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HOME > AMERICAN IDIOMS > Idioms starting with A

Common American Idioms for ESL students


Welcome to our extensive list of American English idiomatic expressions! These types of phrases are used by native speakers daily. Learn these idioms and you will be on your way to speaking English in a more natural way. :)

About time:
Nearly time, high time. ex. "It's about time you bought a new car!"

Absence makes the heart grow fonder:
Proverb that means that our feeling for those we love increases when we are apart from them.

Achilles' heel:
A weakness that can make someone vulnerable, despite being strong, smart, etc. ex. "His inability to learn other languages was his Achilles' heel."

(To) act high and mighty:
To act proudly and arrogantly. ex. "He has been acting all high and mighty ever since he chased away that burglar."

Actions speak louder than words:
Proverb meaning that's it's better to do something about a problem than to talk about it.

Across the board:
Something that applies to all (cases), to everyone, etc. ex. "We were happy to see an across-the-board improvement in our test scores."

(To) act one's age:
To behave in a more mature way. Frequently said to a child or teen. ex. "Bill, stop throwing rocks! Act your age!"

(To) add fuel to the fire:
To make a bad problem even worse. ex. "He added fuel to the fire by bringing up old grudges while they were arguing."

(To) add insult to injury:
To make a bad situation even worse.

Against the clock:
To attempt to do something "against the clock" is to attempt to do something as fast as possible, usually in order to make a deadline. ex. "They were working against the clock to finish the project."

All kidding aside; all joking aside:
You say this when you want to tell someone that you're now speaking seriously. ex: "All joking aside, I really do think he's the best man for the job."

All out (adj./adv.):
Full-scale; complete. ex: "They said it was only a few skirmishes, but it was an all-out war."

All set:
Ready (to go). ex. "All set?"

All thumbs:
Awkward. Clumsy.

A little bird told me:
When someone says "a little bird told me", it means they don't want you to know who told them.

All in a day's work:
Typical; normal; par for the course. ex. "Talking to famous celebrities is all in a day's work for some Hollywood reporters."

(From) all walks of life:
(From) all social, economic, and ethnic groups. ex. "People from all walks of life voted for him, but he still lost the presidential election."

(To be/go/come) along for the ride:
To participate in something as an observer or simply out of pleasure. ex. "Jim wasn't really a member of the group. He was just along for the ride."

Apple of someone's eye:
Someone's favorite person (and sometimes thing). ex. "Sarah was the apple of Tom's eye for quite a long time. He was very much in love with her."

Armed to the teeth:
Heavily armed. ex. "The rebels were armed to the teeth."

At all hours (of the night):
Very late at night, throughout the night. ex. "Her boyfriend would call her at all hours of the night."

At each other's throats:
Fighting or arguing hard. ex. "They were at each other's throats. The arguments never stopped."

At this stage:
At this point. ex. "At this stage, it's difficult to say who will win the election."

grammar notes
Why learn idioms?

Learning idiomatic expressions is a very important part of the language-learning process. Much of everyday speech is based on colloquial and slang vocabulary - much of this vocabulary is based on idioms.

Our collection of American English idioms will teach you the type of language that native speakers use every day. You will become more fluent in English and will be able to communicate better.

Although this is a list of American English idioms, you will find that many of these words and expressions are used all over the English-speaking world.
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