Navigating the world of idioms can be a potential minefield for students, especially if you are a non native speaker. There are thousands of idioms around and can confuse even the best authors & journalists.
Fortunately however, the there is a regular set of idioms that appear frequently on the GMAT Sentence Correction section.
The following comprehensive list is compiled from a list of idioms that have appeared in the GMAT in recent past.
a long face
‘Why have you got such a long face?’ ‘I just lost all my money in the casino.’
Correct Usage: Bats have the ability to fly in the dark
Incorrect Usage: Bats have ability of flying in the dark
A big tree can act as an umbrella in the rain.
act like = behave in a certain way
“Please stop acting like a child”, said the mother to the teenager.
Let’s try to agree upon a date for the vacation
We agreed to go to the play together.
We agreed to share the lottery prize.
The explorers needed aid in finding drinking water.
Allowing for his youth and lack of experience, I forgave him completely for his oversight.
The idea of a vacation to Florida this winter appeals to me a lot.
are in danger of
Correct Usage: These days, fewer people are in danger of dying due to bacteria related diseases.
– These days, fewer people are in danger to die due to bacteria related diseases.
– These days, fewer people have a danger of dying due to bacteria related diseases
as an adolescent
Correct Usage: As an adolescent, he suffered from acne.
Incorrect Usage: While in adolescence, he suffered from acne.
as good as
She owes me an apology – she as good as called me a liar.
The child asked for a glass of water
The diners asked the waiter for a type of wine the restaurant didn’t have.
I always associate Water with pizza for some reason
Please attend to your teacher’s instructions
We attribute our success to your good advice
I based my opinion upon my own seasoned judgment.
begin to see daylight
I’ve been working on my thesis for two years, and at last I’m beginning to see daylight.
between x and y
Correct Usage: He had to choose between studying or going to play.
Incorrect Usage: He had to choose between studying with going to play.
burn the candle at both ends
She’d been burning the candle at both ends studying for her exams and made herself ill.
I care very much about my family.
I don’t care for sweet desserts
I chose a funny card for his birthday.
We will choose her as our representative.
claim to or claim that
He claims that he can run backwards.
Columbus laid claim to America through the cunning use of flags.
come to a dead end
I’ve come to a dead end. I’m fresh out of ideas.
He compared himself to one of the knights of the round table.
Let’s compare the virtues of savings accounts with investing in bonds.
The committee is composed of people from every department.
I don’t consider you as a possible candidate
I consider myself an excellent athlete.
I don’t want to have to contend for the job with Ed
Do you mind if I continue with my knitting as we talk?
Does my casual dress conform to your regulations?
Does this part conform with the specifications?
consider x y
Correct: Michael Owen is a good football player, but not generally considered an all time great.
Incorrect: Michael Own is a good football player, but not generally considered to be an all time great.
In Contrast to
In contrast to previous reports, one senior British official suggested an attack was not imminent,
The black one contrasts nicely with the white one.
We can count on Bill to get the job done.
to credit with
Correct Usage: Newton is credited with discovering the laws of motion
– Newton is credited as discovering the laws of motion
– Newton is credited to having discovered the laws of motion
– Newton is credited for discovering the laws of motion
Mary should get a lot of credit for the team’s success.
We had to credit much of our success to simple good luck.
We have to credit Jeff with saving us a lot of money.
The candidates debate about taxes tomorrow
Are they still debating on the question?
I decided on the chocolate flavored ice cream.
Correct Usage: The Dictator declared all fundamental rights unconstitutional.
Incorrect Usage: The Dictator declared all fundamental rights as unconstitutional.
We have to define that comment as careless and unthinking.
I’m delighted to make your acquaintance,
I am very different from my twin sister.
Please disclose the names to me at once.
Psychopaths cannot distinguish between right and wrong.
Psoriatic arthritis can be difficult to distinguish from rheumatoid arthritis
draw a line
Let’s draw a line under the whole episode and try to continue our work in a more positive frame of mind.
draw attention to
Now, I would like to draw your attention to Fred, the gentleman we have all heard so much about
By the end of the contest I had drawn upon all the energy I had
He was drawn to the sports car.
I dreamed about you all night last night.
I dreamed of a huge chocolate cake.
noise dwindled away to nothing.
easier said than done
finding a good job is easier said than done.
easy to come by
A good job is not very easy to come by
either x or y
The money is either in my wallet or I have lost it.
She was elected as our president.
We elected you to office, so do your job.
The caterpillar would emerge as a butterfly in a short time
This money will enable me to open my own business
We want to encourage her in her musical career
We encouraged her to develop her musical talents
Correct Usage: The Kid was not tall enough to go on to the ride.
Incorrect Usage: The Kid was short enough not to go on the ride.
I wish to escape from my addiction.
Max escaped from prison to a hideout in Alabama.
I’m sorry. Your letter escaped my notice.
Heat is essential to life.
estimated to be
Correct Usage: The antique picture was estimated to be worth much more than the floor price.
Incorrect Usage: The antique picture’s worth was estimated at much more than the floor price.
The car is beautiful and perfect, except for one thing – the price
Except for being good with numbers, she wasn’t anything great.
Correct Usage: The king was expected to protect his people.
Incorrect Usage: The king is expected that it should protect his people.
Jo Cooper? You had better explain yourself, and it had better be good.
Please explain the experiment to me.
You will find it hard to explain away all these mistakes
Do not expose the film to the light.
The teacher failed half the class on the assignment
I hope I do not fail in math.
The children fled from the wrath of the old man.
The little mouse fled to its hole in the wall when the cat came around.
Let’s focus our attention on Tom and discuss his achievements so far.
