Useful idioms for IELTS Exam
A tooth for a tooth – To punish someone for an offence one does.
Example: She deserved a tooth for a tooth and I am glad she got a good one.
A Penny for Your Thoughts – asksomeone who is being very quiet about, what is on their mind.
Example: For several minutes they sat silently, then finally she looked at him and said, “A penny for your thoughts, Walter.”
Against the clock – do something as fast as possible and try to finish it before a certain time.
Example: With her term paper due on Monday, she was racing against the clock to finish it
be sick to death of something/doing something – to be angry and bored because something unpleasant has been happening for too long
Example: I’m sick to death of doing nothing but work. Let’s go out tonight and have fun.
be all ears – eager and ready to listen
Example: I’m all ears, waiting to hear your latest excuse for not getting this job done!
By the skin of one’s teeth – barely
Example: I was saved by my friend by the skin of my teeth from the rushing car.
bushed – tired.
Example: I am totally bushed after staying up so late.
Chip off the old block – To resemble one’s parents.
Example: Their son was just a chip off the old block with blue eyes of his father and a smile that bore resemblance to his mother.
Down to earth – practical and realistic; Back to reality
Example: It’s time we were brought down to earth to figure out a difficult situation, and offer a good solution.
Read More: American idioms with meaning and example
Full of beans – A person who is lively, active and healthy.
Example: I really enjoy being with my best friend because he is always full of beans.
Get a head start – Start before all others.
Example: This year we’ll get a head start on the competition by running more advertisements.
Hard feelings – the emotion of being upset or offended.
Example: I am sorry I have to fire you. No hard feelings, okay?
Hit the hay – go to bed
Example: It’s 12 o’clock. I think it’s time to hit the hay.
In the nick of time – not too late, but very close
Example: I got to the drugstore just in the nick of time. It’s a good thing because I really need this medicine!
Fresh/cleanout of something – have sold or used up the last of something
Example: I have to go buy some more milk. It seems we’re fresh out now.
Have/get mixed feelings about something – to be uncertain about something
Example: I have mixed feelings about my trip to England. I love the people, but the climate upsets me.
Give it one’s best shot – do the best that one can
Example: This test question is really tough! I’ll give it my best shot, and I’ll get some marks for doing my best.
In deep water – in difficulty; in trouble or a dangerous situation
Example: He has not submitted his dissertation so he’s in deep water.
Next to nothing – to cost very little
Example: I went to the new discount store and bought these new shoes for only five dollars. That’s next to nothing!
To be up in arms about something – upset or angry about something.
Example: She has been up in arms about the rent increase.
Put yourself in somebody’s shoes – imagine that you are in somebody’s position in order to understand his/her feelings
Example: If you put yourself in my shoes, you would understand why I made that decision
At all costs – do everything you can to achieve/succeed something
Example: My dream is to become a successful businessman and I will work hard for it at all costs
Explore all avenues – investigate every possible means to find a solution to a given problem or to achieve the desired outcome.
Example: We need to explore all avenues before doing something that is not very safe to a great number of people in order to minimize unfavourable consequences
On the ball – active and aware of things
Example: Our staff is really on the ball to get projects done on time.
Throw in the towel – Give up on something
Example: I’ve spent too much time on this project to throw in the towel now.
Lend an ear – to listen carefully and in a friendly way to someone
Example: If you have any problems, go to Claire. She’ll always lend a sympathetic ear.
On cloud nine – very happy; deliriously happy
Example: She just bought her first new car and she’s on cloud nine.
To egg on – To encourage someone generally in an unintelligent way.
Example: He continued rash driving while he was being egged on by his foolish friends.
To bite the bullet – To do something difficult that one is apprehensive about.
Example: Since he was the bread winner of the house, he had to bit the bullet and take that job.
Read More: Idioms to use in conversation!
To sit on the fence – Be indecisive about something
Example: He sat on the fence for a week and still couldn’t come to any conclusion.
To nail on the head – Find an exact solution to a problem.
Example: All of them were drained and about to leave when Alexis came with an idea that nailed on the head.
The last straw – The final stimulus that aggravates the situation.
Example: I was managing all the nuisance created by the students in the class until the interval bell rang as a last straw.
When the pigs fly – To denote something impossible.
Example: My mother thought I would sit to prepare for my exam when the pigs fly.
Speak of the devil – When a person appears just after his/her name was mentioned.
Example: Do you know that Chanthy won’t be joining today. Oh! speak of the devil and here she is.
(come) rain or shine – means something will happen regardless of any difficulties.
Example: I will be on time for the class, rain or shine. Come rain or shine, she is always smiling.