Idiomatic American English
Idiomatic expressions give English its color and vitality. They are indispensable to the daily speech of the people and to the language of newspapers and books, television and movies.
Whenever you hear a phrase whose meaning cannot be understood even if you know the definitions of the separate words involved, you have probably encountered an idiom. Mastering idioms requires a great deal of listening, studying, practice, and usage. You cannot ignore this part of the language: idiomatic expressions and more formal grammar should be given equal time. The lessons in this book are designed to teach you the kind of informal, everyday speech-including many slang words as well as idioms-that is commonly understood by all native Americans, no matter what their level of education.
There are various levels of idiomatic difficulty, and each group of lessons listed in the Table of Contents begins with the easiest lessons and ends with the more advanced ones. However, you may use them in any order you desire; each lesson is self-contained.
Each lesson begins with a dialogue, since idioms are best learned in meaningful verbal contexts. A vocabulary section then explains the idioms in clear, concise definitions. (Where the notation “neg.” appears after an idiom, it means the idiom is generally used in the negative. For example, have the heart to (neg.) indicates the phrase is normally used in a negative statement such as “I didn’t have the heart to tell her.” Where alternate words are given in parentheses, either word may be used interchangeably. For example, down the drain (tubes) means you may say “down the drain” or “down the tubes.”
Two sets of exercises are included in each lesson. In the first, you are asked to choose the correct idiom needed to complete a sentence. In the second, you will substitute an idiomatic expression for an italicized phrase or sentence.