Lesson Summary 

Learn how to use these common English animal idioms! 🐶🐱🐟mmmEnglish imitation lessons: https://www.mmmenglish.com/imitation

In this lesson, I’ll show you how to say and use these common English expressions to help you sound like a native English speaker.
Do you often use English idioms in your written and spoken English? The animal idioms that Emma teaches in this lesson are very common and used by English speakers around the world. If you’ve been wondering how to learn idioms, you’ve come to the right place! Here’s the complete mmmEnglish idioms playlist: https://youtu.be/ylHnC1lTODs

It’s time to open a can of worms and dive into the world of English animal idioms! Don’t worry if you feel like a fish out of water or if you’ve got butterflies in your stomach – let’s take our time and learn how to use these English idioms together!

English Animal idioms taught in this lesson:
It’s raining cats and dogs! 🐶🐱☔️
(to) let the cat out of the bag! 🐱
(to) go cold turkey! 🦃
wouldn’t hurt a fly 🐝
elephant in the room 🐘
(to have) butterflies in your stomach! 🦋
a fish out of water 🐟
(to) open a can of worms 🐛

CLICK HERE to read the full lesson transcript.

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Video Transcript
Section 1
Well hey there! I’m Emma from mmmEnglish!¬†Now it’s been a while since I’ve made you an¬†idioms lesson and since so many of you have been¬†asking for help with idioms lately, I thought¬†we’d better get to it!

There are just so many English idioms.¬†Do you remember what they are? They’re phrases,¬†whose meaning is different to the individual meaning¬†of each of the words in the phrase.¬†They’re a really tricky part of learning English.¬†There’s lots of them, thousands!

And some idioms are more commonly used in¬†some countries but not in others which is a little bit¬†frustrating when you’re trying to learn them, right?¬†Which ones are the ones that everyone uses?¬†There are some idioms that my American friends use¬†that I’m like, ‘What?’¬†and ones that I use that go¬†straight over their head as well.¬†That’s an idiom right there!

Native English speakers use them a lot.¬†They pop up in spoken English when it’s really difficult¬†to, you know, fully understand them¬†or stop the conversation and ask about the meaning¬†of how it’s used.¬†You’re just sort of left wondering¬†‘Why is he talking about an elephant?’¬†One little hint with idioms is that¬†there are probably some English idioms that are similar¬†to the ones that you have in your own language¬†like ‘crows feet‘.

crows feet

Crows feet are the wrinkles that people get here¬†caused by a lifetime of laughing and smiles or¬†maybe too much squinting in the sun.¬†But in English, they’re called crows feet.¬†But these same wrinkles might have a similar idiom¬†as their name in your language. So if you do¬†have some sort of idiom for these wrinkles here,¬†I want you to add it to the comments right now because¬†I’ve heard a few of them before but I’m curious to see¬†just how many we can collect. They’re ‘crows feet’ in English.¬†They kind of look like a crows foot.

Now you may have seen some of my other¬†idioms lessons, I’ve made quite a few¬†but you can find all of them right here¬†on my idioms playlist.¬†I’ll also link to it at the end of this lesson just in case¬†you want to keep practising¬†a little bit more with me later on.¬†But there’s business idioms, weather idioms,¬†food idioms, holiday idioms, body idioms.¬†They’re all there!

Now even though you probably feel like¬†idioms make a conversation confusing,¬†they’re also really fun and they’re a great¬†creative way to express yourself.¬†They really show off your English talents¬†like in a speaking exam for IELTS or TOEFL,¬†using an idiom correctly is quite impressive.¬†And before we get started, make sure you subscribe¬†to the channel just by clicking¬†that red button down there so that you can keep¬†up-to-date with what’s happening!

So we’re going to learn a few today.¬†We’re going to go over some common animal idioms,¬†starting with this one.

it’s raining cats and dogs

Now ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’¬†doesn’t mean that cats and dogs are¬†falling out of the sky.¬†It means that it’s raining and it doesn’t just mean raining,¬†it means raining really hard. It’s heavy rain.

