Students may write well and
produce grammatically correct prose for my classes. But, often,
something is missing, something that I can't quite put my finger on (an
idiom to indicate uncertainty). Ah yes, it's that their correct writing
lacks the fluent use of English idiom.
Be careful, however, as not all idiom is equal. For example, my students often bring up the expression, "raining cats and dogs," as a good example of idiom. It is, but I have never used the expression in a real conversation nor have I ever heard it used. Well, that's not exactly true—in France recently I heard a French speaker say it!
So, I scoured the Internet for a couple of good sources of information on idiom. Even so, try the idioms you learn out on a native speaker to get their opinion before you put it in writing. The two sites provide what look to me like "real life" idioms, ones that are used daily in the English speaking world.
Make it a point to learn a few and, more importantly, begin to use them in your writing (but not too many!) from time to time.
Commonly Used American Slang
280 different and up-to-date expressions given with a sample sentence.
Self-Study Idiom Quizzes
Think you know a lot already? Try these quizzes and prove it!
(August 1, 2006)