Five Useful English Idioms

When gaining fluency in a language it’s always a pleasure to learn commonly used idioms. I thought I’d focus on five very simple, yet great English idioms that can be incorporated into your speech no matter what your level of English is.

IT’S ABOUT TIME

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When something finally happens that should have happened a long time ago you can use the expression “it’s about time”. You can also use it to express that it is nearly, or almost time to do something.

– It’s about time the Richardson’s got a divorce. They’ve been unhappy in their marriage for years! (they’ve finally gotten a divorce)
– Don’t you think it’s about time we buy a new car? Ours is falling apart! (it’s nearly time to buy a new car)

ALL SET

The expression “all set” is another way of saying that you’re ready.
– We were all set to go to the beach when it started to rain. (we were all ready to go)
– All set? (another way of asking “are you ready?”)

A BITE TO EAT

When you want to get “a bite to eat” it means that you want to get something to eat, usually something that is quick or convenient.

– The play’s going to be long, so maybe we should grab a bite to eat before it starts. (we should get some food quickly)
– We’ve been on the road for four hours now! Can we stop to get a bite to eat? (can we stop and eat some food?)

CALL IT A DAY

If you’re finished with your work and are ready to go home you can use the expression “call it a day”.

– We’ve been working on this project for six hours and still haven’t finished it! I think we should call it a day. (we should quit working on the project and go home)

– The soccer team decided to call it a day after the center-back broke his leg during practice. (the team decided to stop playing soccer and go home)

A CLOSE CALL

When a dangerous situation almost happened you can call it “a close call”. You can also call an election or competition “a close call” when more than one person has a good chance of winning.

– I managed to swerve the car just in time to miss hitting the dog. However, it was a really close call. (I almost hit the dog)
– Today’s F1 race is a close call between Britain’s Jenson Button, Brazil’s Rubens Barrichello, and Australia’s Mark Webber. Who will win it is anyone’s guess! (they all have a good chance of winning)

And now it’s about time for me to call it a day. I’m off to go get a bite to eat! Até o próximo!

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Ashley Smith

Ashley Smith é americana que mora no Brasil desde 2001. Durante os primeiros sete anos aqui ela dava aulas particulares de inglês, e atualmente trabalha como diretora de conteúdo do site meuingles.com.

14 comentários

  • 08/06/09  
    LaPingvino diz: 1

    Ah não… Quero saber como dizer tudo isso em português tambem… :'(

    Pelas outras coisas daqui, tenho que dizer que é muito bom :D.

    E sim obrigado pelas dicas em Inglês.

  • 08/06/09  
    João Ghizoni diz: 2

    Very good (though short) list of expressions. Thanks, Ashley. But I have two little questions:

    a) Should it not be “the Richardsons” instead of “the Richardson’s”?

    b) In the second example, should it not be “it’s time we bought” instead of “it’s time we buy”?

    Thanks in advance for a reply. João

  • 08/06/09  
    Nuclear Winter diz: 3

    It’s very important to know more and more idioms. Great post! Help me a lot..

    Thanks EE.

  • 08/06/09  
    Ashley Smith diz: 4

    Thanks, João!

    a) You’re absolutely right! I had orginially written something else that had required the use of the possessive, but then changed the sentence last minute and forgot to take out the apostrophe. Simple lack of attention on my part. Sorry!

    b) Yes, “bought” is grammatically correct, but at times in colloquial English it’s perfectly ok to use the present tense too.

  • 08/06/09  
    Léo diz: 5

    There are only 5 idioms kkkk!
    But idioms are very difficult to learn and the site is doing a good job!
    Congratulations!

  • 09/06/09  
    maryziller diz: 6

    Wonderful post, Ashley. You chose the best and most fluent sounding idioms. Actually made me homesick to hear English again.

    Joao, your eagle eye is correct as regards the name of a family, Richardsons. there should be no apostrophe since it is just a plural and not a possessive.

    The usage of buy is ok though. We say it is time that we do (buy/purchase/get/spring for/ etc.) something.

  • 09/06/09  
    maryziller diz: 7

    Great post, Ashley. You chose the most fluent and perfect idioms! It made me homesick to hear English again.

  • 09/06/09  
    Ashley Smith diz: 8

    LOL! You’re totally right, Léo. I swear I had 6 to put, mas no corre-corre do dia I accidently left one out! I’ve asked English Experts to change the title for me, to Five Useful English Idioms. How about this…I’ll give you the sixth right now:
    “TO BREAK IT (THE NEWS) TO SOMEONE”
    When you tell someone news, most often bad news, you can use this expression:
    –I hate to break it to you, but someone has run over your dog.
    –I told Alex that I didn’t want to be with him any longer, but I broke the news to him gently.
    There you go! rsrs

  • 10/06/09  
    maryziller diz: 9

    Great selections. Very helpful!

  • 10/06/09  
    Ashley Smith diz: 10

    Thanks, Mary!

  • 22/06/09  
    Ale Santiago diz: 11

    Adorei a selecao! Eu estou morando na Inglaterra atualmente e eles usam “It’s about time” e “all set” com bastante frequencia.

    Muito obrigada :)

  • 06/10/09  
    cristina diz: 12

    very,very good. Now I am all set to use these idioms. Thanks.

  • 09/10/09  
    carlos diz: 13

    This site is very useful to gettin on in english! thank you very much!

  • 25/01/10  
    Charles Guedes Rodrigues diz: 14

    We can learn english I believe, as the saying goes,
    no pain no gain. I NEED YOUR HELP!!!
    cause I’m learning english by myself for 3 month.