PSLE English Idioms

PSLE English Idioms: Expanding your Vocabulary Beyond the Basics

More Idioms for PSLE English:

  1. Bite the bullet
  2. Cost an arm and a leg
  3. A piece of cake
  4. Barking up the wrong tree
  5. Hold your horses
  6. Break the ice
  7. Once in a blue moon
  8. Bite off more than you can chew
  9. The ball is in your court
  10. Kill two birds with one stone
  11. The elephant in the room
  12. Kick the bucket
  13. Hit the nail on the head
  14. On cloud nine
  15. Raining cats and dogs
  16. Feeling under the weather
  17. When pigs fly
  18. Spill the beans
  19. Let the cat out of the bag
  20. Burst your bubble
  21. Cry over spilled milk
  22. Fit as a fiddle
  23. Go the extra mile
  24. See eye to eye
  25. Take with a grain of salt

Now, let’s put these idioms in a table along with their meanings and examples of usage:

IdiomMeaningExample of Usage
Bite the bulletTo face a difficult situation bravelyDespite his fear, John decided to bite the bullet and give the presentation.
Cost an arm and a legExtremely expensiveHis new car must have cost him an arm and a leg.
A piece of cakeVery easyThe mathematics problem was a piece of cake for her.
Barking up the wrong treeAccusing the wrong personIf you think I was the one who broke the vase, you’re barking up the wrong tree.
Hold your horsesBe patientHold your horses, your turn is coming.
Break the iceStart a conversationTelling a joke is a good way to break the ice at a party.
Once in a blue moonVery rarelyHe only visits his hometown once in a blue moon.
Bite off more than you can chewTake on a task that is too bigI bit off more than I could chew by taking on the school project all by myself.
The ball is in your courtIt’s your decision or responsibility to do something nowI’ve told her how I feel, the ball is in her court now.
Kill two birds with one stoneAchieve two goals with a single actionBy biking to work, he could enjoy the weather and get exercise – killing two birds with one stone.
The elephant in the roomA big issue that everyone is ignoringThe elephant in the room was his poor performance in the last few exams.
Kick the bucketTo die (often used humorously or euphemistically)He is so old; I think he will kick the bucket soon.
Hit the nail on the headDo or say something exactly rightBob hit the nail on the head when he said his behaviour was unacceptable.
On cloud nineExtremely happyHe was on cloud nine after hearing the news of his scholarship.
Raining cats and dogsRaining heavilyWe can’t go out today; it’s raining cats and dogs.
Feeling under the weatherFeeling sickI’m feeling under the weather today; I think I caught a cold.
When pigs flySomething that will never happenHe’ll tidy his room when pigs fly.
Spill the beansReveal a secretHe spilled the beans about his surprise party.
Let the cat out of the bagAccidentally reveal a secretShe let the cat out of the bag about their wedding plans.
Burst your bubbleDisappoint someone by shattering their illusionsI hate to burst your bubble, but there is no such thing as unicorns.
Cry over spilled milkComplain about a loss from the pastStop crying over spilled milk; you can’t go back and change it.
Fit as a fiddleIn good healthEven at 75, my grandfather is as fit as a fiddle.
Go the extra mileMake more effort than is expected of youShe always goes the extra mile to make her guests feel welcome.
See eye to eyeAgreeMy brother and I don’t see eye to eye on many things.
Take with a grain of saltNot to take something too seriouslyYou must take his advice with a grain of salt; he doesn’t always mean what he says.

Is your Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) just around the corner? Are you looking for ways to stand out in your English paper? Learning and effectively using idioms can be the key to enhancing your PSLE English score. This guide will provide you with a curated list of idioms for PSLE English that are a level up from the primary list, along with strategies to learn and apply them. So, let’s get started.

Top Strategies for Learning Idioms

  1. Understand the Context: Don’t just memorise the idiom, but understand its meaning and how it can be used in sentences.
  2. Practice Regularly: Incorporate idioms in your daily conversation, writing practices, and comprehension exercises.
  3. Visual Associations: Try to create mental images for the idioms. This helps in memorising them.
  4. Group Study: Learn with friends. It’s always easier to remember when you discuss and use the idioms in conversation.

Upgrading Your Idiom Vocabulary for PSLE English

Understanding and correctly using idioms can dramatically improve your English writing and comprehension. These phrases are more nuanced and often more descriptive than their literal counterparts, offering a richness to your language skills that will serve you well in the PSLE. Below are some idioms that are a step beyond the typical primary list:

  1. Turn over a new leaf: To make a fresh start or change your behaviour for the better.
  2. Burn the midnight oil: To work late into the night.
  3. A drop in the ocean: A very small part of something much bigger.
  4. Beat around the bush: To avoid saying what you mean, usually because it is uncomfortable.
  5. Cut corners: To do something the easiest or cheapest way, often by ignoring rules.
  6. The last straw: The final problem in a series of problems that finally causes you to feel that you cannot continue to accept a difficult situation.
  7. Throw in the towel: To admit defeat or failure.

Incorporating these idioms in your English language preparation can help you add depth to your written and verbal expressions.

Making Idioms Come Alive

Learning idioms in isolation can be challenging. They’re not just words; they’re phrases with a history and a story. To truly understand their usage, you need to see them in action. Here are some example sentences:

  1. After being caught cheating, Tom decided to turn over a new leaf and started studying sincerely.
  2. To prepare for her PSLE, Maya often burns the midnight oil to cover all her subjects.
  3. Helping mom in the kitchen was just a drop in the ocean compared to all the housework she does every day.
  4. When asked about his poor grades, Ryan started beating around the bush, avoiding his parents’ questions.
  5. It’s not wise to cut corners while preparing for your PSLE; it’s better to thoroughly understand each topic.
  6. The additional homework was the last straw for Sam who was already juggling school, tuition, and football practice.
  7. After multiple failed attempts, it was tempting to throw in the towel, but he decided to persevere.

Great Online Resources to Learn Idioms

There are countless resources online that provide lists, games, quizzes and exercises to learn idioms. Here are some websites you might find useful:

  1. Idiom Connection – Provides a comprehensive list of idioms categorised by themes.
  2. English Club – Features idioms with definitions, examples, and a fun quiz to test your knowledge.
  3. Learn English Today – Offers a list of idioms, phrasal verbs, and proverbs with meanings and examples.
  4. BBC Learning English – Offers ‘The English We Speak’ series where they talk about idioms in real-life situations.


Idioms add flair and sophistication to your language, making your writing more engaging and memorable. By integrating the above idioms for PSLE English into your vocabulary, you’ll be able to express yourself in a more nuanced and colourful way. Remember, practice is the key. So, make sure to use these idioms in your daily conversations and writing practices. Good luck with your PSLE English preparation!

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