An idiom is a phrase or expression with a figurative or non-literal meaning. For example: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Candidates are able to speak like native English speakers by learning the given idioms for IELTS speaking. Practising and using a lot of idioms and collocations can help you to get a high band score in the IELTS speaking exam.
In the IELTS speaking module, you will find four band descriptors. Those are fluency and coherence, lexical resource, grammatical range and accuracy, and pronunciation. Your speech will be natural and fluent by using English-language idioms. Our list of idioms for IELTS speaking is designed by our experts to help you to get a band 9 score.
List of 63 Useful Idioms for Band 9 Score
Practising idiomatic language in your IELTS preparation can be helpful to get a band 9 score. Use the list of 63 English-language idioms in your IELTS speaking preparation to achieve a better band score.
( Note: The given list of idioms for the IELTS speaking exam has taken from a different set of topics including hometown, work, relationships, environment, etc. )
||Water Under The Bridge
||Past things that are not important anymore
||I had some problems with my friends. But, those are water under bridges now.
||Practice makes perfect!
||Constant practice leads to improvement
||Try to do the math as much as possible. Practice makes perfect!
||Hit the nail on the head
||Saying things in a precise and right manner
||In debate, you have hit the nail on the head towards the opposite group.
||Back to the drawing board!
||Attempts are failed. So, now it's time to start over again with different methods
||We have done a poor job in our project. Back to the drawing board!
||An Arm and A Leg
||BMW and all is an arm and a leg for me.
||Over the Moon
||I was over the moon when I got selected for a job
||Between a rock and a hard place
||Two equally bad choices
||I don’t like my partner. If I leave her, she could hurt herself. I am between a rock and a hard place.
||It’s Not One Thing, It’s the Other
||Problems are happening simultaneously
||I got rejected from a job. Now, I broke my legs. If it’s not one thing, it’s the other.
||Pulling your Leg
||Teasing or Joking around
||Don’t take it personally. I am just pulling your leg
||You are what you eat
||Eating healthy food can make you healthy. And, eating junk food could worsen your health
||You are what you eat. So, Eat good food.
||Don't judge a book by its cover
||Judging someone based on their appearance is misleading
||Don’t judge a book by its cover, he is an intelligent person.
||Take a rain check
||Rejecting an invitation now. But, when you would like to do it later.
||I can't come to the party now. I have to take a rain check.
||The heat of the moment
||Doing or saying something suddenly without thinking about it.
||Sorry for what I have said. I said in the heat of the moment
||Bite my Tongue
||Stopping yourself from saying something
|| I have to bite my tongue now to prevent bad situations
||Jumping the Gun
|| Starting or Initiating something too early
||Why are you jumping the gun? Tomorrow is only a festival
||Once in a Blue Moon
||Occurring so rarely
||We can see him once in a blue moon
||Cut to the chase
||Getting to the point and leaving out all the non-essential information
||Please cut to the chase. We don’t want to listen to all your stories.
||Keep an eye on him
||Watching someone in a careful manner
||He seems a little suspicious. So, keep an eye on him
||Rule of Thumb
||A principle or guideline based on practice rather than theory
||As a rule of thumb, you should take 2000 calories
||Work against the clock
||Not having sufficient time to do something
||We have to work against the clock to complete this project
||Flogging a dead horse
||Working on something that is not going to change
||I think we are flogging a dead horse. It’s better to focus on some other thing
||Smell a rat
||Sensing something that is not right
||Don’t try to conceal the truth. I can smell a rat
||Kicked the bucket
||Jack kicked the bucket when he dived into the sea
||Put all your eggs in the basket
||Putting all of one’s resources into one thing
||Don’t put all your eggs in the basket. Invest the money in different stocks.
||Chip on his shoulder
||The feeling of inferiority or unpleasantness
||He feels a chip on his shoulder when he thinks about his job.
||Piece of cake
||Achieving high marks in science is a piece of cake for me.
||Cloud has a silver lining
||Seeing the positive side in a negative situation
||Don’t worry about that. Every cloud has a silver lining.
||Let the sleeping dogs lie
||Avoiding a conflict or problem
||I don’t want to discuss it with him anymore. It's better to let the sleeping dogs lie.
||Looking exactly the same thing
||He’s a spitting image of her brother.
||Bent over Backwards
||Put a lot of effort to do something
||I bent over backwards to help her. But, she doesn’t even care about me.
||Break a leg
||Today, you are going to take a major exam, right? Break a leg.
