A Quiz: 25 Common Idioms that you Really Need to Know

I know the feeling. I have been there. You have studied English really hard this year. You have been willing to go the extra mile a thousand times because you knew it was going to be worth your while.  You have even burnt the candle at both ends staying up too late and getting up too early when studying for finals. Now you feel really happy with your effort, and it is time to take a breather. At last, after struggling for a long time with English pronunciation you are able to communicate in English fluently and understand native speakers pretty well, at least in an academic context.

Just by sheer luck, at a party, you are introduced to a British person and you feel it’s your opportunity to shine. You feel confident. You have a little chat and everything is going well. You are beginning to relax when all of a sudden, you are like…

  • “Did he just say something about the skin of my teeth?”
  • “Hot potato? Where are the potatoes? I can’t see any! Oh my God! Is this English?”
  • “Did he just say “you rock!”?, and now what ? Am I supposed to take him to a rock concert or maybe he wants me to sing rock?”

Yes. I’ve been there. I know how you feel. Native speakers use idioms all the time, just like you do in your own native language, probably without realizing it. The good news is that you can do something about it. It’s true that it’s quite difficult to feel confident using idiomatic expressions when you’re speaking a foreign language, and I wouldn’t dare suggest  that you use them, but you need to know what they mean if you want to follow a conversation.

In this quiz you’ll find some very common idioms used by native speakers.

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Tool used: Riddle


Do you know what these idioms mean ?

If something is on your bucket list

You need to buy it quickly

You want to do it before you die

It is something you do when it is raining

If you cut corners

You do something in the easiest or most inexpensive way

You are in a strong position when you are competing with someone else

You stop doing something before you have finished

If you bite off more than you can chew

You eat everything on a plate, thus depriving anyone else of having any

You take on a task that is way too big

You drink very heavily

If you hit the sack

you go to bed

you go to the gym

you quit your job

If you do something once in a blue moon

You do it very often

You do it once a month

You do it very rarely

If something is a piece of cake

It is easy or simple

It is very sweet

It is only for girls

If you see eye to eye with someone

You are in love with someone

You agree on something with someone

You have a dispute with someone

If you rock

You’re great

You love music

You love dancing

If you do something by the skin of your teeth

You do it by a very narrow margin, only just

You do it because you’re very stubborn

You do it because it’s important for your health

If you go the extra mile

You run a marathon although you haven’t trained for it

You pay a lot of money for something

You make a special effort to achieve something

If you cannot get your head around something

you cannot decide between two options

you don’t understand something

you cannot attend an event because you have a headache

If something is a far cry from something else

It is very different

It is very far

It is very irritating

If something is a hot potato

It is an issue that makes you very happy

It is an issue that sounds unbelievable

It is an issue which many people are talking about and which is usually disputed

If you beat around the bush

You do whatever it takes to help someone

You avoid talking about a difficult or embarrassing subject

You begin to talk about important things

If you pull yourself together

you calm down and behave normally

you state a fact so that there are no doubts or objections

you start studying for finals

If you blow smoke

You are a chain- smoker

you exaggerate or say things that aren’t true to make you seem better

You speak in an angry tone

If something is a no-brainer

it is priceless

it has no brains

it is an easy decision

If you take something with a pinch of salt

you don’t completely believe something

you add salt in it because it is insipid

you assume something is true without checking

If you hit the books

You throw the books away because you don’t plan to use them again

You begin to study in a serious way

You don’t like books

If something is up in the air

It is very light and it floats

It is very high and you cannot reach it

It is uncertain or unsure

If you sit tight

You wait patiently

You take a test or an exam

You are in a comfortable position

If you face the music

You do what somebody wants you to do

You are in an excellent state of health

You accept the consequences of your mistakes or actions

If something rings a bell

It sounds familiar

It is musical

It is important

If you cut to the chase

You take shortcuts to get somewhere

You leave the unnecessary details and get to the point

You stop chasing someone

If someone kicks the bucket

They die

They reveal a secret

They break their leg and have to use crutches

68 thoughts on “A Quiz: 25 Common Idioms that you Really Need to Know

  1. Great quiz! Mark Jackson,you should look up the movie ‘The bucket list’ starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson! It is an excellent movie. The movie rocks! 😉

  2. Thanks Marcus for taking the time to comment.
    It’s interesting how we can learn from each other ’cause you didn’t know ” on the bucket list” and I didn’t know “on the flip side” . 🙂

  3. Very nice quiz. As an English teacher myself, I’d never heard the first idiom so as a result I didn’t score 100% 🙁

    But on the flip-side I learned a new idiom. Many thanks for creating this!

