Importance of learning common English phrases for ESL students

Common English phrases, such as “the elephant in the room”, “a blessing in disguise”, “to feel under the weather”, and ” a piece of cake”, are a group of English words commonly used a lot in English. The memorable words of a common English phrase together carry figurative meaning. Therefore, ESL students can not understand the meanings of common English phrases by just literal translation.

Learning common English phrases has a huge influence on the progress of ESL students in English fluency and proficiency. If they do not know such phrases, they will have weak performances in English basic domains (reading, listening, writing, and speaking).In the following, seven facts make learning common English phrases vital for ESL students:

Common English phrases are used a lot in English

English natives use common English phrases spontaneously in their conversations a lot although some of them may not even know the origins of such phrases. Learning common English phrases plays an effective role in the basic domains of English. Therefore, English mastery is not completely possible without teaching the common English phrases in ESL classes. Plus, lack of common English phrase knowledge constantly creates confusion, vagueness, and misunderstanding for ESL students in their English usage in real situations.

The usage of common English phrases is highly widespread on informal and formal occasions. If ESL students do not learn enough such phrases, then they will leg off using English in real situations such as traveling to England. Unfortunately, some English schools do not focus on teaching such common phrases much and that is why ESL students themselves should arrange a well-organized plan for studying and practicing common English phrases weekly.

In addition, ESL students should be able to distinguish the uses and vast meanings of such phrases. Otherwise, they face no trouble in their second language usage. For example, if an ESL student does not distinguish the negative meaning of the phrase “to kick the bucket” and uses it on a formal occasion, he sounds very rude and offensive. Therefore, the student should learn another common English phrase or idiom such as “pass away” on a formal occasion.

English movies, cartoons, songs, novels, books, etc. are usually full of common English phrases. Even in the virtual world, such phrases are used a lot, from the English captions of posts to the English texts of chat rooms. ESL students constantly deal with such phrases in their journey of English immersion.

The use of common English phrases has also a huge frequency in all domains. For example, the common English phrases “neck and neck”, “win hands down”, and “go off the rails” originate from “horse racing”. If an ESL translator does not know the common English phrases of the field he is translating, then he gets into serious trouble in his career and he has to constantly search for meanings of such phrases.

In addition, ESL students will face a lot of problems dealing with reading scientific articles, pursuing their education in the universities of English-speaking countries, and listening to English scientists or professors if they do not know the common such phrases of the field they are studying. The meanings of such phrases can not be found in English dictionaries, they are only available at some websites and the dictionaries of common English phrases. The usage of such phrases is so widespread that putting teaching common English phrases in the educational curriculum is fundamental, rational, and useful.

Overall, common English phrases are used frequently in many ways, from formal speeches at school to colloquial conversations with English natives. They are a part of English knowledge so they have a huge role in English fluency. Therefore, ESL students should learn common English phrases as much as possible by heart so that they can write, speak, and read well in English.

Common English phrases reflect English culture

Culture shapes a language. It is an important element that indicates historical and social variations and events well. High cultural knowledge improves and accelerates the process of the second language, English, acquisition.

As mentioned, common English phrases are used in society a lot. People use such phrases to convey their negative or positive meanings on many occasions. Therefore, learning such phrases provides ESL learners with huge knowledge about the prominent features and thoughts of English society.

Although there are some common English phrases driven from human experiences and actions, such as “under the collar”, “breathe fire”, and ” feel under the weather/blue”, most common English phrases originate from culture. Learning the image that such phrases carry not only makes memorizing the phrases easier but also immerses ESL learners into English culture much more than before. It also increases ESL learners’ cultural sensitivity and English comprehension and production.

Common English phrases usually indicate cultural images. Each English phrase is created as a result of a certain cultural phenomenon. Take the phrase “beat around the bush” as an example, it refers to the custom of “game hunting” in Britain. ( hunters used to beat around the bush to draw out birds before hunting.)

