Common English Idioms:

This list of common English idioms starting with the letter "I" gives "in depth" definitions and examples. "In a nutshell," you'll learn a lot. Let's get started. By the way, I've also covered the other letters of the alphabet: click here to go to the main idioms page

Did you remember that an idiom is a group of words whose meaning is different from the individual words if you looked them up separately in the dictionary?

Okay, let's look at the most common English idioms beginning with "I" (Note: the main word of the idiom begins with the letter "I").

Common English Idioms Beginning with "I"


break the ice:  to start a conversation with someone that you meet for the first time.

  • At the conference will have several activities to help people break the ice.
  • It’s always easiest to break the ice  after I’ve had a few drinks.

(skating / walking) on thin ice:  to be in an uncertain, risky situation.  Example:  If you keep arriving late to work, soon you’ll be skating on thin ice... read more

put something on ice:  to delay something.

  • We decided to put the project on ice  until we hire a new project manager.
  • We put going out to dinner on ice  for a few months so we can save money to buy a car.


icing on the cake:  an extra benefit or additional good thing added to something.  Example:  I wanted to go see that LA Lakers play for so long, the great seats were just icing on the cake... read more


float an idea:  to propose an idea just to see if people are interested.

  • I’d like to stop by your office today to float some ideas  about promoting the conference.
  • Before you make a final decision, you should float some ideas  to your children about this summer’s activities.

not have the faintest idea:  to have no understanding about something.

  • I don’t have the faintest idea  how I got home last night from the bar.
  • Yes you are going tonight — don’t you have the faintest idea  how much your ballet lessons cost?


if worst comes to worst:  in the worst possible situation.

  • If worst comes to worst,  we can take a taxi home from the concert.
  • If worst comes to worst,  you can get a temporary job until you find a permanent one.


in a bad mood:  feeling sad or depressed.

  • Why are you always in a bad mood  these days?
  • He’s been in a bad mood  all evening because his favorite team lost today’s match.

in a bad way:  in a very serious condition; very ill.

  • My grandma’s been in a bad way  since my grandfather died last month.
  • My roommate's in a bad way  since he started doing drugs.

in a bind:  in a difficult situation.

  • Could you lend me $20? I’m in a bind  because I forgot my wallet at home.
  • I’m in a bind  because my car won’t start and I can’t be late for work today.

in a family way:  pregnant; expecting a baby.

  • How can I say this politely? Are you in a family way?
  • I’m devastated.  My 15-year-old’s girlfriend is in a family way!

in a hurry:  rushing or moving around quickly.

  • I wish we could leave home earlier and not always have to drive to school in a hurry.
  • Sorry, I can’t talk now — I’m in a hurry  to pack and catch the bus to the airport.

in a jam:  in trouble or in a difficult situation.

  • If you get in a jam,  here’s my phone number so you can reach me.
  • I’m in a real jam — I lost my key and can’t get into my house.

in a jiffy:  quickly or very soon.

  • I’m late for a party so could you wrap that gift in a jiffy?
  • “Excuse me, waiter!  You forgot to bring a spoon.” “I’m sorry. I’ll bring one in a jiffy.”

in a little bit:  in a short period of time; soon.

  • Let’s go find our seats; the game's going to start in a little bit.
  • “Mom, when are we going to be there?!” “We’ll be there in a little bit  so please stop asking.”

in a mad rush:  extremely hurried.

  • I left my house in a mad rush  this morning and forgot my lunch on the kitchen counter.
  • Slow down!  Accidents happen when people are in a mad rush.

in a nutshell:  in summary.  Example:  “The dog ate your homework?” “In a nutshell,  yes".... read more

in a pickle:  in a difficult situation

  • When you decided not to call and tell us you were coming in to work today you really left us in a pickle.
  • I'm in a pickle  because the only time the cable repairman can come to our home is when I've got to work.

in a pinch:  something that will work if what’s needed isn’t available.

  • In a pinch  you can use molasses instead of brown sugar in this recipe.
  • I was in a pinch  so I used tape to fasten my glasses together until I could get them repaired.
  • The next time you're in a pinch  getting to work just call me and I'll take you. It's ridiculous to spend $35 on a taxi to get to work when your car breaks down.

in a rush:  in a hurry, moving around quickly.

