Idioms – Knowledge

American English Idioms

An idiom is a phrase (group of words) that usually has a figurative meaning. The use of idioms is wide spread in the English language; native English speakers use idioms almost every day.  Therefore, studying idioms is critical for effective communication, whether in listening, speaking, reading, or writing.  Studying idioms not only improves your understanding of the English language but also gives you a deeper insight into American culture.  The idiomatic expressions (idioms) introduced are based on a theme chosen.


Idioms related to Knowledge

know for a fact – to know with a certainty

You often use the expression to emphasize your statement or point.


I know for a fact that Jane does not like Paul. Jane told me who she likes.


know (something) by heart – to have memorized something completely.

If you know something by heart, that means you have memorized it.


Mary does not need the lyrics for the song. She knows it by heart because she has heard it so many times.

Peter knows all the states in America by heart.


Know (something) backwards and forwards – to be very familiar with or knowledgeable of a subject

If you know something backwards and forwards, you really know about the subject well.


Jane knows about the operations of her company backwards and forwards.  She has worked there for many years.


learn the ropes/know the ropes –  learn or understand the basic skills to perform a task

The ropes here probably came from the complicated roping required for sailing ships. If you know the ropes of a task, you know the basic skills required to accomplish the task.


First learn the ropes by watching Jim who has many years of experience.  Then you will know the ropes.


Under one’s belt – 1) consumed (food or drink) 2) acquired (knowledge or experience)

Whatever you consume (eat) will be in your tummy (stomach); the food you eat eventually goes below your belt-line. The expression is often used for knowledge or experience you have acquired. It makes sense in that whatever you have eaten, it’s safely yours.


Please buy Paul something to eat so that he has some food under his belt. He’s very annoying when he’s hungry.

Once he figured out a few techniques under his belt, he out performed all his friends.


Do you have similar idioms in your own country related to the English idioms here?

Do you have good sample sentences for the idioms introduced here?

Please share to reinforce the idioms you’ve studied here. Study English by learning idioms regularly.

3 Food Idioms With Interesting Origins

We use idioms in various everyday situations. Literature is riddled with these flowery phrases to elevate prose and poetry. They are so common that we have become unaware that we are using them like idioms are naturally flowing in our speech.

Idioms, sometimes, are easy to understand and make practical sense such as carrot top and cool as a cucumber. Meanwhile, some idioms have interesting origins like the three food idioms below.

Bring home the bacon – to earn money

Example: The parents must bring home the bacon.

This phrase has a funny origin dated back in 1104 in Great Dunmow, Essex that sounded more like a folktale. A local couple impressed the church in their little town with their love and devotion that they were given a slab of bacon. This started the ritual of the church to award couples bacon if they can prove that they are loyal to each other for a year. Since then, couples have been trying to bring home the bacon.

Cry over spilled milk – get upset over something that has happened and cannot be changed

Example: The vase is broken and it cannot be fixed. Don’t cry over spilled milk!

The origin of this idiom is not exactly known, but common belief said that it originated from the days when people offer food and drink to fairies to which they strongly believed. Fairies love milk and when people spill milk, it is nothing to worry about and is considered as an extra offering to the fairies.

Spill the beans – To reveal secret information often ruining a surprise or plan

Example: Jenny spilled the beans about Kerry’s plans.

This phrase originated from ancient Greece where people cast votes using white or black beans in a jar. A white bean means positive vote or “yes” and a black bean means negative vote or “no”. If someone spilled the beans, the result of the voting will be revealed even before the official count.

7 Tips to Improve Your English Fluency

When you are not a native English speaker, learning the global language can be a daunting task. However, increased immersion will make you learn the language quickly.

Watch or listen to English television shows for at least 30 minutes per day.
Watching or listening to television everyday is a great way to be exposed to the English language. Acclimate yourself to the pronunciation and accent.

Translate a news article everyday.
There are two ways to do this. First, go to a news website in your language and try to translate a news article. Second, you can use Google Translate. Since the translation is not perfect, edit the translated article to minimize the grammar errors.

Keep a journal.
To practice your grammar and writing skills, keep a daily journal recounting the events that happened during the day. Simple sentences are fine as it will be just at the start. Writing a log everyday will become a habit and will improve your skills.

Read materials you like in English on a regular basis.
Let’s admit it! Reading is a boring activity for some people. Thus, it is important to find reading materials that you like. Seeing the written word and constantly exposing yourself to it is the easiest way to learn If you like reading magazines, read English magazines.

Read manuals.
Learn technological terms and how to use them in a sentence by reading manuals of gadgets or appliances. Manuals are often in different languages. You can compare the directions written in your native language and the one in English.

Watch English movies with subtitles or vice versa.
Watch English movies with subtitles to learn expressions and how they are used in situations.

Listen to audiobooks or songs while driving.
Activities like cleaning, cooking, and driving should not be passive activities. Make them more productive by playing audiobooks and songs in English to practice your skills.

Which English learning tips have helped you improve your English most?

Improving your English Speaking Skills

Do you ever forget words or grammar rules that you’ve just learnt when speaking in a foreign language? Do you feel a bit unsure when you pronounce each word? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! busuu is here to help you make your dreams come true–learn how to speak English fluently!

5 tips on improving your English speaking skills:

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes–your goal is to deliver a message, not perfect grammar and vocabulary;

Be proud and happy when people understand what you’re saying and when you’re able to carry on a perfect conversation;

Practise, practise, practise. Only practice makes perfect–constantly look for opportunities to do so;

Listen: the more you hear, the easier it will be for you to use new key expressions and words in an English conversation;

Use busuu Conversations – a perfect feature that will help you perfect your English pronunciation.