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Use these 40 idioms to speak English like a native speaker

You already speak pretty good English, but you are still missing the typical idioms and proverbs? We have created a list of everyday English words and slang for you to help you finally speak fluently like a native speaker. So say “see you later” to “hello” and “yes” and say “sup?” To “hey” and “yeah”! Time to “knock it off” and stop “faffing around”.

a rip-off / to get ripped off


A “rip-off” refers to something that is far too overpriced, such as buying a counterfeit Rolex watch for the original price even though it is of significantly poorer quality. So if a native English speaker had bought a fake Rolex and only noticed it later, he would say, "Oh no, I got ripped off!" (roughly translated: "Oh no, I was ripped off").

I better ...


This is another way of saying “I should…”.
An example: “I better go buy food before the shop closes”. (Translation: "I'd better go shopping before the store closes").

can't make it


With this expression you are actually saying nothing more than "can't attend" (I can't come / take part).
An example: "I can't make it to the football match. I've already made other plans ”. (Translation: “I can't come to the soccer game, I've already made another appointment”).

cheesy / corny


These expressions are used to describe things that are overused, unoriginal or obviously cheesy, especially in relation to certain motifs in films, but also in music or in relation to pick-up lines.

chill / chill out


While “chill” as well as in German (“chillen”) can be used for relaxing or relaxing, the expression “chill” or “chill out” in English can be used similarly to “calm down” and then means that you are yourself to calm down or just come down after being angry, excited or stressed. The term “chill” is often used in the imperative because it is used as a prompt when someone thinks you are overreacting.

coulda / shoulda / woulda


Abbreviations for “could have” / “should have” / “would have”.

couldn't care less


You can probably figure out the meaning of this phrase. Literally translated it means: "Nothing could interest me less than that ..."
If you are really not interested in a topic of conversation or someone else's opinion, this is the phrase for you.
An example: "Oh look, Paris just bought this cute pink jacket for her dog." Answer: "I couldn't care less."
(Translation: "Oh, look, Paris just bought her dog this cute pink jacket." Answer: "I don't give a damn.")

doesn't matter / don't mind / don't care


All of these expressions express what we would translate as “I don't care” in German. These phrases are often used when asked about your preference between different options but don't really have a preference. They are abbreviations for the expressions “I don’t mind”, “I don’t care” and “It doesn’t matter”.
An example: "Do you want to watch an action movie or a comedy movie?" Answer: "Don't mind".
("Would you like to watch an action movie or a comedy?" Answer: "I don't care.")

Don't worry about it / No worries / No problem


Just as we sometimes answer "Thank you" with "No problem" in German, there are also various ways of answering "Thank you" in English. The three expressions are used as informal versions of "You're welcome" and thus simply mean "Please".

Down to earth


We would translate this description as “down to earth” and refer to people who are experienced, realistic and not arrogant or overly dramatic.

dude / man


Informal terms for a mostly male friend.

Dunno


Is the abbreviation for "don't know" and therefore means "I don't know".

 

easy-going / laid back

Two idioms used to describe people who are relaxed and tolerant.

fair enough


An informal expression that you can use to make it clear that what you have been told has been accepted or understood. Most likely you would translate it with “There is nothing wrong with that.” Translate.
An example: "I'm sorry, I can't come to your party, I have a really important exam the next day." Answer: "Oh that's such a shame! But fair enough. "
("I'm sorry I can't come to your party, but I have an important exam the next day." Answer: "Oh that's a shame, but understandable.")

to be free


While "to be free" as in German means on the one hand to be able to do what you want, or on the other hand that an article is free, the phrase is also often used to signal that you have time to do something.
An example: “Hi dude, are you free tomorrow? Want to play football? "
(Translation: "Hey buddy, do you have time tomorrow? Do we want to play soccer?")

I get it


Just means “I understand” and would be translated as “I got it”.

Go ahead / Go for it


This is an informal phrase used to give someone permission to do something.

gonna / wanna / gotta


Abbreviations for “going to” / “want to” / “got to”.

Gotcha


This is the abbreviation for "I've got you" and is a slang version of "I understand".

to grab ...


Although “grab” would actually be the correct translation for “grab”, this expression is often used synonymously with “get” to say “fetch”.
For example, if your friend asks, "Hey, want to grab a coffee?" she would like to know if you would like to get a coffee together.

