Common English Idioms used for IELTS Speaking Exam

If you want to acquire 7 Band Score in IELTS Speaking Test, then along with high vocabulary and grammatical skills it is also important to use idiomatic language to leave a strong impression. This article is all about common idioms that can be used in IELTS speaking exam.

Idioms and phrases are used to describe things, feelings, and ideas with the combination of few words. Each country has a different set of phrases with special meanings. The idiomatic language is used in our daily communication and also it is preferred to use in IELTS speaking exam. To use them it is important to understand their meaning and usage first.

What is an Idiom?

An idiom is a phrase or expression having non-literal meaning - the meaning cannot be directly understood by reading each word.

For example, if you are very happy because you got a band 8 in your Speaking test, you might say: "I was on cloud nine when I saw my results". If we look at the literal meaning of these words, we think about being on clouds! However, the idiomatic meaning of this phrase is extremely happy - "I was extremely happy when I saw my result."

Idioms are used so often in very natural way by native speakers that we are unaware that people are using it. Often idioms get unnoticed in daily life. Learn to use them correctly.

Idioms On Happiness




On cloud nine          

Extremely happy when something wonderful happens.

She's been on cloud nine since she found out she is pregnant.

Like a dog with two tails

To look and be very happy.

Was he pleased? He was like a dog with two tails.

Full of the joys of spring

When you are energetic, cheerful and happy.

James must have had some good news, he's full of the joys of spring today.

Happy as Larry

When you are as happy as Larry, you are, of course, very happy. But who is Larry? No one is certain but it is believed that 'Larry' refers to an Australian boxer called Larry Foley (1878 - 1917) who after receiving a large payment after winning a fight was described in a newspaper as being 'happy'. Somehow this description stuck and is now used all these years later.

My daughter was as happy as Larry with her birthday present.

On top of the world

You are on top of the world when you feel wonderful.

I've been feeling on top of the world since I started doing yoga every morning.

Over the moon

This idiom isn't used so much these days because it is considered a cliché (an overused, unoriginal expression), but it means to be delighted.

The team captain said he was over the moon with their win.

In seventh heaven

Bliss; to be so happy it feels like you are in heaven.

I was in seventh heaven when I landed my dream job.

Idiom On Sadness




Down in the mouth

To look unhappy

She seems to be down in the mouth. Maybe she failed her exams.

Down in the dumps

It is not used to describe a person’s appearance, but rather a person’s mood or the way they feel.

Nina seems to be down in the dumps because she broke up with her boyfriend recently.

Reduce to tears

To make someone cry or to be so unhappy, you begin to cry.

My boss reduced me to tears with his constant criticism today.

Lump in your throat

Feeling in our throat that means we are about to cry.

His speech was so emotional that I lumped my throat.

Feeling blue/to have the blues

Colour blue is associated with depression, a bad mood, and sadness.

She has the blues today.

I was feeling blue yesterday.

Face like a wet weekend

Used in the situation where weather disappoints you- it’s overcast, cold, or continuously raining, and this makes the person sad or depressed.

Billy, your face is like a wet weekend. What’s wrong?

Idiom On Colors

black and blue

bruised and beaten

We found the poor guy black and blue near the train tracks.

black and white

straight forward, very clear

The rules we gave the kids were black and white. No answering the phone or the door.

black out


I always black out at the sight of blood.

black sheep

the odd or bad member of the group

My oldest brother was the black sheep in our family. He dropped out of school at fifteen.

born with a silver spoon in one's mouth

born into a rich family

Keiko hasn't worked a day in her life. She was born with a silver spoon in her mouth.

catch red handed

catch someone in the act of doing something wrong or illegal

The kids were caught red handed stealing chocolate bars.

golden opportunity

the perfect chance

The models' conference was a golden opportunity for me to sell my beauty products.

green with envy

very jealous

I am green with envy over Julio's new wardrobe.

have the blues

be sad or depressed

I always have the blues during the winter time.

in the dark


Antoine left his wife in the dark about their honeymoon destination until they got to the airport.

in the red

in debt

When we were in the red we almost had to sell the house.

red tape

official or bureaucratic tasks

There is still some red tape to deal with in terms of the inheritance.

red eye

an airplane flight that takes off after midnight

I caught the red eye so that I would see the sunrise over the mountains.

roll out the red carpet

treat someone like royalty

When relatives come to town my grandmother rolls out the red carpet.

rose coloured glasses

unrealistic view

Paula imagines Hollywood with rose coloured glasses.

see red

be very angry

I saw red when that guy grabbed my sister's purse.

true colours

real self

Suzanne doesn't show her true colours when we have guests over.

white lie

an innocent lie to protect another person's feelings

We told Grandma that her cake was delicious, which was actually a white lie.

with flying colours

with distinction

I passed my road test with flying colours.

