Category Archives: Idiomatic Vocabulary

This is some idiomatic vocabulary. Idiomatic vocabulary is used by higher-level speakers in any language, and the public version of the IELTS Band Descriptors recognises this by mentioning it in the IELTS 7 category of both the Speaking and Writing.

Idiomatic Vocabulary 16: the call of nature

The Phrases To answer the call of nature Its Definition A discreet and idiomatic way to say, ‘Go to the toilet’. Discussion This is useful for IELTS because it is a fact of life, happening regularly to every single human being on earth. When relating stories, anecdotes, or when exemplifying generally, such a concept may need to be stated.… Read More »

Idiomatic Vocabulary 14: a sharp learning curve

The Phrases To be a sharp learning curve To do everything from scratch To revert to Plan B. To go back to the drawing board. Their Definitions These are a series of related sayings, describing situations where … where you have to learn very where you have to do everything from the beginning. after the first plan fails, you… Read More »

Idiomatic Vocabulary 13: to go overboard

The Phrase  To go overboard Its Definition A verb phrase meaning to do something good, but do it too much or excessively so that it becomes bad. Discussion This is useful for IELTS speaking because this situation does happen in life. People may ‘go overboard’ in politeness, actions, and public behavior. This phrase passes our test for use… Read More »

Idiomatic Vocabulary 12: turning up your nose

The Phrase   To turn your nose up (at sth.) Its Definition A verb phrase meaning you don’t want to do, use, or accept sth. kindly offered to you. Discussion This is useful for IELTS because people generally try to help others in the world, so not accepting, or not having your offer accepted, can be quite common. Since… Read More »

Idiomatic Vocabulary 11: A grain of salt

The Phrase To take [sth.] with a grain of salt Its Definition A verb phrase meaning you don’t really believe the previous fact. Discussion This is useful for IELTS because there are so many lies and so much deceit in the world. An intelligent person doesn’t necessarily believe it all, and we often have to indicate this to other… Read More »

Idiomatic Vocabulary 10: On Steroids

The Phrase To be on steroids Its Definition An adjectival phrase meaning extremely developed when compared to something else. Discussion Body builders take ‘steroids’ [a hormonal drug’] in order to develop abnormally large muscles. Similarly, when comparing a strong with a weak form, we can consider the strong one ‘on steroids’. This is very idiomatic and descriptive (good), but not easy to use… Read More »

Idiomatic Vocabulary 9: the rat race

The Phrases the rat race / concrete jungle (N) // dog-eat-dog (adj) Their Definitions Describing the intense and often ruthless competition in society Discussion These phrases are useful because we all live in a society which has such competition. We can all be compared to laboratory rats racing each other to get food. City life can be compared… Read More »

Idiomatic Vocabulary 8: a sweet tooth

The Phrase  To have a sweet tooth Its Definition To like eating sweet and sugary food and drink Discussion This phrase is useful because it can describe almost everyone, and food is a common topic that can come into many conversations. We all either like, or don’t like, sweet food. Example Sentences In IELTS Speaking “Oh, I definitely have… Read More »

Idiomatic Vocabulary 7: super

The Phrase   Super-[adj] Its Definition A prefix which makes the adjective which follows much stronger. Discussion This phrase is useful because it can describe many more extremes of feeling, and has a fun and upbeat feel. My 9-year-old boy uses this regularly. It is used as a prefix (meaning ‘more than’) in some formal words, such as… superstar… Read More »

Idiomatic Vocabulary

This section gives some idiomatic vocabulary in English, as a blog, or list to which I regularly add. This vocabulary is also given (in more detail) in the page ‘Idiomatic Vocabulary’ (under the ‘Vocabulary’ Section). So, you have the same input twice, since both forms can be convenient. However, if you are accessing the information here, it is… Read More »

Idiomatic Vocabulary 6: ‘~olic’

The Noun Phrase   [Word stem]-olic Its Definition Indicating that you are addicted or highly dependent on something Discussion This phrase is useful because it can describe many more extremes of behaviour, and has a fun and upbeat feel. It all comes from the formal word, ‘alcoholic’, with the ‘-holic’ suffix now being attached to many words to… Read More »

Idiomatic Vocabulary 5: ‘nerds and geeks’

The Phrase    To be a nerd / geek  Its Definition  These terms refer to people absorbed in technology or books to the extent that they are socially awkward in the way they speak and act.   Discussion These terms are useful because technology is becoming such a part of our lives that many people are becoming (overly) absorbed… Read More »

Idiomatic Vocabulary 4: ‘Mr Right’

The Phrases Mr Right Prince Charming Its Definition     A perfect partner.   Discussion This phrase is useful (for female candidates) because it can describe a perfectly compatible partner, and most IELTS candidates are single, and may well need to refer to such a person when talking about the future, ambitions, problems in life – in other… Read More »

Idiomatic Vocabulary 3: ‘fingers crossed’

The Phrases Fingers crossed Knock on wood   Their Definition Something you say when you hope for something to happen.   Discussion This phrase is useful because we often wish for things to happen, and in the IELTS Speaking Test, we talk about our lives, our wishes, and our future hopes. These phrases are interchangeable, but can not really… Read More »

Idiomatic Vocabulary 2: ‘a real eye-opener’

The Phrase To be a real eye-opener  Its Definition  An event or experience that is surprising, and shows you sth. that you did not already know Discussion This phrase is useful because it can describe any very surprising thing or event or experience which you have encountered. Admittedly, many people lead quite conventional lives, without encountering really interesting… Read More »