7 English Idioms - Idiom Examples and Exercises for Students #1

To learn English we need to know the individual words of a sentence to be able to understand the meaning but there are also phrases, groups of words, in the English language that have a different meaning than their “literal meaning”. These are called idiomatic expressions or idioms.

An idiom is a group of words that have a different meaning when together. Let’s see some examples used by English speakers:

  • “raining cats and dogs” means raining heavily, it does not mean: there are cats and dogs falling from the clouds in the sky.
  • “costs an arm and a leg” means very expensive not pay with your arm and your leg.
  • “piece of cake” could mean a slice of a cake but as an idiom it means very easy.
  • “call it a day” is to finish for example

To learn other idioms like “once in a blue moon”, “every cloud has a silver lining” or “beat around the bush” see our comprehensive guide.

Common Idioms

  1. Break a leg
  2. Break the ice
  3. Don’t cry over spilled milk
  4. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
  5. Get a taste of your own medicine
  6. Get cold feet
  7. Hit the nail on the head

Idiom Definitions

  1. Break a leg: wish someone good luck such as before a show
  2. Break the ice: be the first to start a conversation
  3. Don’t cry over spilled milk: don’t be upset about something that cannot be changed and is now in the past
  4. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: do not risk everything on one single option
  5. Get a taste of your own medicine: experience the same negative treatment that you gave
  6. Get cold feet: feel nervous about doing something
  7. Hit the nail on the head: identifying the true meaning and repeating it in a clear way

Example Sentences

  1. John, break a leg in your piano recital tonight!
  2. Sarah decided to break the ice by asking her classmates about their weekend plans.
  3. I made a mistake on the test, but I won’t cry over spilled milk.
  4. Before investing all your money, remember not to put all your eggs in one basket.
  5. After teasing others for weeks, the bully finally got a taste of his own medicine.
  6. Mary was excited about the trip but got cold feet at the last moment and decided not to go.
  7. When discussing the problem, the team hit the nail on the head by identifying the lack of communication as the main issue.

Example Conversations

Samantha: “I can’t wait for the school play tonight. Break a leg, Tim!” Tim: “Thanks, Samantha! I hope everything goes well.”

Johnny: “I’m a bit nervous about talking to the new student in class.” Dad: “Just break the ice by introducing yourself and ask them about their interests.”

Amy: “I lost my wallet at the park today.” Friend: “Don’t cry over spilled milk, Amy. Let’s retrace your steps and see if we can find it.”

Mom: “We’re planning our family vacation. Should we go to the beach or the mountains?” Sarah: “Let’s not put all our eggs in one basket. We can spend a few days at the beach and a few days in the mountains.”

Teacher: “Tommy, you look upset. Are you okay?” Tommy: “I was going to audition for the school play, but I got cold feet and decided not to go.”

Sara: “I can’t believe Jake was spreading rumors about me.” Brother: “Don’t worry, Sara. He’ll get a taste of his own medicine when others realize he’s a liar.”

Pam: Did you see Sarah’s presentation? She really hit the nail on the head.
Alex: Absolutely! Her points were clear and concise. She nailed it!

Idiom Exercises

Identify the Correct Idiom

Delete the incorrect idiom:

  1. You have an important audition tomorrow, so (get cold feet/break a leg) and practice your lines.
  2. I’m going to the party tonight to (break the ice/break a leg) and meet new people.
  3. You shouldn’t (break the ice/cry over spilled milk) when facing a small setback. Keep a positive attitude.
  4. When it comes to investing, remember (don’t put all your eggs in one basket/don’t hit the nail on the head) and diversify your portfolio.
  5. He’s always making fun of others, but now it’s time for him to (get a taste of your own medicine/break a leg) and experience what it feels like.
  6. He planned to propose to his partner, but at the last moment, he (got cold feet/didn’t cry over spilled milk) and decided to wait for a better time.
  7. The detective’s deduction skills were exceptional; she always managed to (put all the eggs in one basket/hit the nail on the head) and solve the case.

Complete the Sentence with the Correct Idiom

Fill in the blanks:

  1. It’s just a small mistake, there’s no need to ________________.
  2. It’s always wise to  diversify your investments and ____________________.
  3. The host tried to ________________ by telling a funny joke.
  4. She was excited about the trip, but as the departure date approached, she started to ____________________.
  5. She had been practicing for weeks and was ready to ________________ on stage.
  6. He was known for his pranks, but this time he ____________________ from his friends.
  7. That is exactly right you have ______________________ .

Give an Example with Idiom Use

Give an example when you would say the following:

  1. Don’t cry over spilled milk
  2. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
  3. Get cold feet
  4. Hit the nail on the head

Example #1: Although none of the students wanted to talk, someone had to break the ice.

Reading Comprehension Exercises

The English for study skills lessons will have a section to improve reading skills. Follow this link to read the reading texts and answer the simple reading comprehension questions.

Comprehensive List of Idioms

If you are interested in learning idioms then visit our series of articles with definitions, examples and exercises. If you want to find the meaning of an idiom then there is an ultimate list where you will find many idioms with the definitions and example sentences.