Have you ever noticed that we don’t always say what we mean? Sometimes we have two words that have two meanings but you put them together and they have a new meaning. Every morning I get up at 7 o’clock. What is get up? I know that get means receive and I know that up is the direction of the sky but get up is not to receive in the direction of the sky, right?

What is an idiom expression?

When you put words together to create a meaning that is different to the meaning of the individual words, we create what we call an idiomatic expression or an idiom. Idioms come from spoken language and they are basically new vocabulary that we create using old vocabulary because we are too lazy or unimaginative to think of new words. Or perhaps because by using words that already exist, we can give a clue to the meaning.

Understanding idiomatic expressions

Some idioms are easy to guess because of the words that make them. For example, get up (get out of bed), look around (browse), eat out (eat at a restaurant). But beware; they may have some hidden meaning that you cannot guess. Eat out means to go out (to a restaurant) and eat but it does not mean to eat outside (you don’t have to be under the stars). If you eat at a table just outside your house, we say eat outside not eat out.

The meanings of other idioms are harder to guess. For example, work out (exercise), kick the bucket (to die), give up (quit).

Idioms are usually unique to a language so it is important that you do not try to translate an idiom into your first language or you will get confused. Try it. Translate kick, the and bucket into your own language. Do you get the meaning of to die?

Idioms are fun to learn and they make the language much more colourful so if you are interested to learn more, I recommend picking up a good dictionary for idiomatic expressions or Googling every time you hear a combination of words that seems to make no sense. Enjoy.

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