Idioms are a great way to increase enthusiasm and interest in learning a language.
Instead of getting bogged down in memorising vocabulary. Any time you can clearly visualise new vocabulary, grammar or phrases, your memory will be stronger. Bold, clear pictures in your mind make it much easier to recall. Especially if you link it to a situation in which you would naturally use such bold idioms and sayings!
Teachers can use 1-3 of these as warm-up exercises, or as a list in an entire lesson on idioms and sayings. I’ve used these and a few other idioms a number of times as an entire lesson, and it’s always very noisy and full of laughter. Of course, I tailor the idiom list to suit the age and interests of my students!
Ideally, students should be intermediate or upper-intermediate and above so that they have a large enough vocabulary, and are aware that the meaning of sentences changes based on the context in which they are said.
Idioms from around the English-speaking world
It’s fun to try to match these English idioms to ones with the same meaning in the students’ native language.
Some of these idioms are well known, but many of them even I didn’t know! Which country do you think the idioms belong to?
- From the frying pan into the fire = To escape one problem or bad situation, only to have a bigger problem or enter a worse situation.
- He spat nails yesterday = He was extremely angry and aggressive yesterday.
- She is just a champagne socialist = She says she agrees with equality (monetary), yet is really rich.
- Their parties are always done up brown = Their parties are always wonderful.
- She always wears a belt and suspenders = She has a backup for every eventuality.
- That’s just wee buns! = That’s so easy!
- He’s on a shoogly peg = He is likely to lose his job soon.
- He did a Lord Lucan = He disappeared without a trace (usually after doing something wrong).
- He bought it on the never-never = He bought it on credit, and will pay it back over a long time.
- The computer they tried to sell me had fallen off the back of a lorry = The computer they tried to sell me was stolen.
- I am flat out like a lizard drinking! = I’m so busy! (Often shortened to: I’m flat out!)
- She’ll be apples, mate! = Everything will be ok.
- She’s like a shag on a rock = She’s completely alone.
- They live across the ditch = They live on the other side of the Tasman sea (either in New Zealand or Australia, depending on the speakers location).
- (My personal favourite) He’s a box of fluffy ducks at the moment = He is happy and everything is going well for him at the moment.
Conversation class handouts
A handout for a conversation class built around these idioms is available as a PDF for teachers on Patreon. Ideally, these students should be intermediate+ and adult learners. The conversation class includes multiple conversational activities for small groups of students, and a homework task for the next lesson.
Categories | VOCABULARY
Tags | language learning, vocabulary, idioms
07 Dec 2013