Idiomatic expressions are GROUPS OF WORDS

They are not a single word and you must translate them as one single expression. We call them idioms because their literal meaning is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from their real, “figurative” meaning. Learning English idioms is NOT A PIECE OF CAKE.

Let’s look at an EXAMPLE.

An example idiom is to “go out of your mind”. You all probably can understand the literal meaning. But does the literal translation make sense at all? NO. It would mean that a man has the ability to physically separate his body from his mind (brain), go out of one’s brain and stand beside it. We all know it’s impossible to happen. That’s because we must translate idioms for their “figurative”, “metaphorical” meaning. The real sense of this expression is to GO CRAZY (BECOME CRAZY). You probably can now think of some English idioms you already know or idioms in your own language.

A FUNNY AND EMBARRASSING SITUATION when a person translated an idiom wrongly!

Some of the idioms might be really funny if translated literally. Confusing them may lead to misunderstandings and hilarious situations. Once my English friend came to Italy but he couldn’t speak Italian. In English language there’s a very common and popular idiomatic phrase which is to “GIVE SOMEONE A LIFT”. It means to drive someone to a place in your car. Well, the literal translation is to give someone a, what American people call, ELEVATOR. Lift (or elevator in American English) is this thing in a block of flats that moves up and down and takes you to higher floors; an alternative to stairs. So this English guy wanted to ask someone to drive him home. He went on one of the most common translators on the web (I’m not going to say the name here;)) and he typed “Give me a lift” and the translator translated it literally as in Italian “dammi un ascensore” (give me an elevator) which obviously makes no sense at all as a sentence. Well he actually said these words to an Italian person. You can imagine the look on the Italian’s face. 😀

Some idioms are more common than others.

Some of them are used in some parts of English-speaking countries and in others not. Others might be used by young people only or may be old-fashioned and were used in the past by elderly people. That’s why it’s important to learn idioms from the context, which might be an English conversation or written dialogues, books, magazines etc.

Learning section: English idioms.

Click on a picture to learn the definition and the explanation of every English idiom. Use the menu to filter by category and use the search field to find idioms.