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Idioms

Idiomatic speech and samples of such speech are one of the most difficult areas of any language, because they reflect cultural peculiarities, which vary a lot from culture to culture. So in this Module students just are introduced some interesting and widely-used English idioms for them to get the feeling of such linguistic layer of the language, but not to get too absorbed into this field.

Definition: A set expression of two or more words that means something other than the literal meaning of its individual words. Adjective: idiomatic.

TASK 1. Explain the meanings of the following idioms. Try to classify them into more literal, formal and informal.


  1. An accident waiting to happen;
  2. Blood is thicker than water;
  3. Actions speak louder than words;
  4. Make smb’s blood boil;
  5. Be afraid of your own shadow;
  6. Once in a blue moon;
  7. Every now and again;
  8. Between the devil and the deep blue sea;
  9. Against all odds;
  10. Take a leaf out of smb’s book;
  11. Castles in the air;
  12. Get to the bottom of smth;
  13. Great minds think alike;
  14. All hell breaks loose;
  15. All that glitters is not gold;
  16. You can’t make bricks without straw;
  17. Be all ears/eyes;
  18. A drop in the bucket;
  19. It’s all Greek to me;
  20. Call smb’s bluff;
  21. Leave well enough alone;
  22. Be a piece of cake;
  23. Be as American as apple pie;
  24. It’s raining cats and dogs;
  25. Fools rush in (where angels fear to tread);
  26. Don’t count your chickens (before they hatch);
  27. Be poles apart;
  28. Every cloud has a silver lining;
  29. Apples and oranges;
  30. Have a crack at smth;
  31. A knight in shinning armour;
  32. Cut the crap!
  33. Be the armpit of the world/universe;
  34. Rome wasn’t built in a day;
  35. Be asking for trouble;
  36. Be like a dog with two tails;
  37. At your fingertips;
  38. Beyond your wildest dreams;
  39. No strings attached;
  40. A white elephant;
  41. To be given the axe;
  42. Get the short end of the stick;
  43. I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine;
  44. Fly off the handle;
  45. Turn your back on smb;
  46. Absence makes the heart grow fonder;
  47. Bring home the bacon;
  48. With your nose in the air;
  49. Keep/set/start the ball rolling;
  50. Be/keep/stay in touch;
  51. Go bananas;
  52. A couch potato;
  53. Go with a bang;
  54. Run smb ragged;
  55. Like a bat out of hell;
  56. Be as thin as a rail;
  57. Be (in) the nature of a beast;
  58. A rule of thumb;
  59. Beat about the bush;
  60. A banana skin;
  61. Get out of bed on the wrong side;
  62. Keep body and soul together;
  63. Be as busy as a bee/beaver;
  64. An Indian summer;
  65. Make the best of smth;
  66. Take a stand;
  67. Better the devil you know (than the devil you don’t);
  68. Throw down the gauntlet;
  69. Birds of a feather flock together;
  70. Take smth for granted;
  71. Tongue in cheek;
  72. Make waves;
  73. A wild-goose chase;
  74. The twilight zone;
  75. Rack your brain;
  76. Still waters run deep;
  77. Keep your pencils sharp and pens in ink;
  78. Like a cat on hot bricks;
  79. Pull smb’s leg;
  80. Let no grass grow under one’s feet;
  81. Break a leg;
  82. Kill two birds with one stone;
  83. That cat won’t jump;
  84. Be spick and span;
TASK 2. Write idioms suitable for the definitions and contexts provided below.

1. ходить вокруг да около; подходить к делу осторожно, издалека; говорить обиняками

Tell me straight what you want without ……………………………— Говорите прямо, без обиняков, что вы хотите.

2. зарабатывать достаточно; добиться своего; добиться успеха; оказаться в выигрыше

3. угроза, опасность несчастного случая, аварии

A lot of the city's buildings are ……………………………....— Множество зданий в городе представляют угрозу (находясь в аварийном состоянии).

4. очень занятой

5. He tore off ……………………………— Он дернул отсюда только так

She barreled out of here …………………… — Она умотала отсюда за одну секунду

6. внимательно слушающий, слушающий со всем вниманием

Keep talking. ……………… — Говори. Я тебя внимательно слушаю.

7. That sort of thing happens ………………. — Такое случается крайне редко

He consulted the script …………………….. — Он редко заглядывал в сценарий

8. время от времени, то и дело

9. Comparing Shakespeare and Michael Jackson is like comparing ………………… — Сравнивать Шекспира и Майкла Джексона - все равно что сравнивать божий дар с яичницей.

10. Sorry, I just ……………. for a minute — Извини, на меня что-то нашло

I thought he was going to …………… — Я думал, что еще немного, и он спятит

The whole place …………… — Зал взревел от восторга

I'm …………….. — Я тащусь

The kids ……………… when they saw their presents — Дети заплясали от радости, когда увидели свои подарки

11. трусливый, мнительный

It is noticed that every dictator is a coward and even ……………….. — Замечено, что все диктаторы очень трусливы и мнительны.

12. иметь что-либо под рукой

I had all the information ……………….. — Вся информация была у меня под рукой.

знать что-либо как свои пять пальцев

He has the subject ……………….. — Он знает этот предмет как свои пять пальцев.

13. сделать все возможное

14. одного поля ягода; один другого стоит

TASK 3. Substitute the words in italics by suitable idioms.

1. Relationships always involve some degree of dependence. It just cannot be avoided because dependence is their characteristic feature.

2. As opposed to all rules she gave birth to her first child at the age of 56.

3. The donation has no hidden unpleasant details, so the charity is free to use it for whatever purpose it chooses.

4. Of course the government have made all sorts of promises but as we all know, something one says is not so important as something one does.

5. Surgeons are aware that every operation carries some risk, and they sometimes decide not to interfere in anything.

6. The product has been a great success, and we hope this advertising campaign will increase its popularity and/or it will remain as popular as it is now.

7. I’ve tried reading the manual, but I do not understand anything in it.

8. Country and western music is typically American.

9. She tells me she’s planned out her whole career; but as far as I can see it’s all just in her imagination by now.

10. This film has an all-star cast, but it is not so attractive as it can be expected. It fails because of its weak story.

11. Our political views are so different.

12. What’s the matter with you? Are you in a bad mood or something?

13. For some people it’s an exciting, big city - for others it’s the most unpleasant place they could have imagined on our planet.

14. Drinking and driving is just the way to cause serious problems.

15. Alan volunteered to be chairman and now he regrets it. Doing something before thinking, is all I can say.

16. These people are appealing to our government to help them. We can’t just ignore their demands.

17. Senior staff are more likely to be fired because the company can’t afford their high salaries. My research project was the first thing to be cancelled when the new boss took over.

18. Why don’t we take a walk before dinner? - I was just going to say the same thing. - Ah, talented people say the same things.

19. She looked around the bar to see if there was somebody brave enough who might come and save her from this awful man.

20. I do have some information you might be interested in, but what can you offer me in return? I would make a favour for you in return.

21. A karaoke machine? That should help your party to be great.

22. They say genetics is much more important than character; so how come so many families hate each other?

23. I know Mike can be difficult to work with sometimes, but it is better to deal with him than take somebody new.

Task 3. Have a look at the following pictures, which idioms do they stand for? What are their equivalents?

A Ассоциативная связь

BАссоциативная связь

C

The following materials can be used to complete these tasks:

  1. Everyday idioms, by Addision Wesley, Longman publishing press;
  2. Essential English idioms 1, 2, 3; Easy English;
  3. Test your English idioms, by Peter Watcyn-Jones, Penguin publishing;
  4. All clear - Idioms in Context;