Idioms For IELTS Writing 1: All You Need To Know

Jul 28, 2023 | IELTS

Idioms For IELTS Writing 1

Idioms are an integral part of language and can greatly enrich your IELTS writing. These colourful expressions add depth, creativity, and cultural relevance to your text, showcasing your language proficiency and making your writing more engaging.  

We will explore a selection of 55 idioms that you can incorporate into your IELTS writing to elevate your language and impress the examiners.

We will explore a selection of 55 idioms

A picture is worth a thousand words: Visual information is more powerful than verbal description.Example: The graph clearly shows a sharp decline in sales, proving the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

The tip of the iceberg: Only a small, visible part of a much larger problem or issue.Example: The increase in crime rates is just the tip of the iceberg; the underlying causes need to be addressed.

In the blink of an eye: Very quickly; almost instantaneously.Example: The population of the city grew in the blink of an eye due to migration from rural areas.

To hit the nail on the head: To be exactly right or accurate.Example: The researcher hit the nail on the head by identifying the main reasons behind the decline in tourism.

A drop in the ocean: A very small or insignificant amount in comparison to the whole.Example: The government’s financial aid was merely a drop in the ocean compared to the overall cost of rebuilding the affected region.

To be in hot water: To be in hot water or experiencing a challenging predicament. Example: The company found itself in hot water after the release of a controversial advertisement.

To get the ball rolling: To start a process or initiate an activity. Example: The project manager got the ball rolling by organizing a brainstorming session with the team.

To go hand in hand: To be closely connected or associated.Example: Economic growth and technological advancement often go hand in hand.

To keep one’s fingers crossed: To hope for a positive outcome.Example: The students kept their fingers crossed for good results in their final exams.

To read between the lines: To understand the hidden or implied meaning.Example: The report had some vague statements, and I had to read between the lines to grasp the true intentions.

To turn a blind eye: To turn a blind eye or purposefully neglect something. Example: The supervisor turned a blind eye to the employee’s frequent tardiness.

To make a long story short: To summarize or give a brief version of something. Example: The patient experienced various symptoms, but to make a long story short, they were diagnosed with a severe allergy.

To be on the same page: To be on the same page or have a mutual understanding. Example: The team members need to be on the same page to ensure the project’s success.

To be a piece of cake: To be very easy. Example: Solving this equation is a piece of cake for the mathematician.

To cost an arm and a leg: To cost a fortune or be exorbitantly expensive. Example: Buying a new car can cost an arm and a leg, especially with all the additional taxes.

To let the cat out of the bag: To disclose a secret or confidential information. Example: Mary accidentally let the cat out of the bag about the surprise party.

To be on thin ice: To be in a risky or precarious situation. Example: The company’s financial stability is on thin ice due to poor management decisions.

To break the ice: To initiate or start a conversation or interaction. Example: The host played a game to break the ice at the party.

To beat around the bush: To avoid getting to the main point or being indirect. Example: Instead of beating around the bush, please tell me directly what you want.

To have one’s head in the clouds: To be lost in one’s own thoughts or fantasies. Example: Sarah often has her head in the clouds

A blessing in disguise: Something that appears to be negative but turns out to be beneficial. Example: The economic recession was a blessing in disguise as it forced companies to reevaluate their strategies and become more efficient.

A golden opportunity: An excellent chance to achieve success. Example: The scholarship offered to him was a golden opportunity to pursue higher education.

As clear as mud: Something that is confusing and difficult to understand. Example: The instructions given in the manual were as clear as mud, making it hard to assemble the furniture.

Barking up the wrong tree: To be barking up the wrong tree or engaging in a case of mistaken identity or judgment. Example: The detective realized he was barking up the wrong tree when the suspect’s alibi was confirmed.

Bite the bullet: To meet a challenging or unpleasant situation head-on with bravery or fortitude. Example: The company had to bite the bullet and downsize its workforce to survive the economic downturn.

Break a leg: A phrase commonly employed to extend best wishes to someone. Example: Before going on stage, the theatre director said to the actors, “Break a leg!”

By the skin of one’s teeth: Narrowly escaping a difficult or dangerous situation. Example: He passed the exam by the skin of his teeth, just one point above the passing mark.

Cry over spilled milk: To dwell on a past mistake or problem that cannot be changed. Example: There’s no use crying over spilled milk; we need to focus on finding a solution to the current issue.

