Improving Your English

Good idioms: Sayings to describe good things and show positivity

English idioms are used in day-to-day conversation, so it’s important to be able to understand them and feel confident using them yourself. Here we have a list of useful good idioms. All of these sayings describe good things or use the word ‘good’ in some other way.

If you need idioms to wish someone good luck, we have a separate post about those. For now though, let’s get started with some good idioms and proverbs!

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Good idioms

Good egg

Hopefully, people will use good idioms like this one when talking about you. Describing someone as a good egg is an old-fashioned way of saying they are likable, kind, or generally nice.

“If you have any questions, ask Mike. He’s a good egg and always willing to help.”

One good deed deserves another

Perhaps nowadays this saying is better known as ‘pay it forward’. One good deed deserves another is one of the easier-to-understand good idioms that encourages you to do something nice to a person in return for a kind act done to you.

You could also do a nice deed for another person, if you wish.

“Wasn’t that lovely of the lady to give you an extra cookie? One good deed deserves another, so let’s be sure to leave a nice tip.”

It’s no good crying over spilled milk

This popular proverb has found its way onto our list of good idioms, but rightly so, as it offers great advice. (Read about idioms vs proverbs here if you aren’t sure about the difference.)

This saying teaches the lesson that there is no point in wasting time and energy getting upset over something that has already happened or something that can’t be changed.

“We have missed the plane, but there’s no use crying over spilt milk. Let’s just book a hotel and fly tomorrow.”

You may hear two different versions of this expression. Some people may say it’s no good crying over spilled milk, and others may say don’t cry over spilled milk.

The idea is that once milk is spilled, you can’t really do anything to recover it. You just have to deal with the situation. It’s just one example of an idiom about bad things happening.

A good head on your shoulders

People described as having a good head on their shoulders are considered level-headed and good at making decisions. They can be relied on for their common sense and intelligence.

“Mike has a good head on his shoulders so I’m sure we can trust him.”

Good is the enemy of (the) great

This quote or saying is from the popular book Good is Great: Why Some Companies Make a Leap and Others Don’t By James C. Collins.

To say that good is the enemy of (the) great is suggesting that you shouldn’t settle on ‘good enough’ or take shortcuts. Instead, you should aim to be great, with hard work and a lot of effort.

“Your B grade is good, but remember, good is the enemy of great. Aim for an A next time.”

Just the ticket

When you have the right ticket you can travel to the right place. So, when something is the perfect answer or exactly what is needed, people will comment that it is just the ticket.

“I love that idea. It’s just the ticket and will make things run much smoother here.”

It’s interesting to see how many idioms about travel have made it into our everyday language.

All good things must come to an end

This age-old proverb basically means that nothing can last forever. All good things must come to an end is another way of saying that happiness is fleeting or that enjoyable experiences can’t last forever.

“Ok guys, it’s time to go home. All good things must come to an end.”

Be on good / friendly terms

Both versions of this good idiom, to be on good or friendly terms, describe a positive or healthy relationship between people.

“Leave it to me. I’ll ask him tomorrow as I’m on good terms with him.”

You could also say that you are not on good terms with someone if there is some animosity or tension between you. Find some more helpful relationship idioms here.

Good call

Here’s a handy phrase to know. To say in agreement that something is/was a good call is to confirm your approval of the idea or suggestion.

“This restuarant was a good call.”

Good golly, Miss Molly

Yes, this is a real saying! English really can be fun sometimes. Good golly, Miss Molly is a fun exclamation of surprise made popular in 1958 by Little Richard’s song of the same name.

“Good golly, Miss Molly! Have you seen the price of bread nowadays?”

Good grief / good heavens / goodness gracious

And here are some other good idioms to express irritation, frustration, dismay, anger, or surprise. You can use good grief, good heavens, or goodness gracious in many situations and they are interchangeable.

“Goodness gracious, I wasn’t expecting that!”

Consider these alternatives to ‘Oh my god’ for people who wish to avoid blasphemy.

Good idioms - a close up of a thumb up

More great idioms

All well and good

When we say that something is all well and good, we mean that it is a good, satisfactory, or beneficial thing – but there is something else that hasn’t been considered in the situation.

“It’s all well and good you wanting to go on holiday with your friends, but who is going to look after your dog while you’re gone?”

Read more about the confusing words well and good here.

Good on you / Good for you

To say good on you is to simply offer your approval, agreement, and congratulations on someone’s achievement. You can use this in the second or third person.

“I hear you’re planning to buy your first home? Good on you!”
“I’m so happy Mo got the promotion. Good on him.”

You may also hear good for you used in the same way. However, this expression can sometimes be used in a more sarcastic way too.

“You’re going to the pub tonight, are you? Good for you, I have a stack of ironing to get through.”

A good Samaritan

Taken from Luke 10:33, this Biblical expression refers to someone with compassion who helps others in need. A good Samaritan is a charitable or helpful person.

“Our neigbour really is a good Samaritan. He put our bins out last night when I forgot.”

Good things come to those who wait

You’ll hear a lot of parents using this proverb with their young children when they are trying to master the art of patience. Good things come to those who wait is a way of saying that patience is rewarded and you’ll gain satisfaction by waiting.

“I know you want it now, but good things come to those who wait.”

The phrase ‘patience is a virtue’ also has a similar meaning.

You can discover some more positive idioms here, all helpful for instilling this kind of attitude in yourself and others.

Pass with flying colours

When people pass an exam or test at a high level, for example gaining a distinction, they are said to have passed with flying colors. This is a good example of an idiom about learning and succeeding.

“I’m so pleased with Cathy. She passed her maths test with flying colours.”

A lot of these good idioms have fantastic origins – so where did the saying with flying colors come from?

The road to hell is paved with good intentions

Here’s a very well-known proverb. The road to hell is paved with good intentions is a warning that intentions, no matter how good they are, must be acted upon. If not, then they are worthless.

“I know you meant well, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

A fat lot of good that did

This saying describes something that was not helpful, didn’t work, and was of no use. In fact, the expression a fat lot of good that did is slightly rude and may be used in anger or frustration.

“Yes, you booked the table, but a fat lot of good that did when it’s the wrong date!”

As good as gold

Normally used in reference to children, the simile as good as gold describes someone who is well-mannered and behaves very well.

“My grandchildren are as good as gold normally.”

A change is as good as a rest

People use good idioms when trying to offer advice. So, when you hear someone mention that a change is as good as a rest, they are simply highlighting that sometimes doing something different can re-energize you. This could be a new job position or a new hobby, for example.

“Perhaps don’t quit your job; just try something else. Remember, a change is as good as a rest.”

If you’re looking for more change idioms, there are plenty to learn.

Win-win situation

Here’s a great business saying to know. A win-win situation is when both sides benefit from a particular arrangement or agreement.

“We agreed, I’ll take mum to work and then use the car for the day. Win win!”

As you can see, in English, there are plenty of ways to express that you think something is good or great, or to show agreement. Try using these good idioms today and leave us a comment when you do.

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