American English phrasal verbs are very confusing
6 resources for an insight into English idioms
"It's all Greek to me!"
We say this when we don't understand something.
Like spoken or written Greek, it doesn't make sense to us.
And that's exactly how many English learners feel with idioms.
Idioms are fun, colorful, and expressive phrases that are used in conversation. And for ESL students, they are not easy to learn.
The problem with English idioms is that they can be very confusing. What does "it rains cats and dogs" really mean, and why do people say it when it's stormy?
This is because idioms cannot be translated directly. Instead, you need to learn the meaning of the phrase, not the individual words.
Still, the best way to sound like a native English speaker is to master the idioms. They may not make sense, but they are often used by English speakers.
Do idioms have you Blow up walls ("Driving you up the wall")?
If so, let's look at some resources to help you learn English idioms and when to use them.
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Idiom of the day
Did you know that dictionaries like Merriam-Webster and Dictionary.com have a word-per-day feature that you can use to build your vocabulary? EnglishClub's Idiom of the Day works the same way, but with idioms.
If you visit the website once a day, you will learn a new idiom and see exactly how it is used in a sentence. There's even a “quick quiz” at the bottom of the page so you can check that you've understood everything.
What's good about this site is that it teaches you some of the most common English idioms so you can learn about them before reading them in books or hearing them in conversation. It's also ideal for students who want to learn how to use idioms but don't have time to memorize a long list of phrases.
Unlike other language learning platforms, FluentU not only teaches you the basics of the English language, but it immerses you in the culture so that you can learn English like a native speaker does.
Idioms change depending on the culture. A common idiom in the UK might sound strange when used in the United States or Australia. For this reason, it is important to learn the context of each idiom rather than simply its meaning.
FluentU lets you practice English idioms by listening to native speakers' conversations or learning through pop culture so you have a better idea of how and when to use the correct idiom.
You can use FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, even better, download the FluentU app from the iTunes store or the Google Play store.
You'll also get a free 15-day trial to try FluentU and decide if it's right for you. Why not give it a try?
The Phrase Finder
Would you like a more complete resource for idioms? One that has hundreds of different expressions in it but is organized and easy to use? The Phrase Finder lets you look up commonly used English idioms the same way you look up words in a dictionary.
The Phrase Finder is a dictionary for expressions and idioms. There you will find expressions organized into categories, such as:
If you are someone who wants to dig deeper into the meanings of idioms, you will love this site. It's a little different from other resources that teach you the meanings of different idioms.
In addition to learning how to use idioms, you'll also get a brief history lesson on how those idioms spread. And some of those stories are really interesting!
"Work on Your Idioms" by HarperCollins
Ideal for anyone who likes to learn offline, “Work on Your Idioms” is a comprehensive textbook with 300 of the most common idioms in the English language. The book is for students between B1 and C2 levels of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, which means that it is best suited for intermediate and advanced ESL students - not for beginners.
Since this book is a textbook and not just an idiom dictionary, it also contains exercises and answer keys to test your knowledge of the idioms covered. Instead of simply listing idioms, they are grouped into units that follow a specific theme so that the phrases are easier to remember.
There are even study tips and special notes that look at the differences between British and American English with a few idioms.
All in all, Work on Your Idioms is an excellent learning tool for anyone who enjoys workbook activities.
"Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms" from Oxford University Press
The Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms has over 6,000 popular English idioms that you are likely to encounter while learning English.
This book works like a standard dictionary, but instead of looking at individual words, it shows you the meanings of idioms and how they are used in sentences. The dictionary also points out the difference between American and British idioms that have similar meanings but are different phrases, such as "all over the place" (AmE) versus "all over the shop" (UK).
The twists and turns are slightly different, but both are used as a way to express:
- In all directions: "The toys were scattered all over the place.“
- Something disorganized: "His speech was all over the shop.“
- All over: "I've been looking all over the place for that book. "
The Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms is one of the most comprehensive books you can get on idioms - especially for learning expressions used in British English. Because of this, it's a great book to have close by whenever you want to learn English but don't have access to the internet.
Memrise is a popular language learning app that you can use on your desktop computer as well as on your Android or iOS device.
As with other language learning apps, Memrise works by teaching you words and expressions and testing your knowledge at the end of the course. One of the great things about Memrise is the variety of English courses you can choose from. And since users can create their own courses, there are plenty of specific Memrise lessons that you won't find in other language learning programs.
And some of these lessons include slang and idioms.
As soon as you've signed up to use Memrise and looked around the website or app, you'll come across a variety of English courses that cover grammar, vocabulary, or in this case, idioms. Some of the most popular idiom courses are:
- 350 idioms, sayings and slang:This course has 30 levels and a total of 350 different American and British idioms and slang words that will help you sound more like a native speaker.
- English idioms:More than 40 common American idioms, plus a simple definition of each idiom.
The best part about learning idioms through Memrise is that there are always quizzes on the information you've already learned. Along with exercises that cover the content at each level, there are also extensive reviews to help you remember the older material as well.
And since Memrise tracks your progress, you can see how far you have improved over the course of the course.
As you become more familiar with idioms, you will see a completely different side of the English language. Most of the time, idioms are informal and used casually in conversation - and sometimes they break their own grammar rules!
So don't worry about making a mistake - just play around with the English language and have fun.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.
Experience English immersion online!
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