Organised by metaphor, topic and key word
by Jon Wright
Edited by Jimmie Hill and Morgan Lewis
Illustrated by Bill Stott
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Organised by metaphor, topic and key word
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ISBN: 1 899396 06 3
Jon Wright is co-founder and Director of Studies of The Language Project, Bristol, a small school
With a special focus on developing innovative learner-centred materials. He has many years’
experience as a teacher, teacher trainer, materials writer and examiner. His other publications
include Basic Grammar, with Dave Willis, for Cobuild, and Dictionaries, in the OUP Resource
Books for Teachers Series.
would like to thank my editors Jimmie Hill and Morgan Lewis, for their considerable guidance in
shaping this book, as well as acknowledging the many ideas and examples, which they gave so
generously. The staff and students of The Language Project in Bristol have helped me in many
ways both in and outside the classroom. As always, a special thank you to Etsuko.
Idioms are important
Words don’t come singly
You have probably spent a long time learning new words. Words, however, do not just
come individually, they also come in expressions – in groups. Idioms are among the
most common of these expressions. There are thousands of them in English:
I could eat a horse.
Money doesn’t grow on trees.
It’s not up to scratch.
I got there in the nick of time.
Language is literal and metaphorical
Sometimes when we use language we use it in a very literal way:
I’ve been out fishing, but caught absolutely nothing!
The same language can be used in a non-literal way – a metaphorical way:
Yesterday I caught the bus. My car wouldn’t start.
Here are more examples of this metaphorical use of catch:
He caught my attention.
Wait while I catch my breath!
Look at that tan! You’ve caught the sun!
I didn’t quite catch what you said.
The metaphorical uses of a word are often more common than the literal ones.
Idioms have grammar
Some idiomatic expressions are fixed and cannot change:
Two heads are better than one.
Very often you can change the tense and the pronoun:
I’m/She’s/We were all at sixes and sevens.
How is Idioms Organiser organised?
This book organises the most important idioms in English in four sections:
1. Areas of metaphor
2. Individual metaphors
4. Key Words
Make sure you study the Introductory Unit of this book before you begin the main
units. Plan your study and work regularly through the units on your own or in class.
Section 1: Areas of Metaphor
Time is Money
Business is War
Seeing is Understanding
Life is a Journey
Life is Gambling
A Company is a Ship
Moods are Weather
The Office is a Battlefield
A Project is a Race
Economics is Flying
Organisations are Gardens
People are Liquid
Section 2: Individual Metaphors
Colour Idioms: Black/White
Colour Idioms: Red/Blue
Fingers and Thumbs Idioms
House and Home Idioms
Life and Death Idioms
Section 3: Topics
Agreeing and Disagreeing
Annoyance and Frustration
Certainty and Doubt
Easy and Difficult
Good and Bad Quality
Knowledge and Ability
Power and Influence
Safety and Risks
Similarities and Differences
Sleep and Dreams
Starting and Stopping
Success and Failure
Section 4: Key Words
Good / Better / Best
Light and Heavy
Lose and Lost
Something, Anything, Nothing
To + infinitive
Top and Bottom
Section 5: Index of Expressions
Section 6: Answer Key