9 idioms about language – Online English Lessons

Queen’s English (or King’s English) is standard or correct grammatical English spoken or written in the United Kingdom. It may be spoken in any accent. It is used for many forms of written text including newspapers, business letters, essays, text books, fiction books, CVs, and government documents.

When the British monarch is a queen, standard English is Queen’s English; when the British monarch is a king, it is King’s English.

broken English – broken English is English that has incomplete grammar and vocabulary and incorrect pronunciation. This expression usually refers to English spoken by non-native speakers. 


1. The short note was written in broken English.

2. In broken English he told the taxi driver where he wanted to go.

3. She only speaks broken English and will need an interpreter for her hospital appointment.

to speak the same language – is to have the same ideas, beliefs and opinions as someone else.


1.We speak the same language when it comes to religion.

2. The opposing political groups don’t speak the same language about the environment.

to pick up a language – to pick up a language is to learn it easily or casually, usually by listening to native speakers and practising it without formal lessons.


1. He picked up Mandarin by listening to his work colleagues.

2. I picked up lots of new English words when I was on holiday in the UK.

3. Children pick up new languages very easily.

Pidgin English – a pidgin starts as a makeshift contact language based on two or more languages, commonly used for communication by and among traders with different native languages. A pidgin has a small vocabulary and simplified grammar. As a pidgin becomes a more complex and stable community language it develops into a creole.

There are many forms of Pidgin English e.g. Hawaii Pidgin English (the Pidgin English spoken in Hawaii) and Nigerian Pidgin English.

a dead language – a dead language is a language that is no longer learned as a native language, but might still be used by scholars and experts.


Latin and ancient Greek are dead languages.

to murder a language – is to speak a language very badly, making many mistakes with grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation.


It’s said you must murder a language before mastering it.

plain English – clear, simple and easily understood spoken or written English.


I wish this contract was written in plain English!

It’s all Greek to me – the expression it’s all Greek to me refers to something that is impossible to understand.


1. Question: Do you understand this mathematical equation?

    Answer:    No, it’s all Greek to me!

2. This new work contract is all Greek to me.

Is there a similar expression to it’s all Greek to me in your native language?

Can you think of any other language idioms?

Images © Michael Gwyther-Jones and Scott Zona