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Idioms are often challenging because idiom questions cannot be figured out by applying a rule. An idiom is a word or phrase which means something different from its literal meaning. For example, "it's raining cats and dogs" is a common idiom in English, but it's not meant to be taken literally: cats and dogs are not falling from the sky! The SAT and the ACT tests you on your idiomatic usage Can you figure out the errors in the following sentences?
The SAT and the ACT may test you on two types of idioms: prepositional idioms and idioms with gerunds/infinitives.
In a prepositional idiom, the preposition determines the meaning. For example, consider the pair at ease and with ease. The prepositions 'at' and 'with' change the meaning of the phrase. “At ease” refers to a state of relaxation: “He stood at ease during the parade.” “With ease” is used to refer to a sense of effortlessness as “She completed the gymnastics routine with ease.”
Some common prepositional idioms on the SAT and the ACT are:
Idioms with Gerunds or Infinitives
Gerunds and infinitives are sometimes referred to as verb complements. They may function as subjects or objects in a sentence.
A gerund is a verb in its ing (present participle) form that functions as a noun that names an activity rather than a person or thing. Any action verb can be made into a gerund.
An infinitive is a verb form that acts as other parts of speech in a sentence. It is formed with to + base form of the verb. Ex: to buy, to work.
Let's look at some examples. Here's an example with the gerund in bold: I neglected doing my homework.
The sentence is also correct if you use an infinitive: I neglected to do my homework.
Some examples of gerund and infinitive idioms on the SAT and the ACT are:
Now that you know some of the idioms asked on the SAT and the ACT, turn over to see the answer for the quiz.
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