Verbal Basics: Idioms

If you are a native English speaker, you are most likely to be already familiar with idioms. Most of us employ commonly used idioms in a day-to-day context. However, in an exam scenario, they can be a challenge because you are not just tackling the idiom itself, you are trying to solve the verb and preposition context.

Idioms are nothing but a simple phrase that has a figurative meaning. Now, suppose you use the idiom, “I am sweating like a pig.” This means that you are sweating a lot. But why pig in the first place? Why not a dog or cat? Heck, pigs don’t even sweat much! But you get the drift. Most of the idioms are such phrases which represent a meaning and have been popularized over the years. Every language has idioms. Another interesting one is – It’s raining cats and dogs. Why not pigs we wonder?

Anyway, now that you are fairly clear about idioms, let us look at it in an exam context. Now, if you are reading fairly regularly, you will already know about some of the popular idioms. And that’s a good thing! However, in the exam you will have to worry more about the prepositions. In all likelihood, you will not get one of these colloquial examples we mentioned above, you are more likely to get sentence error questions where the error will lie in the idioms.

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Let us understand with an example,

I have always been suspicious at Mark.

Now, on first look, the sentence doesn’t really look wrong. After all, there are no grammatical errors. However, there is an idiom error.

The correct sentence would be,

I have always been suspicious of Mark.


Another example of a sentence with an idiom error,

The movie is based over the book.

The correct sentence is,

The movie is based on the book.

As a test taker, you simply will have to remember these connections with words and prepositions. That’s the difficult part about idioms. There is no real rule. It’s just how it is! However, you can easily master the topic with some good practice.

Preparing for idioms:

Watch some TV shows – Yeah, not many test prep sites would encourage you to do that. But hell yeah, TV shows are great for learning idioms! You can also watch news channels to get a grasp on idioms.

And then read some more – Our old favourite this one. Nothing quite prepares you for the verbal section than some solid hours of reading under your belt. And that is also a huge repository of idioms.

Use prep resources – You will find great online resources such as study groups and flashcards to learn your idioms.

Test Your Understanding. Attempt a few practice tests.

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