Studying Expressions out of Context

As your English level improves, it is important to learn how to use figurative language and common idiomatic expressions. Some students try to memorize lists of common expressions, but this is not an effective way to learn them!

Remember that expressions are used in conversation by native speakers. The purpose of an expression (or "colloquialism") is to illustrate or summarize the situationin a way that other people will understand.

For example:

Person A: If I call my sister now, I will wake her up. She will be angry! But if I do not call her, she will also be upset.

Person B: Wow. You are between a rock and a hard place!

This expression means that the person has two bad options to choose from. There is no ideal option. But of course, we only understand based on the context of the conversation.

So, when you study expressions, use dialogues. If you cannot find the expression in context, ask your teacher for a full example. Once you understand, write a conversation of your own. Creating the situation will really help you remember the expression.

Now try to use it in a real conversation in English! You will be surprised how easily you can remember an idiomatic expression once you start to use it in context.