1.20 Idioms

Idioms are informal, colorful language. Although their intent is to add interest to the English language, they also add a lot of confusion since their intended meanings are not aligned with their literal meanings. In time, you will learn the idioms that your acquaintances use. Until then, reading lists of idioms, such as the following, might prove helpful. Just remember that when a person says something that seems to make no sense at all, an idiom might be involved. Also, keep in mind that this list is just a very small sampling of the thousands of idiomatic expressions that occur in English, as happens with any language.

Idiom

Intended Meaning

A little bird told me.

I know some information, and I’d rather not say where I heard it.

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

Don’t decide before you have all the facts.

Don’t jump out of your skin.

Don’t get overly excited.

Go fly a kite.

What you are saying doesn’t make sense.

Hank’s got some major-league problems.

Hank has some serious problems.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

You can’t succeed if you don’t try.

People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

You should not criticize others for faults that you also have, or since you aren’t perfect, you should not criticize others.

They are joined at the hip.

They are always together and/or think alike.

We’ve got it made in the shade.

Everything is working out just right.

What does John Q. Public say?

What does the average person think?

You’re crazy.

Your words do not make sense.

 


Adapted from Appendix A, “Writing for Nonnative English Speakers” in Writer’s Handbook v 1.0  used according to Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

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