35 Useful Idioms for IELTS Speaking
It is always good to learn to sound like a native speaker if you want to achieve a high band score. As a result, you should be acquainted with some popular idiomatic expressions as they use a lot of idioms when they speak.
Therefore, we have carefully collected some 35 idioms along with meanings and examples of how to use them in sentences. Do try to use these idioms when you speak to your friends. This is a sure-fire way of improving your language and IELTS band score.
What are Idioms?
Idioms are phrases or expressions that have a non-literal meaning, i.e. their meaning cannot be understood by reading the individual words in them directly. Idioms are often used in daily conversations by native speakers of the English language in such a natural way that they often go unnoticed during a conversation. For instance, the phrase, ‘a blessing in disguise’ might not have a substantial meaning by itself, but when used in a sentence like, “His knowledge of idioms came as a blessing in disguise during IELTS” is a meaningful sentence where the idiom ‘a blessing in disguise’ means a good thing that seemed trivial at first. Nevertheless, it is important to understand the use of idioms, especially if you are planning to appear for the IELTS examination.
List of Useful Idioms for IELTS with meaning
1. A Penny for Your Thoughts – asksomeone who is being very quiet about, what is on their mind.
==> For several minutes they sat silently, then finally she looked at him and said, “A penny for your thoughts, Walter.”
2. 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
3. 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.
4. on cloud nine – very happy; deliriously happy
==>She just bought her first new car and she’s on cloud nine.
5. bushed – tired.
==>I am totally bushed after staying up so late.
6. hard feelings – the emotion of being upset or offended.
==>I am sorry I have to fire you. No hard feelings, okay?
7. hit the hay – go to bed
==> It’s 12 o’clock. I think it’s time to hit the hay.
8. be sick to death of something/doing something – to be angry and bored because something unpleasant has been happening for too long
==>I’m sick to death of doing nothing but work. Let’s go out tonight and have fun.
9. (come) rain or shine – means something will happen regardless of any difficulties.
==>I will be on time for the class, rain or shine. Come rain or shine, she is always smiling.
10. be all ears – eager and ready to listen
==>I’m all ears, waiting to hear your latest excuse for not getting this job done!
11. in the nick of time – not too late, but very close
==>I got to the drugstore just in the nick of time. It’s a good thing because I really need this medicine!
12. fresh/cleanout of something – have sold or used up the last of something
==>I have to go buy some more milk. It seems we’re fresh out now.
13. have/get mixed feelings about something – to be uncertain about something
==> I have mixed feelings about my trip to England. I love the people, but the climate upsets me.
14. 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.
15. In deep water – in difficulty; in trouble or a dangerous situation
==>He has not submitted his dissertation so he’s in deep water.
16. next to nothing – to cost very little
==>I went to the new discount store and bought these new shoes for only five dollars. That’s next to nothing!
17. To be up in arms about something – upset or angry about something.
==> She has been up in arms about the rent increase.
18. Put yourself in somebody’s shoes – imagine that you are in somebody’s position in order to understand his/her feelings
==> If you put yourself in my shoes, you would understand why I made that decision
19. At all costs – do everything you can to achieve/succeed something
==> My dream is to become a successful businessman and I will work hard for it at all costs
20. Explore all avenues – investigate every possible means to find a solution to a given problem or to achieve the desired outcome.
= We need to explore all avenues before doing something that is not very safe to a great number of people in order to minimize unfavourable consequences
21. On the ball – active and aware of things
==>Our staff is really on the ball to get projects done on time.
22. Throw in the towel – Give up on something
==>I’ve spent too much time on this project to throw in the towel now.
23. Down to earth – practical and realistic; Back to reality
==> It’s time we were brought down to earth to figure out a difficult situation, and offer a good solution.
24. 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.
25. Get a head start – Start before all others.
==>This year we’ll get a head start on the competition by running more advertisements.
26. To egg on– To encourage someone generally in an unintelligent way.
==> He continued rash driving while he was being egged on by his foolish friends.
27. To bite the bullet– To do something difficult that one is apprehensive about.
==> Since he was the bread winner of the house, he had to bit the bullet and take that job.
28. By the skin of one’s teeth– barely
==> I was saved by my friend by the skin of my teeth from the rushing car.
29. To sit on the fence– Be indecisive about something
= => He sat on the fence for a week and still couldn’t come to any conclusion.
30. A tooth for a tooth– To punish someone for an offence one does.
==> She deserved a tooth for a tooth and i am glad she got a good one.
31. To nail on the head– Find an exact solution to a problem.
==> All of them were drained and about to leave when Alexis came with an idea that nailed on the head.
32. The last straw– The final stimulus that aggravates the situation.
==> I was managing all the nuisance created by the students in the class until the interval bell rang as a last straw.
33. When the pigs fly– To denote something impossible.
==> My mother thought I would sit to prepare for my exam when the pigs fly.
34. Speak of the devil– When a person appears just after his/her name was mentioned.
==> Do you know that Chanthy won’t be joining today. Oh! speak of the devil and here she is.
35. Chip off the old block– To resemble one’s parents.
==> Their son was just a chip off the old block with blue eyes of his father and a smile that bore resemblance to his mother.
How do Idioms help in IELTS?
As we know, the IELTS exam assesses an individual on their ability and comfort level when using the English language. There are several parameters that impact the overall performance of a candidate during IELTS. When an individual’s answers are sophisticated and unique, they are bound to receive a better score than other candidates. Similarly, to reach a certain band score in the IELTS exam, you are required to use a wider range of vocabulary and display your capabilities in using idiomatic language to make your answers look more refined. This way, the examiner can recognize your skills and grade your responses accordingly.
Tips to Use Idioms in IELTS Speaking
In order to boost your performance in the IELTS Speaking test, here are some tips to help you understand the use of idioms.
- Make a note of idioms that use irregular verbs. You will have to conjugate verbs if another tense is used.
- Try to use more cultural idioms and phrases in your answers. This helps you to sound like a native speaker of the English language.
- You must be well versed in all seven types of idioms, which are, pure idioms, prepositional idioms, partial idioms, binomial idioms, euphemisms, proverbs, and clichés.
- Make sure to understand the concept of collocations when incorporating idioms in your answers.
- It is important to sound comfortable with your answers in IELTS, so make sure you frame your answers in a manner that you’re comfortable with.
- Aim to use a reasonable amount of idioms in your answers that make your response as natural as possible. Don’t end up overusing idioms in your answers.