How to use idioms without making the examiner cry in IELTS speaking

940 788 admin

So how does it sound when students try to use idioms in IELTS speaking? Well, unfortunately, more often than not, it sounds like this:

Oh look, we’re part of a special club. How amazing are we! Ahh fraternity.

So how can we make them sound better. Well, let’s take three incredibly boring and overused idioms.

Keeping up with the Joneses
The grass is greener on the other side of the fence
It’s raining cats and dogs

So, how we can use these to impress the examiner, rather than making them want to jump out of the nearest window in embarrassment?

Well, first of all we can make them shorter. Idioms are like membership cards. And just like a membership card, you only need to flash it for a second. By doing this, you’re saying “I know it. You know it. We don’t need to make a song and dance about it”. For example:

It’s all about the Joneses, yeah?
Grass is greener, right?
Cats and dogs, no?

The second thing we can do is to change the idea to make it new. When we do this, we are refreshing something which is old and overused and breathing new life into it. It also shows examiners that you are so confident with your English that you can use your imagination to adapt fixed expressions to suit a particular context. If you find yourself sitting in an oligarch’s platinum-plated country house listening to them complaining about how Finland is so much more beautiful than Russia, this might mean you can win some smiles with:

Keeping up with the Abramoviches
Raining bears and matryoshkas
Grass is greener – even in Finland – which is weird, cos it’s pretty much the same grass

But OK, chopping up and re-inventing language can be hard. So there must be some idioms which don’t sound dull, old, and annoying, right?  Yes. There are. And the great thing is that we use these all the time to describe the endless hell of being a human, unable to change the world we live in. It’s kind of like this gesture, but with words.

It is what it is
That’s the world we live in
That’s just how it goes

These are great ways to let the examiner know that you’ve finished speaking and you share their feelings of existential crisis, while also sounding like a natural.