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How to identify idioms in English

Alot of students struggle with understanding and answering questions under idioms in English language. Well,just like climbing a ladder you have to go step by step in order for you not to slif off;so is it in understanding idioms you have to first know the meaning of idiom.

Meaning of idiom

An idiom is a group of words with a special meaning that cannot be guessed from the combination of the actual word. For example, “The students were advised to make hay while the sun shines” means that the students were advised to take advantage of that favourable condition.

Examples of idioms and their meaning

1. blew the gaff – leaked a secret

2. an itching palm -to be corrupt

3. a bolt from the blue – an unexpected and unpleasant event

4. the writing on the wall – a terrible warning

5. once in a blue moon – extremely seldom

6. bone of contention – a disagreement between two parties

7. to give a cold shoulder – to ignore a person

8. to fall out with somebody – no longer in good terms with someone

9. to take someone to task – i.e to criticize the person

10. to throw in the towel – to accept defeat

11. to bend over backwards to do something – i.e to make exceptional effort to do something

12. to set the cat among the pigeons – to cause trouble

13. to steal the show – to attract attention

14. casting your pearls before swine – giving valuable things to people who don’t deserve them

15. a bird of passage – i.e someone who makes a brief visit.

Other examples of idiomatic expressions are:

16. The general advised his troops not to show white feathers (i.e to be cowardly).

17. Dele is noted for calling a spade a spade(i.e speaking without mincing words).

18. When it came to mathematics,he was completely at sea(i.e he always finds mathematics difficult).

19. Musa is light-fingered (i.e Musa is clever at stealing).

20. Anita described the occasion as a red-letter day(i.e the occasion was a memorable one).

21. Demi does not let the grass grow under his feet (i.e Femi does not waste time in doing things).

22. Nosa can be stubborn occasionally but I have a soft spot for him (i.e admire Nosa despite his stubborn attitude).

23. Sarah and I do not see eye to eye on that matter (i.e both of us totally disagree).

24. The chairman is playing his card close to his chest (i.e the chairman is very secretive).

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