The study of idioms by children

Английски за заекващи деца

Do children learn idioms? What kind of idioms are studied and why? Do children manage to use them successfully in writing and speaking? Difficulties in studying and overcoming them.

Idioms of the English language – meaning and formation

An idiom is a common word or phrase of cultural significance, which differs from that which its constituent words would suggest; i.e. words together have a meaning that is different from the dictionary definition of the individual words. According to another definition, an idiom is a verbal form or expression of a given language that is unique in itself, grammatically and semantically and cannot be understood. through the individual meanings of its elements.

Idioms are not metaphors or other artistic parts of speech, such as comparisons, hyperboles. Idioms should not be confused with proverbs that are based on life experience and common sense.

It is estimated that there are about 25,000 idioms in English.

What role do idioms play in language

Idioms develop language. They are one of the basic ingredients for the color of language in a civilization. They can make the language interesting and dynamic. In everyday life, idioms bring a special taste of rich illustration of reality.

Why idioms are pregnant

The answer is because of its “meaning.” It is difficult for them to be understood, especially by people who are not born with this language, because their meaning is metaphorical. Idioms are filled with symbolism and carry specific images. They sound strange and difficult to be understood by English language learners.

Do children learn idioms in their education and when does their study begin?

The answer to this language is – yes! In the process of language learning, children encounter many idioms, most of which are actively used in oral communication. , they need to be learned with their  metaphorical meaning.

The beginning of learning with the use of idioms must be started when there is formed abstract thinking and the child is able to perceive artistic abstract forms of speech.

Early school age is usually recommended, but it can start earlier.

What idioms do children learn and why

One of the first metaphorical expressions that children get acquainted with are idioms such as:

  • rains cats and dogs – with meaning: vali silno;
  • a fish out of water – with meaning: he feels uncomfortable, not in his environment;
  • lion’s share – meaning: the largest share;
  • sticky fingers – with meaning: he takes things that do not belong to him;
  • eat words – with meaning: takes your words back;
  • piece of cake – with meaning: something very easy to make;
  • once in a blue moon – with meaning: very rarely;
  • a hot potato – meaning: a conflict situation with which it is difficult to resolve or uncomfortable for someone;
  • when pigs fly – with meaning: something impossible to happen;
  • miss the boat – with meaning: exhaust chance;
  • apple of somebody’s eye – meaning: very valuable for someone;
  • zip your lip – with meaning: stop talking;
  • fair and square – meaning: honest and honorable;
  • strike when the ion is hot – with meaning: act while there is an opportunity;
  • old school – meaning: something that is old evening, out of time.

Idioms are learned in the language structure of which there is a real object or animal, in order to support the still fragile ability to think abstractly in children. They have to imagine a realistic image, worn by the artistic figure of the word, so that they can understand it. In this case, the animal or object serves as a fulcrum (anchor) in the process of understanding the idiomatic expression.

Do children manage to use idioms in their oral and written speech?

Children are, in principle, in the process of perfecting their oral and written language. As they get older, they begin to use an increasingly detailed, flexible word with an interesting and sophisticated style. This is part of their personal development, so the use of idioms depends entirely on the degree of language development the child.

Idioms are rare in preschool children, but it is already a phenomenon in teenagers.

Difficulties in learning idioms and overcoming them


The main challenge for idioms is their meaning. One knows the meaning of each word according to its dictionary definition, but one cannot fully comprehend the meaning of the expression unless one learns it by heart after using an idiomatic or phraseological dictionary. In children the meaning is given by the native speaker – teacher or parent.

The development of language culture through idioms the benefits of reading.

We strongly recommend reading, which can enrich all aspects of oral and written speech.

Place of use

Another challenge for idioms is the specific use. It requires a fine understanding of the exact moment in which to insert the idiom. This is a complex language proficiency and it requires more than a good language culture. The idiom carries specifics from the reality of the country to which the language belongs. It can be understood for the first time only by a native speaker. A child who is in the process of learning needs to gain serious language and life experience before embarking boldly on experimenting with idioms.

There are children who are born with a sense of language and, with a little practice, manage to use idioms right in their place.

Modern young people are increasingly using them and know well their meaning.

We, the teachers at LuckyKids, strongly recommend working with an idiomatic dictionary that can give the correct translation and meaning of the most common idioms in English. Usually in our lessons, we illustrate their use and so the children remember them effectively.