  4. Thanks for your comment, Cathy.
    Yes, the two idioms you mentioned should have been in the quiz!
    I’ll probably need to make another one next year!

  5. Great quiz! I teach a lot of idioms on my site using explanation & examples– but this quiz is definitely more fun and more memorable! I hope you don’t mind if I link to it!

    (It’s interesting to me that we only overlap on one idiom. Some– like “you rock!” are too recent for me– I recognize all of them, but several weren’t common when I was young. However, ‘going the extra mile’ and ‘by the skin of your teeth’ are from the Bible– thousands of years old, and many others have been used more than a century. You made an excellent selection!)

  6. Hi Ana
    Thanks for your comment!
    It baffles me that you’re not allowed to use technology in your classes. It’s like denying all the possibilities it offers to teach and to learn languages.
    Unfortunately, this tool does not provide a downloadable pdf or any other printable format.
    Thank you very much for taking the time to comment and I hope your school changes their policy soon.

  7. Hi Cristina,

    This is a wonderful quiz to use with my teen students. Unfortunatelly we are not allowed to use technology in the classroom. Is there any printable version of the quizz that I could access?
    Thanks in advance

  8. HiSabina.
    Thanks for commenting! Yes, it has a negative connotation but I never suggested otherwise, did I?
    I should probably specify it so that it doesn’t lead to misunderstanding.

  9. Hi Cristina, I like the quiz a lot, it’s really good. But there is one mistake, I believe. To cut corners is not to do something in the easiest or most inexpensive way. It means that you do not do something properly, correctly. Instead, you use inferior methods or materials or tools, and as a result, the finished product is not properly constructed or made. It may look ok, but it is not well done, and in the future there may be problems with it, as a result. For example, a house that is built by someone who cuts corners, will not be safe in the long term. It may have structural instability, bad materials, etc. So this idiom really means that you have done something in an incorrect way, in order to save money or time, but the finished result is not up to par, it is not as it ought to be, even if this cannot be seen from the outside.

  10. Yes and more fun than a traditional quiz, isn’t it? Thanks for your comment!

  11. 20/25 Very well. I’m happy. I can not copy the photo whith the score, but It’s true!!!!!!. I’m satisfied

  12. Hi Oli
    Thank you very much for your kind words! It’s great to have such feedback!
    I am very happy you find the tool useful. I believe riddle has a lot of potential in the classroom, but I should say I’m right now exploring another one, which is even better. Have a look at playbuzz. It has a lot of possibilities!

  13. Hola Christina,

    thank you very much for this very motivating exercise.
    20 students are working it at the moment having fun learning idiomatic English.
    I personally thank you for introduc ing ‘riddle’ into my work life. I’m looking forward to creating my own exercises with it and including it into my lessons.



  14. Thank you for sharing this interesting quiz – it would be a great learning tool for intermediate to advance ESL students.

  15. Hi Benji!
    Thanks for commenting! Yes, it has a negative connotation but I never suggested otherwise, did I?

  16. Hi Cristina, just a small correction: to cut corners isn’t really to do something in the easiest/most inexpensive way. It always has negative connotations. If your builder cuts corners, your house will not be safe.

  17. Thank you Christina. . it helps a lot.. i will give these to my students tomorrow.

  18. Thanks José and you’re right. I typed the same answer twice but I spotted the mistake five minutes after being published and modified it. It should be fine now.

  19. I did the quiz, Cristina. I liked it.
    Question 20 has the same answer twice, I think.

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