10 American English Idioms to Start Using TODAY!

Jan 31, 2022

10 American English Idioms to Start Using TODAY!

1/31/2022


(Video Transcript)

 

Hi, I’m Julie with San Diego Voice and Accent, and in this video you’ll learn ten American English idioms that will help you to sound like a natural native speaker in your next conversation.

 

I’m a professional American accent coach, and I’m often asked by clients, “How can I improve my conversational English skills?” My answer is always this: Number one, you need to have more conversations in English, and number two, you need to use more idioms in your speech. Native speakers use idioms in conversations all of the time, and if you learned just one new idiom a month, you’d start to notice a huge difference in your conversation skills.

 

This video will help you with the second part. You’re going to learn ten idioms that I’ve used in conversations that I’ve had this past week, so these idioms will be current. Sometimes you learn idioms in English language textbooks that were published fifty years ago, so the idioms are old-fashioned - no one uses them anymore. A good example of this is the idiom “it’s raining cats and dogs.” This is a great idiom, and it creates a fun visual to imagine cats and dogs falling from the sky. But no one uses it anymore. 

 

But it’s not enough to just learn idioms. You have to actually use them in a conversation. The idioms won’t suddenly appear in your vocabulary; you have to actively, purposely use them. So to help you with this, you could join my weekly English conversation class called Julie’s Conversation Club. We meet every week, and those who attend the live class can ask questions and practice their English skills with me.

 

Another good resource is to find a language partner, and it would be the most beneficial if this language partner is fluent in English. You can try online groups like Language Exchange on Reddit.com or finding a local language group on Meetup.com.

 

You may already know some of these idioms, and if so, that’s OK, it’s great to review them. But I’m going to challenge you to use at least one of them in your speech today - find someone to practice your English with (or have a conversation with yourself!), and use an idiom or two! The more you use the idioms, the more natural you will sound.

 

So let’s get to the idioms. I’ve divided my list of idioms into three groups: idioms related to health, idioms related to daily life, and idioms related to conflict or arguments.

 

Idiom #1: Quit cold turkey

First, the idioms related to health. Idiom number one is to quit cold turkey. You can also say to go cold turkey; they mean the same thing. This idiom means to stop doing or using something abruptly and completely. It’s most commonly said of drug, alcohol, or tobacco use, but it can also refer to any bad habit. I used this idiom last week during a conversation about giving up certain foods in my diet, like sugar, red meat, and wine.

 

Now you’ll hear this idiom in a conversation. Pay close attention to the intonation and stress patterns that you hear, and then pause the video and try to imitate the conversation.

 

A: It’s the new year, and I’ve been thinking about my health and my diet. I need to make some changes.

B: Oh yeah?

A: Yeah -  I think I want to give up chocolate. 

B: I don’t believe it. You’re really going to stop eating chocolate? 

A: Yep - I’m quitting cold turkey starting today. No more chocolate for life!

 

Idiom #2: Wake-up call

Idiom number two is wake-up call. This phrase has two common meanings. One meaning is an actual wake-up call that you might get if you stayed at a hotel, and you asked the front desk to call you at five a.m. to wake you up. This is called a wake-up call; it’s a phone call that wakes you up. However, the idiom wake-up call refers to an event that triggers a sense of urgency or the motivation to make a change.

 

I used this idiom last week during a conversation about overall physical health, like diet, nutrition, and exercise.

 

Now you’ll hear this idiom in a conversation. Pay close attention to the intonation and stress patterns that you hear, and then pause the video and try to imitate the conversation.

 

A: I spoke to the doctor today, and she gave me my test results.

B: What did the test results say?

A: My blood pressure is too high, so the doctor said I need to improve my diet.

B: Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.

A: Thanks. It’s a huge wake-up call that I need to be healthier.

 

Idiom #3: On the mend

Idiom number three is on the mend. This means someone is healing or getting well or improving in health after they have been sick. I used this idiom yesterday during a conversation with my friend about her mom's health. 

 

Now you’ll hear this idiom in a conversation. Pay close attention to the intonation and stress patterns that you hear, and then pause the video and try to imitate the conversation.

 

A: How is your mom feeling? I heard that she was sick with COVID.

B: Yeah, she got COVID last month, but she’s feeling much better now. 

A: Oh good! I’m glad to hear that she’s on the mend.

 

Idiom #4: On a roll

Now we’ll discuss a few idioms that are related to daily life. Idiom number four is on a roll. I love this idiom because I often use it when I’m making a joke or trying to be funny. It means you are experiencing a particularly successful period, without any setbacks or low points.

 

I used this idiom this week during a conversation in which I made a joke about accomplishing everything on my to-do list.

 

Now you’ll hear this idiom in a conversation. Pay close attention to the intonation and stress patterns that you hear, and then pause the video and try to imitate the conversation.

