Idiom vs Phrase

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What’s the difference between them?



A phrase or expression that typically has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from the individual words.


1. His friends couldn't believe he'd used such an obscure idiom in conversation.

2. The idiom 'a stitch in time saves nine' is an old English proverb.

3. She was well-versed in the language, able to understand every idiom and nuance.



small group of words that form a unit within a sentence, expressing a single concept.


1. I couldn't remember the exact phrase, so I did my best to paraphrase it.

2. She has a popular phrase that she uses to express her gratitude.

3. The phrase 'late to the party' is often used to describe someone who is tardy.

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1. Phrase

2. Expression

3. Turn of phrase

4. Figure of speech

1. Literal meaning

2. Plain language

3. Exact wording

4. Explicit phrase

5. Direct expression


1. Expression

2. Locution

3. Turn of phrase

1. Isolation

2. Fragment

3. Individual word

Tricks for mastery

Useful tips to understand the difference between confusing words "Idiom", "Phrase".

1. To remember the difference between an idiom and a phrase, use this mnemonic phrase: 'Idiom is an expression, phrase is the sentence.'

2. Think of an idiom as a saying or expression that has a figurative meaning, such as 'beating around the bush.'

3. A phrase, on the other hand, is a group of words that form a unit within a sentence, expressing a single concept, such as 'in the middle of the night.'

4. Another helpful mnemonic phrase is 'An idiom is figurative, and a phrase is plain-speak.'

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Frequently asked questions

When is it appropriate to use an idiom?

This word should be used when referring to a group of words that, when used together, convey a meaning that is different from the literal interpretation of the individual words. Idioms often carry cultural or contextual significance. For example, 'Kick the bucket' is an idiom meaning to die.

When is it appropriate to use a phrase?

This word is appropriate when discussing a small group of words that together express a single idea within a sentence. It doesn't necessarily have the figurative or culturally specific meaning that an idiom does. For instance, 'in the morning' is a phrase indicating a specific time.

Do the two words share the same pronunciation?

No, the two words do not share the same pronunciation. Idiom is pronounced \ˈī-dē-əm\ while phrase is pronounced \frāz\

What are some common mistakes people make when using these words?

One of the most common mistakes is using the words interchangeably. Although similar, they are actually two distinct parts of speech. People also often confuse an idiom with a proverb, another type of figurative language. It is important to understand the difference between the two and to use them correctly.

Fill in the gaps to check yourself

1. Raining cats and dogs is a popular English _____ that means its raining heavily.

2. The apple of my eye is an old _____ which means someone who is cherished more than others.

3. The English language is filled with interesting _____ that might not make immediate sense to non-native speakers.

4. Can you help me understand this _____ in the third paragraph?

5. Its crucial to understand common idioms when learning a language because a direct translation of an _____ often doesnt convey its true meaning.

6. In grammar lessons, we often break down sentences to understand each individual _____ and its function.

1. Idiom

Explanation: The expression raining cats and dogs is not meant to be taken literally. Its a figurative way of saying its raining heavily, so its an idiom.

2. Idiom

Explanation: The apple of my eye doesnt literally refer to an apple in someones eye. Its a figurative way to express a special fondness or regard for someone, making it an idiom.

3. Idioms

Explanation: The sentence speaks about expressions in the English language that might be puzzling for non-natives, referring to idiomatic expressions.

4. Phrase

Explanation: Without the context of any idiomatic or figurative meaning, this sentence is generally inquiring about a group of words, or a phrase, in a paragraph.

5. Idiom

Explanation: The reference to a direct translation indicates that the word in question is something that carries a meaning not immediately obvious from its components, which is characteristic of idioms.

6. Phrase

Explanation: This is a grammar context, and it refers to breaking down sentences to understand groups of words, which are phrases.

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List of Commonly Confused Words

Finding your way around the English language can be hard, especially since there are so many confusing words and rules. So, a list of the most confusing words in English is an extremely useful tool for improving language accuracy and sharing the ideas clearly.