piece of cake idiom

Making Sense of American English Idioms

What is an idiom?

Raining cats and dogs idiom

An idiom is a group of words that has a meaning that is unrelated to the individual words in the group. For example, “It’s raining cats and dogs.” means that it is raining very heavily (lots of rain coming down fast and hard). This idiom is easier than others because it does have one word “rain” that tells you what it is about. However, it certainly doesn’t mean that cats and dogs are falling from the sky!

Many idioms do not have words that help you understand them. For example: “Shooting the breeze” means to chat casually with someone. You cannot tell by the words alone what this means, can you? It’s not about guns or taking pictures or the wind. There is nothing to help you know that it is about talking.

How do you say idiom in Korean?

According to Google Translate, the Korean word for idiom is 관용구. 

Where do idioms come from?

Different idioms come from different places. Sometimes, there are different explanations, and we don’t always know which is fact and which is fiction. There are two explanations for the origin of raining cats and dogs. One states that it may come from a Greek expression cata doxa, which means “contrary to experience or belief.” Another says that during heavy rains in England during the 17th century, it rained so much that the streets became rivers carrying dead cats and dogs that did not survive the flooding.

Why are idioms important to learn?

Idioms are very common in English. There are thousands of them! You hear them on TV shows and in movies. Native speakers use them often, but they are difficult for non-native speakers to understand without learning them one by one.

When teachers are speaking to you, they will often try to avoid using idiomatic language because they know that you might not understand them. If you are speaking with someone who says something you don’t understand, it is a great opportunity to learn! Simply say, “Sorry, what does ________________ mean?” In most cases, especially if they are a teacher, they will be happy to explain!

There are some idioms that are so common, you probably already know them. Can you think of any? How about “a piece of cake”? Context can help you understand idioms more easily. Let’s look at “a piece of cake” used in context.

Elsa: That test was a piece of cake!

Ollie: Right?! I didn’t even study, but I think I did well!

Hopefully, from the context, you can guess that if something is “a piece of cake,” it is really easy!

I’ll introduce you to some very common idioms to help you understand more English. Even if you aren’t able to use them, knowing them will help you understand the crazy things Americans say!

Ready for more idioms?

That doesn’t ring a bell. 

Hang in there!

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