Useful Expression for IELTS Speaking is a document that summarizes the most used phrases in the IELTS Speaking section (note that these phrases can only be used in spoken language).
Embarrassment, Surprise, and Being nervous or anxious
- (to have) butterflies in your stomach
Meaning: to be feeling so anxious or nervous about something that you have a strange or bad feeling in your stomach
Example: I was so nervous before the job interview I had butterflies in my stomach.
- (to have) egg on your face
Meaning: to be feeling really embarrassed after saying or doing something foolish in front of other people
Example: I’ve been calling her the wrong name all week in front of everyone, now I’ve really got egg on my face.
- (to be) ill at ease
Meaning: to be feeling tense, uncomfortable, or unwell and can’t relax properly in a situation
Example: I’ve been feeling ill at ease all day. I made a big mistake at work yesterday and I’m not sure how the boss will react today.
- (to have)itchy feet
Meaning: to want to go travelling, experience something new, or make a change in your life
Example: I was only at the company for three months before I started getting itchy feet, so I quit my job and went on a long holiday abroad.
- (to)jump out of your skin
Meaning: to get a big shock or surprise, which may even make you jump or tense your body
Example: I nearly jumped out of my skin when I got my exam results. I never expected to get such good grades.
- (to)knock your socks off
Meaning: when something amazes, surprises, or shocks you
Example: The boss nearly knocked my socks off when he announced that I was getting a promotion. I really didn’t expect that!
- (to)lose face
Meaning: to lose respect or admiration from others
Example: the celebrity really lost face when the scandal was reported in the newspapers.
- (to be) lost for words
Meaning: to be so shocked, surprised or annoyed by something that you don’t know what to say
Example: I was lost for words when I didn’t get the promotion again this year. I just don’t know what to do to impress the bosses.
- (to be) as white as a bed sheet | as white as a ghost
Meaning: to be so shocked or scared by something that your face goes pale (or white)
Example: She was as white as a ghost after watching the horror film at the cinema last night
- You could have knocked me over with a feather
Meaning: to be so shocked, surprised, or astonished by something
Example: You could have knocked me over with a feather when my parents gave me the latest MacBook as a gift before starting university, I was so surpirised!
- (to be) as busy as a bee | as busy as a beaver
Meaning: to be busy
Example: I haven’t had any time to catch up on my homework, I’ve been as busy as a bee preparing for my father’s surprise birthday party.
- (to have) a lot on your plate
Meaning: to be busy because you have many things to do
Example: Unfortunately I just don’t have time to hang out with my friends this weekend because I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment.
- (to be) snowed under
Meaning: to be very busy, or to have more work to do than you can deal with
Example: I’m so snowed under at work right now, I just can’t take on any more responsibilities.
- (to be) up to your neck | eyeballs | ears
Meaning: to very busy with something, or to have too much of something (e.g work) to do
Example: I’m too busy to go to the cinema tonight. I’m up to my eyeballs with revision at the moment because I’ve got an important test next week
- (to have) your hands full
Meaning: to be busy with something or someone
Example: My mum really had her hands full when she was trying to raise my three brothers and I, while my father was working long hours.