Learning a new language isn’t just about learning grammar rules and vocabulary. Knowing how to get your message across is already a great start, don’t get me wrong! But there is a way to go one step further and help you sound like a native English-speaking person: idioms.

An idiom is a phrase, an expression or a group of words used together, the meaning of which is not directly understandable from the meaning of the individual words. For example, in the sentence ‘This car cost me an arm and a leg’, I don’t really mean that I exchanged an actual arm and leg for my new car. Here, the phrase ‘an arm and a leg’ means ‘a very high price’. Every language in the world has its own idioms, which often can’t be translated literally to another language. They can be tricky to master but they will definitely help you sound like a native speaker!

Here is a list of 5 frequent idioms of the English language you should start using right now!


In a nutshell


When you tell a story in a nutshell it means you only give the essential details in a concise way.


“I don’t have the time to tell you everything but to put it in a nutshell, I quit my job.”


To walk on eggshells


When you walk on eggshells you are being very careful and diplomatic with what you say or do, generally so you don’t upset anybody.


“I always have to walk on eggshells when I’m around him. He gets upset so easily.”


The tip of the iceberg


The tip of the iceberg is the small visible part of a much larger problem or situation.


“What you know about the company’s problems is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s even worse than you think.”


The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence


This saying is used when other people’s lives or situation always seems to be better than your own, but it often isn’t the case, rather the opposite.


Person A: “I am so jealous of Charlie’s house. It’s so much bigger than mine.”

Person B: “Well I am sure he thinks the same about the fact that you have a pool and he doesn’t. You know what they say, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”


A needle in a haystack


When you are looking for a needle in a haystack, you are looking for something that is very difficult to find, often because the search area is very large.


“I will never find the perfect dress in time for my sister’s wedding. That’s like looking for a needle in a haystack.”