Why idiomatic expressions are important to use in English Language tests

In order to improve your score in an English speaking test, it’s important to have a diverse vocabulary. This allows you to express yourself using a variety of words without repetition. You can achieve this by incorporating “idiomatic language” into your speech. This involves using different words and phrases to convey the same meaning. This article will provide you with useful insights on how to use idiomatic language in your speaking test effectively.

What are idiomatic expressions?

Idiomatic expressions are phrases or sentences that have a figurative meaning, which is different from their literal meaning. They are commonly used in everyday language to add colour and convey a message in a more expressive and engaging way. For example, “break a leg” is an idiom that means “good luck” in the performing arts industry, but it does not mean you are telling someone to actually break their leg. 

Idioms and their importance in English language tests

Idioms are expressions that have a figurative meaning that is different from the literal meaning of the words. For example, “raining cats and dogs” means it is “raining heavily”, not that actual cats and dogs are falling from the sky.

Idioms are an essential part of the English language and using them correctly can help you to express yourself more clearly and effectively. They are also commonly used in conversations and in writing, so it’s important to be familiar with them if you want to communicate effectively in English.

In English exams, including idioms in your writing or speech can help to demonstrate your understanding of the language and show that you have a wider range of vocabulary. Using idioms in the right context can also show that you are fluent in English and have a good grasp of the nuances of the language.

However, it’s important to use idioms appropriately and correctly, as using them incorrectly or inappropriately can lead to confusion or misunderstandings. Additionally, overusing idioms can also make your writing or speech seem unnatural or forced.

Everyday idioms you can incorporate into your English practice

Below are some examples of idioms which you can use in your everyday English practice, to help improve your performance for whatever English Language test you take.

Time-related idioms:

1. Beat the clock

Meaning: To finish something before a deadline.  

Example: “I had to beat the clock to finish the project before the deadline.” 

2. Kill time

Meaning: To spend time doing something unimportant or unproductive.  

Example: “I like to kill time by playing video games.” 

3. In the nick of time

Meaning: Just in time; almost too late.  

Example: “We arrived in the nick of time to catch the last train.” 

4. Time flies

Meaning: Time passes quickly.  

Example: “It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a year since we graduated. Time flies.” 

5. On borrowed time

Meaning: To be living or doing something that is likely to end soon.  

Example: “My grandfather has been sick for years now, but he’s on borrowed time.” 

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Animal-related idioms: 

1. As busy as a bee

Meaning: To be very busy.   

Example: “I’m sorry I didn’t have time to talk earlier. I’ve been as busy as a bee all day.” 

2. The elephant in the room

Meaning: A big problem or difficult situation that everyone is aware of but nobody wants to talk about. 

 Example:  “We need to address the elephant in the room and talk about the budget cuts.” 

3. A fish out of water

Meaning: To feel uncomfortable or out of place.  

Example: “I’ve never been to a fancy restaurant before, so I felt like a fish out of water.” 

4. A bird’s-eye view

Meaning: A view from above.  

Example: “From the top of the mountain, we had a bird’s-eye view of the entire valley.” 

5. A snake in the grass

Meaning: A person who is not to be trusted.  

Example: “Be careful of him. He’s a snake in the grass.” 

Food-related idioms: 

1. Piece of cake

Meaning: Something that is easy to do.  

Example: “Don’t worry, this math problem is a piece of cake.” 

2. Spill the beans

Meaning: To reveal a secret.  

Example: “I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone, but he spilled the beans about the surprise party.” 

3. A bun in the oven:

Meaning: To be pregnant.  

Example: “Congratulations! I heard you have a bun in the oven.” 

4. A hot potato

Meaning: A difficult or controversial issue that nobody wants to handle.  

Example: “The issue of gun control is a hot potato in politics.” 

5. The icing on the cake

Meaning: Something that makes a good situation even better.  

Example: “Winning the lottery would be great, but getting to travel the world would be the icing on the cake.” 

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Body-related idioms: 

1. Keep your chin up

Meaning: To remain optimistic.  

Example: “I know you’re going through a tough time but keep your chin up. Things will get better.” 

2. Cross your fingers

Meaning: To hope for good luck.  

Example: “I’m crossing my fingers that I get the job.” 

3. Pull someone’s leg

Meaning: To tease or joke with someone.  

Example: “I’m just pulling your leg. I know you didn’t really fail the test.” 

4. Let your hair down

Meaning: To relax and be yourself.  

Example: “After a long week at work, I like to let my hair down and go dancing with my friends.” 

5. Get cold feet

Meaning: To become nervous or scared about something you were originally excited about.  

Example: “I was going to skydive, but I got cold feet at the last minute.” 

Money-related idioms: 

1. Money talks

Meaning: This idiom means that money has power and influence, and people with money often have the ability to get what they want.  

Example: “I tried to negotiate with the company, but they wouldn’t budge until I offered them more money. I guess it’s true what they say, money talks.” 

2. Time is money

Meaning: This idiom means that time is valuable and should not be wasted.  

Example: “I need to finish this project quickly because time is money, and I don’t want to waste any more of it.” 

3. Money doesn’t grow on trees

Meaning: This idiom means that money is not easily obtained and must be earned through hard work.  

Example: “I can’t just give you money every time you ask for it. Money doesn’t grow on trees, you know.” 

4. A penny saved is a penny earned

Meaning: This idiom means that saving (even small) amounts of money is important because it adds up over time. 

Example: “I know it doesn’t seem like much, but if we save a few dollars every week, we’ll have a nice vacation fund by the end of the year. A penny saved is a penny earned.” 

5. Put your money where your mouth is

Meaning: This idiom means that someone should back up their words with actions, particularly in financial matters.  

Example: “You keep saying that you’re going to invest in this company, but if you really believe in it, you should put your money where your mouth is and make the investment.” 

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