 

A: Oh wow - the house looks amazing! Thank you for cleaning!

B: You’re welcome.

A: And you made dinner, too? 

B: Yep, and I took out the trash and did the laundry. I completed everything on my to-do list - I was on a roll today!

 

Idiom #5: Call it a day

Idiom number five is call it a day. It means to stop working, either at one's job or on a particular task, for the rest of the day. I use this idiom frequently throughout the week when I stop working for the day and announce that I'm ready to relax.

 

Now you’ll hear this idiom in a conversation. Pay close attention to the intonation and stress patterns that you hear, and then pause the video and try to imitate the conversation.

 

A: You’ve been working on your project for over 10 hours!

B: I know. I’m exhausted.

A: How about you stop working and go for a walk with me?

B: That sounds like a great idea. I’ll call it a day and turn off my computer now.

 

Idiom #6: To be in the same boat

Idiom number six is to be in the same boat. You can also say, “in the same boat as you”; they mean the same thing. This idiom means you are sharing a particular experience or circumstance with someone else. I used this idiom last week during a conversation with my friend about how challenging it is to assemble IKEA furniture. 

 

Now you’ll hear this idiom in a conversation. Pay close attention to the intonation and stress patterns that you hear, and then pause the video and try to imitate the conversation.

 

A: Look at these IKEA instructions. They are impossible to follow! 

B: Yeah, the instructions are confusing!

A: I don’t understand how to assemble this IKEA chair. What should we do next?

B: I don’t understand the instructions, either - I’m in the same boat as you!

 

Idiom #7: Up for grabs

Idiom number seven is up for grabs. It means something is available to anyone, it’s unclaimed and anyone can take it. I used this idiom last week during a conversation with my friend about cleaning out my garage and either selling or throwing away the things that I no longer need.

 

Now you’ll hear this idiom in a conversation. Pay close attention to the intonation and stress patterns that you hear, and then pause the video and try to imitate the conversation.

 

A: I want to clean out my garage and get rid of all of the extra stuff that I don’t use anymore.

B: Really? Are you going to get rid of your pool table?

A: Yep!

B: And what about your bicycle? And your skateboard?

A: Yep - you can have it all. It’s up for grabs!

 

Idiom #8: To throw something in somebody's face

Now let’s talk about a few idioms that are related to conflict. Idiom number eight is to throw something in somebody’s face. You can also say “to throw something back into somebody’s face”; they mean the same thing. The meaning of this idiom is a little challenging to define: it means to use some information or evidence as a way of being aggressive towards someone or finding fault in someone.

 

I used this idiom last week during a small argument with my friend about who is the better driver.

 

Now you’ll hear this idiom in a conversation. Pay close attention to the intonation and stress patterns that you hear, and then pause the video and try to imitate the conversation.

 

A: I’ll drive us to the movies tonight.

B: No…I’ll drive. I don’t think you’re a safe driver.

A: Why?

B: Because you were texting on your phone and got into a car accident!

A: That happened five years ago! When will you stop throwing that back into my face!

 

Idiom #9: Agree to disagree

Idiom number nine is agree to disagree. This idiom is used when two people mutually accept that they simply do not (and will not) share the same view on a particular issue, and they use this idiom because they want to move past the issue and avoid further confrontation. This is a great idiom to use in conversations, especially if you want to end the conversation in a respectful way. I used this idiom today during a conversation with my friend about ice cream.

 

Now you’ll hear this idiom in a conversation. Pay close attention to the intonation and stress patterns that you hear, and then pause the video and try to imitate the conversation.

 

A: I think chocolate is the best ice cream flavor.

B: No - you’re wrong. It’s strawberry. Strawberry is the best ice cream flavor.

A: How can you say that? A strawberry is a fruit, and fruit is healthy. Ice cream should be unhealthy - you don’t mix fruit with ice cream!

B: Well, I suppose we’ll just have to agree to disagree!

 

Idiom #10: Rub it in

And the final idiom I’ll talk about today is rub it in. You can also say “rub it in someone’s face”; they mean the same thing. This idiom is used when you want to make someone feel worse about an already bad, unpleasant, or undesirable situation or outcome.

 

I used this idiom this week during a conversation with my friend about how dangerous it can be if you eat really hot peppers.

 

Now you’ll hear this idiom in a conversation. Pay close attention to the intonation and stress patterns that you hear, and then pause the video and try to imitate the conversation.

 

A: I’m in so much pain! My mouth feels like it’s on fire!

B: See - I told you not to eat those hot peppers! I knew they would burn your mouth!

A: I’m already in a lot of pain - you don’t have to rub it in and make it worse!




I hope you enjoyed learning a few of the idioms that I like to use in my conversations, and I’m going to challenge you to use one of these idioms today! They will help you to sound much more natural in your conversations. Thanks for watching, and have a great day!