Don’t judge a book by its cover: To not form an opinion based solely on appearance. Example: Although the house looked old from the outside, inside it was beautifully renovated. It goes to show you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

Every cloud has a silver lining: There is something positive in every negative situation. Example: Despite losing her job, she realized that every cloud has a silver lining, as it gave her the opportunity to explore a new career path.

Fish out of water: Feeling uncomfortable or out of place in a particular situation. Example: The city boy felt like a fish out of water when he visited his grandparents’ farm.

Haste makes waste: Acting too quickly can result in mistakes or inefficiency. Example: Rushing through the task led to several errors. Haste makes waste, after all.

In the heat of the moment: Acting impulsively or emotionally without careful thought. Example: He made an impulsive decision in the heat of the moment and immediately regretted it.

It’s a piece of cake: Something that is very easy to do. Example: After studying for weeks, the final exam felt like a piece of cake to her.

Kill two birds with one stone: Accomplishing two tasks with a single effort. Example: By carpooling to work, she not only reduced her carbon footprint but also saved money. She killed two birds with one stone.

Like a fish in water: Feeling comfortable and natural in a particular situation. Example: The young musician performed on stage as if she were a fish in water.

On thin ice: In a precarious or risky situation.Example: The company’s financial stability was on thin ice due to poor investment decisions.

Out of the woods: Out of danger or no longer facing a difficult situation. Example: Joe was sick two weeks ago and we were very worried, but now it looks like he is out of the woods.

A drop in the bucket: A small, insignificant amount in relation to the whole. Example: The amount of money raised was just a drop in the bucket compared to what was needed for the project.

A picture is worth a thousand words: Visual representation can convey a complex idea more effectively than words. Example: The graph clearly showed the impact of climate change on sea levels. A picture is worth a thousand words.

All in the same boat: In the same situation or facing the same challenge. Example: With the recent budget cuts, all departments are in the same boat and must find ways to operate more efficiently.

Between a rock and a hard place: Caught in a difficult or impossible situation. Example: The company was between a rock and a hard place, having to choose between laying off employees or going bankrupt.

Bite off more than you can chew: To take on more responsibilities or tasks than one can handle. Example: I thought I could manage a part-time job and full-time studies, but I soon realized I had bitten off more than I could chew.

Break the ice: To initiate or ease the tension in a social or professional setting.  Example: The facilitator organized a team-building activity to break the ice among the new employees.

Burn the midnight oil: To work or study late into the night. Example: In order to complete the project on time, the team had to burn the midnight oil for several consecutive nights.

Cross that bridge when you come to it: To deal with a problem or situation when it arises, rather than worrying about it in advance. Example: We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Let’s focus on the current task at hand.

Cut corners: To take shortcuts or do something in a hasty and careless manner. Example: The contractor cut corners during construction, leading to numerous quality issues with the building.

Every cloud has a silver lining: There is something positive in every negative situation. Example: Although she didn’t get the promotion, every cloud has a silver lining; she discovered a better job opportunity soon after.

Hit the nail on the head: To be exactly right or accurate. Example: The market research report hit the nail on the head by identifying the target audience’s preferences.

In the blink of an eye: Very quickly; almost instantaneously. Example: The population of the city grew in the blink of an eye due to rapid urbanization.

Keep your fingers crossed: To hope for a positive outcome. Example: I have a job interview tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Let the cat out of the bag: To accidentally or intentionally reveal a secret. Example: Sarah let the cat out of the bag and spoiled the surprise party.

On cloud nine: To be extremely happy or elated. Example: Winning the championship put the whole team on cloud nine.

Put all your eggs in one basket: To risk everything on a single opportunity or investment. Example: Investing all your savings in a single stock is like putting all your eggs in one basket.

Rome wasn’t built in a day: Achieving something significant takes time and effort. Example: Learning a new language requires consistent practice and patience. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.


Integrating idioms into your IELTS writing can elevate your language and captivate the reader. However, it is crucial to use them judiciously and ensure they fit naturally within the context. 

Idioms should enhance your message and not overshadow the clarity of your ideas. Practice incorporating these idioms and gradually expand your repertoire to add flair and sophistication to your IELTS writing. 

Remember to familiarize yourself with the meaning, usage, and cultural context of idioms to deploy them effectively. With thoughtful application, idioms can become powerful tools to showcase your language skills and make your IELTS writing stand out.