IELTS Preparation Guide: 42 Common English Idioms That You Should Know Right Away

Nov 30, 2020

If you are preparing for the IELTS examination in Australia, you should pay special attention to your vocabulary.

Below, we have come up with a compilation of English idioms that can help to improve your IELTS reading and writing skills. Commit to yourself to learn at least one a day.

1. Ahead Of Time

If something happens ahead of time, it happens early, before the set time, or with time to spare

2. Calling It  Day / Night

To stop doing something for a while, normally at least until the following day. This can also be used as slang to say something has been ended completely

3. A Month Of Sundays

A very long period of time

4. Dwell On The Past

When someone thinks too much about the past (signifying a problem)

5. Against The Clock

Doing something against the clock means you are rushed and have very little time to do it

6. To Cost An Arm And A Leg

Signifying something that is very expensive

7. A Piece Of Cake

Signifying something that is very easy.

8. Let The Cat Out Of The Bag

To accidentally reveal a secret

9. To Feel Under The Weather

To not feel well

10. To Kill Two Birds With One Stone

To solve two problems at once

11. To Cut Corners

To do something badly or cheaply

12. To Add Insult To Injury

To make a situation worse

13. Cannot Judge A Book By Its Cover

To not judge someone or something based solely on appearance

14. Break A Leg

Good luck (this one’s often said to actors or performers before they go on stage)

15. To Hit The Nail On The Head

to describe exactly what is causing a situation or problem

16. Do Time / Serve Time

Used to describe someone’s sentence in prison

17. A Bird In The Hand Is Worth Two In The Bush    

What you have is worth more than what you might have later    

18. A Penny Saved Is A Penny Earned    

Money you save today you can spend later    

19. A Perfect Storm    

the worst possible situation    

20. A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words    

Better to show than tell by itself

21. Actions Speak Louder Than Words    

Believe what people do; not by what they say

22. Add Insult To Injury    

To make a bad situation worse    

23. Barking Up The Wrong Tree    

To be mistaken, to be looking for solutions in the wrong place    

24. Birds Of A Feather Flock Together    

People who are alike are often friends (usually used in a negative sense)    

25. Bite Off More Than You Can Chew    

Take on a project that you cannot finish    

26. Break The Ice    

Make people feel more comfortable    

27. By The Skin Of Your Teeth

Just barely    

28. Comparing Apples To Oranges    

Comparing two things that cannot be compared    

29. Costs An Arm And A Leg    

Very expensive

30. Do Something At The Drop Of A Hat

Do something without having planned beforehand    

31. Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You    

Treat people fairly.

32. Don't Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch    

Don't count on something good to happen until it has happened.

33. Don't Cry Over Spilt Milk    

There's no reason to complain about something that can't be fixed

34. Don't Put All Your Eggs In One Basket    

What you're doing is too risky    

35. Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining    

Good things come after bad things    

36. Get A Taste Of Your Own Medicine    

Get treated the way you have been treating others (used in a negative sense)

37. Give Someone The Cold Shoulder    

Ignore someone

38. The Best Of Both Worlds

You can enjoy two different opportunities at the same time

39. Speak Of The Devil

The person you’re just talking about has turned up at that very moment

40. See Eye To Eye

Agreeing with someone

41. Once In A Blue Moon

An event that happens infrequently

42. When Pigs Fly

Something that will never happen

All the best for your IELTS examination! Need professional assistance with IELTS preparation. Book a free trial session on Wizert and see for yourself.


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Sid writes educational content periodically for Wizert and backs it up with extensive research and relevant examples. He's an avid reader and a tech enthusiast at the same time with a little bit of “Arsenal Football Club” thrown in as well. He's got more than 5 years of experience in technical content framing, digital marketing, SEO and graphic designing.

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