There are many reasons to learn English idioms, because often we use them in English speaking and writing. So, what is an idiom? An idiom is a group of words (often a phrase or an expression) that have a particular meaning, and this meaning can be difficult to work out simply from the individual words. In other words, an idiom is a single unit of language. It is possible to work out or guess the meaning of some idioms, but translating word for word for other idioms is even more confusing!
Here is an example
We need to get the ball rolling to prepare our presentation. It needs to be ready for the meeting next week.
Well, it is clear that they need to prepare a presentation for a meeting next week. But why are they talking about a ball? The phrase "to get the ball rolling" is an idiom and means "to make something start happening." Now it is possible to understand that they need to start working on a presentation, which they must deliver in a meeting next week.
Should students learn English idioms?
Whilst idioms are challenging for English learners, learning chunks of language improves vocabulary and helps to develop English language skills from a basic level to intermediate and advanced. They might be difficult to remember and produce, but they can nevertheless greatly improve understanding in reading and listening.
Furthermore, idioms can generate interest in learning English, because some expressions may be the same in an English student’s native language, while others may be similar with subtle differences. Sometimes though, they are just really strange to non-native speakers!
What is the best way to learn English idioms?
- Idioms have a particular meaning and we recommend learning them in context and with an example. Here is another idiom in a sentence: She brings a great deal of experience to the table. Perhaps you can guess that “bring something to the table” means "to contribute something of value (to a company)."
This has been used to describe a person in a business context, and it could be used in speaking or writing at work. However, there are other idioms that are only used in speaking or in magazines that are more informal.
- Idioms are used most frequently in informal spoken English idioms. Therefore, you can try using them first in everyday conversation to improve your fluency, but don’t use too many at the same time either!
- When you are comfortable with the meaning, you can also try using them in other situations, such as speaking at work. If you have seen the idiom in a text, they may also be suitable for writing.
For more examples, please like our facebook and twitter pages where you will find new idioms every week. We focus on idioms for business English. Generally, if idioms are suitable for use at work, then they can also be used with friends and family too.