Common English phrases indicate the traditions, customs, lifestyles, and beliefs of English societies. They are under constant cultural and social variations; for example, the common English phrases used in Anglo-Saxons’ writings are not the same as the ones used in modern English literary works. Long common English phrases are usually shortened or abbreviated in today’s English communications.

 Due to the English pragmatics, common English phrases usually do not encompass a fixed meaning or concept and the difference in meanings of such phrases is rooted in the cultural backgrounds. For example, the phrase ” the proof is in the pudding” can convey three meanings including “There is evidence for backing up a certain claim under discussion.”, “getting a minor achievement is not important as long as the final goal is good.”, and “The success is only measurable by testing the achievement.” depending on the occasions and situations in which it is used. Studying common English phrases in context helps ESL students learn the usages and meanings of such phrases much more deeply.

We can conclude that common English phrases are the practical indicators with which we can study English culture and the variations and events that occurred in English language history. Such phrases originated from different cultural, social, and historical events that occurred in English history and that is why many ESL students find learning such phrases difficult and intangible. Learning common English phrases as an important part of the English language learning process drives ESL students to make huge progress in English schools.

Using common English phrases makes the conveyance of meanings brief and clear

No one likes reading or listening to long complex ambiguous sentences. Understanding such sentences is boring and time-consuming. Nowadays, the English language is getting shorter with the help of abbreviations, symbols, and especially common English phrases.

People usually use common English phrases to convey their meanings, feelings, and messages much more effectively, shortly, and clearly. For example, an English speaker can say “She turned a blind eye to the existing evidence.” instead of saying “She refused to acknowledge the existing evidence even though she was sure of the authenticity and accuracy of the evidence.” Therefore, common English phrases can encompass more than one complex concept, idea, and meaning.

People sometimes have to bring a lot of examples and descriptions to make their audience understood or be convinced. They sometimes use a lot of words to explain complex concepts clearly. Using common English phrases enables English speakers to convey all their explanations and illustrations much more effectively.

In addition, ESL students sometimes have to learn and memorize a large series of common complex English words to make clear, effective comprehensive English statements. Instead, they can easily learn such phrases to convey their meanings much more briefly and better. In this way, they proceed in their English speaking skills, and their audience will follow and understand them much better.

The usage of common English phrases makes a speech or text more vivid, tangible, engaging, and detailed. Learning such phrases help ESL students quickly visualize and imagine the figurative meanings carried by the phrases. It also helps the students make deep connections with English writings or speeches.

On the whole, learning common English phrases makes ESL students learn how to be clear and effective in their brief writings and speeches. It also helps them to learn more about the modern English language which is getting shorter now.

Learning common English phrases causes high English fluency

One of the keys to gaining mastery and fluency in English basic skills is learning common English phrases. ESL students should learn and practice such phrases regularly depending on their English level and language learning competencies. For example, beginner students should memorize up to ten common English phrases each week; in this way, their chances of reaching the highest English level of proficiency in a short while increases.

Unfortunately, many teachers of ESL classes do not use common English phrases as much as they should and such phrases are seldom used in many books for ESL students. As a result, few ESL students know such phrases by heart and use them in their English conversations. Therefore, learning common  English phrases perfectly puts ESL students ahead of others so that they gain a high chance of great academic results and getting good job opportunities related to English.

By using common English phrases, ESL students can show off their high level of English proficiency. They can also convince their teachers that they are hard-working enthusiastic serious English learners. In this way, teachers’ encouragement, compliments, and special attention drive such learners to proceed more in the second language acquisition.

ESL students, like English natives, can spontaneously utter common English phrases in case they constantly practice using such phrases. However it takes ESL students much time and practice to learn such phrases by heart, it is worth it since it makes the students very fluent in English speaking and listening skills. The more ESL students practice such phrases, the more they apply the phrases without hesitation and pause.