I think we’ll have to cancel the bike ride, it’s raining cats and dogs out there!¬†It’s really rainy!

Now to be totally honest,¬†I don’t really use this idiom that much¬†but I come across it all the time in books.¬†So I wanted to include it here for you.

Usually, I would say “It’s bucketing down” if it’s raining really hard but¬†if it’s raining cats and dogs,¬†it’s probably best to stay inside.

Now speaking of cats, who let the cat out of the bag?

let the cat out of the bag

This idiom is used to talk about revealing a secret.¬†Now just imagine your sister told you that she was¬†flying home to surprise your mum for her birthday.¬†It’s a secret, right?¬†You can’t tell your mum¬†because it wouldn’t be a surprise.¬†If you did, you would let the cat out of the bag.¬†Your sister might say¬†“Please don’t tell Dad.¬†He’ll definitely let the cat out of the bag.”¬†The secret will be ruined because¬†dad can’t keep a secret¬†and the party wouldn’t be a surprise anymore, would it?

You can also ask the question: Who let the cat out of the bag?
Who told the secret?

Or you can apologise, you can say: Oops, I may have just let the cat out of the bag!
I may have spoiled the surprise.

go cold turkey

Now I want to ask you,¬†have you got an addiction to something?¬†For me, it’s coffee. I’ve got a coffee addiction.¬†I can’t possibly give it up!¬†Well, the only way that I could do it is if I just went¬†cold turkey.

Now this one doesn’t make much sense.¬†Picturing a turkey who’s really, really cold¬†won’t help you at all.¬†But if you go cold turkey it means that you¬†stop doing something completely, a hundred per cent.¬†And we usually use it to talk about quitting addictions¬†like smoking, coffee, drinking,¬†even social media addictions.¬†We all know someone who’s addicted to their phone, right?

Or maybe you are! Maybe you’re addicted¬†to your phone. Maybe you can’t put it down.¬†If you are, maybe you should think about¬†going cold turkey for a while.¬†So you’d delete Facebook, delete Twitter,¬†delete Instagram, Whatsapp, everything,¬†all forms of social media!¬†It has to be everything otherwise it’s not cold turkey.

Cold turkey‘ means a hundred per cent. Absolutely no.

Now you can use two verbs with cold turkey.¬†You can either say “go cold turkey”¬†or you can “quit cold turkey”¬†though that’s a little more American, American English.

So I’m curious, have you ever¬†quit anything cold turkey before¬†and completely stopped doing it?¬†Tell me in the comments.¬†Usually, it’s not so easy to go cold turkey.¬†What do you think?

wouldn’t hurt a fly

Okay for the next idiom I want you to think of someone¬†that you know who’s very kind and gentle.¬†Well, you can describe them by saying¬†they wouldn’t hurt a fly.¬†Flies and mosquitoes are pretty annoying, aren’t they?¬†Especially here in Australia!

So someone who wouldn’t hurt a fly must be¬†so patient and kind, right?¬†So this is a really positive, affectionate idiom¬†and it’s used to describe a person.

So you can also use this expression¬†to reassure someone.¬†If they’re worried about trusting someone,¬†you might say to them:

Don’t worry, Steve wouldn’t hurt a fly!¬†He’s the nicest guy that you’ll ever meet!

the elephant in the room

All right I think it’s really time we talk about¬†the elephant in the room.¬†Have you ever heard of this idiom?¬†The elephant in the room is the thing that¬†nobody wants to talk about.¬†So it’s quite specific, the way you use this idiom.¬†It’s when people are talking normally¬†but they’re all deliberately¬†not talking about a particular issue¬†but this issue is a big one. It’s like a big, huge¬†elephant sitting in the middle of the room that¬†is really obvious and it’s impossible¬†not to look at and you can see it, right?¬†But nobody’s talking about it.¬†The issue is something really obvious¬†but everyone’s ignoring it, right?¬†Or they’re trying to avoid it¬†probably because it’s an uncomfortable topic¬†or a difficult situation.

