22 Common Idioms & Their Proper Usages in IELTS Speaking Section (Part 1/5)
Use Idiomatic Language naturally and accurately in the IELTS Speaking Test
The correct use of idioms in English conversations is the way to separate native English speakers from those that learn English as a foreign language. In the IELTS speaking test, using idioms can really help boost your score, if used properly. Nevertheless, it can also lower your score, if you can't use them correctly.
Idiom – A group of words (or a single word) which have a meaning that is not understood by combining the standard definitions of the individual words (though that meaning may sometimes be inferred).
Idioms are a style or form of (often artistic) expression, characteristic of a particular language, group, subculture, school of thought, generation, or medium (for example, movies and television).To master idioms really requires to understand them intellectually (perhaps by first reading) and also to hear them used properly by native speakers (or near native speakers) of English.Learning some key idioms and their usages can help your score in IELTS writing and speaking tasks. Do not try to use an idiom in an IELTS task unless you understand it and can use it properly. This is easier when writing an idiom than when speaking it. If using it in the IELTS speaking test, you should be able to use it with the proper inflection (pitch, tone, modulation, emphasis). It is important to think of the context of to whom or what the idiom is directed towards.
1. Find my feet – to become comfortable doing something.
- Moving to a new city was difficult as first, but I soon found my feet.
2. read my/your/his mind – W – refers to the idea that thoughts are known by another.
- I was surprised he knew what I was planning, like he could read my mind.
3. Cost an arm and a leg – really expensive.
- This dress is really nice, but it cost me an arm and a leg.
4. (the) bottom line – most important number or information.
- My bottom line to do this job is freedom from meddling!
- Don't give me the details of what the client said about the bid, just tell me his bottom line.
5. change one's mind – to change a decision or opinion.
- Nothing you have told me motivates me to change my mind.
6. Over the moon – to be extremely pleased or happy.
- I was over the moon when I passed my speaking test.
7. catch your/my/his eye – something or someone that has a visual attraction for you, can be a written description as well. Really is often used to introduce this idiom.
- That pretty girl really caught my eye. Do any of these watches catch your eye? The price on that advertised special really caught my eye.
8. down in the dumps – unhappy, sad
- She's a bit down in the dumps because she failed one of her exams.
9. Put all your eggs in one basket – put all your money or effort into one thing
- Don't put all your eggs in one basket. You should apply to lots of different universities
10. chill out – relax, calm down
- Despite terrorism, Obama still kept calm, and told his staff to chill out, and got back to work.
11. (to be) fed up with – tired of, disgusted with
- Be careful, I think the boss is fed up with us today
12. Once in a blue moon – happens very rarely.
- A student will get a 9 in the IELTS writing test once in a blue moon.
Common Idioms in IELTS Speaking (Part 2/5)
13. bump into – to meet someone by chance
- I bumped into my old friends at the seminar for education officials
14. work flat out – work very hard
- The employees have been working flat out to get the job finished ahead of the deadline.
15. The in thing – something fashionable.
- The new iPhone is really the in thing at the moment.
16. make a fuss over – overly care for someone/something
- Whenever they visit Grandma she makes a fuss over the children.
17. A hot potato – a controversial topic.
- Abortion and capital punishment are hot potatoes in my country at the moment.
18. Get a kick out of (something) – to get excitement or pleasure from an event or thought.
- I really get a kick out of seeing the crazy things carried on motorbikes sometimes
19. Sit on the fence – to be undecided.
- I haven't made my mind up about that issue, I'll have to sit on the fence.
20. A piece of cake – very easy.
- Getting a band 6 in the speaking test will be a piece of cake
21. (Go) back to the drawing board – to start planning something again because the first plan failed
- Our plan didn't work out, so it's back to the drawing board.
22. Go the extra mile – To make an extra effort; do more than usual
- You had better not forget 8 leadership attributes that make you go the extra mile.
23. crash course – a quick lesson
- We need a crash course in idioms for this IELTS program.
24. On the go – busy
- I feel as though we always need to be on the go because life's too short to be idle!
Common Idioms in IELTS Speaking (Part 3/5)
25. in high spirits – extremely happy
- They'd had a couple of drinks and were in high spirits.
26. keep one's chin up – remain brave and keep on trying ; remain cheerful in difficult circumstances.
