If you’re learning American English, you should know that it’s better to get information “straight from the horse’s mouth” — or directly from the source — than to hear it secondhand.

Americans use a variety of expressions involving animals to convey ideas creatively, many of them invoking characteristics commonly associated with the animal referenced.

Below are five animal-based phrases you’re likely to hear from an American:

Monkey business


What it means: Suspicious or mischievous activity.
In conversation: “I suspect some monkey business happening at my store. Every day, there is money missing from the cash register.”

Wolf in sheep’s clothing

What it means: Someone who presents himself as harmless, but who has dishonorable or dangerous intentions.
In conversation: “I don’t like that you are dating Marcus. He seems really nice, but he’s mean and manipulative. He’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

The straw that broke the camel’s back

(© AP Images)

What it means: The final thing or action that is too much or goes too far.
In conversation: “Jeff was late to work every day last week, and he lost an important report. Yesterday he forgot an important meeting. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I fired him.”

The lion’s share

What it means: The greater part; most.
In conversation: “The children ate the lion’s share of the ice cream. They left only a few spoonfuls for their parents.”

Let the cat out of the bag


What it means: To reveal a secret.
In conversation: “The birthday party for Jenna was supposed to be a surprise, but Amina let the cat out of the bag. She told Jenna about the party.”

Learn more

Other idioms common in everyday American speech include those derived from colors, weather and food.

ShareAmerica offers a series of everyday conversations that include audio clips to help practice English. The American English website offers a variety of free resources for learners and teachers of English. The American English Facebook page posts learning materials for English-language learners daily.