You don’t need to be a painter to bring art into language. Americans use visual metaphors to make their conversations more colorful and to convey ideas more effectively.

If you talk to an American, it probably won’t be long before he or she uses one of these expressions with the word “picture” or “art.”

To get the picture

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What it means: To understand a situation.

In conversation: “You don’t need to explain it again. I get the picture.”

A picture is worth a thousand words

(© Jennifer Stone/

What it means: A picture tells a story just as well as many, many words.

In conversation: “I think you should use photos during your presentation. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.”

To see the big picture

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What it means: To see the most important facts of a situation and the effects it has on other things.

In conversation: “In my company, employees often don’t see the big picture because they are too busy looking at the details.”

To have (something) down to a fine art

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What it means: To be or become very good at doing something by doing it many times.

In conversation: “She has her morning routine down to a fine art. As a result, she’s never late to work.”


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What it means: Very modern and using the most recent ideas and methods.

In conversation: “The technology company uses state-of-the-art computers.”

Learn more

ShareAmerica features materials on learning American English. Explore everyday conversations or learn sports idioms and college slang.

The American English website has a variety of free resources for learners and teachers of English. The American English Facebook page posts learning materials for English language learners daily.