To sum up, learning common English phrases makes ESL students highly fluent in English. Using such phrases is somehow prestigious because of their low frequency in ESL classes. Knowing such phrases by heart enables ESL learners to confidently immerse themselves in the English world much more than before.

Learning common English phrases is vital for the interpretation of English literary works

Many English writers have used common English phrases a lot. As mentioned, the use of idiomatic expressions in writings makes texts more vivid, tangible, understandable, and brief, and such phrases reflect a figurative image. Therefore, the interpretation of English literary works demands ESL students to have a vast knowledge of common English phrases.

The common English phrases of some texts, especially old literary texts, usually seem ambiguous and peculiar. Writers sometimes use such phrases to exhibit a historical or cultural issue or their feelings. Lack of perfect learning such phrases disables ESL students from criticizing such literary texts.

Overall, ESL students, especially the ones studying English literature, must know common English phrases to analyze and interpret English literary texts. They should get the hidden messages carried by such phrases perfectly. Having mastered common English phrases, ESL students can fairly judge different literary texts.

Memorizing common English phrases improves English grammar and semantics

One of the practical ways of learning English grammar and semantics effectively is to learn common English phrases. ESL students are recommended to keep certain examples, such as common English phrases, as models to enhance their grammar and semantics, for example, if they learn the phrases ” a piece of cake”, ” stealing someone’s thunder”, “to not judge a book by its cover”, and “The best of both worlds”, then they can easily learn the English grammar rules of possessives. As a result, the students will learn the roles of the apostrophe(‘s or s’) and will fluently show possessions in their English speeches or writings by rapidly constructing English components together.

Learning common English phrases makes ESL students learn different components of a sentence, such as verbs, adverbs, subjects, and objects, and correct word order in which the components combine. For example, ESL students learn the roles of English adverbs by learning the phrases “once in a Blue Moon”, “On thin ice”, “on cloud nine”, and “in the same boat”.

Memorizing common English phrases has a huge positive influence on retaining grammatical and structural knowledge. ESL students can easily correct their grammatical mistakes and errors by remembering the key English phrases in case they forget the English rules and structures. Therefore, learning common such phrases helps ESL students a lot in their self-English learning, self-study,  and self-evaluation.

It is recommended for ESL students to memorize, repeat, and use common English phrases constantly. In this way, they get used to hearing, speaking, and even thinking in English which leads to advanced grammatical and structural knowledge. As a result, the students can have great performance in basic English skills with fewer grammatical and structural errors or mistakes.

Learning English phrases enriches English vocabulary knowledge

As mentioned, common English phrases are composed of certain memorable words. They usually contain key word/s for reflecting a certain image. Take the phrase “to give someone a hand” as an example, the word “hand” reflects a certain action (helping).

Although the meaning of a common English phrase in a context can not be deduced by the lexical meanings of its components, most ESL students search for and learn the meanings of each word of the phrase so that they can better understand and pronounce the English phrase; in this way, the students can imagine the image reflected by the phrase; plus, they can make deep connections with the figurative meanings of the phrase. If ESL students keep learning such phrases regularly, they will gradually reach an immense English vocabulary.

Learning common English phrases strongly reinforces the retaining of English vocabulary. While studying such phrases, ESL students frequently face a large amount of their learned English words; in this way, the repetitive confrontation with the words makes the students easily stick the words in their long-term memory and spontaneously use them in real situations. The students can also learn and memorize different meanings and functions of the English words quickly.

The words of the phrases together represent a figurative image by reflecting their connotative meanings. Learning such phrases makes ESL students learn and memorize the connotative meanings of English words of the phrases. The more ESL students confront such phrases, the more they learn the negative and positive connotative meanings of English words.


In short, common English phrases are widely used in written and verbal language. Each English phrase indicates a particular figurative meaning depending on the situation it is used in. Learning such phrases is an essential part of curriculums and leads ESL students to huge progress in their second language, English, acquisition.


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