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BOOKS

Idioms and phrasal verbs


If you are getting on with someone like a house on fire just how well is the relationship going? Splendidly. The idiom means you are getting on extremely well with someone.

Take another example. You are described at a party as the salt of the earth. Just what does that mean? That you are a very good and honest person.

Using the right idiom can communicate a lot very crisply and effectively. Cambridge University Press provides a quick course with English Idioms in Use, written by Michael McCarthy and Felicity O'Dell, using an easy learning interface and common examples.

The authors have divided idioms into chapters using a functional classification, where the reader can selectively identify those that he wants to learn first. Thus, "Conversational Responses" is a chapter that provides idioms that promise to be very handy during a chat. If someone were to tell you that he marvelled at your driving skills in bad traffic, you could reply, "There's nothing to it!" indicating that you found it rather easy. There are chapters on idioms that dwell on emotions, situations, time and money, everyday materials, food and many more.

Phrasal Verbs

English Phrasal Verbs in Use by the same authors is another title that provides a good base to understand what such combinations of a verb and a particle stand for.

This book adopts the same approach to learning as the one on idioms. An example from the chapter on "Disagreement" makes this clear. If two people fall out, they have parted ways. There is then the issue of one complaining that the other is putting me down. A third person is ready to stick up for the aggrieved person in this instance.

As the authors point out, there are often formal equivalents for phrasal verbs. Take out, a phrasal verb, can be substituted with withdraw.

There is also an interesting chapter on new phrasal verbs. "Many new phrasal verbs are invented in English every year," one learns. To be partied out is one such, and it means that you have had enough of parties because you have been to so many.

Both the books are useful to anyone with a casual interest in the English language and provide a good opportunity for self-assessment.

Contact: Cambridge University Press, Foundation Books, No 21/1 (New No 49), First floor, Model School Road / Thousand Lights, Chennai 600006. Ph: (044)-28291294.

Some idioms and what they mean

Hanging by a thread: Likely to fail in the near future

Keep both feet on the ground: Remain normal and realistic

Get itchy feet: Have a desire to travel

Push the boat out: Spend a lot of money usually because

you are celebrating.

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