  • I was in such a rush  I forgot to turn off the iron and had to go back home so I was really late for work this morning.
  • I hate living in the city. Everyone is always in such a rush here.  It's stressful.

in a rut:  doing the same thing again and again.

  • I was in a rut  at the gym doing the same cardio exercises but when I added weight training, I really started to lose weight.
  • I'm stuck in a rut  in this job and need to find something more interesting and challenging.

in and of itself:  without considering anything else.

  • I love the balcony in and of itself  so I’ll rent the apartment.
  • In and of itself  the color of that dress is fabulous.

in a sense:  in a way, sort of.

  • In a sense, talking with my parents through video chat is almost like being there with them.
  • This prepaid card doesn't have a line of credit but in a sense  it works like a credit card because you can use it wherever Visa and MasterCard are accepted.

in a split second:  very quickly.

  • In a split second  a dog ran in the road in front of my car and I almost hit it.
  • Professional baseball players can react in a split second  after the ball is pitched.

In a stew (about something):  upset and bothered about something.

  • My husband sat on the sofa all day in a stew  because I asked him to help me do some housework.
  • "What's wrong with Sandy?" "She's in a stew  about all the homework her teachers gave her to finish this weekend."

in a stupor:  in a confused condition.

  • After I took some cold medicine I was in such a stupor  I couldn’t do any more work or even drive home.
  • Don't drink any more beer or you'll be in a drunken stupor  the rest of the afternoon.

in a tight spot:  in a very difficult situation.

  • I wish I could lend you some money but I’m in a tight spot  myself.
  • If you buy that cell phone you'll really be in a tight spot  until you get your next pay check.

in a word:  in summary, in brief.

  • In a word — Yes, I’d love to go with you.
  • Can you please give your update in a word  so we can adjourn this meeting soon?

in a world of one’s own:  1) In such deep thought you don’t notice anything around you;  2) caring about oneself and not about others.

  • I’m sorry I wasn’t listening a moment ago — I was in a world of my own.
  • Our teenage daughter is in a world of her own  so we give her a lot of time and space at the moment.

in advance:  before something happens.

  • In order to attend the event you need to pay all the fees in advance.
  • We need to have your speech in advance  so it can be translated into Spanish.

in all likelihood:  most likely, the most probable outcome.

  • In all likelihood  I’ll get married and have kids when I’m in my 30's.
  • In June, we'll take a short vacation to the beach in all likelihood.

in all shapes and sizes:  in a variety of types and forms.

  • Our store has fashion styles for people in all shapes and sizes.
  • Don't worry—the members of our gym come in all shapes and sizes  so you will feel very comfortable working out here.

in any case:  regardless, no matter what happens.

  • In any case, if you forget to pack anything you can buy it during the trip.
  • I know I don't have to be at the meeting tomorrow but I'm going in any case.

in any event:  regardless, no matter what happens.

  • In any event,  we’ll arrive sometime during the afternoon on Sunday and then take a taxi to your house.
  • Call us as soon as you get home in any event—even if it's very late.
  • In any event,  we've decided to purchase this house, even if the inspector finds problems.

in arrears:  to be late with a payment, overdue.

  • Sir, your account is three months in arrears  and we will close it if we don’t receive full payment by Friday.
  • My student loans are now in arrears  and my parents have generously decided to help me with my missed payments so I don't get more penalties. 

in bad faith:  intending to cause harm or be dishonest.

  • The company offered me the job in bad faith — I did not get an office or parking space as promised.
  • I had a feeling the proposal was in bad faith  and when I said we needed to have a legal contract I never heard from the salesperson again.

in bad taste:  not proper or suitable; offensive to others.

  • Wearing jeans and sneakers to the wedding was really in bad taste.
  • It was really in bad taste  to give your secretary a book on weight loss for her birthday.

in black and white:  in writing.

  • Thanks so much for the verbal offer but I also need to receive it in black and white.
  • I won't believe it until I see it in black and white.

in broad daylight:  publicly so anyone can see.

  • The thief stole my car in broad daylight  but no one noticed.
  • I was sitting in the park today and let me just say that people do the craziest things even in broad daylight.

in bulk:  in large quantity.

