Would you like to learn about expressions? Then you've come to the right place. This article will teach you everything you need to know about what expressions are and how to use them in your writing.
This guide is part of our free online Grammar Book.
It's a little complicated to narrow down what an English expression is because it has such a broad meaning. If you were to look up the definition of the word 'expression,' you'd find that it's the act of using words to show what you mean.
So in that sense, it appears that any group of words is an expression, right?
For the purpose of this article, though, we're going to stick with expressions that use words. I like this definition from the Cambridge Dictionary:
a word or group of words having a particular meaning or used in a particular way.
And yes, you'd be correct in assuming that any group of words is an expression. So for this article, I wanted to organize groups of words into different categories. Read on to find out what they are.
There are many types of expression in the English language, and depending on the context, you can choose the most appropriate.
Let's dive in.
Phrases are the first category of expressions. In this context, the word 'phrase' has a slightly different meaning than the grammatical concept of phrases, although they do have in common the fact they aren't complete sentences.
Here are some examples of popular phrases, along with real-life sentences showing how these phrases can be used:
- Pleased to meet you
This is my dad, Kevin.
Pleased to meet you, Kevin.
- Hey there
Hey there, Claire, how are you doing?
- Long time no see
Hi David, wow, long time no see. Must be what, 6 months since I last saw you?
- That’s a good one
Haha, very funny joke Susan, that's a good one.
- What’s up
What's up Joel? Good to see ya.
- My apologies
My apologies for my son's behavior.
- Don't mention it
Thanks for introducing me to the boss, Carol.
Don't mention it, it was my pleasure.
Sorry do you have the time?
Idioms - also known as idiomatic expressions - can only be understood as a whole. If you were to only look at the individual words, it wouldn't make sense, and you would think these are just random words joined together. But actually, when put together, they mean something.
Here are some idioms that are often used in English, along with example sentences that use them:
Phrasal verbs are similar to idioms in that looking at the individual words won't help you understand the overall meaning.
But together, as a unit, they mean something very specific.
Let's take a look at some examples.
Slang is an informal way of talking that's usually specific to an age group and often to a geographical location. Apart from a few slang expressions that stick around, slang is ever-changing, so there are always new words to learn.
Here are some common slang words and phrases, along with examples of how to use them in a sentence:
You've probably heard of proverbs; there are many famous ones from all over the world, and they are used to spread wisdom. The English language has some pretty good ones, too.
Here are some examples of well-known proverbs and their meaning:
Jargon refers to technical terminology that's specific to a particular industry. In theory, only those working in that industry can understand the jargon unless you're particularly knowledgeable for whatever reason.
You can find jargon in almost every industry:
Here are some examples of computing jargon:
'Collocation' is a term used to refer to pairs of groups of words that often go together. It's not that there's a rule they must always go together, like with phrasal verbs, but they just like each other's company, I guess you could say.
So why are collocations relevant to this article on expressions?
Let's look at some more examples of collocations. Notice that they don't have to be adjective and noun combinations. They can also be verb and noun combinations and sometimes have prepositions and determiners thrown in there, too.
That concludes this article on expressions. I hope you feel confident about the different categories of expressions and how to use them in your writing.
Let's summarize what we've learned:
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