SAT Test Prep

CHAPTER 15
ESSENTIAL GRAMMAR SKILLS

Lesson 10: Idiom Errors

What Is an Idiom?

Idioms are common phrases with quirky, nonliteral meanings. Most idioms, like carry through, across the board, come on strong, get your feet wet, bang for the buck, all ears, pull your leg, eat crow, etc., are so ingrained in our language that we hardly notice that their meanings are so nonliteral. We appreciate our idioms when we hear someone speak who has just learned English, since the idioms take the longest to learn.

Watch Your Prepositions

The SAT won’t expect you to memorize the thousands of idioms in the English language, but it does expect you to recognize preposition errors. Remember from Lesson 2 that prepositions are words like to, from, of, for, by, in, before, with, beyond, and up that show relative position or direction. Certain idiomatic phrases, like arguing with, require a particular preposition. (That is, saying something like She was arguing against her brother is not a proper idiom.) The choice of preposition is not usually a matter of logic, as in the sentence

The house was on fire, so the firefighters put it out.

This sentence contains two prepositions, on and out, but neither is used literally or logically: the house wasn’t really “on” a fire, and the firemen didn’t put the fire “out.” But if you tried to make the sentence literal and logical, it would sound ridiculous or overly stilted:

The house was aflame, so the firefighters extinguished the blaze.

So idioms are an important part of clear and effective language.


When you notice a preposition in a sentence, always ask: “Is that preposition necessary, and if so, is it the correct preposition for that particular phrase?”


The prepositions are at and of. The idiom level of service is correct, but the idiom satisfied at is not. The correct idiom is satisfied with.

ESP: Eliminate Superfluous Prepositions


Casual speech often uses extra prepositions. When you write, however, try to eliminate unnecessary prepositions. Notice that in phrases like the following, the preposition is unnecessary and thus “nonstandard.”


Examples:

The pole did not extend  far enough.

Since my injury, it hurts to climb  the stairs.

Although clearly angry, the students were not yet ready to fight  the ruling.

We were unsuccessful in our attempt to extract  the chemical from the venom.

The illness can make one dizzy and prone to falling .

If you don’t hurry, you’ll miss  all the fun!

There were plenty of volunteers to help  with the race.

Before we prepare the steaks, we should fry  some peppers.

Her speed and strength helped her to dominate  her opponents.

Concept Review 10: Idiom Errors

Choose the correct preposition or phrase (if any) to complete each of the following sentences. If no word or phrase is required, circle the dash (—).

1. I prefer spaghetti (to/over/more than/—) linguine.

2. The students were protesting (against/over/—) the decision to cut financial aid.

3. We are all concerned (about/with/—) your decision to drop out of school.

4. It took nearly an hour to open (up/—) the trunk.

5. Eleanor has always been concerned (with/about/—) feminist issues.

6. We all agreed (on/with/about/—) the decision to go skiing rather than hiking.

7. She would not agree (to/on/with/about) the plea bargain.

8. We found dozens of old photographs hidden (in/—) between the pages.

9. Good study habits are necessary (to/for/in) academic success.

10. The new house color is not very different (from/than/to/—) the old one.

11. His girlfriend was angry (with/at/—) him for not calling sooner.

12. It will be many years before we fill (up/—) all the pages in this photo album.

13. They were both angry (about/at/with) the boys’ behavior.

14. You should plan (to come/on coming) before 6:00 pm.

15. Matt was kicked off (of/—) the team for drinking at a party.

16. We will make sure that your contract complies (with/to/—) the laws of your state.

17. After the operation, Denise was no longer capable (of playing/to play) the violin.

Worksheet 10: Idiom Errors

Consider the idiom in each sentence and fill in the correct preposition, if one is required.

