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9 Common English Phrases

Common English Phrases

One of the most difficult aspects of learning any new language is gaining a good understanding common English phrases used by native English speakers. An idiom (or idiomatic phrase) is a group of words whose meaning can’t be deduced from the words themselves – in other words, you can’t take an idiom’s meaning literally. This can present a big challenge for anyone learning English, as it is a language with many idioms.
Common English phrases, person wearing an I heart idioms t-shirt

Here are some of the common idiomatic English phrases you may hear while you’re studying English in London, and how you might hear them in everyday usage.

Blown away

If you’re blown away by something, it means you’re amazed, astounded or shocked. For example, you might hear a native English speaker say something like: “I saw a new band last night. I was blown away.”

A bitter pill to swallow

This refers to something that might be unpleasant but has to be accepted anyway. For example: “When I found out my rival had beaten me in the test, it was a bitter pill to swallow.”

The ball is in your court

This is an idiom that comes from the language of tennis. When the ball is in your court, it means it’s up to you to make the next move. So if someone tells you, “the ball is in your court,” you need to take action!

Missed the boat

If you’ve missed the boat, it means you’re too late for something that was a good opportunity. For example, if you wanted to buy some concert tickets but turned up to the ticket office after they’ve sold out, you could be said to have “missed the boat”.

Over the moon

When someone is over the moon, it means they’re very pleased and happy about something that has happened. For example, when you get your exam results, we hope you’ll be “over the moon”!

A piece of cake

If something is a piece of cake, it’s easy or straightforward. For example, if one of your fellow students has been living in London for a while, they might say: “I know the London tube system really well – getting around is a piece of cake.”

Sit on the fence

If someone describes themselves as sitting on the fence, it means they’re refusing to commit to one or the other side of an argument or debate. They may be sitting on the fence by choice (meaning they’re neutral on the subject), or may still be trying to make their mind up.

It cost an arm and a leg

Anything that costs an arm and a leg is very expensive. You might hear some native English speakers saying that everything in London costs an arm and a leg. Or, you may feel that your flight to London cost you an arm and a leg.

Burn the midnight oil

If you’re burning the midnight oil, it means you’re staying up all night working. If it’s coming up to exam time, it’s likely you’ll find yourself burning the midnight oil at some point during your time learning English in London.

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