Hey / Hi / Hiya / Yo / What's up? / 'Sup / How's it going? / How you doing?


Native English speakers use “hello” very rarely, it is much more common to use one of the greetings listed above.
The greetings that are phrased as questions also act as greetings instead of questions, but it is just as acceptable to answer the question.
Here are two possible answers, both of which are correct:
"How’s it going?" Answer: "Hey. What's up?"
"How’s it going?" Answer: “Good thanks. You? "

Hang on


This phrase means "wait".

to hang out


This expression, which has already made it into German (“hang out”), means to spend time with friends, to do something with people.
Example: "Mum, I'm going to hang out with my friends today".
(Translation: "Mother, I'm doing something with my friends today.")

How come?


This question often confuses language learners, but it is simply a different version of “why” to ask. The German counterpart to “How come” would be “Wie geht das?”, Which is also very similar to the German question “Wieso?”.

I'm afraid ...


As in German, the word "fear" is used not only to say what you are afraid of, but also to convey bad news to someone: "I'm afraid you can't do anything."
Example: "I'm afraid the tickets are already sold out for the show today. You will have to try again tomorrow ”.

It's up to you


If you are accompanied by someone and the other person has to make a decision and you want to emphasize that the other person should make the decision, just say: "It's up to you".
Example: "Shall we order Chinese or Indian food tonight?" Answer: "It's up to you".
(Translation: "Shall we order Chinese or Indian tonight?" Answer: "You decide.")

Long time, no see


This is what you say to someone the first time you see them again in a long time.

Make yourself at home


The English version of “Feel at Home” can be used when you receive visitors.

may as well / might as well


A reluctant consent when there doesn't seem to be a better option or when something is seen as an inevitability.
Example: "I know he's not our best friend, but there's nothing else going on tonight. Shall we just go to his party? " Answer: "Yeah, might as well".
(Translation: "I know he's not your best friend, but nothing else will happen tonight. Should we still go to his party?" Answer: "Yes, why not.")

My bad


Means "my fault" and is used as an excuse.

not my thing


English translation of "Not my thing", and expresses that something is not your taste or your interests.

No way!


Exclamation of surprise. For example, if you sit down with a friend and discover that they would both have booked the same hotel for their next vacation independently of each other, you might be surprised to exclaim: “No way!”. Possibly to be equated with the surprised exclamation "You are not serious!"

Speak of the devil!


“When you speak of the devil” in English.

Take care / Take it easy


This farewell greeting literally means “take care of yourself”, but it is used like an informal “good bye” among friends.

To be up for ...


A common phrase used to make plans. It just means that you want to do something.
Example: “Hi James, you are up for playing football today”. Answer: "Yeah, I'm up for that".
(Translation: "Hey James, do you want to play football today?" Answer: "Yes, I want to.")

What are you up to?


Another version of "What are you doing?" (What are you doing?) To express. You would only ask this question in informal discussions.
Example: “What are you up to later? Do you want to go to the cinema? "
(Translation: "What are you going to do later? Do you want to go to the cinema?)

What do you do?


This is an abbreviation for "What do you do for a living?" (What do you do for a living). In fact, this phrase is one of the most important on this list as many native speakers often ask this question in the first conversation when you meet a new person.

Whatever


Whatever has several meanings:
-It can be used on the one hand like “any” or “no matter what” (no matter what).
An example: "I'm going to go to the park whatever the weather"
(I go to the park, no matter what the weather)
- You will be more familiar with the expression Whatever from the second context: It is often used to express that one does not really believe what has been said last in front of one's counterpart. Example: "I promise, it wasn't me who broke your CD". Answer: "Whatever".
(“I swear I didn't break your CD.” Answer: “Yeah, sure”).

Whatshisface / Whatsherface


This phrase is particularly useful when you want to mention someone, but you've forgotten the person's name. If it is a male person use “whatshisface” and if it is a woman use “whatsherface”. However, do not use this if the person whose name you have forgotten is around.

"Yeah" instead of "Yes


Also very important: Although "yes" is the actual word for "yes", outside of formal situations it is almost always more appropriate to say "yeah" instead of "yes". That is why "yes" is mostly used when someone is impatient, sad , angry, or generally in a bad mood.

