Understand Idiomatic Expressions
Edited by Timbuktu, Charmed, Rose B, Lynn and 5 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 but the meaning of the phrase is still confusing or may be different. This is just almost the same as trying to translate from a different language word for word that may just result into a different meaning. With idioms you may understand each word but you cannot interpret the meaning word for word. You have to do dig more and go deeper to understand what is behind the phrase.
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. We make use of these expressions to make our language more exciting and more meaningful. Having a good knowledge on how these idiomatic expressions are used, we can make our daily communication more effective.
To learn more about the idiomatic expression aside from taking English classes
- 1You may also use the television or movies as your tool, as many characters in the movies use idiomatic expression.
- 2Searching online also helps you to know what a phrase means instead of just trying to understand everything word for word.
- 3Reading books is also helpful.
- 4It is also recommended to have a dictionary of idioms.
- 5By doing these things, you will not misinterpret what others may say, or sometimes you just tend to say, by using idiomatic expression.
Idiomatic expression examples:
- 1This means someone is not slow. This person is not wasting time. (If you were to translate this literally, it would mean that there are no flies (insects) on someone. This is totally confusing if you translate or define each word to its meaning.There are no flies on someone.
- 2This means to have a defect of character.Have feet of clay.
- 3This means to have a lot of money, to have so much money that some can be wasted.Have money to burn.
- 4This means something to think about.Food for thought.
- 5To come somewhere between two possibilities and fail to meet the requirement of either.Fall between two stools.
- 6This means gone forever.Dead and buried.
- 7To work less than eight hours a dayKeep bankers hours.
So if you encounter phrases that don't seem to add up or make sense, even if the grammar is correct, do not define the meaning literally to not interpret someone's words or phrase to something else. Always try to check what it means first.
The most useful technology to check and research things now is through online.
How to Avoid Misunderstanding Idiomatic Expressions
Although it is impossible to be familiar with all idiomatic expressions out there, there are some ways to avoid misunderstanding and to be able to guess somehow what is being said. The more common ones are easy to follow, but at some point, you will encounter some newer ones which you have not heard of before. When this happens, here are some ways for you to get an idea what is being said:
- 1This is a very old advice that parents and teachers would normally teach kids when they are just starting to learn to read. This applies well enough when you hear some unusual phrases in a conversation. You have to consider what the overall context is in the conversation and from there, you will be able to make a guess of how the idiomatic expression relates to the conversation. Of course, this makes the assumption that you are listening actively to the conversation and that your mind is not dwindling somewhere else.Consider the context of the sentence.
- 2Consider the context of the sentence and if you want to make sure your understanding is correct, you may want to convert the sentence into a simple language and get the agreement of the other person if your understanding is correct or not. There's no harm in wanting to clarify something that you have heard in a conversation.Confirm your understanding.
- 3Body language helps give further meaning to any spoken language. If you see that the overall appearance is light and that he may be joking, then consider that in putting meaning into an idiomatic expression. Some of these expressions may not have a positive meaning if the words are taken literally. However, if you link together all other clues that you get in the conversation, then you will realize that it has a totally different meaning.Consider the body language of the speaker.
- 4There's no better way to get more familiar with idiomatic expressions but to read different types of materials constantly. If you read novels, you will find a lot of idiomatic expressions there. And what's good with that is since you are reading it and you taking your own pace, you actually have the opportunity to check the meaning by yourself. You can pause as you read and carefully examine the way the sentence has been structured and from there, you can reflect as to what it means. After that, if you see the same expression in another sentence, you'll better understand the true meaning of it.Widen your horizons by reading constantly.
- 5It will be very helpful if you spend some time everyday reading a few entries in an idiomatic expressions handbook. The more idea you have prior to hearing an expression, the easier it will be for you to fully comprehend the meaning of what's being said.Read an idiomatic expressions handbook.
- 6If all else fails and you really can't figure out what is being said, there is nothing wrong in directly asking the person you are talking to for some clarifications. You can be very honest that you didn't understand a particular line and that's why you want some clarification.Ask a question.
Recent edits by: Nuance, Eng, Christine dela Cruz