- Keep your chin up. Don't take your troubles to bed with you
- Keep your chin up. Things will get better sooner or later
27. read my/your/his mind – guess what somebody is thinking
- I was surprised he knew what I was planning, like he could read my mind.
28. fill in for someone – do someone's work while he is away; substitute for
- Bill is going to be filling in for me while I'm out on maternity leave.
29. antsy – getting restless.
- The guys are getting antsy, we need to go somewhere else before they get too noisy.
30. fingers-crossed - keep one's fingers crossed (for someone or something) – to wish for luck for someone or something
- fingers crossed for your driving test
- We're keeping our fingers crossed that he'll be healthy again very soon
31. have a chin-wag – have a long conversation between friends; have a chat
- We had a good chin-wag over a bottle of wine.
32. all in the same boat – in the same difficult situation as someone else
- None of us has any money, so we're all in the same boat.
33. early bird - (someone who gets up early)
- I never miss sunrise. I'm an early bird.
34. leave well enough alone – to not try to change something that is good enough
- This repair is not perfect, but let's leave well enough alone.
35. now and then– on an occasional basis, often "every" is used as the first word of this idiomatic phrase.
- Every now and then I have a good idea.
Useful Idioms to Help You Score Band 8.0+ for IELTS Speaking (Part 4/5)
36. Against the clock – do something as fast as possible and try to finish it before a certain time.
- With her term paper due on Monday, she was racing against the clock to finish it
37. Lend an ear – to listen carefully and in a friendly way to someone
- If you have any problems, go to Claire. She'll always lend a sympathetic ear.
38 . on cloud nine – very happy; deliriously happy
- She just bought her first new car and she's on cloud nine.
39. hit the hay – go to bed
- It's after 12 o'clock. I think it's time to hit the hay.
40. (come) rain or shine – means something will happen regardless of weather or other difficulties.
- I will be on time for the class, rain or shine. Come rain or shine, she is always smiling.
41. be all ears – eager and ready to listen
- I'm all ears, waiting to hear your latest excuse for not getting this job done!
42. Give it one's best shot – do the best that one can
- This test question is really tough! I'll give it my best shot, and I'll get some marks for doing my best.
43. In deep water – in difficulty; in trouble or in a dangerous situation
- He has not submitted his dissertation so he's in deep water.
44. To be up in arms about something – upset or angry about something.
- She has been up in arms about the rent increase.
45. On the ball – active and aware of things
- Our staff is really on the ball to get projects done on time.
46. Throw in the towel – Give up on something
- I've spent too much time on this project to throw in the towel now.
47. Down to earth – practical and realistic; Back to reality
- It's time we were brought down to earth to figure out difficult situation, and offer a good solution.
48. Full of beans – A person who is lively, active and healthy.
- I really enjoy being with my best friend because he is always full of beans.
Useful Idioms to Help you Get Band 8.0+ for IELTS Speaking (Part 5/5)
49. Hit the nail on the head - To be right about something
- Mike hit the nail on the head when he said most people can use a computer withou knowing how it works.
50. In the heat of the moment - say or do it without thinking because you are very angry or excited
- She doesn't hate you. She just said that in the heat of the moment.
51. Keep something at bay - Keep something away
- She fought to keep her unhappiness at bay.
52. Kill two birds with one stone - to accomplish two different things at the same time.
- I killed two birds with one stone and saw some old friends while I was in Leeds visiting my parents.
53. Last straw - The final problem in a series of problems.
- This is the last straw. I'm calling the police.
54. Let sleeping dogs lie - to not talk about things which have caused problems in the past, or to not try to change a situation because you might cause problems
- Jane knew she should report the accident but decided to let sleeping dogs lie.
55. Far cry from - Very different from
- What you did was a far cry from what you said you were going to do.
56. See eye to eye - two (or more people) agree on something.
- My father and I see eye to eye on most things.
57. Take with a grain of salt - Consider something to be not completely true or right
- I've read the article, which I take with a grain of salt.
58. Whole nine yards - Everything, the entire amount, as far as possible
- When I was little, my family always had lots of pets – dogs, cats,hamsters, fish, rabbits – the whole nine yards.
59. Wouldn't be caught dead - Would never like to do something
- My father wouldn't have been caught dead in a white suit.
60. At the drop of a hat - immediately; instantly
- If you need help, just call on me. I can come at the drop of a hat.