Latest English Idioms in Use
In recent times there has been a noticeable change in the frame of mind of the linguists towards this aspect of English. The theoretical linguist has approached the nature of the idiom through lexical collocation and syntactic structure and has aimed at a formal framework of description. The applied linguist has realised the importance of drawing the learner’s attention to the idiom by providing collections of idiomatic expressions both as reference and exercise material. The spurt of interest may be due to an increasing awareness that the teaching and learning of idioms is an integral part of the teaching and learning of a language, as also an awareness that no language is static and there are always changes taking place where the process of ” absorption” of new expressions and normal feature “rejection” of certain idiomatic old hackneyed ones is expressions and phrases which were the common features of English, say fifty years ago, have undergone a change in their form and usage or have become obsolete.
Newer and newer expressions are being introduced into the language to cater to the ever-increasing demands of the language. These expressions form an essential core of the living language as it is spoken by millions of native speakers all over the world. One can safely state that there is no discourse in modern English which does not contain idiomatic expressions.
A content analysis of popular newspapers, magazines, journals and texts prescribed in schools and colleges would support the view that idiomatic expressions have a place in all types of compositions in English. It is important for an L2 learner to know that idioms form an essential part of the general vocabulary of L2.
Despite the foregoing facts regarding the importance of idioms, a large number of people still hold the view that it is possible to carry on meaningful communication without the use of idioms. Informal discussions with non-native speakers in general and teachers of English, in particular, have revealed they are rather a lukewarm attitude towards the subject. Many of them believe that idioms make a language look overdressed and they seem to be in favour of simplicity and directness of expression. But idioms and phrases can also be simple and even more effective because quite often they are capable of conveying difficult ideas in such a dramatic and picturesque manner, that the learner can relate them to his everyday experience. For instance, “Don’t rush in at the eleventh hour” is more effective and economical than “Don’ t rush in at the very last moment”.
Not only in conversational language but also in natural science or medical science texts one comes across plenty of idioms. For instance, ” on-going research creates a complex and warm debate about last-ditch use of barbiturates” (Sunday: 1985). Or to take another example “The stockpile of nuclear weapons with the superpowers has become the sword of Damocles hanging over humanity” (Sunday 1986). Or here is one in the context of a weather forecast “Right now it is a chicken and egg situation” (India Today: 1988). These example s justify that “Idiomatic expressions are usually forceful, terse, and vivid; the same meaning could be set forth in some other way, but not with equal force and brevity”.(McMordie, Graffin, 1961 6).
Thus, it is not only the ubiquitous nature of the idioms but also their role in effective communication that makes them an essential and important fact of language in general and for L2 learners in particular.
While we are discussing the role of idioms in effective communication, it is necessary to add that a vast quantity of the material is being produced in the area of communicative language teaching and learning. A recent publication on a bibliographical survey of resources on communicative language teaching shows that in the last decade much work has been done in the area of curricular development, course design, classroom techniques, spoken English, English for a special purpose, error analysis, developing communicative competence, testing competence and so on. “One argument for making language teaching communicative is that learners will otherwise not be able to use the language they learn, for real-life, practical purposes…. ‘Communicative teaching’ means enabling learners to engage successfully is oral, social interaction” (Ramaiah, 1985: XI ).
Success in such interaction demands not only grammatical competence but also the ability to use certain expressions like excuse me, how do you do, on the one hand, etc., in the appropriate situations and contexts. This is applicable also to the idiomatic expressions like by and large,
ups and downs, a cock-and-bull story, to take over, to put up with and so on which are undoubtedly an integral part of the communicative language. In the everyday use of the language, these expressions occur frequently and their importance cannot be overlooked. But it is significant to note that precious little has been written or researched on this aspect of language teaching or the language per se.
Here is the list of idioms that English speakers use in current times. Learn these idioms and make your English speaking and writing more beautiful:
51. Get the ball rolling=to to make something start happening: We need to get the ball rolling to prepare our presentation for next week’s meeting.
Start/get off on the right foot=to start a relationship in a positive way: Everyone hopes to get off on the right foot when they start a new job.
Bring something to the table = to contribute something of value (to a company): She brings a great deal of experience to the table.
From the ground up= to do something from the start/very beginning: Our boss built this company from the ground up
Get down to business= to start focussing on a specific task (after introductions/small talk): We only have a limited time to discuss this today, so let’s get down to business.
Think outside the box = to think creatively and develop new and original ideas: To be successful in our industry, we need staff who think outside the box.
By the book: to do things according to the rules or the law: Our accountant does everything by the book so there are no problems in the future.
Rock the boat = to do something which changes a stable routine and may cause problems: I told the new manager not to rock the boat before she gets to know her team.
