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A guide to common British phrases

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23 May, 2018

It can be tough to learn a new language, and it can be made even harder when you realise that to communicate effectively, you have to learn all the colloquialisms and slang/phrases used every day. We’ve put together the below list to give anyone moving to the UK a helping hand:


Calling bagsy is effectively the same as calling ‘shotgun’ or ‘dibs’ on something when something (such as the front seat of a car) is offered up to a group.


‘Pulling a blinder’ involves achieving something difficult faultlessly. The phrase is most commonly used when someone has been lucky and taken a risk which has paid off.


Quite a famous phrase in the UK with our unpredictable weather! Brolly is another word for umbrella.


To have a chat or gossip.


Overjoyed – full of pride.

Cream Crackered

Part of the ‘cockney rhyming slang’, cream crackered is slang for ‘knackered’ or incredibly tired.


Completely shocked, astounded or bewildered.

Half Past

Americans are known to say “seven thirty” or “nine thirty” whereas in the UK, we will more often than not refer to the time as “half past the hour”.

Hank Marvin

Another cockney rhyming slang classic, meaning ‘starving’.

Leg it

Run for it!

Pear shaped

When something’s gone wrong, we often refer to it as having gone a bit ‘pear-shaped’.

Sods Law

Sods Law is often used to explain bad luck or acts of strange misfortune – more commonly known in the US as ‘Murphy’s Law’.

Take the biscuit

This phrase is usually used to explain when someone has done something highly irritating or surprising – you might say that they’ve ‘taken the biscuit’.


A word used to describe someone silly and incompetent.

We hope that you found our guide to British phrases useful. Clearview Relocation is a privately owned, independent relocation company who provide corporate relocation services and support to both clients and employees. Our services include relocation move management, global expense management, relocation policies, cost of living analyses, cross-cultural and language training and much more.

Contact us on 01635 239040 or email

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