The aim of this page is to introduce some common idioms.

Idioms are common in informal written and spoken English, but tend to be avoided in academic writing. The language used in seminar discussions is often quite informal, so it would be acceptable to say:

Hunt’s arguments do not hold water.

In a written assignment, however, it would be more appropriate to use a formal word such as unconvincing or flawed instead of the idiom do not hold water.

The ten sentences below contain idioms in italics and brackets. Replace each idiom with a more formal word from the following list. Type the word in the space next to the idiom.

honest unsure exaggerated likely obstacle
quit secret avoid identified in preparation

 1. Janice (put her finger on) the source of the problem.

2. Tom was (in two minds) whether to take on another part-time job so close to the final examinations.

3. Frank decided to (throw in the towel) because he found the course too demanding.

4. The Engineering Department has a new course (in the pipeline) which is likely to be very popular.

5. It’s (on the cards) that a new CEO will be appointed before the end of the month.

6. There were doubts as to whether the company’s dealings were (above board) ..

7. The company kept its new logo (under wraps) until the day of the presentation.

8. Ursula doesn’t like Rick very much so she tries to (steer clear of) him as much as possible.

9. Paul’s account of the problem was a bit (over the top) . I don’t think it’s anything like as serious as he makes out.

10. As usual, the shortage of money proved to be the main (stumbling block) .


Last updated on: Monday, July 29, 2019