English In The Real World

When pigs fly: Six interesting idioms and their meanings in English

Even if you have an amazing English vocabulary, there are some English expressions and idioms that don’t make sense when you first see them. Idioms rely on context and cultural knowledge, and just understanding the individual words in the idiom doesn’t always mean you will understand the whole meaning. Let’s take a look at six interesting English idioms and find out what they really mean.

When pigs fly

Pig’s can’t fly! It’s impossible, which is precisely what the expression means.We say it as a response when someone tells us something that we think is impossible or very unlikely. For example, if person A says “Do you think Mary will quit her job now that she’s pregnant?” and person B responds “Yeah, when pigs fly! There is no way she is giving up her career!” Person B thinks that it is very unlikely that Mary will quit her job.

Get in someone’s hair

If you get in someone’s hair, it means you are bothering them or annoying them – perhaps invading their personal space. For example, “Susan was trying to prepare dinner, but her children were getting in her hair!” This means Susan’s kids were bothering her when she was cooking. If someone is bothering you, you can tell them, “Get out of my hair!”

Hit the ceiling

If someone hits the ceiling it means they are reacting very angrily. For example, “When Carol’s son got an F on his report card, she hit the ceiling!” This means Carol was very angry when her son failed a class.

Knock someone’s socks off

If you make someone very impressed or excited, we can say you have knocked their socks off. For example, “You should see Tom’s new car! It’ll knock your socks off, it’s so amazing!” This means Tom’s car is very impressive!

Bite the bullet

People often say this came from a long time ago, before anaesthetics when soldiers had to endure a painful medical procedure or punishment, they would put a lead bullet in their mouth and bite on it to distract themselves from the pain. It means something similar now – to be brave and endure something unpleasant. For example “I know my boss will be angry that I lost the contact but I have to bite the bullet and tell him about it.”

Drive someone up a wall / drive someone crazy

These idioms both mean the same thing –  to really annoy someone or make them frustrated. For example, “Sally is driving me up the wall! She keeps asking me stupid questions.” The speaker is really annoyed because she doesn’t want to keep answering Sally’s stupid questions.

Those are our six interesting English idioms. How about yours? Do you know any interesting or unusual English idioms? If so, what are they and what do they mean?

Wil is a writer, teacher, learning technologist and keen language learner. He’s taught English in classrooms and online for nearly 10 years, trained teachers in using classroom and web technology, and written e-learning materials for several major websites. He speaks four languages and is currently looking for another one to start learning.


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