Living in China,I’ve had many Chinese people ask me about English idioms that I’ve never heard of and some that aren’t typically used these days. Its tough to come up with a list of only 5, but I thought I’d start off with a list of my Top 5 Commonly Used English Idioms. This is not a scientific list of the most frequently used idioms, but a list of some idioms that I hear and say often. There are many more idioms out there so feel free to list your favorites in the comments!
You can’t judge a book by its cover – This means that people or things don’t always turn out to be the same as your expectations based on appearance. I often use this when someone or something turns out to be different from my first impression based on how it looks. You can say this when food tastes better than it looks or even when it tastes worse than it looks! If someone looks very friendly and turns out to be mean, or if someone looks mean and turns out to be friendly, this is a common idiom that you can use.
Hit the nail on the head – This is an expression you can use when something is absolutely correct. “You/He/She hit the nail on the head” is commonly said when a person says something that is exactly right. When you ask someone a question that they get right, you can say, “You hit the nail on the head!”
Have eyes bigger than one’s stomach- This is something that you can say to someone that thinks they can eat more food than they can. If you go to dinner and order five dishes for yourself, and can only eat one or two, someone may tell you that “your eyes are bigger than your stomach!”
Jump on the bandwagon- This is something that you say when someone likes something only because it’s popular. It’s commonly used in sports when someone starts supporting a team or athlete when they start winning. Another example is if your friend starts listening to Justin Bieber because everyone else does, you can say “He/She jumped on the Justin Bieber bandwagon!”
Once in a blue moon – A blue moon is the name of the second full moon that appears in a month, it happens once every couple years, so it is a rare event. To say something happens “once in a blue moon” means that it is very uncommon. For example, if you rarely go to the movie theater, you can say, “Once in a blue moon, I go to the movies.”