Here are a few idioms that you will hear especially in the United States.

to dillydally

This American word describes the act of wasting time while actually having things to do, but passing the time with unimportant things. The term can also be used to describe someone who takes excessive time to move. In German, we would most likely translate it as “dawdling”.
Example: "Stop dillydallying, we need to be at the airport in half an hour".
(Translation: "Stop dawdling, we have to be at the airport in half an hour)

Don't mention it

An informal phrase that you can use in America instead of "you're welcome".

to be down

While "to be down" can mean that someone is sad, Americans often use it in the same way as "to be up for something" explained above.
Example: "You down to go to the party tonight?" Answer: "Yeah I'm down".
(Translation: "Do you want to go to the party tonight? Answer:" Yes, I want to.)

Knick-crack

An American term for "stuff". Notice that the two "K" s are silent.

Knock it off / Quit it

Colloquial expression to ask someone to stop something, especially if it is annoying. For example, if someone were to open and close their pen all the time, it would be a good time to use these expressions.
Note: The “K” of “Knock it off” is also mute here.

sketchy

American slang that can describe:
-People who are dishonest / unreliable
-Things, especially places that could be potentially dangerous
-Low quality things.


spent
Americans use to express that they are very tired.

Here are a few more idioms you will hear not in the US but in the UK:

A cuppa

This is the abbreviation for "a cup of tea" and means "a tea cup".

Alright?


This British greeting is another way of saying "Hello" and is derived from the question "Are you alright?" (Are you okay?) The greeting is not used as a question, however, if you have to expect an answer, use the longer versions “You alright?” Or “Are you alright?”.

And Bob's your uncle!


This sentence is typically British and sounds strange, but it means something comparatively similar to “whoosh”, “... and bang” or “... and the thing is done!” It is also comparable to the French expression “et voilà!”. It's usually used after you've finished an explanation to say that it's not that difficult after all.
Example: "To get to Big Ben, just keep walking along the river, turn right, cross the bridge and Bob’s your uncle - you’re there!"
(Translation: "To get to Bing Ben, walk along the river, turn right, cross the bridge and bang - you're there!")

I can't be bothered

A British idiom to say that you don't have the motivation to do something.

Cheers


If you're toasting all over the English-speaking world, say "Cheers". In the UK, you can also use Cheers to say thank you, especially when signing your emails.

Crikey / Blimey!

These are both very British words, you definitely won't hear them in the US. These are different exclamations that are supposed to express surprise, shock or amazement, comparable to the exclamations "Oh my God!" Or "Wow!"

dodgy

British term to roughly describe what the Americans describe with “sketchy”. So:
-People who are dishonest / unreliable
-Things, especially places that could be potentially dangerous
-Low quality things.

to faff (around / about)

The British version of the American “dillydally”. “Faffing around” also describes the act of wasting time while things actually have to be done, but while the time is passed with unimportant things. The term can also be used to describe someone who takes excessive time to move.
Example: “Stop faffing around, we need to be at the airport in half an hour”.
(Translation: "Stop dawdling, we have to be at the airport in half an hour")

gutted

Another British word for disappointed. If someone tells you an unfortunate story, this phrase can be used as an answer.

knackered

A British man would understand that if you said this to him, you would be very tired. Here, too, the first “k” is silent.

mate

The British equivalent of "dude" and "man".

Nice one


Very slang version of the word "thanks" in the UK.

Not bad


Just as you might compliment someone in German with “not bad”, “not bad” is also a synonym for “good” in Great Britain and is perceived very positively. Warning: In the USA, however, “not bad” has a rather negative connotation.

not bothered / not fussed

Two phrases that mean roughly the same thing as "Don't mind", "Don't care" and "Doesn’t matter".

not my cup of tea

In the UK, use to express that something is not to your liking or that something is of no interest to you.

nuts

A widespread British slang word, which means nothing more than "crazy". Like “crazy” it is used on the one hand to talk about the state of mind of people, but on the other hand also to describe something extremely impressive, incredible, tragic or risky. Hence it can have both positive and negative connotations.
Example of a positive use:
"Did you see that amazing goal Messi scored the other day?" Answer: "Yeah! That was nuts! "
(Did you see the incredible goal that Messi scored? Answer: Yes, that was crazy! ”)

under the weather

A British way of saying that you are sick.

The differences between British and American English don't just stop at slang, but sometimes words are also pronounced differently. Check out this video to find out which words are stressed how:

Thank you for your attention! If you know any other typical English sayings, please share them with us! You can either tweet us @sprachcaffe or comment on this article on our Facebook post. See you later!

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