The English language is full of hundreds and hundreds of expressions. Some expressions are easier to understand than others, but as an English language learner, they can still be quite tricky to comprehend. Now, you may have just read my first couple sentences there and immediately thought “Oh my goodness, hundreds and hundreds of expressions I need to learn?”. Don’t fear! I’m here to help you with that. Also, before diving in to learning hundreds of expressions, I suggest starting with just the basics: expressions to use in real life. Still wondering what an expression even is? Well, an expression is a frequently used word or phrase that is used to convey your thoughts. So, the expressions you will learn today are going to be the top five most useful expressions to know when speaking English. So, without further adieu, let’s jump right in!
Keep something/ someone at bay
Definition: to prevent someone (or something) from moving closer
How to use: This expression is most commonly used when you’re trying to control a situation. So, when you’re trying to keep something at bay, you are trying keep someone or something from coming closer.
- The village tried to keep the wild animals at bay, while they planned their next attack.
- The police kept the suspect at bay while the victim gave her statement.
- An armed robber held police at bay for nearly thirteen hours before they caught him.
- I kept my loneliness at bay by joining a yoga class.
- To keep my allergies at bay, I try to stay away from foods that contain gluten.
Your guess is as good as mine
Definition: something you say when you do not know the answer to the question.
How to use: This expression is used when you don’t know how to answer a question, so you simply reply with “your guess is as good as mine.”
- Jen: What’s Steph’s problem?
Tim: Your guess is as good as mine!
- If you’re wondering which restaurant will have the best prices, well, your guess is as good as mine.
- As to which team will win this time, your guess is as good as mine.
- I called to ask when the shipment will arrive. She said “your guess is as good as mine.”
- Passenger: When will this flight take off? We have been waiting forever!Flight attendant: I’m sorry, but at this point, your guess is as good as mine.
Best thing since sliced bread
Definition: used to describe something or someone that one thinks is very good, useful, etc…
How to use: This expression is most commonly used to describe an invention or breakthrough, and just means to be an excellent person or thing.
- Man, have you seen the new squeezable jam in a bag? It’s the best thing since sliced bread! No more scrapping the jar with a butter knife!
- Why does the new intern think she’s the best thing since sliced bread? She hasn’t even graduated college yet.
- I’m not going to lie, Tesla’s are the best thing since sliced bread. I mean, come on! How cool is a self driving car?
- When my son got his new haircut, man, he thought he was the best thing since sliced bread. So much confidence in such a small body.
- There’s a new TV that is paper thin and see thru! It’s seriously the best thing since sliced bread. However, I do think the picture quality could be a bit better.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
Definition: don’t make everything dependent on one thing
How to use: This expression is used as a piece of advice, and simply means that one should not concentrate all their efforts and resources in one area, as you could lose everything.
- Stocks are tricky to understand, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
- I’m applying for multiple positions because I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket.
- The housing market crash of 2007 was inevitable, and sadly, a lot of people suffered from putting all their eggs in one basket.
- Mr. Tran’s financial advisor is strongly urging him to not put all his eggs in one basket, and instead, divvy up his investing among several stocks.
- I took a risk and put all my eggs in one basket when moving abroad. Luckily, it worked out well for me.
Cross that bridge when it comes
Definition: to not worry about a possible problem until it actually happens.
How to use it: This expression is used when someone is worrying about a possible situation that may or may not occur in the future. It is almost used as a kind of reassurance that there’s still hope for something to happen or not, and not to worry too much about it until the time comes.
- There may be too many people and not enough seats, but we will cross that bridge when it comes.
- I don’t like thinking about my kids growing up and moving out. I prefer just to cross that bridge when it comes.
- If it rains, we may not be able to go to the water park this weekend. We will just cross that bridge when it comes though.
- Lucy: What are you going to do if you fail the exam again?James: Well, I guess I’m just going to have to cross that bridge when it comes.
- She needs to wait and cross that bridge when it comes, but instead, she is considering the possibility of divorce even before her wedding date is set.
Now, there you have it! Here are the top five most useful English expressions to know. Now, as I have mentioned, there are probably hundreds and hundreds of expressions in the English language, so don’t expect to learn them all overnight. In fact, there’s still expressions out there that even I, a native English speaker, have never heard of or used. The best way to learn a new expression is through actual conversation. I encourage you to take what you’ve learned here today and try to incorporate these expressions into your everyday English conversation. If you cannot speak English everyday or maybe you do not have anyone to speak English to, that’s ok! You can still practice these expressions by recording yourself and different scenarios, or maybe even by joining a English group in your area. Best of luck to you on your English journey!