  • We always buy cereal, toilet paper and cleaning supplies in bulk  to save money.
  • I'm sorry but we only sell these particular items in bulk.

in charge of (someone / something):  responsible for someone or something.

  • This is Maria. She’s in charge of ordering supplies  so please let her know what you need.
  • Can you please tell me who is in charge of hiring?  I would like to apply for a job.

In conjunction with (someone / something):  working together with someone / something.

  • We’re doing this conference in conjunction with  our local trade association.
  • If you use this facial scrub and cleanser in conjunction with  this moisturizer your acne and blemishes will clear up within a few weeks.

in deep water:  in serious trouble.

  • I was supposed to finish the report two hours ago but I haven’t even started so I’m in deep water.
  • You'll be in deep water  soon if you don't stop buying things with credit.
  • My brother didn't come home last night so he's in deep water  with my parents.

in depth:  complete and in detail.

  • This report examines the past 40 years of economic growth in this city in depth.
  • I hope they explain the procedures in depth  today and not just try to get us to make appointments for further information.

in flux:  constantly changing.

  • My company has transferred me to new offices three times in three years so my private life is also in flux.
  • Our finances are in flux  these days because my husband left his job and is now doing independent consulting work.

in on something:  to participate in doing something with others.

  • Who is in on the planning  for the holiday party?
  • Everyone in the neighborhood is in on cleaning up  the park this weekend.


every inch of something:  every part of something.

  • I’ve lived here for 50 years so I know every inch of the city.
  • When I was sick with the flu every inch of my body  was sore.

give an inch:  to partly agree to something.

  • I had to divorce my husband because he never gave an inch  about anything.
  • Sometimes if you give an inch, the other person also becomes more agreeable and you can find a solution to the problem.


under the influence:  feeling the effects of alcohol or drugs.

  • Don’t drink and drive — there are severe penalties for people who are under the influence  when they drive.
  • I can’t talk about this with you when you’re under the influence.  Let's talk about this tomorrow morning.


take the initiative:  to be the first one to make an effort to do something.

  • To succeed in this large company you have to take the initiative  and volunteer for projects.
  • I got the job because I took the initiative  to send them a proposal about how to market and sell their new product.


ins and outs of something:  the details of something.

  • I suggest you watch that guy carefully — he knows the ins and outs of how to get requests approved  around here.
  • After just a week I mastered the ins and outs of traveling  on the New York subway.


know something inside out:  know something completely — everything about it.

  • I’m going to ace this exam — I know the material inside out.
  • We’re trying to find a travel agent who knows Paris inside out  so we can find the best hotels, restaurants and small shops.

turn something inside out:  to completely change something.

  • Having a baby has turned my life inside out.
  • After I was promoted to director my life was turned inside out.


add insult to injury:  to make a bad situation even worse.

  • Breaking up with me was bad enough but doing it by email added insult to injury.
  • To add insult to injury,  the interviewer not only said I didn't get the job but he's going to check my references anyway to make sure I wasn't lying.


for all intents and purposes:  almost completely, nearly something.

  • When you write a blog, you’re a “published” writer for all intents and purposes.
  • For all intents and purposes  you can say you're a lawyer once you pass the exam, even if you don't have a job yet.


iron something out (iron out something):  to solve the remaining problems.

  • We need to iron out the travel details  for our trip by this weekend.
  • I wish my parents could either iron out their differences  or just get divorced.

several irons in the fire:  to have several different activities or projects in progress at the same time; having several possibilities at the same time.

  • I have several irons in the fire  to make sure I’ll have a job when I graduate.
  • I’m really happy at my job but I always keep several irons in the fire  to make sure my career advances.


to take issue with someone / something:  to disagree with someone or something.

  • I take issue with fanatics  who disrupt events.
  • I take issue with the extra charges  on this bill and want to speak with the manager.

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You can also find many idiom definitions with one of the online learner's dictionaries.

Common English idioms practice

So now that you've read many of the common English idioms that start with "I," it's a good opportunity to try to write a few sentences by yourself. Why? It's going to help you remember them better. Don't worry, I will revise any mistakes in your practice sentences.

Write your practice sentences in the comments section below.

> > I Idioms

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