Idioms are common sayings used in the English language. They don’t have a literal meaning, so can be difficult to understand.
You might hear your grandparents use them – they’re quite old-fashioned – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know what they are and what they mean!
Let’s look at an example.
Someone may say, “It’s a piece of cake.” Does that mean they are talking about an actual slice of cake? No, it doesn’t. What they are saying, is that something was easy.
Here’s another one: “You’re barking up the wrong tree.” I’m what? ‘barking’, ‘up a tree’ – I’m not even a dog, what can that mean?! Well, it means you’re looking in the wrong place, or accusing the wrong person. In other words, you’ve got the wrong end of the stick – oops – there goes another one. What I meant to say was, you’ve got the wrong idea.
Do you see? There are 100s of idioms in the English language.
A good way to understand idioms is to put them together to form a story.
First, here’s a little video that explains the meanings of ten common idioms:
It is worth watching this video, as it gives an easy-to-understand visual description of what idioms are and how they are used. Then, you need to look up a list of idioms and their meanings – there are tonnes. This Smart Words site might help.
Next, write yourself a list of idioms and their meanings – say up to 40.
Now put them together in a logical format to make a story or poem.
Need an example?
I have two examples here, written by the Young Writers.
Once in a blue moon, cry wolf
Add fuel to the fire
Cross that bridge when you come to it
Burn the midnight oil
A watched pot never boils
And too many cooks spoil the broth
Break a leg and find your feet
Pass with flying colours
A drop in the ocean or a dime a dozen,
Add insult to injury, have your cake and eat it too
When in hot water, beat around the bush
The world is your oyster.
Just toe the line, will you? I’m already in hot water. Bite your tongue or you’ll get a slap on the wrist. I just need to get rid of the butterflies in my stomach and find my feet again. All I’ve been doing is beating about the bush and putting all my eggs in one basket. You can just stop adding insult to injury and driving me up the wall. Tell me it will be a piece of cake and that I’ll pass with flying colours? This time I’ll burn the midnight oil and keep my chin up. You’ll see. A chance like this only happens once in a blue moon and I ain’t wasting it. I’ll do better now I know you can’t have your cake and eat it, even if you’re on the ball. I really need you to bend over backwards for me just this once. Please.
See if you can work out what they are each trying to say and then, perhaps, you can have a go at doing one yourself.
Need more writing inspiration? Check out the other posts on the Storymakers blog.
These examples were written at the Young Writers group, a youth creative writing class from Storymakers. The creative writing classes are held online, so that means you can join from wherever you are in the world. And you do! We have had young writers join us from the USA, Europe and Africa. How cool is that?!