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.

Written by