10 American Expressions to Help You Sound Native

Thank you so much for joining me! My name is Dianne, and I will be your English teacher for today. There are certain expressions and sayings Americans say, and if you are an English as a second language speaker, you may not understand them. Today’s lesson is focused on ten American expressions to help help you sound like a native speaker!

Before we start though, here’s a little bit about myself – I was born and raised in Bogota, Colombia, so I know what it’s like to learn English as a second language! I had to learn English when I was about 12 years old and I moved to the US. I had very little understanding of the language, and as soon as I started speaking with native English speakers I was lost!

My biggest tips are to pay attention to the context of the phrase. Also, look at the way the person is talking – their tone of voice and their body language. I am so sure that you will be able to figure it out. Don’t translate (because the literal translation may not make any sense), but pay attention to these cues.

Let’s get started with today’s lesson.

1. To Spill the Beans

This means to reveal a secret. Maybe you’ve heard this on a TV show, or in a movie.

“Hey, spill the beans!”
“What’s going on?”
“What are you talking about?”
“What’s the secret?”

For example, you might hear that there is a rumor going around that someone has a boyfriend or a girlfriend but you don’t know who the person is. Maybe it’s your friend! You might say, “Please tell me, spill the beans! Who is your new boyfriend or girlfriend?”

You might hear this a lot in a playful way on TV or in the movies.

2. That Hit the Spot

When you’re talking about eating something, or drinking something, that tastes really, really good, you might say, “That hit the spot!” It just means that in that moment you wanted something to eat or something to drink so badly that whatever you ate or drank tasted really good and it “hit the spot.”

3. Hooked on Something

What that means is that maybe you really like something that you just cannot get enough of. For example, you might hear people at work talking about a new TV show that everyone really likes. Someone might say, “I am hooked on this TV show!”

You can also use it in the context of hobbies. For me, I love traveling. When I went to Asia the first time, I remember thinking to myself, “Wow! I am hooked on traveling! I love it so much, I wish I could do it every single day! I cannot get enough of traveling.”

4. Knock on Wood

This one just means to prevent bad luck. It’s a common superstition in America. You might be driving down the road and you say to yourself, “I hope it doesn’t rain –  knock on wood!” or “I hope I don’t get a flat tire – knock on wood!” That’s how you would use this phrase. It’s to prevent or avoid bad luck. If you knock on wood, it is not going to happen.

5. The Whole Nine Yards

This means that someone went all the way. They made use of everything possible. You might use that also when you’re learning English. You might want to go “the whole nine yards” – learn as much as you can, watch as many videos as you can, and study as much as you can to go “the whole nine yards” and become a great fluent English speaker.

6. Call It a Day

It just means to end a task or end whatever it is that you’re doing, and just take a rest for the day. Maybe you had a long day at work and your coworker notices. She might say,

“You know what? Let’s call it a day.”
“Let’s go home, let’s call it a day.”

Let’s go out to eat, let’s relax, and let’s stop working.

7. Hit the Sack

To hit the sack (or hit the hay) means to go to sleep when you’re really tired. Again, maybe you are really tired from work, and you say, “Let’s call it a day. I’m done and I want to go home and hit the sack.”

8. Feel Under the Weather

When you feel tired, when you feel just not in a good mood, you’re just not feeling it. Maybe you just don’t feel like going to work one day. You’re very tired, you have been working so hard. Maybe you’re feeling a little sick and you don’t want to go to a party or the movies or dinner with your friend. You can say, “Hey guys, I’m feeling under the weather. I cannot come today.” That’s how you would use that phrase. It’s informal, or formal – you can use it with your boss or with your friends.

9. Break the Ice

Break the ice means to make others feel comfortable and get to know each other. This could be in a group setting. You might hear someone say, “Let’s break the ice, let’s play some games. Most of the time, it applies to a group of strangers, so you “break the ice” with someone you don’t know.

10. Take a Rain Check

What this means is that you want to postpone an event. You can use it when the weather is actually bad! You could say,

“I want to take a rain check. The weather isn’t good, so let’s go another day.”
“Hey, I don’t think we should go out today because the weather is bad. Let’s take a rain check for next week.”

Review Time!

Now that we have learned all of these phrases, let’s do a quick rundown of what we just learned.

“To spill the beans” – to reveal a secret.

“That hit the spot” – something tasted really good in that moment.

“Hooked on something” – you really, really like something.

“Knock on wood” – to prevent bad luck, to hope that nothing bad happens. You can say it or you can just literally knock like this. You don’t even have to say the phrase.

“The whole nine yards” – make use of everything possible, do everything that is possible, like you’re doing with learning English.

“Call it a day” – stop what you’re doing and just relax or move on to something else

“Hit the sack” – go to sleep. After you’ve called it a day at work and you’re done, you want to hit the sack – go to sleep.

“Feel under the weather” – to feel tired or sick, or just not feeling very good

“Break the ice” – get to know someone by doing an activity that will make everyone feel comfortable

“Take a rain check” – postpone an event

Thanks for Watching!

Thank you so much for joining me today! I really hope that you learned something new! Please let me know if you have any questions. I really enjoyed teaching you something that I’m very passionate about. I have a hard time, even to this day, and there are a few American expressions I still have to ask about. You’ll learn every day, pay attention, look for those cues and body language, and anything that will give you an idea about the meaning of a phrase.

Here’s another video you can watch to learn a little bit about how to understand American humor. Thank you so much and you have a wonderful day!

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