The Internet TESL Journal

Using Idioms to Express Easy and Difficult

Amy Gwen Larson


This is an idiom lesson for upper-intermediate and advanced level students. The aim is to understand the metaphorical meaning of phrases related to the concepts of ease and difficulty. The emphasis is on meaning and the ability to incorporate these expressions into daily life.

Teachers Notes

Part 1

Write the phrase "Food for Thought" on the board. Ask the students if they have any thoughts on what this might mean. Afterwards, clarify the meaning.

Food for thought = something to think about.

Part 2

Ask the students the following questions. Write some of the responses on the board.

Part 3a

Hand out the idiom worksheet (see below) to the students and discuss the meanings of the idioms. Ask the students to match some of the idioms to the statements given in part 2.

Part 3b

The teacher may want to discuss with the students the different connotations of the following words.
That which can be done, gotten, mastered, or endured without difficulty; freedom from trouble; that which demands little effort or presents little difficulty.
freedom from pain, worry or trouble; comfort
hard to do, make, manage, understand; involving trouble or requiring extra effort; hard to satisfy, persuade or please.

Part 4

Ask the students to read the dialogs on the worksheet. Help them match a suitable idiom response to each statement. Some of the idioms are interchangeable. There can be more than one right answer for some of the statements. After the students have completed this section, point out other possible answers.

Part 5

Have the students read the paragraph filled with idioms. Ask the students to rewrite the paragraph by replacing the idiomatic expressions with the equivalent literal English meanings.

Idiom Worksheet

Food for Thought

1. Idioms

2. Fill in the missing dialog phrases using idioms from the list above.  Not all of the idioms will be used.

Dialog 1

Mark and Anna are neighbors. They meet outside on their way to work in the morning.

Mark: Hi Anna. How are you?

Anna: Hi Mark, not so good. My car is broken and I have an important meeting at work. I
           don't want to be late and I still have to take my children to school.
           I'm _______________.

Mark: No problem. You can ride with me. We can take your kids to school on the way.

Anna: Thanks. I don't know what I would do without you. You really _______________.

Dialog 2

Mark and Anna are on their way home after work.

Anna: Hi Mark. How was work today?

Mark: I don't know. I'm having problems. I don't understand my new boss.
          He's ______________________. How was your day?

Anna: Good. I finished everything. I even helped Judy download all her files to her new
           computer. It was ________________________.

3. Rewrite the paragraph without the use of idioms.

Here is some food for thought. Idioms can be a piece of cake. When you're faced with a hard nut to crack, remember this lesson. So, don't let idioms get you in a pickle. The can be a cake walk.

In a nutshell, today's lesson can someday save your bacon.

The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. XIII, No. 2, February 2007