Words are the building blocks of language. When built into sentences, they communicate thoughts. Knowing what each word means may not always help a student understand the sentence. Sometimes, words combine to make something different than the direct translation. English speakers frequently use idioms to express themselves. The idioms used often reflect distinct cultural, historical, or social origins. Those looking to learn and practice English should pay attention to the use of idioms in daily conversation. Here are a few common American idioms our students can use to express themselves.
Hit the Books
Americans often like to use aggressive metaphors when it comes to communicating effort. Most often, when someone talks about hitting something, they don’t mean physically striking the object. “Hitting the books” is a way of saying studying hard. Like hitting the gym or hitting the road, it means effort directed at the object. In this case, books.
Feeling Under the Weather
Weather can be sunny, rainy, windy, or any other condition the atmosphere creates. Unless you’re in outer space, every person is “under” the weather in a literal sense. But, to feel under the weather implies that the speaker is sick or not feeling well. Sometimes students may feel too under the weather to practice English, for example.
For better or worse, American culture places a strong emphasis on firearms. That cultural focus is reflected in the language with guns and gun use, providing metaphors for all kinds of personal and professional situations. People who learn and practice English in America may be familiar with some of these phrases. A “straight shooter” is someone who is honest and plainspoken. In contrast, a “loose cannon” is someone who may say or do anything that comes to his or her mind. To take a “shot in the dark” is to guess and hope that the guess is correct or “on target.”
Incorporating idioms into your speech will make practicing English fun and engaging, and it will help you develop a more natural vocabulary.
Photo Credit: mer chau