Actually I look for some English idioms, or as we say "proverbs" or "popular expressions". But I wonder if we use a lot of these expressions during a casual conversation that we could have with a new person we met in the street or somewhere else.

Some of them look very old school and it may be weird for me (I'm young) to use them with a group of young people.

Also, I would like to know if people use idioms in formal conversation or in academics test as TOEFL or TOEIC.

Some concerned idioms : -fish out of water -in the nick of time/ Instead of "We are almost late" -Draw lines/ Instead of "set some limits" -Cut corners -Play it by the ear/ Instead of improvise -Between a rock and a hard place -Bite a bullet Etc...

I won't list all of them here but you can get the gist.

  • It's "in the nick of time", no second "the", and "bite the bullet". – Victor Bazarov Oct 11 '15 at 17:23


I would avoid using idioms in academic and technical writing. Some people reading your work may not have English as their first language – using idioms might make it harder for them to understand your ideas.

I would also avoid idioms in legal and official government writing, which should be clear and literal (but unfortunately sometimes isn’t).

As far as less formal writing and conversations go, the only way you would know what is/isn’t comprehensible would be through experience.


In formal writing, many idioms will stand out like dog’s balls, and lower the tone of your work. As such, I think they should probably be avoided if you want your work to maintain a formal tone.

However, in less formal writing, and in conversation, I think idioms are perfectly acceptable.

In general, I think a helpful approach would be:

Only consider using an idiom if you are sure that the intended audience will understand it and when it won't detract from the tone of your writing.

  • I suspect that a mistake in an idiom will also be far more noticeable than a mistake in normal speech as well. "Want to go get a lunch?" just sounds a bit off, but "I'm going to bite a bullet and ask Jane out." sounds quite wrong. – Jason Patterson Oct 11 '15 at 17:35
  • My error, sorry. I wrote these idioms in a hurry without checking the syntax. At least it's make me proud that you understood what I wanted to say. Few weeks ago I couldn't be able to write this kind of text faster than i do now. – jr28 Oct 11 '15 at 17:40

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