We really need to deal with the elephant in the room. None of us have been paid in over a month!

No one wants to talk about this, right?¬†Talking about money can be a little bit awkward,¬†especially with your boss.¬†This is a bad situation!¬†Why is no one in the room talking about it?¬†It’s definitely what everyone’s been thinking about.¬†Why haven’t I been paid?¬†It’s the elephant in the room.¬†We need to deal with this big issue, right?

butterflies in (one’s) stomach

This one is one of my favourite idioms.¬†It’s one that I use a lot.¬†When you have butterflies in your stomach,¬†it’s when you feel kind of nervous.¬†Do you know this feeling?¬†It’s that feeling in your stomach right before¬†you walk on stage¬†to speak in front of a hundred people¬†and present your research.¬†It feels like you literally have butterflies flying around¬†inside your belly, right?

Now think of anything that makes you feel so nervous that your tummy starts to feel a little funny. This can be described as butterflies in your stomach, right? You can use it to describe good nervous feelings or bad nervous feelings.

I’m so scared to speak on stage. I’ve got butterflies in my stomach!
He always gets butterflies in his stomach before he goes into big exams.

When was the last time¬†you had butterflies in your stomach?¬†Do you know this feeling?¬†Tell me about what makes you nervous and when you had this feeling.¬†For me, if I see¬†police lights in the rear-vision mirror in my car¬†when I’m driving, I instantly get butterflies in my belly¬†even if I’ve done nothing wrong!

You can say ‘stomach’ or ‘belly’ here.¬†‘Belly’ is just a little more informal,¬†it’s an informal way to say ‘stomach’.¬†Now you might also hear people just say¬†“I’ve got butterflies”¬†and they’re talking about this same idiom¬†unless that person has a jar of¬†butterflies with them in their pocket,¬†then they might be saying it and literally mean it¬†but that’s unlikely, right?

So here’s the next idiom…

a fish out of water

Now if you see someone who is¬†uncomfortable in a specific situation¬†like your grandma if she walked into a nightclub.¬†Then they look like a fish out of water.¬†She would feel like a fish out of water,¬†really uncomfortable, right?¬†She would feel completely awkward in a nightclub¬†unless you’ve got a super cool granny.

Or maybe when you get invited to a party but everyone is a native English speaker, you might feel a little like a fish out of water there.

Okay we’ve got time for one more idiom.

to open a can of worms

Imagine a can full of worms.¬†It’s full of long, wriggling,¬†squirming worms that are all twisted together.¬†So when you open that can of worms,¬†you’re going to have a big mess.¬†They’re going to go everywhere!¬†It’s probably going to be really difficult to clean up¬†and try and catch them all, right? You’ll have¬†a lot more problems than when you started.

It’s easier when they’re in the can but if you open it¬†there’s going to be problems.

Don’t ask them about the argument, you’ll just open a can of worms.
Let’s not talk about raising prices, we’re just going to open a can of worms.

So if you don’t want to create a tricky situation, then¬†don’t open the can of worms, right? It’s simple!

So those are some of the common animal idioms¬†that I tend to use quite often but there are more.¬†Do you know any other ones in English?¬†Or can you share the meaning of any animal idioms¬†in your own language?¬†Perhaps there are some similar ones in English¬†and we can chat about them in the comments.¬†And make sure you try and use¬†some of the new idioms that you’ve learnt in this lesson¬†below in the comments.¬†I’ll try and give you some feedback and help you¬†to make sure you’re using them correctly.

Thanks for joining me here again at the¬†mmmEnglish channel.¬†Make sure you subscribe if you haven’t already¬†and right now we’re going to check out¬†a few more videos about idioms, right here.¬†Let’s go!

mmmEnglish Video Lessons are a series of video lessons created to build confidence in English learners and focus on English in daily life. Download them and watch them anywhere! Subscribe to my YouTube Channel to be the first to get my new videos, and come and say hi on my Facebook page!!