||The Ball's in your court
||To tell someone it’s their turn to make a decision
||Who are you going to marry? The ball’s in your court, now.
||Playing a devil's advocate
||Argue for an unfavourable side to provoke a debate
||I am playing devil’s advocate to know the flaws in my position
||Until the cows come home
||Taking a very long time
||He is eating slowly. He will be there until the cows come home.
||Hold your horses
||Telling someone to be patient
||Hold your horses, you're behaving so idiotically
||Something said it humorously rather than seriously
||Sorry for what I have said. It was just tongue-in-cheek.
||Sitting on the fence
||Not able to make firm and strong decisions
||I don't know which career he is going to choose. He is sitting on the fence.
||Found my feet
||Become comfortable with what one is doing
||At first, I wasn't able to cook. But, now I have found my feet.
||A drop in the ocean
||A minute part of a bigger thing.
||He has a lot of wisdom. What he just said is a drop in the ocean.
||Blessing in disguise
||At first, it seems like the wrong thing but it turns out to be good.
||I failed the previous exam which was a blessing in disguise. Now, I got higher marks.
||Driving me up the wall
||Irritating or Annoying somebody
||He is driving me up the wall. He keeps on doing that.
||Under the Weather
||He is not talking with us. I guess he is under the weather.
||Actions speak louder than words
||Actions have a better impact than speaking
||We have to act instead of thinking too much about that. Actions speak louder than words.
||It’s a small world
||Meeting someone who is close in an unexpected context.
||I met George in the supermarket. It’s a small world.
||Fixed in their ways
||Sticking to conventional or normal ways of things.
||My relatives are fixed in their ways. They are compelling me to marry.
||Go the extra mile
||Doing more than what is necessary or required.
||He will go the extra mile to irritate others.
||Over the top
||Your excitement is over the top. It does not deserve that much.
||Bite the hand that feeds you
||Hurting someone who helped you
||Be with your parents when they are old. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
||Let the cat out of the bag
||Telling something to someone that you are not supposed to
||I told your secret to Sanjay. Sorry, I didn’t mean to let the cat out of the bag.
||Got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning
||Being in a bad mood
||I guess he got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. That’s why he is in a terrible state of mind.
||Fresh as a daisy
||Someone who is active, lively, and jovial
||Though my mother aged, she is stills as fresh as a daisy
||A lazy person or someone who is watching TV without doing any work.
||My friend is a couch potato. He is watching TV programmes though he has a lot of work.
||A person who is not trustworthy.
||I think you should not tell your secrets to mohan. He is such a bad egg.
||A person who is not participating in fun activities or enjoyment.
||Why Sam is so sad in this function. Party Pooper!
||A person who is enthusiastic and hardworking.
||Vignesh is an eager beaver. He can finish any work on time.
||Throw in the towel
||I don’t think it will work anymore. I’ll throw in the towel.
||Get a headstart
||Start prior to others
||The only way to win the competition is to get a headstart.
||Down to earth
||A person who is practical and realistic
||George is such a down to earth person. He can offer practical solutions to problems rather than confusing us.
||Burned the Midnight oil
||Staying up too late
||I burned the midnight oil to complete the homework.
||A quick lesson
||I have done an IELTS crash course to get a good band score.
||Out of the blue
|| Something occurred in an unexpected way
||I got shocked since he surprised me, out of the blue
||Pass with flying colours
|| Passing a test with high grades or marks
|| My daughter passed with flying colours in her college exams
|| To follow in someone's footsteps
|| Achieving things that someone already did
|| Following someone's steps is not a bad thing since it guides us.
Download the list of useful idioms for IELTS speaking pdf as a reference for your IELTS speaking preparation.
Phrases to help you in the IELTS Speaking Exam
Make sure to use the phrases appropriately in the IELTS speaking exam. Overusing the phrases could make your speech more unnatural and scripted. Use the phrases in the proper places to speak like native English Speakers.
I guess you could say
This phrase can be used when you are lacking in subject knowledge. You can use it in the IELTS speaking test since IELTS is a language test rather than an Intelligence test.
Example: I guess you could say that people lack motivation when they are in stressful situations.
Well, I think nowadays it’s a difficult question because…
It expresses the current state of conditions and problems. In the IELTS speaking test, you can use it for follow up questions since you could encounter unexpected questions.
Example: Well, I think nowadays it’s a difficult question because there are a whole lot of people using mobile phones.
