Essential Idioms in English

Idiomatic expressions have long played an important role in the English language. In fact, the use of idioms is so widespread that an understanding of these expressions is essential to successful communication, whether in listening, speaking, reading, or writing. The student may learn grammar and, with time, acquire adequate vocabulary, but without a working knowledge of such idioms as above all, to get along, on the whole, to look up, etc., even the best student's speech will remain awkward and ordinary.
Of course, the idioms selected for study should have practical value and be within the student's ability to comprehend. Such expressions as to set the world on fire or to wash one's dirty laundry in public may be very colorful, but they do little to help the student achieve fluency in English.

Teachers of English have long recognized that idiomatic expressions add grace and exactness to the language. The alert teacher will make their study an integral part of the teaching process. However, learning such expressions is never an easy task for the student learning English as a second or foreign language. Attempts to translate literally from the student's native tongue usually lead to roundabout expression of meaning and, more often, to confusion.


For this reason, only basic idioms have been included in this book, Essential Idioms in English, New Edition. Furthermore, it was decided not to burden the student with discussion of the origins of idioms. There is no need to define the exact nature of an idiom except to assume that it is a phrase that has a meaning different from the meanings of its individual parts. This helps to explain why it is often difficult to translate an idiom from one language to another without incurring some change in meaning or usage.


For the purposes of this book, two-word verbs are included in the general category of idioms. A two-word verb is a verb whose meaning is altered by he addition of a particle (a preposition used with a verb to form an idiomatic expression.) to look, for example, may become to look up or to look over, each having its own special meaning. When a two-word verb can be separated by a noun or pronoun, the symbol (S) for separable is inserted in the definition. Sentences illustrating both separable and non-separable forms are included in the examples.


Experienced ESL (English Second Language),EFL (English First Language) teachers will agree, for the most part, with the selection of idioms in this text. However, it should be recognized that any selection is somewhat arbitrary because the range is so great. Some teachers might prefer to omit certain idioms and to add others not included, but all should appreciate the attempt to make Essential idioms in English, New Edition as representative as possible.







Idiomatic expressions have long played an important role in the English language. In fact, the use of idioms is so widespread that an understanding of these expressions is essential to successful communication, whether in listening, speaking, reading, or writing. The student may learn grammar and, with time, acquire adequate vocabulary, but without a working knowledge of such idioms as above all, to get along, on the whole, to look up, etc., even the best student's speech will remain awkward and ordinary.
Of course, the idioms selected for study should have practical value and be within the student's ability to comprehend. Such expressions as to set the world on fire or to wash one's dirty laundry in public may be very colorful, but they do little to help the student achieve fluency in English.

Teachers of English have long recognized that idiomatic expressions add grace and exactness to the language. The alert teacher will make their study an integral part of the teaching process. However, learning such expressions is never an easy task for the student learning English as a second or foreign language. Attempts to translate literally from the student's native tongue usually lead to roundabout expression of meaning and, more often, to confusion.


For this reason, only basic idioms have been included in this book, Essential Idioms in English, New Edition. Furthermore, it was decided not to burden the student with discussion of the origins of idioms. There is no need to define the exact nature of an idiom except to assume that it is a phrase that has a meaning different from the meanings of its individual parts. This helps to explain why it is often difficult to translate an idiom from one language to another without incurring some change in meaning or usage.


For the purposes of this book, two-word verbs are included in the general category of idioms. A two-word verb is a verb whose meaning is altered by he addition of a particle (a preposition used with a verb to form an idiomatic expression.) to look, for example, may become to look up or to look over, each having its own special meaning. When a two-word verb can be separated by a noun or pronoun, the symbol (S) for separable is inserted in the definition. Sentences illustrating both separable and non-separable forms are included in the examples.


Experienced ESL (English Second Language),EFL (English First Language) teachers will agree, for the most part, with the selection of idioms in this text. However, it should be recognized that any selection is somewhat arbitrary because the range is so great. Some teachers might prefer to omit certain idioms and to add others not included, but all should appreciate the attempt to make Essential idioms in English, New Edition as representative as possible.



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