10 Everyday Natural English Phrases | AMERICAN ENGLISH | Learn English Idioms for Conversation | Speak Natural

Thank you so much for studying English with me friend! Today’s video is all about natural English phrases that you can use to sound like an American. All of these phrases are quite common for American English speakers to use. Many of these phrases will be useful to you when speaking English in a workplace or at an English speaking university.

Make sure to use these phrases appropriately and practice along with me while watching the video. As always comment your favorite phrase from today’s video, and I would love to give you feedback on your practice in the comments.

"fingers crossed"

I have my fingers crossed that you will love my first English phrase for you.

Americans use the phrase “fingers crossed” in a few different contexts. The first way we use it is when you desire something to happen so much that you are willing to do something superstitious, or something that is supposed to cause you to be lucky. So when you have your fingers crossed while you say what you want to happen, it’s supposed to bring you luck. So another example of using the phrase in this way would be to say, “fingers crossed that I will win my soccer game today” or “fingers crossed I will not forget the tickets to the show”

Sometimes we use the phrase fingers crossed more casually like when you are hoping something will happen but you feel like you don’t have much control over it for instance “fingers crossed it doesn’t rain this evening.” Or if someone said to you, “I hope it doesn’t rain tonight” you could respond “fingers crossed”. This means you share their hope that it doesn’t rain. 

"up the ante"

This phrase was originally used in the card game poker, but we also use it in many other situations, and this phrase is definitely a phrase that is great to add to your vocabulary in order to sound more natural.

When you “up the ante” in poker it means you raise the amount of money that is at stake for the game. The way we use the phrase “up the ante” in daily conversation is when we raise the amount of risk involved in something.

For instance, if we were having a friendly game of tennis, and then I want to place a bet or an amount of money at stake on the game I could say “let’s up the ante, and put some money on this game”.

You can also use up the ante when increasing the difficulty of something, for instance you could say “let’s up the ante and play this next game of tennis with our bad hand” Which for me would mean I’ll play with my left hand, because I’m right handed. 

 

Or one last way you can use this very versatile phrase is if you are making something sound more desirable, like “let’s up the ante of this job offer and increase your salary”

"keeping it close to the vest/chest"

When you keep something close to you chest, or as some people say close to your chest it means that you are being secretive about your plans or intentions. 

“I’m keeping my plans for summer very close to my chest until graduation day”

This means that you are not telling many people your plans for the summer, or not telling any people at all until the time comes.

This idiom comes from the idea of poker players or playing card players trying to conceal their cards from the other players. When you conceal cards, you keep them close to your chest, or if you are wearing a vest, your vest.

This phrase is a great natural idiom that Americans use casually or in their workplace.

"fork in the road"

A fork in the road refers to a road that splits into two roads that each go different directions. This phrase is used literally while driving or walking along a road, for instance if you were giving directions you could say “go left at the fork in the road”.

Now we often use the phrase “fork in the road” as a metaphor in writing and speaking in American English. For instance, if you come to a “fork in the road” in your life, it means you are at a place where you have two options and you have to make a choice that will impact your life heavily.

 

If you are graduating college or university, and you are debating whether to go get a job, or attend law school, you are at a fork in the road and have a major decision to make.  

"hold up/held up"

If you hold up an item, it means you literally take the item and raise it with your hand, but when americans say “hold up” or “held up” they are not usually talking about doing that literally, let me explain:

When we talk about how an object “holds up” we are saying how long it lasts, or what condition it is in after using it. Here’s an example, if you have a pair of shoes that you have had for many years and the shoes still look like new, you could say “these shoes have really held up.” This means that the shoes look good despite using them for a long time. 

Let’s talk about another wat we use “hold up”, Americans usually ask the question “how are you holding up?” if someone is going through a tough time, like a break up or a death in their family. This just means “how are you doing?” or “are you okay emotionally?”

 

I know this phrase can be confusing but now that I’ve taught you this term I think you will notice Americans using “held up” or “hold up” in their speaking, and you will become more familiar with it. 

"single-handedly"

I single-handedly made this English lesson for you so that you can learn how to speak natural english. 

The phrase “single-handedly” is quite popular here in the United States, when someone says that they did something single-handedly, it means that you worked hard to do it by yourself. Like as I said before I made this lesson for you single-handedly, I wrote, filmed, edited and posted it all by myself. 

This is an awesome natural english phrase and I’m going to give you a few more examples so you can really understand how to use it:

“Cristiano Ronaldo single-handedly won the soccer game for portugal, scoring three goals”

“I single-handedly build this house without hiring any help”

“The man single-handedly inspired his army to win the war”

"spot on"

Can you do a “spot on” impression of your mom? I’m asking can you do an accurate or exact impression of how your mom sounds.

When we say something is “spot on” it means it is accurate or correct. If someone asks you “what color is the sky?” and you respond with “blue” they could say “spot on”, which means you are exactly correct. Now that’s just an example but we would typically respond “spot on” if someone answered a more difficult question correctly. 

 

We also tend to use “spot on” when something is so close to the original that it can fool us, again like an impression, or if you got a fake designer bag that looks exactly like a real Gucci bag, you could say it is “spot on”

"business as usual"

Can you do a “spot on” impression of your mom? I’m asking can you do an accurate or exact impression of how your mom sounds.

When we say something is “spot on” it means it is accurate or correct. If someone asks you “what color is the sky?” and you respond with “blue” they could say “spot on”, which means you are exactly correct. Now that’s just an example but we would typically respond “spot on” if someone answered a more difficult question correctly. 

 

We also tend to use “spot on” when something is so close to the original that it can fool us, again like an impression, or if you got a fake designer bag that looks exactly like a real gucci bag, you could say it is “spot on”

"riff raff"

Now I always want to teach you all sorts of different phrases in my english lessons, phrases that you can use in professional settings and also just phrases to use in conversation with friends. And I always give a warning if the phrase could potentially come off as rude, and in the case of the phrase “riff raff” it is not a kind thing to call someone.

If there is a person, or a group of people that you don’t trust and don’t think highly of them, you could call them “riff raff”. But again be careful how you use this phrase. 

 

If there was a person known for stealing or lying, you could say, “I don’t want to associate with riff raff like that person”. Again you can use “riff raff” to describe a single person or a group. 

"missed the mark"

Hopefully my english lessons for you don’t “miss the mark”. 

When you “missed the mark” on something, you failed or got it incorrect, so if I miss the mark on my english lesson, it means my students did not understand or did not learn from me.

You can use “missed the mark” to describe when you are not pleased with something or you didn’t like it. “The new spiderman movie really missed the mark of the comic books”.

 

This is a great natural phrase to tell people they didn’t quite get what you wanted or didn’t perform a task well. 

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