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Idioms

What is an Idiom? An idiom is defined asan expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements, as kick the bucket (meaning pass away and die) or hang one’s head(express shame or contrition), or from  the  general  grammatical  rules of a  language,  as the table  round  for the round table, and that is not a  constituent  of a  larger  expression of like  characteristics.

Why to learn idioms. There are two main reasons to learn common idioms. First, When idioms are used in speech or written language, they show a high level of vocabulary. This is because idiomatic expressions are natural phrases commonly used by native speakers. When we study English, we may want to sound as natural as possible, and sometimes to be identified as native speakers .  Thus, using idioms helps us in this. Second, We can recognize idioms when listening to others speaking. It may be very difficult to understand native speakers, or expert users of English, when they use idiomatic English. Often when learners of English read, watch a movie or listen to the radio, they may feel unable to comprehend if idioms are used. A good understanding of common idioms will enable learners to understand a great deal more of natural speech.

How to understand new idioms. The nature of an idiom is that we cannot understand it if we try to look at the literal meaning. If we try to define an idiomatic phrase, we will often completely misunderstand the meaning of what someone is saying. This means, we have to follow a simple process for understanding idioms. The first thing is to try to guess the meaning from context by looking at the sentence and try to understand it without the idiom, then guess some words that could replace the phrase and make sense.This is a very important skill and should always be the first thing you do before asking for help or checking in a dictionary. The other thing is “to google it! Just type an unknown phrase into Google you will find many sites offering actual definitions.

What to do with a new idiom. Two factors are to be taken into account before deciding whether to make a note of the new idiom for later reference and use or not. They are utility and frequency.We need to decide if it is useful or not.  So if you think you could use this phrase in many situations, then that means it is useful and may be noted down for later use. All ESL learners at various levels of language proficiency are usually advised to keep a vocabulary journal or a notebook to record new and useful words and phrases. It is a good idea to have an area to record idioms so that you can find them again easily.  Finally, use and review! Try to use your new phrases in speaking and writing, and go back to older phrases and use them again.

How to use idioms. The most important things to know when learning to use idioms include: 1) What parts of an idiom can we change and  what can’t be changed? Often mistakes are made when learners try to change different parts of an idiom too much. Remember that an idiom is a fixed phrase and you are not allowed to change all parts of an idiom. 2) When is it right to use this idiom? Idioms are frequently used in informal and conversational speech since they make speech more expressive.

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