Learn 30+ Common Informal English Phrases for Daily Conversations

Here are some common informal English expressions and their meanings – with examples.


1. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones

Meaning: Used to say that you should not criticize someone for having a fault if you have the same fault yourself

E.g. She always criticized her friends for driving too fast, but she herself used to do it. At last I told her, “People in glass house shouldn’t throw stones”.

2. Can’t hold a candle to somebody/something

Meaning: If something or someone cannot hold a candle to something or someone else, they are not as good as the other thing or person

E.g. You can’t hold a candle to me when it comes to playing the piano.

3. Rain cats and dogs

Meaning: Rain very hard

E.g.  It is raining very hard. You will get all soaked the minute you step out.

4. Cat got your tongue

 Meaning:  Used to ask someone why they are not talking

E.g.  Why did you come home so late last night? Answer me! Cat got your tongue.

5. Out of the blue

Meaning:  If something happens out of the blue, it is very unexpected

E.g. Do you remember Jane? Well, she phoned me yesterday, completely out of the blue.

6. As like as two peas in a pod

Meaning: Exactly the same in appearance, behaviour etc.

E.g.  The two sisters are as like as two peas in a pod.

7. Bend over backwards

Meaning: To try as hard as possible to help or please someone

E.g.  For passing all the exams successfully, her parents bent over backwards to help her.

8. Under the table

Meaning:  Money that is paid under the table is paid secretly and illegally

E.g. They paid him under the table so he wouldn't have to pay taxes .

9. Let the cat out of the bag

Meaning: To tell someone a secret, especially without intending to

E.g.  I'm sorry. Jim knows about last week's party. I'm afraid I let the cat out of the bag.

10. Hit the nail on the head

Meaning: Used to say that what someone has said is exactly right

E.g.  A: I guess we need a lot of money to carry out the plan

  B:You’re absolutely right. You’ve hit the nail on the head .

11. Go into a nosedive

Meaning:  A sudden very large fall in the price, value, or condition of something

E.g.  The economy went into a nosedive.

12. Save somebody's neck

Meaning: To help someone to escape from an extremely difficult or dangerous situation

E.g. Thanks for not letting the boss fire me. You save my neck in time.

13. Leave somebody/something high and dry

Meaning:  If someone is left high and dry, they are left without any help or without the things that they need

 E.g. She promise to help me with the dishes after the party, but she left me high and dry .

  • Let sleeping dogs lie

Meaning:  To deliberately avoid mentioning a subject, so that you do not cause any trouble or argument

E.g. The best plan is just to let sleeping dogs lie.

14. A horse of a different colour

Meaning:  Something that is completely different from another thing

E.g.  I was talking about trees, not bushes. Bushes are a horse of different colour.

15. Like a bull in a china shop

Meaning:  If you are like a bull in a china shop, you keep knocking things over, dropping things, breaking things etc.

E.g. Each time you enter the room, you knock something down. You’re really like a bull in a china shop.

16. Be/get carried away

Meaning:  To be so excited, angry, interested etc.  that you are no longer really in control of what you do or say, or you forget everything else.

E.g.  Calm down! Don’t get carried away. We have to sit down and talk sense.

17. Speak of the devil

Meaning: Used when someone you have just been talking about walks into the room where you are.

E.g. Speak of the devil! We just mentioned you name before you stepped in.

18. Get out of bed on the wrong side

Meaning: To feel slightly angry or annoyed for no particular reason

E.g. Why are you so grouchy today? Did you get out of bed on the wrong side.

19. Keep your shirt on

Meaning:  Used to tell someone who is becoming angry that they should stay calm

E.g.  Keep your shirt on! You’re next in line.

20. Can’t make head or tail of something

Meaning:  To be completely unable to understand something

E.g. I can’t make head or tail of what you’re saying. Why don’t you speak more clearly.

21. Be/feel like a fish out of water

Meaning:  To feel uncomfortable because you feel you do not belong in a place or situation

E.g. I felt like a fish out of water in my new school.

22. Keep/put something on ice

Meaning:  To do nothing about a plan or suggestion for a period of time

E.g. I’m putting my plans for a new car on ice until I finish college.

23. Pass the hat around

Meaning:  To collect money from a group of people, especially in order to buy someone a present

E.g. No matter how hard he tries, he won’t be able to pay his debts. I guess we’ll have to pass the hat around for him.

24. Dog eat dog

Meaning:  When people compete against each other and will do anything to get what they want

E.g. It’s a dog eat dog world out there.

25. Keep your ear to the ground

Meaning:  To make sure that you always know what is happening in a situation

E.g. I haven’t heardany more news, but I’ll keep my ear to the ground.

26. Shake a leg

Meaning:  Used to tell someone to hurry, or quickly start doing something

E.g. It’s getting late. Come on! Shake a leg.

27. Drag your feet/heels

Meaning: To take too much time to do something because you do not want to do it

E.g. If you keep dragging your feet, you’ll miss the train.

28. On its last legs

Meaning:  Old or in bad condition, and likely to stop working soon

E.g. My car is its last legs. I have to get rid of it as soon as I can.

29. Not have a leg to stand on

Meaning:  To be in a situation where you cannot prove or legally support what you say

E.g. If you didn’t sign a contract, you won’t have a leg to stand on.

30. Cock and bull story

Meaning:  A story or excuse that is silly and unlikely but is told as if it were true.

E.g. Who the hell do you expect to believe your cock and bull story.

31. Make a mountain out of a molehill

Meaning:  To treat a problem as if it was very serious when in fact it is not

E.g.  She was only five minutes late! You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.

32. Throw the book at somebody

Meaning:  To punish someone as severely as possible or charge them with as many offences as possible

E.g. If you get caught they’ll throw the book at you.

33. Be up to your ears in work/problem/debt

Meaning:  To have got a lot work/problem/debt

E.g. I’m up to my ears in debt.

34. The coast is clear

Meaning:  If the coast is clear, it is sage for you to do something without being seen or caught.

E.g. Okay guys, you can come out of your hiding place now. The coast is clear.

35. Snow job

Meaning:  An act of making someone believe something that is not true

E.g. That car dealer did a snow job on me by selling me a car that was a piece of junk.

36. Pay lip service to somebody/ something

Meaning:  To say that you support or agree with something without doing anything to prove it

E.g. Don’t sit and pay lip service to human rights. Get busy.

What's Your Reaction?

Confused Confused
0
Confused
Sad Sad
0
Sad
Geeky Geeky
0
Geeky
Haha Haha
0
Haha
Wow Wow
2
Wow
Hard Hard
0
Hard
Easy Easy
2
Easy
What? What?
0
What?

Comments 0

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Learn 30+ Common Informal English Phrases for Daily Conversations

log in

Become a part of our community!
Don't have an account?
sign up

reset password

Back to
log in

sign up

Join ESL Buzz Community

Back to
log in
Choose A Format
Personality quiz
Series of questions that intends to reveal something about the personality
Trivia quiz
Series of questions with right and wrong answers that intends to check knowledge
Poll
Voting to make decisions or determine opinions
Story
Formatted Text with Embeds and Visuals
List
The Classic Internet Listicles
Open List
Submit your own item and vote up for the best submission
Ranked List
Upvote or downvote to decide the best list item
Meme
Upload your own images to make custom memes
Video
Youtube, Vimeo or Vine Embeds
Audio
Soundcloud or Mixcloud Embeds
Image
Photo or GIF
Gif
GIF format