An Idiom, Phrase, or Proverb is basically a collection of words that are stuck together to behave more like a metaphor. These words help to change the meaning of the sentence. They are a must-know part of the IELTS exam and helps one to crack the exam without any difficulty.

Though for a native language user/speaker, it is very easy to make use of the idioms, phrases, and Proverbs for someone who has just started using the language, it can be quite difficult to make use of these words and sentences regularly to change the way they speak.

So, let’s now dive into learning more about the idioms, phrases, as well as Proverbs.

Also Read: IELTS Exam Preparation Online: Check out the Best Books, Preparation Tips, Exam Fee & More

What is the Difference Between Idioms and Proverbs?

Idioms are fixed expressions that have a figurative meaning. They do not contain any morals and do not make any sense if you’re not familiar with them. They cannot directly be understood by just reading every single word of the sentence, one has to be familiar with the different types to know more about them.

For example – ‘A dime a dozen’ – which means something which is very common.

The use of this idiom in a sentence can be like “These red poppies are a dime a dozen which means that these red poppies are very common.

Another such example of Idioms can be  ‘The best of both worlds’ – which means you can enjoy two different opportunities at the same time.

Example – “By working part-time and looking after her kids two days a week she managed to get the best of both worlds.”

Proverbs, on the other hand, are short sayings that contain a piece of advice. They contain a moral or advice that is generally based on the general truth. They are sentences that can be understood by just hearing them for the first time.


The examples of Proverbs can be:

  1. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush which means that the things we have are more valuable than what we hope we get – In my opinion, you should have taken that job opportunity because a bird in hand is worth two in the bush.
  2. Absence makes the heart grow fonder which means that when people we love are not with us, we love them even more than before – When I was with her, she always fought with me but now the distance has made her heart grow fonder.

Now let’s move on to learn the difference between idioms, phrases, and Proverbs.

Also Read: Important General Words for IELTS Writing Task 2 and Its Synonyms: How & Why Are They Important?

Is there a Difference Between Idioms and Phrases and Proverbs

Yes, there is indeed a great difference between idioms, Proverbs, as well as phrases.

A phrase is a small group of words that stand together as a conceptual unit, typically forming a component of a clause. In contrast to this, an idiom is a group of words that do not have a meaning that can just be dependent on the words being used in it. So, in short, a difference between the two is that they have a meaning that is just dependent on the words being used in it.

Any idiom is a phrase but not every phrase is an idiom.

Now, let’s move further to know more about how one can identify the difference between all three of them with the help of a few examples.

Also Read: Synonyms for IELTS Writing Task 2: Enhance Your IELTS Writing Score

How to Identify the Difference Between Idioms and Proverbs and Phrases

Given below are a few examples that can help us differentiate between the three of them – Idioms Vs Phrases Vs Proverbs

A Hot Potato

Meaning: a controversial issue or situation that is awkward or unpleasant to deal with.

Example: The subject of bullying and fighting in my school is a hot potato.


Piece of Cake

Meaning: something that is easy to do

Example: Learning English is a piece of cake as long as you do it with our website.

Once in a Blue Moon

Meaning: very rarely

Example: I go to visit my grandfather only once in a blue moon; he lives in a remote farmhouse.

A Bed of Roses

Meaning: an easy option

Example: Taking care of my younger sister is no bed of roses; she is very silly.

Raining Cats and Dogs

Meaning: raining very heavily

Example: I wanted to go to play outside, but it was raining cats and dogs yesterday.

When Pigs Fly

Meaning: something that will never happen or is impossible.

Example: William will keep quiet only when pigs fly.

Devil’s Advocate

Meaning: one who presents a counter-argument

Example: Hey Jack! You’re always playing devil’s advocate! Give it a rest and mind your own business.

Miss the Boat

Meaning: Miss the chance.

Example: Peter wanted to enter the drawing competition, but he was too late to enter, and he missed the boat.

Apple of Eye

Meaning: Someone very precious or dear

Example: Every kid in the world is the apple of their parents’ eye(s).

Zip Your Lip

Meaning: To stop talking

Example: I don’t want to hear another sound out of you. Now do as you’re told and zip your lip.

Straight Shooter

Meaning: Someone who speaks the truth.

Example: I really like Ken. He’s a straight shooter, that’s for sure.

Crack the Whip

Meaning: Make someone work harder by asserting power or authority.

Example: We’d better get some work done, or he’ll crack the whip when he gets back from his tea break.

