Common Grammar Mistakes, English Idioms

Common Grammar Mistakes: English Idioms

Oct 19, 2012
Writing academic papers always requires a student to have good command of English. Even some mistakes can influence the final grade. Take time practicing your writing, learn and read new material from article "Common Grammar Mistakes: Word Usage".
Anyone trying to learn English can tell you just how complicated the language is. Even when you learn thousands of words and know your grammar rules by heart, it's still easy to get tripped up by odd-sounding phrases and words that get used in unusual ways.
Expressions like tripped up, that use words in ways that don't seem to make sense, are known as idioms. They're commonly accepted phrases whose meaning can't be figured out just by looking up the words. For example, if you cracked open your dictionary to heart, you'd be no closer to figuring out that knowing something by heart means to have it memorized.
Idioms can be found in everything from casual conversation to scholarly papers, and using them correctly is an important part of making your writing look polished and well-written. Many idioms are too casual for use in written assignments: folksy-sounding phrases like from the horse's mouth (from the source) or heard it on the grapevine (learned about it from gossip) are great for conversation but will make your research paper look unprofessional. However, there are still plenty of idiomatic expressions commonly used in scholarly work that you'll want to make sure you use correctly.

as far as

As far as means to the limit or extent of something. It's frequently combined with the verb to know to indicate that someone is limiting themselves to what they are personally aware of.
As far as I know, the company is still planning to have its annual picnic.

as for/as to

Both as for and as to mean with regard to or concerning something. They're usually used to direct the reader's attention to a particular subject. Generally, you can use as for when referring to a person and as to when referring to objects, but those rules are not standard.
As for Michelle, she'll be taking the bus.
As to your question, it's better that you not know the answer until later.

back to square one

When you go back to square one it means you're starting over.
The client rejected our design , which means we're back to square one.

best of both worlds

Having the best of both worlds means to combine the good parts of two distinct options.
When asked whether she wanted coffee or dessert, Janet chose the best of both worlds by picking the espresso ice cream.

come up

If something comes up, that means it happens unexpectedly.
We're going to go out to dinner if nothing else comes up.

easier said than done

If something is easier said than done that means it will be harder than expected to do.
Getting to mall at Christmas is easier said than done.

eating at

If something is bothering or worrying you, it's said to be eating at you.
The fight was eating at John, so he decided to apologize.

extend an olive branch

Extending an olive branch means you're making a peaceful gesture toward an opponent or enemy.
She extended an olive branch by baking her coworker his favorite cake.

figure out

To figure out something is to solve or understand it.
She figured out that we were planning a surprise party for her.

get a foot in the door

To get a foot in the door means to get an opportunity or to complete the first step in a process
It's not the job I want, but at least I'll get my foot in the door at the company.

get into somewhere/something

To get into somewhere is to physically enter that location. To get into something is to take an interest in it.
We need to get into the library before it starts to rain.
She got into baseball recently and wants to watch the entire World Series.

get to the point

When you tell someone to get to the point, you want them to speed up their argument and just say what they mean.
I'm in a hurry, so I need you to get to the point.

give a hand

When you help someone out you give them a hand.
Give me a hand with these boxes so we can get them moved quickly.

give a hard time

If you tease someone or make things difficult for them you're giving them a hard time.
The other kids on the team gave Alan a hard time when they learned his dad was the coach.

I beg to differ

I beg to differ is a polite way of saying that you disagree.
I beg to differ; I think we should take the highway instead of back roads.

in effect

In effect means in practical terms. It's used to state the real world, practical importance of something.
The test was in effect their final, since it would account for a quarter of their grade.

in fact

In fact means actually or in truth. It's often used as a transition between two related sentences.
The girl does well in school. In fact, she's at the top of her class.

in the black/in the red

When a business is profitable it's said to be in the black. If it's losing money, it's in the red.
Their small business is now in the black after several successful years.
If we stay in the red we'll have to declare bankruptcy.

jump to conclusions

To jump to conclusions means to assume something without any evidence.
Anyone could have broken in, so let's not jump to conclusions.

kind of

Kind of means only somewhat or sort of.
He was kind of having fun, but really just wanted to go home.

lose touch

When you lose touch with someone, it means you're no longer in contact with them.
We used to talk every day, but we've lost touch.

make up your mind

To make up your mind means to come to a decision.
You've got to make up your mind so we know which way to go

on the other hand

Use on the other hand to refer to the opposing side of an argument.
He didn't really need a new car. On the other hand, it was a better price than he could get anywhere else.

out of line

To be out of line is to misbehave.
She was out of line in class, so she was sent to the principal's office.

over one's head

If something is over your head, it means you don't understand it.
The article was over my head, so I don't know what point they were trying to prove.

read between the lines

To read between the lines means to find the subtext or hidden meaning in a conversation or text.
If you read between the lines, you can see that Allie's apology wasn't sincere.

run into

If you run into something it means you encounter or experience it, often unexpectedly. It's often used to refer to meeting people.
I ran into Janet the other day, and she looked great.
The teacher ran into trouble when she tried to give out more homework.

serves you right

If you say to someone it serves you right, it means you think they deserve whatever has happened to him.
If you get in trouble, it serves you right. You should have known better than to cheat on the test.

so to speak

The phrases so to speak and you could say are used to show that this is only one way of saying something. They usually implies an opinion, biased, or personal viewpoint.
We enjoyed the game, so to speak, but really neither team was very good.
You could say it was a football game, but neither team knew how to pass at all.

to the extent that

To the extent that means to the best of your ability or knowledge. It's used to indicate the limit of someone's speech or actions.
I'm going to help to the extent that I'm able.
I can answer your questions to the extent that I'm familiar with the concepts.

turn in/out

When you hand something over to an authority figure, you turn it in. When something is proven to be true, usually unexpectedly, use you the phrase turn out.
We have to turn in our projects by Friday.
It's turns out that no one is available until next week.

up to the minute

Up to the minute means current or up to date.
We'll be receiving up to the minute reports from our new computer program.

used to

Used to can mean either something that you did in the past or something that you are accustomed to or familiar with.
He used to visit us daily until he moved away.
I don't like eggs because I'm used to having pancakes for breakfast every day.

with respect to

With respect to is used to refer the reader to the topic you want to discuss.
With respect to the schedule, let's try to make sure everyone gets a turn.
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