GMAT Resources

Idioms

Idioms

Idioms are expressions that have unique forms, and thus there are no specific rules to follow when determining the form of an idiom. They just take up form as per English convention.

If you are a native English speaker, most idiomatic expressions should already be wired into your brain because of all the exposure you’ve had to the English language. For non-native speakers, the task is more difficult.

The good news is that there are certain very common idioms that appear on the GMAT very often, and the ideal way around this for a non-native English speaker would be to memorize these. Here’s a quick review of the most common idioms:

(A quick glance through the list will certainly work in your favor even if you are a native English speaker.)

Common idioms

A

account for
accuse of
acquaint with
afflicted with
agree to something
agree with someone
aiming to do something
aim at something
allowed to
amount to
angry with
appear to
apply to
applicability of
argue with
asked for
associate with
assure A that B
attend to [someone or something] attribute A to B

B

banned from
based on
because of
begin with
believe A to be B
between A and B
both A and B

C

capable of
center on
choice of
choose from
choose to
collaborate with
compare with/to
composed of
concerned with
conceived of
consider (without as)
consider to be
consist of
consistent with
contend that
continue to
contrast A with B
correspond to
correspond with
cost of something
cost to someone
be credited with
be given credit for

D

deal with
defend against
define as
demand that
depend on
designed to
descend from
a descendant of
determined by
differ from
different from
difficult to
disinclined to
distinguish A from B
distinguish between A and B
doubt that
due to

E

either A or B
enough of
ensure that
equipped to
extend to
extent of
expect A to be B
expend on
extent that/extent of

F

forbid A to do B
from A to B

I

identical with
in contrast to
in order to
in violation of
independent from
indicate that
indicative of
indifferent to
infected with
instance of
instead of
in search of
intent of/ intent that
interact with
invest in

J

just as + clause, so (too) + clause

L

lack of
less than
lie(s) in
likely to
loss in/loss of

M

made it
means to/means of/means for
meet with
mistake A for B
move away from

N

a native of
be native to
neither A nor B
not A but B
not only A but also B (observe parallelism)
number of

O

object to
on account of
opposed to
[the] opposite of
owe to

P

pay for
persuade A to do B
preferable to
Prefer A to B
prejudiced against
prevent A from doing B
prior to
privilege of
prohibit A from doing B
propose that
protect against
provide A with B
provided that

R

range from A to B
rank as
rate of
rather than
rebel against
recognize that
reduction in
regard as
reluctant to/ reluctant about
replace with
report that
resemblance to
require to
require that A be B
required of
[the] responsibility to
responsible for
result from
result in
[a] result of
reveal that

S

sacrifice A for B
[the] same as
seems like
seems as if
seems to be
separate from
shows X as Y
shows X to be Y
so + adj. + as to
so + adj./adv. + that + clause
subject to
substitute A for B
such as
such as by
suggestive of
superior to
surface of
suspicious of
sympathy for
sympathize with

T

target at
think of A as B
try and
try to
try that
twice as
type of

U

usage of
use as
[the] use of

V

variation among
variation in
variation of
view as
viewed to be
vote for

W

way in which
way to reach/ way of reaching
weigh less than
whether…or not
willing to
worry about
worry concerning
worry over

Usually the best way to learn idioms is to practice questions. If while solving questions, you find a specific idiom structure that you were not familiar with, then just add the structure to your list of idioms to be memorized.

Your ear is the most valuable weapon as you try to figure out the proper form of an idiom. This is the one time when you are allowed to justify your choice by saying “it sounds better!” However, you must understand how to use your ear wisely.

For e.g., if you were asked to choose between:

(A) Writers are known attribute writer’s block as unwarranted distractions.

(B) Writers are known attribute writer’s block to unwarranted distractions.

The correct choice would be the second option, because “attribute to” is the correct idiom.

When you’re given a question to answer, first scan the original sentence for grammatical errors as usual, and then proceed to observing the usage of propositions in the given sentence. More often than not, the use of propositions at the beginning of the underlined portion is a big tell that the question is going to be about idioms, because most idioms are about the use of the correct preposition after a specific word.

Let’s have a look at an example:

The people known as Sumerians are credited as starting the first civilization and building the first settlements worthy of being called cities.

A) as starting the first civilization and
B) with starting the first civilization and also
C) for starting the first civilization and
D) as the ones who started the first civilization and
E) with starting the first civilization and

As you can see, the underlined portion begins with a preposition, and the word that comes right before this preposition is a verb. So now we are being tested on how well we know what preposition best fits after the verb “credited”. It shouldn’t take long to understand that the correct preposition to go here is “with”. This leaves options B and E open for consideration. Option B makes the sentence wordy; the “also” is clearly unnecessary. Option E is the answer.

The funny thing is, had there been a different word instead of “credited”, such as “celebrated” or “acknowledged”, then C would have been the correct answer.

Idioms with Built-In Parallel Structure

Certain idioms demand parallelism as a result of their structure. Here’s a list of a few of them:

X Acts As Y

Distinguish X From Y

X is the Same As Y

As X, So Y

Estimate X To Be Y

X is good, and So Too is Y

Between X And Y

X Instead Of Y

X, Such As Y (example)

Compared To X, Y

X is Known To Be Y

Think Of X As Y

Consider X Y

X is Less Than Y

X is Thought To Be Y

In Contrast To X,Y

Make X Y

View X As Y

Declare X Y

Mistake X For Y

Whether X Or Y

X Develops Into Y

Not Only X (,) But Also Y (the comma is optional)

X Differs From Y

Regard X As Y



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