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LEVEL 2 – Package 8 - Idioms and Proverbs

Learning Outcomes

By the end of VOCABULARY LEVEL 2 you should be able to
✔ study vocabulary independently
✔ use different strategies to expand and record vocabulary

Introduction to Independent Learning

Independent learning gives you more choice about what, when and how fast to study. It also prepares you to learn after complete full time education.

In order to study independently you need to be able to set your own aims, choose how you want to study and reflect on the usefulness of studying that you do and on your overall progress.

Since you have chosen to study VOCABULARY LEVEL 2, we can assume that you want to learn more about how to expand and remember words more effectively. The online activities are designed to help you to develop and build the bank of words and expressions that you have at your disposal.

To begin with, there is a vocabulary quiz which will give you some idea of where you strengths and weaknesses lie.

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Package 8 - Idioms and Proverbs

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section you should

✔ be familiar with some English idioms and proverbs
✔ be able to deduce the meanings of idioms in context
✔ be able to understand and use idioms and proverbs


Idioms, which exist in almost every language, form an important part of people’s vocabulary. English, like Chinese, is rich in idioms. They are fixed expressions which usually consist of more than one word but function as a single unit. People use idioms to be amusing, witty or to communicate what other words or phrases do not quite express.

The fact that some idioms are easy to understand and others are not usually catches the attention of learners of the English language. Frequently, knowing the meaning of every component word of an idiom does not help us that much in understanding the meaning of the idiom. Take ‘to bite the dust’ meaning ‘to die’ as an example. The words are fixed. We can say ‘she bit the dust’, but not ‘she chewed the dust’ or ‘she bit some dust’ (without radically changing the meaning). So idioms should be treated, just like individual words, as single lexical items.

It is also important to notice that rules governing usage and range of application can be obscure or non-existent. For example, barking up the wrong tree (be mistaken) is always used in continuous, not simple form. That is, we can say ‘He was barking up the wrong tree’ but not ‘He barked up the wrong tree’. Good dictionaries may help but it is best to observe the grammar in real examples.

Idioms are usually rather informal and sometimes humorous or ironic which include an element of personal comment on the situation. They should be used with care. We should not use idioms just to sound ‘fluent’ or ‘good at English’, for example, in a formal situation with a person you do not know, don’t say,

        ‘How do you do, Mr Wong. Do take the weight off your feet’.
        Instead say ‘Do sit down’ or ‘Have a seat’.

Activity 1       Binomials

Binomials are pairs of words which display fixed membership and sequence, joined usually by a conjunction (e.g. and).
Complete the binomials by dragging and dropping the words in the box to the gaps.

Now use one of the binomials to complete these sentences by tying them in the gaps.

Activity 2

Some idioms include parts of the body. Fill in each blank by dragging and dropping the appropriate word from the box to create a well known English idiom.

Activity 3            Similes

These are idioms of comparison found in the structure of as…as… Similes are generally easy to understand. If you see the phrase as dead as a doornail, you don’t need to know what a doornail is, simply that the phrase means ‘totally dead’’.  

In pairs, complete the following similes by dragging and dropping the words on the right next to the as…as structure on the left. Then try to translate them into Chinese.

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