Idioms are used in all areas of the English language but can be considered important when it comes to learning English through speaking. Every language has idioms, and learning them can be challenging if you’re not a native speaker of that particular language.
If English isn’t your native language, then the best thing once can do is have conversations with others or native speakers and ask them about phrases that you don’t understand. Since idioms are influenced by the culture, learning the idioms of a language can be very interesting and enlightening!
What Are Idiom & Idiomatic Expressions?
An idiom is a short phrase with its own specific meaning, and learning idioms can help you understand and become more like a native speaker. An idiom is a particular word or expression whose meaning cannot be readily understood by either its grammar or the words used.
Whereas, idiomatic expressions are an informal language that has a meaning different from the meaning of the words in the expression. Idiomatic expressions cannot be translated word for word without causing confusion.
List of Common English Idioms & Their Meanings
Below is a list of common idioms and their meanings.
|To Break Down||To go out of order||Our car broke the way.|
|To Break Into||To enter forcibly||The robbers broke into his house looted cash.|
|To Break Out||To begin suddenly||A war broke out between England & Spain.|
|To Break Up||To come to an end||The meeting broke up at 4 PM.|
|To Call At||To visit a place||I called your house but you were not there.|
|To Call In||To send for||We should immediately call in the doctor.|
|To Call On||To visit a person||If I get time, I may call on you in the evening.|
|To Call Out||To speak loudly||The teacher called out the names of the prize-winners.|
|To Come Across||To meet by chance||While walking in the park, I came across an old friend.|
|To Come By||To obtain||How did you come by such a beautiful pen?|
|To Come Off||To succeed||We had a very good offer for our house but the deal did not come off.|
|To Come Out||To develop||These pictures of the waterfall have come out extremely well.|
|To Get At||To suggest||I do not understand what you are trying to get at.|
|To Get Away||To escape||The thief got away under the cover of darkness.|
|To Get On||To fare||How are you getting on in your new flat?|
|To Get Through||To pass||Sumi got through the examination with good marks.|
|To Give Away||To distribute||The Chief Guest gave away the prizes to the prize-winners.|
|To Give In||To surrender||The enemy had to give in at last.|
|To Give Up||To leave||I give up the idea of learning french.|
|To Keep Away||To avoid||Mehak was down with malaria; so she kept away from the school for a week.|
|To Keep Back||To hide||I shall not keep back anything from you.|
|To Keep Off||To remain at a distance||Kindly keep off the grass.|
|To Keep On||To continue||He was tired but he kept on doing his work.|
|To Look After||To take care of||The nurse will look after the children.|
|To Look Down Upon||To regard with contempt||We must not look down upon others even if we do not agree with them.|
|To Look For||To search||I am looking for a decent swimming costume.|
|To Look Forward To||Wait eagerly for||The students are looking forward to the summer vacation.|
|To Look Into||To examine||The Principal is looking into the whole matter.|
|To Look Up||To search for and find||Please look up this word in the dictionary.|
|To Make Out||To discover, to find out||I could not make out the meaning of what she said.|
|To Make Up||To supply what is lacking||You must work hard so that you can make up for your weakness in English.|
|To Put Off||To postpone||Her marriage has been put off until next year.|
|To Put On||Dress oneself||She put on a new dress and went to the fair.|
|To Put Out||To annoy, to upset||We felt put out when our trip to the hills was canceled.|
|To Put Up With||To bear||Who can put up with such an insult?|
|To Set In||To begin||Rains have set in.|
|To Set Out||To begin the journey||Very soon Sindbad set out on a new journey.|
|To Set Up||Start, Begin||My father is setting up a factory.|
|To Take After||To resemble||In looks, Pooja takes after her mother.|
|To Take Down||To write down||The speaker spoke so fast that I could not take down anything.|
|To Take In||To deceive||I could not be taken in by her sweet words.|
|To Take Off||To remove||Please take off your shoes before you enter the temple.|
7 Ways to Make English Idioms and Phrases Easier to Understand
- Listen to context
- Check to see if you understood
- Be honest when you don’t understand
- Never translate idioms
- Listen to how native speakers use idioms
- Take notes
- Tolerate your mistakes
1. Listen To Context
Idioms are unusual expressions. So ask yourself, ‘Why is that person using an unusual expression?’ The answers are likely to be connected with exaggeration, emphasis, or a high state of emotion. So check the context – and the facial expression!
2. Check To See If You Understood
Use expressions like; ‘so you’re pretty sad about that, right?’ or ‘OK, you mean that you’re too sleepy at the moment.’
3. Be Honest When You Don’t Understand
Try using, ‘I’m sorry, but I don’t know what you mean.’
4. Never Translate Idioms
Idioms from your own language may use the same imagery or concepts (and it is always fascinating to notice these similarities). Still, they are unlikely to translate word-for-word into English expressions.
5. Listen To How Native Speakers Use Idioms
A native English speaker NEVER says it’s raining cats and dogs? Instead, Listen to what native speakers actually say in a given situation and copy.
6. Take Notes
Keep a notebook of your favorite expressions and add anything new that you hear. Try to use new phrases soon after you learn them, and this is called ‘use it or lose it.’
7. Tolerate Your Mistakes
You will definitely make mistakes and create confusion when you use idiomatic expressions, so be brave and allow yourself the space to try, fail, and try again.
Whether you are a student, teacher, or just someone curious about the English language, we hope you found that helpful! If you keep these concepts in mind, English idiomatic expressions should be easy for you. If you’ve got any queries, feel free to add them in the comments below.