Learn English Expressions with Colors

A world with only two black and white colors presents a gloomy outlook and even demotivate us. An obvious example of this is black and white TV, which dates back to several decades ago. Since the arrival of color televisions, viewers have taken a fancy to them because of the vivid images they offer. 

It is hard to imagine a world without color televisions, that is to say, colors, as they play important roles in our life. For this reason, every language has a lot of expressions including colors, especially English. In this post, we will guide you through colorful English idioms, which are popular and help you sound like a native speaker.


Out of the blue: If a situation occurs out of the blue, it takes place without any warning.


  •  I was going home from work, and it rained heavily out of the blue.
  • Out of the blue, I was promoted to be the project manager. I could not believe my ears!

Once in a blue moon: This idiom functions as an adverb of frequency, and it means “very rarely”.


A: How often do you go for a walk?

B: Once in a blue moon, as I’m always on the go.

Feel blue: When someone feels blue, he/ she is unhappy or depressed. This expression appears in the worldwide famous song HAPPY NEW YEAR by ABBA ̣(Feeling lost and feeling blue).

For example:

A: How is she recently?

B: Since her dad passed over, she has been feeling blue.

When You Are Feeling Blue - Find Your Wings


(Beat somebody) black and blue: If a person is beaten black and blue, he is left with bruises afterward. 

Example: Tom made fun of the bully in front of his classmate. The obvious consequence was that he was beaten black and blue.

Learn English Expressions with Colors

Make sure you will never be in such a situation!

(In) black and white: Both black and white in this idiom are nouns, and it means “involving clear rules and principles”.

Sample sentence: The rules of the game were in black and white: Contestants are heavily punished for foul play.

Black sheep: If a person is called a black sheep, he/ she is different from his/ her family or group, and is considered an embarrassment.

For example: Tim is the black sheep of his family. He is a drug addict, which contrasts sharply with his brothers who are businessman.

Be in the black: When someone is in the black, he or she has money to spare, for example in his/ her bank account.

Example: Let me pay for this bill. I’m in the black now.



Green with envy: When you are green with envy, you are jealous of somebody because he/ she has something that you don’t.

An equal expression with this idiom is green-eyed monster, but green with envy is more preferred and common.

For instance: When Maria saw her best friend getting out of the BMW with her affluent husband, she was green with envy.

The grass is always greener on the other side (of the fence): This is a saying, and you may find an equivalent in your language. This idiom refers to people who are always dissatisfied with what they have.


A: Jennie’s family is very poor. Yet still, she always tries to copy her friends’ styles, which costs a lot of money.

B: You know, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

Grass is always greener on other side - Dr. Vidya Hattangadi

Be happy with what you have!

Green fingers: When your friends compliment you on having green fingers, they praise your gardening skills. Apart from green fingers, we can also use a green thumb to talk about others’ talents for gardening.

Sample sentence:

A: I love Jane’s beautiful garden, where every flower is fragrant and well-tended.

B: She really has green fingers.




A red rag to a bull: You may guess the meaning of this idiom. In bullfighting, when the matador whips a red rag, the bull starts to lose its temper, so when you say something is a red rag to a bull, you mean it may make somebody angry. This idiom can also be replaced by like waving a red rag in front of a bull, and you are advised to use the former.

Let’s veer off topic a little. In fact, the bull does not hate red as many of us may think, because it is color-blind. Maybe it is only frustrated at the movements of the rag.


A: Last night, when John was in the cafe, he saw his girlfriend with another guy.

B: It’s a red rag to a bull.

See red: Red is the sign of heated emotions and violence as well as warning. When somebody sees red, he/ she becomes very angry. Basically, see red is a variant of a red rag to a bull.

Sample sentence: When my father saw me come home with my new hairstyle, he immediately saw red.

Learn English Expressions with Colors

What kind of situation may make you see red?

Be in the red: When someone is described to be in the red, he/ she owes money to the bank. 

Example: Due to ineffective strategies, the company was announced huge loss. By last week, it plunged $50 million into the red.

Roll out the red carpet: If important figures are invited to an event, the red carpet will be rolled out to welcome them.

Sample sentence: The city rolled out the red carpet to greet government officials last week.

Catch somebody red-handed: This expression means to catch somebody while he/ she is doing something wrong or illegal, for example committing a crime.

For example: The thieves were caught red-handed while trying to steal the precious pictures at the museum last night.


As white as a sheet: When someone is as white as a sheet, their face is very pale, especially because of shock, fear or illness.

Example: On hearing the truth about his deception, she was as white as a sheet. She had always naively thought he truly loved her.

Learn English Expressions with Colors

You must have been as white as a sheet several times in your life!

White lie: People say a white lie, which is a small and harmful lie, in order not to hurt others’ feelings

Sample sentence: He told a white lie when he was asked to give judgement on her paintings.

White-collar: Who often wear white shirts with collar? You got it, the answer is people doing office work. Therefore, white-collar is used to describe people or things connected with the office. However, keep in mind that this is an adjective, not an idiom, so it cannot stand alone.


A: What does she do?

B: I don’t know specifically, but it is some kind of white-collar job.

White elephant: If something is called a white elephant, it was initially purchased at a very high price, but is no longer needed.

Sample sentence:

A: I regret buying this necklace in the beginning. It cost a lot of money and was rusted within two weeks.

B: What a white elephant it is.


Every cloud has a silver lining: this is a common saying, which basically means “every hopeless situation has a positive side”. You say this to encourage people who are encountering problems.

Sample sentence: Don’t be worry, things will be fine in the end. Every cloud has a silver lining.

Speak Up on Twitter: ""Every cloud has a silver lining" un ...

Stay positive no matter what happens!

Silver screen: Silver screen is synonymous with the film industry.

Example: Film enthusiasts cannot fail to know Tom Cruise and Will Smith, who are stars of the silver screen.

Born with a silver spoon in your mouth: Here comes another saying, which means having rich parents. These children are often referred to as “rich kids”, who always catch the attention of others.


Lend colors to something: Again, getting back to the example of color televisions may help you to understand this idiom. Colors give things a vibrant appearance, thus making them look real. So lend colors to something means “to make something seem true or likely”.

Sample sentences: The police investigation lent colors to what the witness said.

True colors: true colors is used to refer to somebody’s true character rather than what he/ she shows to other people.

For instance: Only after they got married did he begin to show his true colors.

With flying colors: very well, with very high marks.

Sample sentence: Although she was tired on the day of the examination, she passed it with flying colors.

flying colors | Ellen's Little Visits With God

Have you ever passed an exam with flying colors?


Above is our shortlist of common idioms with colors in English, which are quite easy and fun to learn. After each lesson like this, make sure you write down these expressions so that you can revise them later. Also, try to apply these to daily conversations, or else there is no point in just learning them by heart.

If you find such topic-related idioms useful, come back and visit us, as we have many more posts that teach idioms in this method. Study well!

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments