Worldly Translations

Discover 10 idioms in English to help you communicate

Idioms are extremely interesting and necessary to understand a conversation in another language and to appreciate all the richness of a language, since they are expressions widely used in colloquial language that make no apparent sense when translated literally into another language.

These words make up, once again, one of the many cases for which it is essential to have a professional translator to preserve the meaning of those phrases so common that they can seem absurd if they are not interpreted taking into account their culture and context.


What are idioms?

In linguistics, an idiom is a habit or custom that has the function of abbreviating an idea. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, it is “a group of words in a fixed order that have a particular meaning that is different from the meanings of each word on its own”. The etymology of the word “idiom” is related to fashion, however, in many cases these expressions survive the passage of time and are transmitted orally from generation to generation.

One of the most interesting aspects of idioms is that these expressions – usually based on metaphors and analogies – are present in all languages and are used by all their speakers, mainly when using colloquial language during conversation. But also, for scholars and language lovers, idioms are a way of approaching a foreign language and through it learn much more about the universe that contains it: the ways of its speakers, its customs and traditions, and mainly its culture.


What are the most used English idioms?

When it comes to learning languages and trying to communicate with speakers of other languages, idioms present a real challenge, since when trying to translate them literally they usually do not make any sense, to the point that they are totally illogical.


Therefore, in this article we share 10 extremely common English idioms among native speakers of this language so that we can communicate more fluently and ultimately understand each other better:


1.       Hit the books

Definitely, in other languages, like Spanish the phrase “hitting the books” does not make any sense; however, it is widely used among American students and means – simply – “study.”

Example: “I can’t go to the party on Saturday because I have to hit the books” (“I can’t go to the party on Saturday because I have to study”).

2.       Twist someone’s arm

This expression means “to convince someone”, which it is closely related to the Spanish idiom “dar el brazo a torcer” (give in to an opinion or decision accepting that of another person).

Example: “She twisted my arm and now I’m going to the concert” (“She convinced me and now I’ll go to the concert”).

3.       Lose your touch

Although the literal translation of this idiom in English would be something like “losing the ability to play”, the meaning of this expression is much broader, since it is about losing a talent or a skill in general.

Example: “You only beat me once in the last five games – you’re not losing your touch, are you?” (“You only beat me once in the last five games – you’re not losing your skill, are you?”).

4.       Ring a bell

Although its translation might make sense in some languages, this idiom is used to refer to something that is familiar.

Example: “This song rings a bell. Have we heard it before? ” (“This song sounds familiar to me, have we heard it before?”).

5.       Under the weather

This idiom in English is used to express that someone is “somewhat ill”, but not in the serious sense, but rather a cold, flu or deep tiredness.

Example: “I’m not going to class because I’m feeling a bit under the weather today” (“I will not go to class because I feel a bit sick today”).

6.       Stab someone in the back

In this case the idiom originated from a metaphor, therefore, it also works in other languages. For example, it is used in Spanish as “ clavar un puñal por la espalda“. Far from being literal, its meaning is related to betraying someone who does not expect it.

Example: “I really trusted him but he stabbed me in the back” (“I really trusted him, but he betrayed me).

7.       Face the music

It is another of the English idioms widely used in colloquial language. This expression means “face reality” or “face the consequences.”

Example: “It’s ok if you leave university, but you’ll have to face the music” (“It’s okay if you leave the university, but you will have to face the consequences”).

8.       A piece of cake

This is one of the expressions that generate the most sympathy among English students. Although its literal translation is “a piece of a cake”, it is an idiom used to refer to something that is very easy to do or understand.

Example: “This lesson is a piece of cake” (“This lesson is very easy”).

9.       Let the cat out of the bag

The translation of the phrase “let the cat out of the bag” actually means “to reveal a secret or a surprise”.

Example: “I was trying to keep the party a secret, but Mel went and let the cat out of the bag.” (“I was trying to keep the party a secret, but Mel went and told people”).

10.   Pull someone’s leg

This expression is used in English to refer to “making a joke on someone”.

Example: “I thought he was talking seriously, but he was pulling my leg!” (“I thought he was serious, but he was joking!”)

We hope you have enjoyed knowing these idioms in English to communicate better and more fluently with the speakers of this language. Until next time!