Using Common Idioms

Definition of an idiom
An idiom is a phrase which means something different from what it says. It does not appear in a complete sentence.

There are numerous idioms in the English language. Some common idioms that can be used in both spoken and written English are:

see red (get/become angry) (past tense - saw/past participle - seen)
Mrs Harley really saw red when she noticed a big heap of stinking rubbish right in front of the gate.
It means Mrs Harley got angry....
It doesn't mean Mrs Harley saw something red in color!

rain cats and dogs (rain very heavily)
It has been raining cats and dogs since last night and all the roads are wet and slippery.
It means the rain was heavy. It doesn't mean cats and dogs falling from the sky!

a wolf in sheep's clothing (an enemy/spy pretending to be a friend)
In one of the James Bond 007 movies, Bond nearly walked into the trap of a very pretty woman who was actually a wolf in sheep's clothing.
It means the pretty woman was like the wolf, but was pretending to be friendly like the sheep!
It doesn't mean the wolf was wearing the sheep's fur!

crocodile tears (pretend to cry)
When Ted was told that his stepmother had passed away, he cried his heart out. However, everyone knew that it was only crocodile tears. They all knew Ted was never on good terms with his late stepmother.
It means false tears! It doesn't mean crocodiles tears coming from Ted's eyes!

make a mountain out of a molehill (make a small/an unimportant matter look like a big/serious matter)
Tommy accidentally stepped lightly on Jane's foot. Jane was not hurt at all. However, Jane reported this to the disciplinary teacher and told everyone how painful and bruised her foot was! Jane was actually making a mountain out of a molehill.
It doesn't mean keep on stacking up soil on a small molehill until it becomes a mountain!

at the eleventh hour (at the time just before a test/meeting/an exam)
Linda always does her revision at the eleventh hour and very surprisingly, she often gets at least 80%!
It doesn't mean at 11 am or 11 pm!

The sales representatives have been warned not to get their sales reports done at the eleventh hour.

a cat on hot bricks (nervous)
Hilda was like a cat on hot bricks during the driving test, but fortunately, she passed the test.
It doesn't mean a real cat walking on bricks that have been heated up till they are hot!

let the cat out of the bag (disclose a secret)
We wanted to give Sharon a birthday surprise, but Linda let the cat out of the bag and it wasn't a surprise anymore!
It doesn't mean there was a cat in the bag and you opened the bag and let the cat get out of it!

turn a deaf ear (pretend not to hear)
Old Mrs Lee always complains unnecessarily. Her daughter-in-law often turns a deaf ear to her complaints.
It doesn't mean the ear becoming deaf!

turn a blind eye (pretend not to see)
Some school prefects turn a blind eye when the students are littering!
It doesn't mean the eye becoming blind!

turn over a new leaf
(become a better person)
Jason has turned over a new leaf. He doesn't mix around with bad company anymore.
It doesn't mean turning a leaf over!

a piece of cake (something very easy to do)
The Maths test was really a piece of cake. Everyone in class got at least 95%!
It doesn't mean the Maths test has become a piece of cake!

a needle in a haystack (something very hard to find or locate)
When my friend told me she wanted to look for the 20-cent coin she had lost, I told her to forget about it as looking for the coin was just like looking for a needle in a haystack.
It doesn't mean there's actually a needle hidden in the haystack, and you're trying to look for that needle!

kill two birds with one stone (accomplish two different tasks at the same time)
When I was on my business trip in Paris, I killed two birds with one stone. I had the opportunity to pick up some French phrases, and met with a few well-known business professionals.
It doesn't mean you're throwing a stone at two birds, trying to kill them!

leave no stone unturned (look everywhere to find something/somebody or try everything possible to achieve something or try every way possible to solve a problem)
The rescue team vowed to leave no stone unturned. They will search everywhere for the missing children.
It doesn't mean you're turning the stones one after another!

Click on "vocabulary" for "Using Common Proverbs".

By Susan L
On 1/29/2010 06:30:00 AM
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