Heads will Roll

Meaning: People will be fired or forced to resign.

Example: Heads are going to roll when the boss finds out about the missing stock.

Rocket Science

Meaning: Something very difficult to understand

Example: I’ve no idea why Kelly can’t make a spreadsheet, and it’s not exactly rocket science is it?

Black Mood

Meaning: To be angry, irritable, or in a temper

Example: Geoff was in one of his black moods today, and no amount of cajoling could snap him out of it.

So, these were a few examples of idioms. Now, let’s learn about the examples of Proverbs.

Proverb Examples

  • Proverb

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

  • Meaning

Being away from someone or something for a period of time makes you appreciate that person or thing more when you see them or it again

  • Example

“I used to hate going to my aunt’s house, but now I kind of miss it. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

  • Proverb

Actions speak louder than words.

  • Meaning

What you do is more important than what you say

  • Example

“Don’t just tell me you’re going to change. Do it! Actions speak louder than words.”


  • Proverb

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

  • Meaning

You must begin something if you hope to finish it; something that takes a long time to finish begins with one step

  • Example

“If you want to lose weight, you need to stop eating junk, and you need to start exercising. Today. Not tomorrow. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

  • Proverb

All good things must come to an end

  • Meaning

Everything ends; good times don’t last forever

  • Example

“I wish this vacation would go on forever. It’s too bad that all good things must come to an end.”

Proverb Examples

  • Proverb

A picture is worth a thousand words

  • Meaning

An image can tell a story better than words

  • Example

“I wasn’t sure that he loved her, but then I saw them hugging at the airport. A picture is worth a thousand words.”

  • Proverb

A watched pot never boils

  • Meaning

If something takes time to do, it doesn’t help to constantly check on it. You just have to give it time.

  • Example

“I know you think he’s going to be a great guitar player one day, but stop criticizing him so much. He just started taking lessons two weeks ago! A watched pot never boils.”

Proverb Example

  • Proverb

Beggars can’t be choosers

  • Meaning

If you’re in a bad situation and someone offers to help you, you have to take whatever they give you and shouldn’t ask for more

  • Example

“I was unemployed, and they offered me a job cleaning prison toilets. I didn’t like the job, but I accepted it. Beggars can’t be choosers.”

  • Proverb

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

  • Meaning

What is “beautiful” is different for each person

  • Example

“I think their house is ugly, but they seem to like it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Proverb Examples

  • Proverb

Better late than never

  • Meaning

It’s better to finish something late than to never do it at all

  • Example

“Hello, Mr. Jameson. Here is my final essay. Better late than never, right?”

  • Proverb

Birds of a feather flock together

  • Meaning

People who are similar spend time together

  • Example

“I think we all started hanging out because we all liked anime. Birds of a feather flock together.”

Proverb Examples

  • Proverb

Cleanliness is next to godliness

  • Meaning

It’s good to be clean. God is clean, and you should be too.

  • Example

“Go take a shower before your date. You know what they say; cleanliness is next to godliness.”

  • Proverb

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you

  • Meaning

Don’t make someone angry or hurt someone who is helping you or paying for you

  • Example

“You had a fight with your boss? Are you stupid? Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”

Also Read: Which Tense to Use in IELTS Writing Task 2? Know about Which Tense to Use and When to Use It


Till now, you have only scratched the surface but still, there are “n” numbers of idioms, phrases as well as Proverbs to learn if you’ve decided to sit in the next IELTS exam.

Another piece of advice that one can follow is to notice and follow the native speakers of the English language to see how they are talking, behaving, and acting while talking to someone. While you’re doing this, don’t shy away to ask if you do not know the meaning of any word. Because that is only going to help you to learn something new in life.

The above article presents a list of some of the idioms and phrases that one can learn while they are preparing for their exam.

Hopefully, you have found this information useful and if you have any doubts, questions, or queries regarding the same; feel free to use the comments section below and let us know all about it because we’ll be more than happy to solve them all.

Also, don’t forget to check out our other blogs.

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About the Author

Sakshi Bachani

Sakshi Bachani is a freelance Content Writer and Teacher. She has completed her Bachelor's degree from Delhi University.. She has been a freelance teacher for the past five years and has worked towards helping young kids achieve their dreams. She had also worked as an Intern teacher with an NGO. Apart from writing and teaching, she really enjoys music, animals, and plants. She even has her own little garden which she loves very dearly and can be sometimes seen buying more plants for herself.

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