Understand Idiomatic Expressions

Edited by Timbuktu, Charmed, Rose B, Lynn and 4 others

We all know that every language has phrases that cannot be understood literally. Even if you know the meaning of all the words, and you understand the grammar completely, the meaning of the phrase is still confusing or different than you'd expect. This is just almost the same as trying to translate from one language to another - word for word. It always results in a phrase that is similar in meaning, but not exactly the same. Nuances can easily be lost in translation. This is especially true when translating the subtle emotional twists and turns of poetry. When it comes to idioms, you'll probably understand every word but you might have trouble interpreting the meaning. You have to do dig more and go deeper to understand what is behind the phrase.

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What is the meaning of "idiomatic expressions"?


Idiomatic expressions or simply idioms, are those verbal images that can add life to our communications, in writing and in speech. They liven up how we describe some people, things or even events that we encounter in our lives, compared with just using simple words, which are bland. But the phrases themselves are usually not meant to be taken literally. As an example – you might say, "It's raining really hard outside." It's not very exciting or descriptive. We also might say, "It's raining cats and dogs!" It's a more colorful phrase but it's not meant to convey that cats and dogs are falling from the sky. This is most difficult to explain to someone who's not fluent in your language. We use these expressions to make our language more exciting and more meaningful. Knowing how these idiomatic expressions are used can make our daily communication more effective and more interesting.

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Familiarize Yourself With Idiomatic Expressions

To learn more about the idiomatic expression aside from taking English classes, consider some of these sources;

  1. 1
    Television or movies.
    Many of the characters in TV shows and movies use idiomatic expressions. Because the medium is visual, it will be easier to know if it's a literal or an idiomatic expression.
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  2. 2
    Searching online also helps you to learn what a phrase means instead of just trying to understand everything word for word.
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  3. 3
    Reading books is also helpful.
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  4. 4
    It is also recommended to have a book of idioms.
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  5. 5
    By doing these things, you will not misinterpret what others may say, or sometimes you just tend to say, by using idiomatic expression.
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Examples of Idiomatic Expressions

  1. 1
    Piece of cake.
    1. Something easily accomplished or understood.  
      1. Joe told his mother the exam was a piece of cake.
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  2. 2
    Money to burn.
    1. You have so much money, you could burn it if you want.  
      1. Don't worry, she's a movie star and has money to burn.
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  3. 3
    Food for thought.
    1. Something to intellectually digest.  
      1. Sarah's point of view was completely different from here, but it gave her food for thought.
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  4. 4
    Behind the eight ball.
    1. In pool, the game, the black ball (eight ball) has to be taken out of the game after you've sunk all your balls (stripes or solids). If you have to make a shot from behind the eight ball – which you can't hit with the white ball, it's a really difficult shot and tricky to get out from behind it.  
      1. Between work, volunteering and the deadline on the fundraiser, once again, she was behind the eight ball.
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  5. 5
    Spill the Beans.
    1. Accidentally or intentionally reveal what should have been a secret.  
      1. It was supposed to be a surprise party, but her best friend spilled the beans.
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  6. 6
    Taste of your own medicine.
    1. Someone will receive the same kind of treatment – usually negative – he's given out.  
      1. After years of him cheating on his wife, he got a taste of his own medicine when she left him for another man.
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So if you encounter phrases that don't seem to add up or make sense, even if the grammar is correct, don't define the meaning literally. Don't' try to interpret someone's words or phrase to something else. Always try to check its meaning first.

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The most useful technology to check and research things now is through online.

Questions and Answers

What does apple of my mean?

I'd like to know what apple of my eye means?

The apple of my eye means something that you cherish completely. Its origin is in the middle ages, when the pupil of the eye was called "the apple". So it's a term of endearment – the person is all you see in the world, another idiom.

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When you do a Google search on phrases like that, precede the phrase you want to know about, with the word - define. Like this: Define the apple of my eye. You'll get there a lot faster.

Referencing this Article

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Understand Idiomatic Expressions. (2017). In VisiHow. Retrieved Mar 25, 2017, from http://visihow.com/Understand_Idiomatic_Expressions

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Chicago / Turabian VisiHow.com. "Understand Idiomatic Expressions." Accessed Mar 25, 2017. http://visihow.com/Understand_Idiomatic_Expressions.

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Categories : Communications & Education

Recent edits by: Eng, Christine dela Cruz, Ephraim

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