Idiomatic Expressions

Objective: Students will demonstrate an understanding of idiomatic expressions and recognize the terms "idiomatic expression" and "idioms."

Standards: Listening and Speaking- all grades

Idioms play an important social role. They provide a sense of camaraderie and friendship between people. They also define levels of intimacy within the categories we have called registers. Knowing when and where to use them is an important social skill that should be an integral part of a language arts program.

Idioms are used only during a moment of friendship, never during a conflict and never with an authority. There are subtleties within sets of idioms and idiom families. Judgment and discretion must be exercised in choosing expressions. One idiom can imply or hint at the use of another. Take the following as an example:

  • It will be an uphill battle. (Similar,but not related to the questionable family below.)
  • You'll be swimming upstream. (Borderlines on being part of the "Creek family.")
  • You're up a creek without a paddle. (Definitely part of the "Creek family" and implies a vulgarity.)
  • You're up a creek. (Also part of the "Creek family." Not using the implied vulgarity indicates a level of respect within the level of intimacy. The speaker has implied a vulgarity, but has used reservation for some reason.)

Idioms can be a source of misunderstanding between people who do not share a common language or cultural base. Speakers unfamiliar with any language frequently embarrass themselves when using idioms incorrectly.

Internet Resource for Comprehensive Dictionary of English Idioms

See Student Worksheets on Idioms. Note copyright restrictions. Copyright Statement