English Grammar Basic Grammar and syntax

What is a language (with examples)

What is a language? (with examples)

An idiom is a commonly used expression whose meaning is not related to the literal meaning of its words.

Formal Definition
An idiom is a group of words established by usage that have a meaning that cannot be deduced from the individual words (for example, over the moon, see the light).

Some Common Examples of Languages

Here are some common idioms:

  • He’s been pushing up the daisies for a year.
    (He’s been dead for a year.)
  • Let’s paint the town red.
    (Let’s have a good time in town.)
  • She has a bun in the oven
    (She is pregnant.)

An Idiom Is a Form of Figurative Language

Los modismos se clasifican como lenguaje figurativo, que es el uso de palabras de una manera inusual o imaginativa.

Figurative language includes the use of metaphors, similes, personifications, hyperboles, euphemisms, and puns.

More Examples of Languages

Here are some more examples of idiomatic expressions:

  • He was just a flash in the pan.
    (The idiom a flash in the pan means something that shows potential at the start but fails thereafter.)
  • He is trying to be a good Samaritan.
    (“A good Samaritan“is a person who helps someone in need with no thought of a reward.)
  • Does he have an axe to grind?
    (“To have an axe to grind“means to have a dispute with someone. )
  • We should let sleeping dogs lie.
    (“To let sleeping dogs lie“means to avoid restarting a conflict.)

Thirty More Examples of Idioms

Here are thirty more examples of idioms with links to pages explaining their origins. (Links open new tabs.)

  • as mad as a hatter
  • back to square one
  • bite the bullet
  • bite off more than you can chew
  • chance your arm
  • a cock and bull story
  • daylight robbery
  • dead ringer
  • feather in your cap
  • flash in the pan
  • hoisted by your own petard
  • if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours
  • make money from old rope
  • there’s not enough room to swing a cat
  • once the balloon has gone up
  • over the barrel
  • push the boat out
  • raining cats and dogs
  • skeletons in the cupboard
  • spill the beans
  • strike while the iron is hot
  • swing the lead
  • taken aback
  • to have someone over the barrel
  • throw down the gauntlet
  • use your loaf
  • to weep crocodile tears
  • whistle for it
  • whole nine yards (full nine yards)
  • wolf in sheep’s clothing

Why Should I Care about Idioms?

Aquí hay dos buenas razones para pensar más cuidadosamente sobre los modismos.

(Reason 1) Foreigners might not understand your languages.

It is a well-known observation that non-native English speakers can“understand the first meaning but not the second“.

Essentially, this is a warning that any foreigner among your readers might not understand the meanings of the idiomatic expressions you use (which makes a lot of sense since idiomatic expressions, by definition, do not mean what their words mean) .

Here are some examples of how you might fine-tune your words for a foreign audience:

English-speaking Environment Option for a Non-native-speaking Environment
The new project is money for old rope.
Be ready at the drop of a hat.
Such an opportunity is once in a blue moon.
The new project pays us again for our previous work.
Be ready starting from now.
This is a rare opportunity.

The context will often ensure that non-English speakers follow the conversation (especially since many idioms are fairly obvious analogies). However, keep in mind that using an idiom could put a wrench in the process.

(Reason 2) Idioms can make your writing more engaging.

Idioms are classified as figurative language (using words in an unusual or imaginative way). Figurative language is typically used to express an idea more clearly or more interestingly.

As a general rule, idioms don’t help express ideas more clearly, but they can sometimes help ensure that your writing is:

  • Less stuffy (idioms give a sense of informality and familiarity).
  • More succinct (idioms can be less wordy than a non-idiomatic explanation).

Key Points

  • Avoid idioms when writing to a multinational audience.
  • Use idiomatic expressions to give a sense of informality and, if appropriate, to reduce verbiage.

You may also like