I’ve been learning English since I was eight years old and I thought I’m pretty fluent when I came to live in the UK at the age of twenty. Turned out, I wasn’t. Twelve years later, I’m still learning new words and phrases every day. Some expressions and phrases you would never learn at school. You need to be immersed in a culture and interact with locals. Only then you can learn and understand the slang language of the community.
If you are new to the UK, you may find some expressions listed below helpful, so you don’t look too puzzled when you come across them during your stay in the UK. Here’s a selection of best British phrases I’ve learned that come to mind with examples to give you an idea how to use them. Happy reading.
Taking a mickey/a piss?
The first phrase is more polite than the latter. Both phrases mean making fun and jokes of someone or something. You can use them when you are being mocked, teased or made fun of.
Example: Are you taking a mickey with those shoes? I’ve just mopped the floor. OR Are you taking a piss? I’ve booked my flights, got a confirmation and now you are telling me that the flight is overbooked and I can’t get on?
Couldn’t give a monkey’s
You use this when you couldn’t care less about something. You aren’t interested or worried at all about something.
Example: She doesn’t like to be yelled at. I couldn’t give a monkey’s.
As simple as thank you.
Example: That’s very helpful. Ta mate.
Doing my head in
When someone or something is giving you a headache or annoys you really badly.
Example: Stop screaming, you are doing my head in.
This is, in essence, a more polite way of swearing. Instead of saying bloody hell or, f⋆⋆king hell, you can use this phrase and feel better about yourself for using the less offensive and vulgar option.
Example: Flippin heck, what’s wrong with you? Can’t you just behave like a normal person?
Another saying for ‘thank you, my friend’. Cheers is also an expression used before you have a drink, usually alcoholic.
Example: I love this watch. Cheers mate. Cheers to the birthday girl.
A more polite way of telling someone to ‘f⋆⋆k off’ or ‘piss off’.
When you want someone go away or leave you alone, this is one way of letting them know.
Example: I’ve had enough of this nonsense, bog off.
What’s for brekky?
A shortened version of breakfast.
Example: I’m starving. What’s for brekky?
What’s for tea?
This basically means, ‘what’s for dinner?’, referring to an afternoon meal. Nothing to do with actual tea. The mealtime names are super confusing in the UK. Dinner means lunch. Tea means dinner. Then there is brunch and supper. It took me a while to get around these names, let me tell you.
Example: I’m hungry mum. What’s for tea?
When you want to say ‘there is nothing to worry about’. A short version of ‘no big deal’, or you could also say ‘no worries’.
Example: It’s no biggie if you can’t make it for lunch tomorrow.
Bits and bobs
An informal phrase used to describe small things or tasks.
Example: I just have few last bits and bobs to pack into my suitcase and I’m ready to leave.
No, this doesn’t mean that there is something not quite right about you. It’s used to inform others that you are leaving.
Example: I’m off to work, see you tonight.
Something is in chaos or disorganised.
Example: Everything in that restaurant is a disaster. The service, food and the management. It’s shambolic.
I’m going bonkers
An expression meaning you are going crazy, mad or nuts.
Example: I’m going bonkers. The kids have smashed that expensive vase I had.
Having a blast
To have a great time. When you enjoy yourself very much and have a great deal of fun.
Example: I’m so glad I came to the party. I’m having a blast.
For heaven’s sake
You would use this expression when you are frustrated or annoyed. The more vulgar way to day this would be ‘for f**k sake.
Example: For heaven’s sake, can’t you just leave me alone?
An informal way of saying that you are very happy, very pleased or delighted about something.
Example: I’ve just won a million pounds. I’m well chuffed.
Do you fancy a cuppa?
And again, the much-loved tea. This phrase means basically ‘would you like a cup of tea?
Example: I’m putting the kettle on. Do you fancy a cuppa?
Give me a bell
An informal way of saying ‘call me’.
Example: I’m going home now. Give me a bell later.
When you feel extremely tired or you can also say something ‘is knackered’ when describing something that’s damaged, broken or its condition has deteriorated.
Example: I feel absolutely knackered after all day walking in the mountains. OR My phone is knackered, I need a new one.
When you feel a bit hungry. The first time I heard this phrase from a friend, I honestly thought she’s just made that word up.
Example: I’m feeling a bit peckish. I only had a small breakfast this morning.
Not my cup of tea
When you don’t like something, you can say ‘It’s not my cup of tea’. You can also use it in a positive way, when you like something and say ‘That’s my cup of tea. British people are famous for their love for tea, so you can understand why they compare things they like or dislike to tea.
Example: Some people like watching documentaries but it’s really not my cup of tea. OR I love watching horror films, definitely my cup of tea.
Can’t be arsed
When you can’t be arsed to do something that means, literally, you can’t get off your arse and make something happen. You are lazy and demotivated. I always thought that people actually say ‘can’t be asked’, until one British friend looked at me funny when I said that and finally corrected me.
Example: Can you please do the dishes? I can’t be arsed.
This is used when it rains heavily. You’ll hear this saying quiet often, thanks to the ‘lovely’ British weather.
Example: There is no way I’m getting out in this weather. It’s pissing down.
If you want to add some great British phrases, that are not on this list, drop me a comment below.