How Idioms Work Resource Book

Yvonne Clarke, Martin Jones


A photocopiable resource book for building students’ idiomatic language skills.

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ISBN: 9781859645543

Intermediate to advanced
CEF Level: B1 to C1  IELTS Level: 4.0 to 7.0

Product Description

How Idioms Work

How Idioms Work is designed for adult learners of English who, despite a good grasp of English, find idiomatic language in their workplace or university confusing or incomprehensible. This fully photocopiable Resource Book provides clear, literal representations of high-frequency idioms chosen specifically for their lexical value in the world today. Ten eight-page sections comprise activity cards, definitions, reading consolidation (using semi-authentic newspaper articles) and revision activities. It also includes teacher tips and recommendations, 20 suggested activity types, an answer key and templates for devising further activity cards. How Idioms Work is ideal for complementing any skills-based lessons, as well as a general filler to add fun and variety to teaching. Each section of photocopiable pages is organised as follows: a summary of the idioms being covered illustrations of the idioms written idioms definitions of the idioms newspaper articles with idioms in use revision exercises and a talking point. Key Features High-frequency idioms chosen specifically for their lexical value in the workplace Vivid illustrations show literal representation of idioms for high impact and retention Ten six-page sections comprising: activity cards, definitions, reading consolidation using simulated newspaper articles, revision activities Twenty suggested activity types for exploiting materials Resource section containing further background information, answer keys, index and templates for devising more activity cards Ideal for complementing functional course books Ideal as both fun and purposeful filler activities Types of activity: picture match, find the definition, matching pairs, memory game, happy families, cloze, guess the idiom, bingo, mime, improvisation, real-life relate, anagrams, make a million, snap, pencil pictures, three in a row, right or wrong?, word chain, hit on a headline


Format: Paperback


Tips and recommendations

Part A:
Suggested activities

Part B:
Section 1:

bite the bullet
bend someone’s ear
drag your heels
a finger in every pie
eat your words
hit the nail on the head
draw a line under it
make a mountain out of a molehill
keep your hair on
put all your eggs in one basket
keep something under wraps
an uphill struggle
ruffle someone’s feathers
skate on thin ice
bury your head in the sand

Section 2:

sweep something under the carpet
bang your head against a brick wall
have a bee in your bonnet
bend over backwards
dig your heels in
back to square one
a card up your sleeve
water under the bridge
get to grips with something
a spanner in the works
in the hot seat
a piece of cake
break the ice
get your wires crossed
on the tip of your tongue

Section 3:

a chip on your shoulder
full of hot air
take the bull by the horns
pick holes
sit on the fence
pay through the nose
splitting hairs
get/start the ball rolling
read between the lines
left holding the baby
jump the gun
put something on the back burner
over the top (OTT)
at the eleventh hour
down in the mouth

Section 4:

stick your neck out
throw the baby out with the bathwater
bite someone’s head off
open a can of worms
a big fish in a small pond
a hard nut to crack
iron/smooth something out
the wrong end of the stick
have a bone to pick
put the cart before the horse
spill the beans
cut corners
draw the line
play/keep your cards close to your chest
nail/pin someone down

Section 5:

heads will roll
a fish out of water
stick/poke your nose in
a knee-jerk reaction
stick to your guns
two bites of/at the cherry
hot under the collar
take the floor
a finger on the pulse
have/get your ducks in a row
pie in the sky
hear something on the grapevine
money for old rope
let sleeping dogs lie
go overboard

Section 6:

pull the wool over someone’s eyes
a moveable feast
left high and dry
in at the deep end
put out feelers
step out of line
shoot your mouth off
pour/throw cold water over something
swallow a bitter pill
put your foot in it
a cold call
a sting in the tail
lay your cards on the table
a storm in a teacup
from the horse’s mouth

Section 7:

blow the whistle
it’s in the bag
the last straw
run it up the flagpole
paint yourself into the corner
rise to the bait
in hot water
the ball in is someone’s court
grasp the nettle
in the driving seat
in a nutshell
have egg on your face
in the loop
the balloon’s gone up
a foot in the door

Section 8:

nip it in the bud
a hatchet job
drive someone up the wall
a glass ceiling
eat humble pie
lose the thread
turn up the heat
at the sharp end
doesn’t hold water
scrape the barrel
bite your tongue
strike while the iron is hot
a thorn in someone’s side
keep your feet on the ground
off the record

Section 9:

go down like a lead balloon
push the envelope
tie yourself in knots
the thin end of the wedge
wide of the mark
a cock and bull story
between a rock and a hard place
pick someone’s brains
sing from the same song sheet
water off a duck’s back
add fuel to the fire
the gloves are off
a shot in the arm
move the goalposts
fly by the seat of your pants

Section 10:

breathe down someone’s neck
a square peg in a round hole
off the hook
a fly on the wall
hit the jackpot
let the cat out of the bag
the penny has dropped
pull the plug
feather your (own) nest
pull strings
wet behind the ears
jump through hoops
hit the buffers
from the frying pan into the fire
take a leaf out of someone’s book

Part C:
Answer key
Index of idioms

Author details

Yvonne Clarke has worked in marketing, promotion and editing for a number of academic and business book publishers, including a division of Reed International Books, Kogan Page, John Wiley and Gower. After qualifying in CELTA she taught general English in South Korea and Indonesia, then in the UK for Language Specialists International in Portsmouth and the International department of Chichester College. Currently, she carries out in-company training for Rolls Royce and is a teacher of EAP at an independent school in West Sussex.

Martin Jones is an accomplished artist who has illustrated for a number of book publishers, including Thorsons and Element Books. He has produced greetings cards for Henry Ling and Sons. In addition, he has designed a deck of cards called Cartouche, published originally by Ostaris Publications, then St Martin’s Press, New York, and which is still popular worldwide. He is also a qualified EFL teacher.


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