An idiom is defined as “a phrase or an expression that has a figurative, or sometimes literal, meaning” (Source: Wikipedia).
Idioms are widely used in conversational English and are a popular subject for ESL lessons.
What makes learning English idioms hard for speakers of other languages is that they have to memorize each idiom – there is no easy or logical way to learn them.
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Many idioms had a literal meaning in the past, the understanding of which would help to learn the figurative meaning, too, but nowadays the original meaning has disappeared.
Also, each language and culture has its own, very different idioms.
Download ESL Idioms Worksheets and Lists for Your Lessons
Using idioms a lot makes speaking (and listening to) exciting and fun. That’s why each lesson for intermediate to advanced ESL students should incorporate learning idioms.
When you are preparing your English classes, it is important to have quality worksheets to supplement your lessons.
On this page, you’ll get tons of free downloadable and printable Word and PDF English idiom worksheets. Besides, I’ve done the legwork for you and created a list of other great resources about ESL idioms on the web.
Use any of the ESL resources below in your lessons for free, or simply assign them as homework or extra study material.
|Everyday Expressions – Idiom List||see worksheet|
|Idioms and Slang – Worksheet||see worksheet|
|Food Idioms – Worksheet||see worksheet|
|Money Idioms – Worksheet||Word|
|House & Furniture Idioms – List||see worksheet|
|Weather Idioms – List||see worksheet|
|Idioms with “out of” – List||Word|
|English Idioms and Sayings||Word|
|Honesty Idioms – List||Word|
|General Idioms 1 – Worksheet||see worksheet|
|General Idioms 2 – Worksheet||see worksheet|
|Life & Death Idioms – Worksheet||Word|
Other ESL Idiom Worksheets From the Web
- ISLCollective: More than 350 idiom worksheets, available after free registration
- Business English Plans: Mixed Up Business Idioms Worksheets, free PDFs to download.
- BusyTeacher: More than 150 idiom worksheets, downloadable Word docs for free.
- EREadingWorksheets: Dozens of free idiom worksheets and tests
- TEFLtastic: Free business idiom worksheets
List of Common English Idioms for Quick Lookup
If you don’t need a complete worksheet but only a few idioms to incorporate in your lesson plan, here’s our “quick list” for you.
A hot potato
An issue which many people are talking about and which is usually disputed
A penny for your thoughts
A way of asking what someone is thinking
Actions speak louder than words
People’s intentions can be judged better by what they do than what they say.
Add insult to injury
To further a loss with mockery or indignity; to worsen an unfavorable situation.
An arm and a leg
Very expensive or costly. A large amount of money.
At the drop of a hat
Without any hesitation; instantly.
Back to the drawing board
When an attempt fails and it’s time to start all over.
Barking up the wrong tree
Looking in the wrong place. Accusing the wrong person.
Example: One day he is going to get hurt because he is always barking up the wrong tree.
Be glad to see the back of
Be happy when a person leaves.
Beat around the bush
Avoiding the main topic. Not speaking directly about the issue.
Best of both worlds
All the advantages.
Best thing since sliced bread
A good invention or innovation. A good idea or plan.
Bite off more than you can chew
To take on a task that is way too big.
Blessing in disguise
Something good that isn’t recognized at first.
Burn the midnight oil
To work late into the night.
Judge a book by its cover
Judge something primarily on appearance.
Caught between two stools
When someone finds it difficult to choose between two alternatives.
Costs an arm and a leg
This idiom is used when something is very expensive.
Cross that bridge when you come to it
Deal with a problem if and when it becomes necessary, not before.
Cry over spilled milk
When you complain about a loss from the past.
Curiosity killed the cat.
Being Inquisitive can lead you into an unpleasant situation.
When something is done badly to save money.
Cut the mustard
To succeed; to come up to expectations; adequate enough to compete or participate
Play Devil’s Advocate
To present a counter argument (although it might not be one’s own opinion).
Don’t count your chickens before the eggs have hatched.
Don’t make plans for something that might not happen.
Don’t give up the day job.
You are not very good at something. You could definitely not do it professionally.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
Do not put all your resources in one possibility.
Drastic times call for drastic measures.
When you are extremely desperate you need to take drastic actions.
Elvis has left the building.
The show has come to an end. It’s all over.
Every cloud has a silver lining.
Be optimistic, even difficult times will lead to better days.
Far cry from
Very different from.
Feel a bit under the weather
Feeling slightly ill.
Give the benefit of the doubt
Believe someone’s statement, without proof.
Hit the nail on the head
Meaning: to say something that is exactly.
Example: You hit the nail on the head! Jennifer is sad because she misses her boyfriend.
Let the cat out of the bag
Share information that was previously kept a secret.
Example: Once he lets the cat out of the bag, his life will never be the same.
Off one’s rocker
Crazy, demented, out of one’s mind, in a confused or befuddled state of mind, senile.
On the ball
When someone understands the situation well.
Once in a blue moon
Something happens very rarely.
A Picture paints a thousand words.
A visual presentation is far more descriptive than words.
Piece of cake
A job, task or other activity that is easy or simple.
Put wool over other people’s eyes
To deceive someone into thinking well of them.
See eye to eye
Two (or more people) agree on something.
Sit on the fence
Someone does not want to choose or make a decision.
Speak of the devil!
When the person you have just been talking about arrives.
Steal someone’s thunder
To take the credit for something someone else did.
Take with a grain of salt
Not to take what someone says too seriously.
Taste of your own medicine
Something happens to you or is done to you, that you have done to someone else.
The ball is in your court
It is up to you to make the next decision or step.
To hear something straight from the horse’s mouth
To hear something from the authoritative source.
Whole nine yards
Everything. All of it.
Wouldn’t be caught dead
Would never like to do something.
Your guess is as good as mine.
To have no idea, do not know the answer to a question.