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Idioms and Phrases

An idiom is a phrase whose meaning cannot be determined by the literal definition of the phrase itself, but refers instead to a figurative meaning that is known only through common use. In linguistics, idioms are widely assumed to be figures of speech.

An idiom is a group of words in which the meaning of this group is different than what would be expected. If the actual words of an idiom were understood as they appear, the entire meaning would be changed and the group of words would make no sense in its context as if it was understood as to be an idiom. When a person uses an idiom, the listener might take the actual meaning wrong if he or she has not heard this figure of speech before.

In the English expression to kick the bucket, for example, a listener knowing only the meaning of kick and bucket would be unable to deduce the expression’s actual meaning, which is to die. Although it can refer literally to the act of striking a specific bucket with a foot, native speakers rarely use it as being intended to convey that meaning. It cannot be directly translated to other languages. Infact, idioms are mostly for just one language. In some cases, when an idiom is translated into another language the meaning of the idiom is changed or does not make any sense at all as it once did in another language. Idioms are probably the hardest thing for a person to learn in the process of learning a new language.

In the following sentences, some alternatives are given as options to replace the idiom which is highlighted in the sentence. Choose the alternative that best expresses the meaning of the idiom/phrase that has been highlighted.
 
Sentence:
He is normally a calm man—it was a surprise to see him put his foot down.
  1. stomp furiously
  2. resign without putting up a fight
  3. take a firm stance
  4. walk away briskly
Solution
The correct answer is (C).
 
The sentence can be read as: He is normally a calm man—it was a surprise to see him take a firm stance. When someone puts their foot down, they make a firm stand and establish their authority on an issue.
 

Sentence:
It has been a while since I graduated from college—can you help me jog my memory a bit.
  1. help me run in circles
  2. enhance my recall
  3. give clues that would help me recall
  4. help me become fitter
Discussion
The correct answer is (C).
 
The sentence can be read as: It has been a while since I graduated from college—can you give clues/say something that would help me recall (what otherwise happened too long back for me to recall). If you jog someone’s memory, you say words that will help someone trying to remember a thought, event, word, phrase, experience, etc.
 




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