British English is very interesting, but can be difficult for English language learners. A lot of things that we say are not found in textbooks so they can be hard to learn. Learning British slang and idioms are essential if you want to spend time in the UK or you like British TV shows, movies, books or songs. Don’t worry I’m here to help you.

Essential British english phrases

Greetings

The most common one is probably the word alright. It is a very common way to say “hello, how are you?” – This is easy to use because it is a greeting and it is also the answer to the greeting. 

You might also hear people say how’s tricks? This is another way of saying how are you. You can also say, how’s life or how’s it going. The answer to this in the UK is pretty weird.

Now, British people are not known for being emotional and showing lots of emotions and here is a great example. The most common answers you will hear are things like, not bad, can’t complain, can’t grumble, and ticking over. All of these answers just mean, yeah I’m ok. We never really say like great or awesome.

Easy

Lots of language learners know the idiom “a piece of cake” or “it’s not rocket science” which are fine too, but in the UK we have some slightly different expressions.

The first is to describe something as being a piece of piss. Now piss is technically a swear word, so be careful when you use it, but British people swear quite a lot so you will hear this from time to time.

Another expression that doesn’t involve swearing is to say that something was a doddle or a walk in the park. Both of these expressions mean “it was easy”

Happy

A really common expression you will hear is that someone is chuffed to bits. Chuffed to bits. This just means I am very happy. You can skip the “to bits” part and just say you are chuffed if you like. People will understand what you mean. 

Another phrase people use when they are happy or excited about something is to say they are buzzing. It is really common to link this word with intensifiers like absolutely or proper to show you are really happy.

good

If you want to say something is good, you can say it is wicked. How was the match? It was wicked, we won 3-0.

You will also hear people say things like ace, brill and you can also say that something is mint. Most people know this word as the flavour of your toothpaste but we use it when something is really good. The weather is nice today – the weather is mint today.

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Go Badly

Earlier, we talked about something being easy and you making a success of something. Now, when I was in school, usually the opposite was true. I often made a mess of my exams. I messed them up, right? They didn’t go well – I messed them up.

A variation of this phrase is to cock something up, or to make a cock up of something. So you might hear a British person say that they have cocked up their exams or they have made a cock up of their homework.

Another idiom you might hear is to make a pigs ear of something. If you make a pigs ear of something, then you have made a mess of it and it has not been successful. You might want to avoid doing that again!

Sad

One expression you will hear is gutted. If someone tells you they are gutted, it means that they are disappointed or upset about something.

You will also hear expressions like wounded or devoed (which is a shortened version of devastated). These can be used to describe your own feelings like “I’m gutted” “I’m wounded” “I’m devoed” or to react to someone else’s bad news. You didn’t get the job? gutted!

Another common expression is to be pissed off. This basically means to be very angry or annoyed about something. Be careful though, In American English, they say “I’m pissed” when they are angry but that doesn’t work in the UK. This is because “to be pissed” in England means to be drunk, not angry. so remember in the UK – Pissed off = angry and pissed = drunk.

invitations and offers

When it comes to invitations, you probably know the phrase Do you want. Do you want a cup of coffee? Do you want to go to the cinema? Do you want come to my granny’s birthday party? And this is perfectly fine, however in the UK, you might hear some other expressions.

We often replace the word want with the word fancy. Do you fancy. Be careful though. With a noun, it is exactly the same. Do you want a cup of coffee, do you fancy a cup of coffee. However, when we want to use a verb, we need to switch to the ing form. Do you want to go to the cinema? Do you fancy going to the cinema?

You can also ask someone if they are up for something. Are you up for the cinema this weekend? Are you up for going to the cinema this weekend?

Tired

Other than the normal words you already know like exhausted or shattered, we have some pretty interesting ways to say we are tired.

By far the most common one is to say you are knackered. This means I am very tired. You can also say I’m shagged or I’m zonked or “I’m clapped out. They all mean the same thing.

Now when you are knackered, you probably want to go to sleep, right? In that case in the UK, you can say that you are going to get some kip. To have a kip is the same as going to sleep or taking a nap. You can also say get some shut eye, which makes sense, right… shut, eye… sounds like sleeping to me.

goodbye

You can say see you later. One thing you hear sometimes is just the word later, but for some reason we add an S to the end and say “laters”. You can also say catch you later. They all mean goodbye.

In the north of England, you might hear people say ta-ra or ta-ta and I have no idea where these words came from, but they just mean bye, so don’t be surprised if you hear people say things like this in Yorkshire, Lancashire or Merseyside.

One thing you will hear people say when they are going to leave is “I’ll leave you with it” I’ll leave you with it. It basically means, I am going to leave you alone now so you can do whatever it is you need to do. You can also say “I’ll let you get on with it” or “I’ll let you crack on”.

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