By Dr. Linh Phung
Tap into, take it for granted, tie the knot, an aha moment, a grassroots movement, and keep up with the Joneses - What do these English idioms mean? When you learn these idioms, what images and ideas come to your mind? Can you match them with Pictures A-F below? Please read on to see my explanation.
Idioms are special expressions that are common in any language. The meaning of an idiom may be different from the individual words that form the idiom or may be metaphorical rather than literal. Usually, you need to learn the idiom as a whole.
Tap into: Imagine a maple tree or a rubber tree. People tap into it and get the sap out of the tree to make maple syrup or rubber. Metaphorically, you can tap into any source of energy, talent, and ideas. E.g.: We can tap into all everyone's creativity for better solutions.
Take it for granted: When you take something for granted, you assume that it's always there for you and don't appreciate it enough. We may take the clean air we have for granted. We may take water for granted while it's not so readily available in many parts of the world. We take the people closest to us for granted. You may also say: I take it for granted that my mom is always there to support me.
Tie the knot: This is a common idiom to mean get married. You can imagine getting married is like being tied together in a knot
Aha moment: When you have an aha moment, you discover something interesting or come to understand something. You may utter "aha" when that happens. This idiom appears in a very interesting Ted talk titled "The Hidden Power of Smiling." You may like to watch it here.
Grassroots movement: Imagine something that comes up from the roots of grass. Grassroots movements are those organized by individuals in the society rather than organized by the top of an organization. In the U.S., you may think of the Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements as grassroots movements.
Keep up with the Joneses: Imagine you live next door to the Joneses' family. They have a beautiful house with a nice lawn and landscape outside. You also see their fancy cars in the driveway. You want to be like them, so you also buy an expensive car to match them. That's keeping up with the Joneses. Some of you might have heard of the TV show "Keep Up with the Kardashians." It's a play on the original idiom. The Kardashians are beautiful and have nice clothes and everything. Watching them may make you want to have things that they do.
These days when we are on social media often, we tend to see nice things pictured by others. We tend to compare ourselves to what we see and try to "keep up with the Joneses."
Now, do you understand these idioms better? Try to pay attention to them when you see them or use them in your speaking or informal writing. You may try it in your next conversation with the Eduling Speak app, which can be downloaded HERE. Share some idioms you've recently learned with me and Eduling in the comment!
More about Dr. Linh Phung: Dr. Phung has been teaching English to international students at a university in the US for over 11 years. She is also the founder of Eduling International and creator of the Eduling Speak app. With Eduling, has been teaching students online from many parts of the world. Apart from teaching and creating, she does research in task-based language teaching, learner engagement, and other second language learning topics. She’s also a children’s book author with the book Tug of Words (English only) or Tug of Words: Trò chơi kéo co ngôn ngữ (English-Vietnamese) available on Amazon. She’s a volunteer leader of TESOL International Association.
Note: Eduling offers an IELTS Speaking/Writing course to start this Sunday, an app to allow you to practice speaking in pairs called Eduling Speak (www.tinyurl.com/edulingspeakapp), and other feedback services for your speaking and writing. Check out our options: www.eduling.org/shop.
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