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English Idioms

“Understanding and Using Expressions for Daily Communication”

Frequently-Asked-Questions About Idioms

Click on the questions below to learn more about the idioms and activities.

1, What is the purpose of these activities?

One of the challenges to learning any language is to understand and use idioms in everyday conversation. Although there exist many idiom dictionaries for North American English, learners (1) often cannot find enough sample sentences to learn how these expressions are used in different contexts and (2) don’t have speaking opportunities to practice the idioms in conversation.

In response to this need, I create short videos that introduce idioms with these goals:

  1. Select idioms commonly found in North American English (in conversation and/or reading passages) and may be found in other places where English is spoken. Keep in mind that the use of idioms can vary depending on geographic location, age of speakers, and influences of the local culture.
  2. Include sample sentences within the grammatical reach of high-beginner to more advanced English learners. Doing so allows learners to apply these expressions more easily in their own language.
  3. Weave discussion questions into each lesson to encourage mastery of the idioms in actual conversation.
  4. Provide questions to help students learn how to use the idioms in grammatically-accurate ways so the meaning is clear to other speakers. These questions aren’t meant to be challenging; rather, they are designed to help learners recycle to idioms in different ways with a variety of grammar tenses.
2. How did this project get started?

Well, I have been developing this Web site since 1998, and over the years, my interests have evolved over time along with online services such as YouTube and more recently, TikTok

I have always wanted to help students understand everyday conversations AND speaking more naturally, and studying idioms and learning how to use them is one of my focuses now.

3. How do I know if these idioms are used in everyday speech?

Learners need to know how common an idiom is used in actual conversation.  I don’t want you to try to use these idioms and find out no one uses them at all. I mean, who wants to sound out-of-touch with the modern world by using expressions only known to William Shakespeare. With this in mind, I try to indicate how frequently these idioms are used based on my interviews with other native speakers in the United States.  I use these general identifiers:

Frequency: High

Frequency: Medium

Frequency: Low

4. How can teachers use these activities effectively in the classroom?

All of the activities can be done by learners on their own. However, because the lessons are designed to increase learners’ comprehension AND speaking skills, going through the speaking questions and situations (with a teacher or a study partner) can help learners really master the idioms.

I suggest having students work in pairs as they work through the activities.

5. How will these activities be developed over time?

This section of idioms is one of several projects I am developing, and I will add more activities over time depending on interest.

6. Could I suggest an idiom for a future activity?

Absolutely. Feel free to send me a suggestion for consideration.

Idioms Starting with A

A fish out of water

A tough (hard) nut to crack

A piece of cake

All Greek to me

Idioms Starting with B

Bark up the wrong tree

Be in the same boat

Beat around the bush

Bed of roses 

Busy as a bee

Burn the candle at both ends

Idioms Starting with C

Come clean

Cost an arm and a leg

Cut to the chase

Idioms Starting with D

Don’t judge a book by its cover

Doze off (also, nod off and out like a light)

Drive someone crazy

Drop out of school

Idioms Starting with F

Face the music

Foot the bill 

Idioms Starting with G

Get out of hand

Ghost someone (Future Lesson)

Go down like a lead balloon

Grin from ear to ear

Idioms Starting with H

Happy as a clam 

Harp on (and on) about something

Have a ball

Have a lot on your plate

Idioms Starting with I

In hot water

Idioms Starting with J

Jump the gun

Idioms Starting with K

Kick the habit 

Kill time

Idioms Starting with L

Learn the ropes

Let sleeping dogs lie (Future Lesson)

Let the cat out of the bag

Lose it

Idioms Starting with M

Make ends meet

Mend fences 

Miss the boat 

Mull over

Idioms Starting with N

No picnic

Nose around (Future Lesson)

Not the sharpest tool in the shed

Idioms Starting with O

On the back burner (Future Lesson)

Idioms Starting with P

Paddle your own canoe (Future Lesson)

Pain in the neck (Future Lesson)

Paint the town red (Future Lesson)

Pipe Dream

Put a sock in it (Future Lesson)

Idioms Starting with R

Rack your brains

Raise the bar (Future Lesson)

Recharge one’s batteries (Future Lesson)

Run out of steam (Future Lesson)

Idioms Starting with S

Spill the beans (Future Lesson)

Sweep something under the rug (Future Lesson)

Idioms Starting with T

Take a rain check

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