Idioms On Memories




Refresh someone’s memory

Remind someone of something

I had to refresh her memory about what happened two years ago.

If (my) memory serves me correctly

If I remember (something) properly.

If memory serves me correctly, we’ve already met before.

Jog someone’s memory

to remind someone about something they have forgotten.

I tried to jog Jackson’s memory about our childhood antics.

Commit something to memory

To study something carefully so that you can remember it exactly.

I always commit to memory all my patients’ names.

Trip down memory lane

when people remember or talk about things that happened in the past.

Every Christmas is a trip down memory lane for the family when our parents take out the photo albums.

Bear in mind

It means they want you to remember something important.

You must bear in mind that the cost of living is higher in New York.

Idioms On Health




Alive And Kicking

In good health despite health problems

I had coronary bypass surgery last winter, but I’m alive and kicking!

As fit as a fiddle

To be healthy and physically fit

My grandfather is ninety years old but he is as fit as a fiddle.

Back on one’s feet

Physically healthy again

My mother is back on her feet after being sick for two weeks.

Go Under the Knife

Undergo surgery

I’m going under the knife next month to try to solve my knee problems. Hope it helps!

Have one foot in the grave

To be near death (usually because of old age or illness)

My uncle is very sick and has one foot in the grave.

Run in the family

To be a common family characteristic

The serious illness runs in the family of my friend.

Snake Oil

Medicine of unproven value; fraudulent medicine

The Internet is full of people who sell snake oil that won’t help you at all with your medical problems.

Under the weather

Not feeling well

My boss has been under the weather all week and has not come to work during that time.

Idioms On Student Life

Idiom Meaning Sentence
To be a bookworm Someone who reads a lot. He's always reading. He's a real bookworm.
To be a copycat Someone who does or says exactly the same as someone else. She always copies my work, she's such a copycat.
To learn the ropes To learn how to do a job. She's new here and is still learning the ropes.
To learn your lesson To suffer a bad experience and know not to do it again I got very drunk once and was really sick. I won't do it again, I learnt my lesson.
To live and learn Said when you hear or discover something which is surprising: I never knew that she was married. Oh well, you live and learn.
To teach someone a lesson To do something to someone, usually to punish them. I hit him hard on the nose. That taught him a lesson.
The three Rs Used to refer to the basic areas of education: reading,
writing and arithmetic.
Some children are leaving school without even the basic three Rs.
The University of Life People who never went on to higher education often say this. I studied at the University of Life.
With flying colours If you do something such as pass an exam with flying colours, you do it very successfully. She got into the university of her choice, because she passed all her exams with flying colours.

Idioms On Anxiety/Stress




Afraid of one’s own shadow

Very nervous or easily frightened

I’ve never seen anyone so easily scared – she’s afraid of her own shadow.

Make your blood run cold

It shocks or scares you a lot

The look in the prisoner’s eyes made my blood run cold.

Bundle of nerves

Nervous, tense or worried

My son is doing his driving test today. Needless to say he’s a bundle of nerves!

Have butterflies in your stomach

You are feeling very nervous

At the beginning of an exam, I always have butterflies in my stomach.

Get your fingers burnt

Result of an unsuccessful action

He got his fingers so badly burnt in the last elections that he decided to withdraw from politics.

Have one’s heart in one’s mouth

Feels extremely anxious or nervous

Emma had her heart in her mouth when she saw her 2-year-old son standing in front of the open window.

Your heart misses a beat

Sudden feeling of fear or excitement

When the lights suddenly went out, her heart missed a beat.

Dr. Roma

Content Writer