1. The interview provided insight _____ what great directors think about.

2. We were very angry _____ him for ignoring our phone calls.

3. Her tests include questions that seem very different _____ those that we see in the homework.

4. My mother preferred my singing _____ my practicing guitar.

5. Detective Simone ran in pursuit _____ the perpetrators.

6. We had to shoo the cat off _____ the car.

7. When she arrived on campus, she felt truly independent _____ her parents for the first time.

8. They scoured the bedroom in search _____ the missing bracelet.

9. We were very angry _____ the exorbitant price of gasoline at the corner gas station.

10. Although they were friends, they always seemed to be arguing _____ each other.

11. I am concerned _____ your failure to pass the last few quizzes.

12. We all agreed _____ the color scheme for the wedding.

13. Tony had to climb _____ the ladder to get to the top bunk.

14. As a public defender, he was very concerned _____ the legal issue of search and seizure.

15. It was hard not to agree _____ her offer of a free movie ticket.

16. The vaccine was intended to protect everyone working on the project _____ disease.

17. I could hardly pay attention in class because I was daydreaming _____ the prom.

18. Allison and her sister both excel _____ dance and music.

19. I could never dream _____ confronting the coach with such a trivial concern.

20. I arrived at the meeting too late to raise my objection _____ the proposal.

21. The third edition of this book really doesn’t differ very much at all _____ the first two.

22. I beg to differ _____ you, but your story does not fit my recollection at all.

23. If we don’t act soon, we may miss _____ the opportunity to lock in the lowest rates.

Answer Key 10: Idiom Errors

Concept Review 10

1. I prefer spaghetti to linguine.

2. The students were protesting (none needed) the decision to cut financial aid.

3. We are all concerned about your decision to drop out of school. (Concerned about means worried about.)

4. It took nearly an hour to open (none needed) the trunk.

5. Eleanor has always been concerned with feminist issues. (Concerned with means occupied with or involved in.)

6. We all agreed on the decision to go skiing rather than hiking. (You agree on mutual decisions or plans.)

7. She would not agree to the plea bargain. (You agree to offers.)

8. We found dozens of old photographs hidden (none needed) between the pages.

9. Good study habits are necessary to (or sometimes foracademic success.

10. The new house color is not very different from the old one. (Use than only with comparatives like bigger; different is not a comparative.)

11. His girlfriend was angry with him for not calling sooner. (You get angry with people.)

12. It will be many years before we fill (none needed) all the pages in this photo album.

13. They were both angry about the boys’ behavior. (You get angry about situations.)

14. You should plan to come before 6:00 pm. (Plan to means make a plan to, but plan on means rely on.)

15. Matt was kicked off (none needed) the team for drinking at a party.

16. We will make sure that your contract complies with the laws of your state.

17. After the operation, Denise was no longer capable of playing the violin.

Worksheet 10

1. The interview provided insight into what great directors think about.

2. We were very angry with him for ignoring our phone calls.

3. Her tests include questions that seem very different from those that we see in the homework.

4. My mother preferred my singing to my practicing guitar.

5. Detective Simone ran in pursuit of the perpetrators.

6. We had to shoo the cat off (none needed) the car.

7. When she arrived on campus, she felt truly independent of her parents for the first time.

8. They scoured the bedroom in search of the missing bracelet.

9. We were very angry about the exorbitant price of gasoline at the corner gas station.

10. Although they were friends, they always seemed to be arguing with each other.

11. I am concerned about your failure to pass the last few quizzes.

12. We all agreed on the color scheme for the wedding.

13. Tony had to climb (none needed) the ladder to get to the top bunk.

14. As a public defender, he was very concerned with the legal issue of search and seizure.

15. It was hard not to agree to her offer of a free movie ticket.

16. The vaccine was intended to protect everyone working on the project from disease.

17. I could hardly pay attention in class because I was daydreaming about the prom.

18. Allison and her sister both excel in dance and music.

19. I could never dream of confronting the coach with such a trivial concern.

20. I arrived at the meeting too late to raise my objection to the proposal.

21. The third edition of this book really doesn’t differ very much at all from the first two.

22. I beg to differ with you, but your story does not fit my recollection at all.

23. If we don’t act soon, we may miss (none needed) the opportunity to lock in the lowest rates.