Idiomatic Expressions

Developing vocabulary is essential in helping people better understand their language. Idioms and slang are such a big part of American culture that it’s essential that Americans as well as people of all ages learning English as a Second Language (ESL) should study idiomatic expressions and slang. These expressions can be understood easily on a literal level, but they should not be taken literally. Here’s an example:

George has his hands full.

While George could literally have his hands full of objects, that’s not the meaning of this idiom. Instead, it means to be very busy. What if someone kicks the bucket? Unless one has learned that this means to die, the idiom will be indecipherable. Here is a short list of some other idioms in American English:

Let’s play it by ear. (Let’s decide as we go along.)
You’re pulling my leg. (You’re teasing me.)
I heard it straight from the horse’s mouth. (I heard it from a reliable source.)
There’s something fishy going on. (There’s something strange going on.)
I’ve got a frog in my throat. (I’m having a hard time talking.)

If you’ve been speaking English for a long time, you may not even think of an idiomatic expression as an idiom anymore. But children and ESL students can get tripped up by these expressions if they’re not taught the meanings. Get some practice with idioms with our vocabulary games.

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