What Are Some British Idioms?

Are you learning English and struggling to understand some of the idiomatic expressions used by British people? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! British English is full of idioms and expressions that can be confusing for non-native speakers. In this article, we’ll explore some common British idioms and their meanings, so you can feel more confident when speaking with native speakers.

what are some british idioms


English is a global language that is spoken by millions of people all over the world. It’s no wonder that there are many variations of English, and one of them is British English. British English is the variety of English spoken in the United Kingdom, and it has its own unique vocabulary and expressions that may be different from what you’re used to. One of the most challenging aspects of learning British English is understanding its idiomatic expressions.

What are idioms?

An idiom is a phrase or expression that doesn’t necessarily have a literal meaning. Idioms are often used to convey a particular message or idea in a way that is familiar to native speakers. Idioms can be challenging for non-native speakers to understand because they often don’t make sense if you take them literally.

Why are idioms important in English?

Idioms are an essential part of the English language and are used by native speakers every day. Understanding idioms is important because it can help you communicate more effectively with native speakers and can also help you understand the culture and history behind certain expressions.

Understanding British idioms

British English is full of idioms and expressions that can be confusing for non-native speakers. Some British idioms are unique to the UK, while others are used in other English-speaking countries. To understand British idioms, you need to have a good understanding of the context in which they are used.

Common British idioms and expressions

Here are some common British idioms and expressions that you might come across:

5.1 Idioms related to food and drink

  • A storm in a teacup – This means that a situation is being blown out of proportion and isn’t as serious as it seems.
  • The icing on the cake – This refers to something that makes an already good situation even better.
  • A piece of cake – This means that something is very easy to do.

5.2 Idioms related to animals

  • Let the cat out of the bag – This means to reveal a secret or a surprise.
  • A snake in the grass – This refers to someone who is untrustworthy or deceitful.
  • A fish out of water – This means to feel uncomfortable in a new situation.

5.3 Idioms related to weather

  • Under the weather – This means to feel ill or unwell.
  • It’s raining cats and dogs – This means that it’s raining very heavily.
  • A ray of sunshine – This refers to someone or something that brings happiness or hope.

5.4 Idioms related to people and behavior

  • Bob’s your uncle – This means that everything is sorted or arranged.
  • Chew the fat – This means to have a
  • casual conversation with someone.
  • Keep your chin up – This means to stay positive and optimistic.
  • Once in a blue moon – This refers to something that happens very rarely.

How to use British idioms in conversation

Using British idioms in conversation can make you sound more fluent and natural. However, it’s important to use them appropriately and in the right context. Here are some tips on how to use British idioms in conversation:

  1. Learn the meaning of the idiom and how it’s used in context.
  2. Practice using the idiom in a sentence.
  3. Make sure the idiom fits the situation and is appropriate.
  4. Use idioms sparingly, and don’t overuse them in a conversation.
  5. Pay attention to the reactions of the person you’re speaking with. If they seem confused, explain the idiom’s meaning.

Examples of using British idioms in context

Here are some examples of using British idioms in context:

  • “I was really nervous before my job interview, but I just took a deep breath and went for it. And Bob’s your uncle, I got the job!”
  • “My friend was feeling under the weather, so I made her some soup to help her feel better.”
  • “I’m not sure if I want to go to the party. I’ll have to think about it and sleep on it.”
  • “My boss can be a bit of a snake in the grass. You never know what he’s thinking.”

Common mistakes to avoid when using British idioms

When using British idioms, there are some common mistakes that non-native speakers should avoid:

  1. Using the wrong idiom in the wrong context.
  2. Mispronouncing the idiom.
  3. Using an idiom that is too informal for the situation.
  4. Using too many idioms in one conversation.
  5. Using idioms that are outdated or no longer in use.


Understanding British idioms is an important part of learning British English. While they can be confusing at first, learning and using idioms can help you communicate more effectively with native speakers and gain a better understanding of British culture and history. By following the tips and examples provided in this article, you can start incorporating British idioms into your conversations with confidence.


  1. Are British idioms the same as American idioms? No, there are some idioms that are unique to British English and others that are unique to American English.
  2. How can I learn more British idioms? There are many resources available online, such as websites, podcasts, and books that can help you learn more about British idioms.
  3. Can I use British idioms in formal writing? It’s best to avoid using idioms in formal writing, as they can be too informal and may not be appropriate for the context.
  4. Are idioms important in English? Yes, idioms are an important part of the English language and are used by native speakers every day.
  5. Can using idioms help me sound more fluent in English? Yes, using idioms appropriately can help you sound more fluent and natural when speaking English.
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Professor Emeritus of Educational Leadership University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at Camford Publishing
Founder of On the Horizon (camford publishing)and The Technology Source, and professor of education at North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Dr. Morrison is author and co-author of over 200 publications focusing on educational planning and using information technology tools.Dr. Morrison has delivered numerous conference presentations and workshops for associations such as EDUCAUSE, AAHE, the College Board and others.He has served as a planning consultant to a number of colleges, universities, university systems, community colleges, educational agencies and public agencies such as the U.S. Department of Labor, and Department of the Army.His consulting activities focus on assisting organizations to integrate information technology tools in teaching and management.

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