Idioms, Adages, and Proverbs

idioms, adages, and proverbs

idioms adages proverbs

While idioms, adages, and proverbs are all non-literal figures of speech and people often use the terms interchangeably. However, there are distinctions between the three that your students should know. These figures of speech (just like literary devices) are especially important to teach when working with English Language Learners.


Idioms are “short cuts” in language used for expressing an idea or relationship.

  • A dime a dozen
  • Spill the beans
  • Drop in the bucket
  • Not my cup of tea
  • Head in the sand
  • Over the moon
  • On the ball
  • In the dog house
  • Needle in a haystack
  • A piece of cake
  • Hit the road
  • Foot in the door


Adages are expressions about human nature. They come from observations of how people behave. These expressions are believed to be true because they have been repeated for a very long time.

  • You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.
  • The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
  • The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
  • Birds of a feather flock together.


Proverbs are expressions that teach a lesson or give advice. These familiar sayings have been around for a very long time.

  • You are what you eat.
  • Don’t jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.
  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
  • Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
  • The early bird gets the worm.
  • Strike while the iron is hot.

Idioms, Adages, and Proverbs Units:

If you’re looking to cover these three figures of speech in-depth, I recommend the individual units below (purple); these are perfect for younger students or English language learners.  If your students have a solid understanding of idioms, adages, and proverbs, the last unit (blue) should suffice.

Idioms, Adages, and Proverbs Mini-Book

idioms, adages, and proverbs

Once your students have a solid understanding of idioms, adages, and proverbs, this free mini-book makes a perfect reference tool  It comes in two versions: One version is filled out, and the second version contains blank spaces where students can take their own notes. Just enter your email address in the form below, and it will immediately be sent to you. If you don’t see it in your inbox, check your spam/promotions folder. To ensure delivery, avoid using a school email address.