Ideal Idioms

Idioms Online-Teacher-Directory

I cannot stress enough that idioms are a critical part of learning English. Native speakers use idioms frequently, and idioms often do not have a literal meaning, which can make understanding them difficult.

I tell my students that it is not necessary to use idioms yourself, but it is important to understand their meaning, so that when someone uses them in conversation you are not left wondering what was said.

Idioms find their way into all manners of English conversation, whether it is in a business or personal context. Certain dialects have their own, or those that are more commonly used, but all dialects employ them.

Here are three common idioms with a definition and an explanation:

  1. Hit a snag: to encounter a problem or difficulty that was unexpected.
    This idiom appears in both print and verbal English. The term “snag” has multiple meanings, such as a tangled length of rope or a tear in a woman’s stocking. The common element is that a snag is never a good thing. Hence, “hit a snag” is never used to describe a positive event.
  2. A penny for your thoughts: a way of asking someone what they are thinking, or what is on their mind.
    If you see someone who looks as if they are absorbed in thought, you can use this idiom to ask them in a gentle way what they are contemplating, or if something is bothering them. By doing so you do not explicitly ask them if anything is bothering them or what they are thinking about, but you provide an opening for them to discuss it with you if they choose.
  3. A pat on the back: telling someone that they have done a good job.
    Giving someone a pat on the back is congratulating them for their hard work or successful results they have achieved. It may, or may not, be accompanied by an actual pat on the back, which is the origin of the idiom.

Meta Description: Idioms are an integral part of American English. Understanding their meaning is critical to improving fluency and comprehension.

By Mat Gahman

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August 3, 2016