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How to Learn Idioms

5 years ago
“It’s time for me to hit the sack, I’m so tired.”

"Oh all right, you’ve twisted my arm, I’ll come!”

" You’re just going to have to sit tight and wait.”

Are you confused by what these sentences mean? Are you also an Intermediate or Advanced student? Have you been studying phrasal verbs and collocations? If so, I hope you are also studying Idioms. Why? Because idioms, phrasal verbs, and collocations are essential to how we speak in every day conversation. While you are likely to be understood without using them, knowing them and using them makes understanding and being understand far more easy. And it will also allow you to sound more "native" and help you to reach that "fluency" level that so many students desire!

So here are some tips:
1)      If you see an idiom in context i.e., in a magazine, newspaper or a book, try to understand the context and this will help you with the idiom. For example: my boss was really angry:  shouting and screaming until he tripped and fell over the table.  Everyone laughed and I couldn’t keep a straight face.

2)       Keep an ‘Idioms’ diary.  Every time you hear an idiom or read one, write it down but then make sure that you can look it up at home in a dictionary (English dictionary for learners) and to write it in a sentence otherwise you will forget the meaning.

3)       A lot of idioms can be found in songs.  If you can download the lyrics, have a look at the words and find the idioms – remember an idiom does not make sense if you translate every word but more that you see it as a whole expression.

4)      Try to see the idiom in your mind. Can you see the image? Many idioms are made of images.  Try to imagine them and this will help you remember them by seeing the pictures in your mind.

5)      Use the idioms you have learnt in everyday life.  Should you be in a certain situation then don’t be afraid to use one either in writing or in speaking.


I hope this helps! But if you are overwhelmed by the thought of learning yet MORE words, consider going to blow off steam, and come back and try again tomorrow! Break a leg!