An idiom or a phrase is a collection of words that means different from the literal meaning of the words. Native English speakers have no problem incorporating idioms and phrases while speaking, but foreign nationals can’t do that with much ease.

IELTS is a test which checks your proficiency in English, and using idioms and phrases in English while answering questions in IELTS is highly recommended. Multiple idioms are used in social conversations, business context and social media, and if you use them in the speaking and writing section, then you will get a good band score. Continue reading this article to learn about different idioms, examples for IELTS and their meaning.

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Common Idioms and Phrases for IELTS

Below is a list of commonly used idioms and phrases with their meaning, usage and examples. These idioms and phrases will help you get a good band score in the IELTS exam.

Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

Meaning: A sad or bad situation might have good aspects, even though that might not be apparent at that particular moment.

Example: Even though you lost your job, no need to worry. Every cloud has a silver lining.

Benefit of the Doubt

Meaning: Believing what an individual is stating, without any concrete proof.

Example: Even though she was late, we gave her the benefit of doubt because she said her flight was late.

Once in A Blue Moon

Meaning: An event that occurs rarely.

Example: I am happy to see the team do well, as it happens once in a blue moon.

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Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Meaning: Do not interfere in a situation, and leave it as it is.

Example: I wanted to tell her what I thought about her opinions, but I decided to let sleeping dogs lie.

Best of Both Worlds

Meaning: An individual who enjoys an advantage in every situation.

Example: We will have the best of both worlds since we will spend half of the year abroad and the remaining half at home.

Stealing Someone’s Thunder

Meaning: Take credit for an achievement that is deserved by someone else.

Example: She stole her friend’s thunder by taking all the credit for the project submitted by her friend.

 It Takes Two to Tango

Meaning: Both the parties involved in an argument are responsible for the situation.

Example: The issues in the film weren’t all my fault, it takes two to tango.

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Don’t Count Your Chickens before the eggs have Hatched

Meaning: Don’t make plans for a good thing before it has happened.

Example: Before committing to pay your workers, wait for the bank to approve your loan. Don’t count your chickens before they have hatched.

See Eye to Eye

Meaning: To have a similar opinion to someone on a subject or a matter.

Example: We don’t see eye to eye on a lot of subjects.

Your Guess is as Good as Mine

Meaning: When you aren’t sure about the answer

Example: Your guess is as good as mine about their whereabouts last night

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words

Meaning: Using graphics and visual representation can convey ideas more clearly than words.

Example: Just show him the images of the design he wants to work on, a picture paints a thousand words.

Hear it on the Grapevine

Meaning: Listen to a rumour about a person who may or may not has occurred.

Example: She heard it on the grapevine that Mark had been promoted.

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Catching Someone Off Guard

Meaning: To surprise someone.

Example: He was caught off guard when his parents enquired about his academic performance.

Back to Square One

Meaning: Returning to the point from where you began.

Example: The presentation is not good enough. We have to return to square one.

Go an Extra Mile

Meaning: To do more than required by you.

Example: He wants an extra mile to ensure that the project was submitted on time

Fifty Fifty

Meaning: To divide something equally.

Example: Divide the food fifty-fifty.

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On the Same Page

Meaning: Agreeing on something.

Example: I hope we are on the same page regarding the solution to this question.

Don’t Rock the Boat

Meaning: To not cause a problem or make an issue.

Example: It is better not to rock the boat while starting a new project.

The Sky’s the Limit

Meaning: There is no limit to achieving something.

Example: We can do anything we want, the sky’s the limit.

Elephant in the Room

Meaning: An issue that everyone is aware of, but no one talks about it.

Example: Talking about employment issues is every politician’s elephant in the room.

Take the Bull by the Horns

Meaning: Deal with a particular problem.

Example: Try to sort out that problem, take the bull by the horn.

In the Black

Meaning: Making a profit in a business

Example: This has been a good year for us since we are in the black.

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Read Between the Lines

Meaning: Understand something that is not clear

Example: If you want to become a good industrialist then you should read between the lines.

No Time to Lose

Meaning: Perform a task in a fast manner

Example: My project is due tomorrow and I haven’t even started yet, there is no time to lose.

Throw in the Towel

Meaning: To quit something

Example: He was unhappy in his job so he threw in the towel

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A Watched Pot never Boils

Meaning: An event can take longer than expected to occur. Don’t wait for developments to occur.

Example: Don’t wait for something to happen, make it happen. A watched pot never boils.

Birds of a Feather Flock Together

Meaning: People with similar ideas often work and spend time together

Example: That two meet up a lot, both of them are birds of a feather.

If It ain’t Broke don’t Fix It

Meaning: If something is already working then there is no need to change it

Example: My car is working perfectly, there is no need to buy another one. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

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When in Rome, Do as Romans Do

Meaning: It is advisable to follow the rules and conventions of the place you are staying at.

Example: Eat Chinese food when in China, instead of eating Indian food. When in Rome, do as Romans do.


Once you read the list of these Idioms and Phrases meaning, you can easily score a good band score on the IELTS test. You can also converse easily with your peers once you reach your destination and you will start to enjoy speaking English. This list will help you a lot in any social or professional situation to converse with your colleagues as well. To read more tips to score better in IELTS visit the IELTS Ninja Website.

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