They forbade them to enter the castle
They forbade them from entering the castle.
go to the mat
When he believes in a project, he’s willing to go to the mat for it.
Can you grow a mango tree from a seed?
The child grew into a tall, powerful athlete.
grow out of
A big argument has grown out of a tiny disagreement!
have a run of something
I had a run of bad luck at the casino
help (someone) (get) over something
I helped the puppy over the barrier.
in contrast to or in contrast with
– In contrast to his earlier self, the athlete appeared weak & frail.
– In contrast with his earlier self, the athlete appeared weak & frail.
As contrasted with his earlier self, the athlete appeared weak & frail
include someone out
I am not interested in your games. Include me out of them.
His reasoning was flawed, and appeared to be independent of any logic.
‘The children have been independent from their parents
Studies indicate that women actually live longer than men.
Fred indicated his assent to me.
Can you make yourself indifferent towards someone you might love?
in order to
Correct Usage: She began dating the playboy in order to go to the best parties.
Incorrect Usage: She began dating the playboy in order that she got to go to the best parties.
My dark hair was inherited from my father.
I invested five weeks of my time building this model ship.
The constitution invests the vice president with the authority to act on the president’s behalf in certain conditions.
We isolated the children from the source of the disease
just as x, so y
Just as Kate was considered for a seat at Harvard Business School, so was Tina.
Correct Usage: Even as a young boy he was known to explore different ways of doing things.
Incorrect Usage: Even as a young boy, he was known as wanting to explore different ways of doing things.
The trainer led away the dog from the other animals.
a life of crime will lead to inevitable sorrow.
left, right and centre
The rebels were firing at people left, right and centre.
Are International Charities Becoming More Localized in the Economic Cris
I am sure we can manage with the money that we have
a means to
Correct Usage: For some people, mobile phones are just a means to an end.
– For some people, mobile phones are a means for an end.
– For some people, mobile phones are a means of an end.
mistake x for y
Correct Usage: Because of the sisters’ similar looks, one was often mistaken for the other
Incorrect Usage: Because of the sisters’ similar looks, one was often mistaken as the other
Robot Modeled After Bat And Dolphin Echolocation Behavior
more than ever
Correct Usage: I regret more than ever not getting into HBS
Incorrect Usage: I regret more than never not getting into HBS
Much as she needed the job, she had to refuse.
Svetlana is a native of Poland
The cobra is native to Africa
Lisa deemed it necessary to go home.
Some of our customs originate from old beliefs
All your troubles originate in your lungs.
This idea originated with the committee.
permit (someone) through
Would you permit me through the door?
She would not permit me up the ladder
He prized his only daughter above everyone else in the world
pink corals have been prized as jewelry for 5000 years
Gold Jewellery Has Been Prized for Thousands of Years
Correct Usage: Only when we prohibit people from driving fast will we reduce the number of accidents.
Incorrect Usage: Only when we prohibit people to drive fast will we reduce the number of accidents.
promise the moon
My boss promised the moon, but never gave me a raise
Is this book promised to anyone?
The winter weather ranges from bad to terrible in this part of the north.
These animals range over a very large territory
Correct Usage: The child was reluctant to jump into the deep end of the pool.
Incorrect Usage: The child was reluctant about jumping into the deep end of the pool.
My doctor referred me to a specialist.
I have always regarded you as my friend.
The employees were required to hand over the pass when the quit the company.
What is required of me in this job?
This resembles vanilla ice cream in flavor, but not in consistency.
It will be interesting to see what results from your efforts.
I hope that this will result in the police finding your car.
No one rivals Ted in pitching a baseball.
Would you sacrifice your bank account for a chance to go to Europe?
I sacrificed a lot of money to a fancy lifestyle
seemed like such a nice person when I met you.
Correct Usage: The officer went to question the man who seemed to be hiding something.
Incorrect Usage: The officer went to question the man who seemed like hiding something.
Liz sought out a helper for Karen.
We will seek an injunction from the judge
will continue to seek after the thief who stole my car.
I will not seek revenge for what he did to me.
The sequence of events folded step by step
And now I will speak about Abraham Lincoln.
Please don’t speak against cats in my presence.
speak down to (Talk in simple language)
There is no need to speak down to me. I can understand anything you are likely to say.
Believe me, I speak from experience.
I want to speak up for the rights of students.
The unsightly yard and unpainted house speaks volumes about what kind of people live there.
He did what? I will speak with him!
Is the experiment a success? I think the numbers speak for themselves
think of or think to be
– I think of him as my best friend.
– I think him to be my best friend.
Correct Usage: He was trained to become an athlete ever since he was a child.
Incorrect Usage: He was trained as an athlete ever since he was a child.
try to or try and
Correct Usage: He tried to start afresh after the set back.
Incorrect Usage: He tried and started afresh after the set back.
unlike x, y
Unlike Tom, Brenda loves to go shopping
Correct Usage: language can be used as a weapon
Incorrect Usage: language can be used like a weapon.
Other idioms rules generally tested on the GMAT
Among Vs Between
Among is used when more than two items are in question, between is used when there are only two items:
e.g. I have to choose between studying & watching a movie.
I have been admitted to several schools. I now need to choose the best among them.
Both Vs Each
Use “both” to point similarities, “each” to point differences. “Each” is always singular
Twice Vs Double
Use “twice, thrice” for comparison; “double, triple” is used as a verb only.
Each Other Vs One another
“each other” is for two things; “one another” for more than two.
If v/s Whether
If there is a choice between the two, use “whether”. On GMAT, “if” is primarily for if/then type sentences.
like v/s such as
Use “such as” when possible. On GMAT. “like” is used when implying “similar to”
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