On the ball= to be competent, alert and quick to understand new things: Your team are really on the ball and getting great results.
Throw in the towel=to quit or give up something: One of the applicants competing for the new position has just thrown in the towel.
On the same page= to be in agreement or thinking in a similar way: We made a proposal to expand globally and the CEO is on the same page.
Word of mouth=to communicate or tell people about something verbally (not in writing): Word of mouth is more reliable than adverts.
Behind the scenes=describes things that happen which the public don’t know about or see directly: We have a successful presentation and I need to thank all those behind the scenes.
Hit the nail on the head=to be exactly right when you describe something (e.g. the reason for a problem): You’ve hit the nail on the head regarding what has caused our drop in sales.
Raise the bar=to increase standards or improve quality in something: Mobile phone manufacturers raise the bar every year with their new products.
Back to square one=describes when you need to start a project again from the beginning: Every aspect of our proposal was rejected by the CEO, so we are back to square one.
Straight from the horse’s mouth=to obtain information directly from the original or a reliable source: I heard straight from the horse’s mouth that the CEO is going to retire this year.
Keep you on your toes=to describe something that makes you remain alert, energetic and ready: Management make regular checks to keep everyone on their toes
Read between the lines=to find a hidden meaning in something said or written (e.g. feelings/intentions): Reading between the lines, I don’t think my colleague actually wanted to resign.
Give the thumbs up=to show support and give approval: I got the thumbs up from my boss about working from home every Friday.
Back to the drawing board= to start something again because the previous attempt was unsuccessful: The client rejected our first proposal, so we have gone back to the drawing board.
Give someone a pat on the back=to praise someone for an achievement: Our line manager gave us all a pat on the back for finishing the project early.
Twist someone’s arm=to encourage/pressure someone to do something that they don’t want to: Can you twist her arm to work overtime today?
Keep one’s eye on the ball=to give your complete attention to something: I need to keep my eye on the ball because this industry is so competitive.
Do something/go behind someone’s back=to talk about someone or take action without their knowledge: My team went behind my back and complained to the boss before speaking with me.
Put all one’s eggs in one basket=to commit all your resources to a single idea or plan of action: I take some investment risks every year, but I never put all my eggs in one basket.
Cut one’s losses=to stop an activity that is unsuccessful to avoid losing more money: We’ve decided to cut our losses and close the restaurant.
Hands are tied= not able to act in a particular way because of external reasons: My boss said that she cannot give me a promotion because her hands are tied.
Off the top of your head=to speak about some something without thinking in detail or checking facts: Off the top of my head, I can’t give an exact number of complaints we’ve received.
Call it a day=to stop doing something (to leave work or do something else): I think we have spent enough time discussing this project. Let’s call it a day.
See eye to eye=to agree with another person: He doesn’t always see eye to eye with his colleague about future priorities.
Work against the clock=to aim to finish something before a specific time: We’re always working against the clock to meet urgent deadlines.
Goes the extra mile=to make more effort to achieve something that is expected: Companies benefit from staff who go the extra mile.
Learn the ropes= to learn how to do specific tasks or activities in a company: We all have to learn the ropes when we start a new job.
Pull the plug=to stop a task or activity from continuing: The directors have decided to pull the plug on the project to expand in Asia.
All in the same boat=to be in the same difficult or unpleasant situation: We’re all in the same boat because our company is closing and we need new jobs.
Hot off the press=describes something that has just been released or printed: Our new brochure is hot off the press with all the latest products and special offers.
The buck stops here=emphasises who is ultimately responsible for something: My team is responsible for meeting the deadline. The buck stops here with us.
The ball is in your court=emphasises who is responsible for making the next decision: I’ve submitted our proposals to the CEO and now the ball is in his court.
Go down to the wire=describes something that is not decided or certain until the very last minute: Discussions went down to the wire, but we finally reached an agreement.
Up in the air=describes when something is still undecided and plans are not yet finalised: everything is still up in the air about our company relocating to another office.
Way ahead of the pack =describes someone who performs better than others in their team: We’ve got five interns at the moment, but he is way ahead of the pack.
Holds the fort =to be responsible for something when someone else is unavailable: He needs to hold the fort while the managing director is on maternity leave
Get your foot in the door=to take the first step with the aim to progress further in the future: He took an entry-level job to get her foot in the door and got promoted after 1 year.
Go belly up = describes a company that fails or goes bankrupt: Several of our competitors went belly up during the last recession.
Give someone the green light=to authorise or allow someone to do something: The directors have finally given us the green light to increase spending.
Cut corners=to do a task to a lower standard to save time or money: Companies should never cut corners with regards to health and safety.
Strike while the iron is hot=to take action without delay when there an opportunity to do something: I’m confident that this client will sign the contract if we strike while the iron is hot.
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