Common English Expressions and What They Mean

Learn Conversational EnglishIdiomatic expressions in any tongue are usually so ingrained in the vocabulary that native speakers don’t think twice about their meanings and usage. However, for someone not as familiar with the language, they can be hard to grasp. Colloquialisms and idiosyncratic sayings often have archaic origins that don’t apply directly to contemporary life, rendering their definitions and appropriate contexts to be not-so-intuitive. Here are some of the basic English expressions, with examples of how to use them in a sentence.

“…At the drop of a hat…”

This is one of the more common English expressions, meaning to do something immediately and without second thoughts. “If you were free to hang out Friday night, I would cancel my other plans at the drop of a hat!”

“An arm and a leg”

This indicates that something is expensive or costly. “I looked into buying that car that we saw, but it costs an arm and a leg!”

To “bite off more than you can chew”

To take on more responsibility than you can handle at one time. “Sure, you could take the honors science class. But with all your history courses this year, do you think that might be biting off more than you can chew?”

“Don’t cry over spilled milk”

Among the more vivid English expressions, this one instructs people not to overreact to things that ultimately aren’t that important. “I know you’re upset that John wasn’t on time for dinner, but don’t cry over spilled milk. We’re all here now, and everyone is having a good time.”

‘Don’t count your chickens before they hatch”

A cautionary statement against pride and presumption, this one warns to not be certain of a positive outcome before it actually happens. “I know you think you’ll win the election, but don’t count your chickens before they hatch; Heather has been hustling hard to get votes this week and she’s become increasingly popular among voters.”

To “kill two birds with one stone”

This slightly gory phrase is another way of saying “get two things done at once.” “Hey, Cassandra has been bugging us to get a drink with her for ages, and we’ve been meaning to try out that new bar on Main Street, so why don’t we kill two birds with one stone and see if she’ll meet us there this afternoon?”

These are only a few of the many strange and wonderful English expressions that make the language all the more colorful!

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