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The dictionary meaning of a phrase is “a small group of words standing together as a conceptual unit, typically forming a component of a clause.” Phrases are a group of words that have a known meaning. You may say that Phrases and idioms are the same, but there is a difference. We will learn the difference and use many phrases in the article given below.

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Difference Between Phrase and Idiom

Both the Phrases and the Idioms are a collection of words that have a known meaning. The difference is that in an idiom, the meaning arises from common usage. While a phrase is a small group of words that have a meaning when taken together, out of the sentence. In order to check whether a given group of words is a phrase or an idiom, a simple test can be done.

Take the set of words that you have been asked to check and see if they make any sense. If the meaning of this group of words is exactly what you infer from the group, then it is a phrase. However, if the meaning is different then it is an idiom. Let us see this with the help of an example.

I: It is raining cats and dogs.

II: I saw a herd of cats and dogs while crossing the road.

Select the correct option that represents the words in the bold alphabet:

A) Both I and II are idioms.

B) I is a phrase and II is an idiom.

C) II is a phrase and I is an idiom.

D) They are clauses.

Answer: The answer is obviously C) “Cats and dogs”, is an idiom while as a herd of cats or a heard of dogs is a phrase, but there is a catch here. “Cats and dogs”, is a group of words that has a given meaning! In other words, we say that every idiom can be treated as a phrase but every phrase is not an idiom.

Some Common Phrases


                                                                                                                                                 Source: Pinterest

Let us see a few examples of questions that may appear in your paper, based on the concepts of phrases. But first, let us see some commonly used phrases of the banking exams.

  • A Picture paints a thousand words: Means that a visual representation of an event or happening is always very descriptive.
  • A wolf in sheep’s clothing: Someone whose appearance is a deception. A person who is dangerous but pretending to be friendly.
  • Above Board: Something fair and honest.
  • Against the Clock: Rushed and short on time.
  • Actions speak louder than words: It is better to act than to talk about action.
  • Back to the drawing board: When an attempt fails and it’s time to start all over.
  • To bite off more than you can chew: To take on a task that is way too big.
  • Can’t judge a book by its cover: Cannot judge something primarily on appearance.
  • Don’t count your chicken before the eggs have hatched: Don’t make plans for something that is not possible.
  • Get over it: To move beyond something that is bothering you.
  • Get up on the wrong side of the bed: Someone who is having a horrible day.
  • Being a good Samaritan: Someone who helps others when they are in need, with no conditions.
  • Hit below the belt: Contrary behaviour to the principles of fairness.
  • Hit the nail on the head: Do something exactly right or say something exactly right.
  • The icing on the cake: Something is an icing on the cake when it improves on something that you already have or in other words if you already have it good and get something on top of what you already have, it is an icing in the cake.

Solved Examples

Example 1: Read the following sentences and answer the questions that follow at the end.

I: Einsteins’ theory of relativity was a challenge of imagination.

II: We are to meet each other face-to-face.

A) I is a phrase and II is an idiom.

B) II is a phrase while II is the idiom.

C) They are both phrases.

D) They are both idioms.

Answer: The answer is A) challenge of imagination is a phrase whereas face-to-face is an idiom.

Example 2: What is the meaning of the phrase in bold?

The scientist explained his thesis in the worst way possible. It was all Latin and Greek.

A) Very strange            B) It was difficult               C) The thesis was impressive          D) The thesis was in Greek.

Answer: The phrase “Latin and Greek” is used for something that is very difficult to understand. So the answer here is B) It was difficult.

Practice Questions

Q 1: Someone is adding “fuel to fire” if they are:

A) Putting out the fire.

B) Starting a fire.

C) Want a situation, that is bad to get worse.

D) Want to help settle a situation that is very hot.

Ans: C) Want a situation, that is bad, to get worse.

Q 2: Deep down, he knew that he was wrong.

The words in the bold can be best described by the option:

A) In the depth of a well.

B) The person lives in a deep place.

C) This means the deep secrets of a person.

D) It means the deep feelings of a person.

Ans: D) It means the deep feelings of a person.

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