholes on the road.

Keep reading for more idioms with examples and meaning.

  • Back to square one

Meaning – Starting from the beginning.

Example – We thought we could finish the project in just 3 days, but we made a mistake at the end, and now we are back to square one.

  • Ball is in your court.

Meaning – It is your turn to make a decision or take action.

Example – I’ve given you all the information you need, and now the ball is in your court.

  • Barking up the wrong tree.

Meaning – Accusing the wrong person.

Example – I told the police that they were barking up the wrong tree when they suspected my neighbor of stealing my car.

  • Between a rock and a hard place

Meaning – A difficult situation with no good option.

Example – I am between a rock and a hard place as I can’t afford to lose my job, and it is becoming difficult to handle the stress anymore.

  • Bite the bullet.

Meaning – Face difficulty with courage.

Example – The Indian soldiers in the Kargil war bite the bullet by fighting despite their injuries.

Keep reading for more idioms with examples and meaning.

  • Break a leg.

Meaning – Good luck.

Example – I told my friend to break a leg before his dance performance at the annual function.

  • Burning the midnight oil.

Meaning – Working late into the night.

Example – I had to burn the midnight oil to get good grades in my mid-term exams.

  • Caught between two stools.

Meaning – Confused between two options.

Example – After completing my sr. sec. I got caught between two stools that whether I should study law or journalism.

  • Cost an arm and a leg.

Meaning – Something that is too expensive.

Example – Buying a designer handbag for my friend on her birthday cost me an arm and a leg.

  • Cross that bridge when you come to it.

Meaning – Dealing with the situation when that arrives.

Example – I don’t get tense about thinking about the problems I may or may not get in the future; I prefer to cross the bridge when I come to it.

  • Cry over spilled milk.

Meaning –  Worrying about something that can not be changed or fixed.

Example – I prefer to work for the future instead of crying over spilled milk.

  • Curiosity killed the cat.

Meaning – Being too curious about something can lead to trouble.

Example – It is better to avoid asking unnecessary questions in class, as you know that curiosity killed the cat.

These are the Idioms With Examples, and now you will get a table of 50+ idioms that you can practice.

Also read: Common Idioms To Boost IELTS Score

Also read: Idioms For IELTS Speaking

Some Idioms For You To Practice

After knowing the most common idioms with examples, here are some idioms with their meaning to help you practice. You can make sentences on these idioms and let us know through comments, and our experts will let you know whether you are right or not.

Cut cornersDoing something quickly and cheaply without putting in the required effort.
Devil’s advocateArguing about something just for the argument, even if you do not believe that.
Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatchedDo not make assumptions that something will happen before it does.
Don’t judge a book by its coverDo not make assumptions about something or someone just based on their appearance.
Drop a dimeMake a phone call to report something.
Every cloud has a silver liningFinding something positive even in negative situations.
Fish out of waterSomeone who feels uncomfortable in a certain situation.
Flogging a dead horseDoing something that is pointless
Fly by the seat of one’s pantsDoing something without preparing.
Give someone the cold shoulderIgnoring or being unfriendly to someone.
A bitter pill to swallowa difficult or unpleasant fact to accept
A drop in the bucket a very small amount compared to what is needed
A hot potatoa sensitive or controversial issue
A penny for your thoughtsa way of asking someone what they’re thinking
Actions speak louder than wordswhat someone does is more important than what they say
At the drop of a hatimmediately or without delay
Baker’s dozenthirteen instead of twelve
Bend over backwardto make an extra effort
Biting off more than you can chewtrying to do more than you’re capable of
Blood is thicker than waterfamily bonds are stronger than any other relationship
By the skin of your teethjust barely making it through something
Can’t judge a book by its coverappearances can be deceiving
Caught between a rock and a hard placefacing a difficult choice
Caught red-handedcaught in the act of doing something wrong
Clean slatea fresh start with no past mistakes or debts
Close but no cigaralmost achieving success but falling short
Cold turkeyquitting something abruptly and completely
Come hell or high waterdetermined to do something no matter what happens
Comparing apples to orangescomparing two things that are completely different
Cut to the chaseget to the point quickly without wasting time
Don’t count your chickens before they hatchdon’t make plans based on something that may not happen
Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoesdon’t judge someone until you’ve experienced what they have
Don’t put all your eggs in one basketdon’t rely too heavily on one thing
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwaterdon’t discard something valuable while getting rid of something unwanted
Face the musicto accept the consequences of your actions
Fiddling while Rome burnswasting time while something important is happening
Fit as a fiddlein good health
Get a taste of your own medicineexperiencing the same negative treatment that you have given to others
Get cold feetfeeling nervous or hesitant about doing something
Get off someone’s backstop bothering or criticizing someone
Get the ball rollingstart something or get things moving
Give someone the benefit of the doubtto believe someone’s good intentions despite lack of evidence
Go against the grainto do something contrary to what is generally accepted or expected
Go the extra mileto make an extra effort beyond what is required
Good things come to those who waitpatience will eventually be rewarded
Great minds think alikepeople with similar ideas and interests often have similar opinions
Haste makes wasterushing can lead to mistakes and wasted effort
Hit the nail on the headto do or say something exactly right
Hold your horsesto wait and be patient
In the nick of timejust in time to prevent disaster

Should I Use Idioms In IELTS Writing?

After knowing some of the best Idioms With Examples, and getting idioms to practice, students must learn whether they should use idioms in IELTS academic writing.

The usage of idioms is informal, and because of this, you are advised not to use idioms in IELTS writing. 

You must write your response to the IELTS writing task in proper formal language and the idioms give an informal touch to your writing.

On the other hand, if you talk about IELTS speaking, you can use idioms in that. The speaking part of IELTS is less formal compared to the IELTS Academic writing. 

Idioms are useful for improving your score in IELTS speaking. You must use a variety of idioms in your speaking if you aiming for a 7+ band score in IELTS speaking.

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In this blog, I have discussed the most common and useful idioms with examples and meaning. 

These idioms can help you to make your speaking and writing more interesting. But it is advised that you should avoid using idioms in writing while taking the English language proficiency test like IELTS (International English Language Testing System), PTE (Pearson Test of English), and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language); idioms can make your writing informal, and you may lose marks in your writing. 

You can use these idioms in your speaking as when you use idioms in your speaking, it looks like you are comfortable speaking the English language, and you will sound more like an English speaker.

If you still have any queries or questions related to idioms with examples, you can contact our English experts, they will solve your every query. 

Keep visiting CourseMentor™ for more interesting and informative content like this.


What are idioms?

Idioms are those phrases whose actual meaning is different from the meaning of individual words. You can determine their meaning easily when they are used in sentences.

Is it ok to use idioms in IELTS?

No, it is not ok to use the idioms in IELTS writing as the idioms are informal, and the IELTS writing demands you to write formal writing. You can even lose marks for using idioms in writing.