Common English Idioms

A good knowledge of idioms is essential for success in most competitive exams. In this section, we will introduce some idioms and expressions you should know.


A bed of roses: a pleasant or easy situation

A bitter pill to swallow: An experience that is unpleasant or difficult to accept

A cock and bull story: An unbelievable story

A diamond in the rough: A person who is basically good at heart but lacks social skills

A dish fit for the gods: An offering of the highest quality

A leopard cannot change its spots: People and things cannot change their innate nature

A little bird told me: Said when you don’t want to reveal the source of your information

As keen as mustard: If somebody is as keen as mustard, they are very enthusiastic.

At one’s wit’s end: When you are at your wit’s end, you don’t know what to do.

At sixes and sevens: In a state of confusion

At the eleventh hour: At the last moment

A wolf in sheep’s clothing: Someone or something that looks harmless but is really dangerous


Back to square one: When you are back to square one, you are back to the beginning or you have to start again

Baker’s dozen: Thirteen

Beat about the bush: Avoid talking about a difficult or embarrassing situation because you do not want to upset the listener

Below the belt: An unfair tactic or move

Between the devil and the deep sea: Between two equally unpleasant situations

A blessing in disguise: Something that seems unfortunate when it happens but proves to be a blessing in the end

Born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth: Born in a very rich family

Burn the candle at both ends: Exhaust your physical or mental capabilities by working overtime.

Burn the midnight oil: Work or study late into the night