Students are often required to identify idioms on state tests, but what are idioms? It's hard to define them. This is because idioms are made from other figurative language techniques (like simile, metaphor, or hyperbole).
Idioms are different from other figurative language instances because people use idioms A LOT. Idioms are cliched figurative expressions. They have become part of the language as it is used. They are so common that many native speakers are unaware that they are using figurative language. Let's look at an example:
This figurative expressions is a metaphor. It compares the subject to a steam engine. But it's also an idiom. That's because the metaphor comparing steam to a person's energy is so common that it has become idiomatic. Native speakers don't have to bother to decode the metaphor. They know instantly what it means. Steam has become an idiomatic metaphor.
Many idioms are dated expressions. They may refer to technology that is less utilized today, like steam. This can make idioms challenging for young students to understand. Most of today's students do not understand the origins of the phrase "hang up the phone" yet alone the idiom "bought the farm." It is good to expose students to a wide range of idioms. This page contains tests, worksheets, and interactive activities to help your students master idioms.
Here are some idiom tests. Each test has 15 questions. Each question has a bolded idiom in a context-rich sentence. Students choose the best definition for each.
Here are some idiom worksheets. The paper and printable versions of these worksheets are more open-ended than the idiom tests (above), which are multiple-choice. The online versions of these worksheets are pretty much the same.