Yes definitely, there are a few reasons for this, firstly…. and secondly…
You can use this phrase when you are agreeing with an examiner and build up the answers. In IELTS speaking part 2 - in depth discussion, you can start a speech and build it up for several questions.
Example: Do you think most people want to earn more money ? Yes definitely, there are few reasons for this, firstly the price for all the products and services is increased. Secondly, people want to buy more latest stuff.
Well to be totally honest I’ve never really thought about it before…
It can be used when you have heard something new. In an individual long turn test, you can start out your speech when you are lacking knowledge on the given topic.
Example: Describe a thing which moves with the vibrations
Well to be totally honest I’ve never really thought about it before
If my memory serves me well…
This phrase can be used when you are relying on past experiences or memory to tell something. You can use this phrase a good deal for IELTS speaking part 2.
Example: If my memory serves well, it is a blockbuster movie from the 1980’s.
I’ve forgotten… but…
You can use this phrase when you forget something specific but express information about that. It will be useful for you when IELTS speaking part 2.
Example: I’ve forgotten the exact place but I went there often.
Is it okay to speak about … ?
This question phrase can be asked when you are trying to talk about something controversial and whether the listener is okay with it or not. In the IELTS speaking test, you can use this question phrase when you are going to start out a new subject.
Example: Is it okay to speak about terrorism?
I’m going to talk about…
You can use this phrase when you are starting out a speech. In an individual long turn test, this phrase can be used at the beginning of the speech.
Example: I’m going to talk about one of my childhood experiences.
The only thing I could think of to speak about is…
When you don’t have much ideas on a specific topic, you can use this phrase. You can use this phrase if you aren't able to generate ideas when you are in the IELTS speaking test.
Example: The only thing I could think of to speak about is things I have learned during my college years.
I think I’ve covered everything…
This phrase is appropriate at the end of the conversation or speech. You can use this standardly to complete the individual long turn test.
I think I’m going off-topic
This phrase can be used when you think you are speaking more than what is required. In the IELTS speaking test, you return back to the topic by using the phrase.
I can’t think of anything else to say
When you are running out of ideas, you can use this phrase. You could encounter a question where you get only one idea to formulate your answer. At that time, using this phrase at the end of the speech will be helpful.
How to Use Idioms in IELTS Speaking?
You can figuratively describe your feelings and ideas using idioms. But, importantly, you must use the idiomatic expressions properly since it could affect your fluency and IELTS band score. So, remember the points given below while you are preparing idioms for the IELTS speaking test.
- Overusing idioms: Using idioms strategically can really express your speaking skills. But, if you are using it frequently, then it will seem unnatural. It could create a bad impression on your examiner.
- Using Irregular verbs: Idioms you are using could consist of irregular verbs such as gotten, drove, etc., You need to change it according to the tenses. Or else, it will be out of context.
- Avoid using cliches: Using cliche idioms indicates low-level preparation to your examiner. So, it is better to form good sentence structures instead of using cliches.
- Mind the context: Whenever you use idioms, make sure it fits into the context. Using idioms in your speech, out of context, will affect your band score.
- Unsuitable idioms: You may have the intention to use unconventional idioms to impress the examiner. But, more likely, it will seem odd while you are speaking. So, use the right idiom, in the right context, and in the right manner (pronunciation), to attain a good band score.
Read the IELTS speaking tips to improve your speaking skills.
IELTS speaking is divided into three parts: introduction, long-turn individual test, and follow-up questions. You can improve your level of speech in all three parts with the help of our “idioms for IELTS speaking”. You can also use the phrases and idioms for IELTS speaking pdf for your exam preparation.
1. Should idioms be used in IELTS speaking?
Most of the time, people use idioms informally. Spoken English is less formal than academic written English. So, idioms can be used in IELTS speaking.
2. How can I use idioms in the IELTS speaking test?
You can use idioms to express a specific thought in the IELTS speaking test. It will improve your English language fluency and continuity.
3. What are some common idioms used in the IELTS speaking test?
There are several common idioms used in the IELTS speaking test such as a white lie, child’s play, day and night, in the red, a dime a dozen, and beat around the bush.
4. What is the difference between idioms and collocations?
Idioms will lose their meaning if the words are separated. But, the meaning of the collocations sustains even if the words break apart.
5. Which idiom can be used to express sadness?
One of the idioms that can express sadness is down on the mouth. When the teacher scolded Gokul. He was down on his mouth.