San Jose City College
       Edit for Idiomatic Language Use

The term "Idiomatic usage" refers to language that is natural to native speakers of English. Two definitions of idiomatic language are relevant to this editing guide.

An idiom is a fixed expression having a special meaning different from the literal interpretation of the words themselves. Examples are to be having a bad hair day  Nothing is going right.  and to have a chip on your shoulder To carry a grudge .

Idiomatic language refers to the usual way words are joined together to express thought.

Errors in idiomatic language use [marked as ID] occur when a fixed idiomatic expression is incorrectly written or when language use is very unnatural and strangely different from native-sounding speech.

The sentences in the table below were written by English language learners who are struggling to use idiomatic English.
    Note the highlighted text that is nonidiomatic.
    Try to restate the sentence idiomatically.
    Click the book icon and read the comments.
.
1. When I lived in Sudan, I got someone who loved me so much and I loved him, too. The idiom is to fall in love. If the writer says she fell in love, it is redundant to say "and I loved him, too."

Correction: When I lived in Sudan, I fell in love with someone who loved me so much.
2. My family wanted me to go to a good school, so they pushed me too much pressure. The idiom is to put pressure on someone.

Corrections:
My family wanted me to go to a good school, so they put too much pressure on me.

My parents put a lot of pressure on me to go to a good school.
3. I didn't have enough English skills to communicate with the person that took exam of me. A person gives an exam to someone.

Correction:
I didn't have enough English to communicate with the person who gave me the exam
4. Another situation that I was stressed out was when my cousin told me that she heard my mother-in-law said to her mother that I'm not good enough for her son because I'm not pretty. A person is or feels stressed out.

A situation stresses a person out.

The writer also needs the base form, SAY, after the verb of perception, heard.

Correction:

Another situation that stressed me out was when my cousin told me that she heard my mother-in-law say to her mother that I'm not pretty enough for her son.
5. I am appreciate my parents a lot because they forced me to go to school to provide me a stable luggage to start life. Parents give their children a strong foundation in life.

Correction: I appreciate my parents because they provided me with a good education and a strong foundation in life.
6. My mother-in-law was ceased to live October 12, 2003. The idiom for death and dying is to pass away.

Correction:
My mother-in-law passed away on October 12, 2003.
7. There wasn't anything in my head; everything seemed to black out and sede away. It is unclear whether the writer blacked out or his mind went blank.

Possible corrections:
If he fainted or passed out, he could say, "I blacked out."

If he was taking an exam and couldn't think straight, he could say, "My mind went blank."
8. Every day I went to school with bad states such as headache. The idiom is to be in a bad state or to be in a bad way. Also, one has a headache.

Possible Corrections:
Every day I went to school in a bad state with a big headache.

Every day I went to school in a bad state and had a big headache.
9. I fell in disease and couldn't go to school for one week. The idiom is to get sick.

Correction:
I got sick and couldn't go to school for a week.
10. I realized the place where I would live all the rest my life had many good people who embraced my soul with their kindness. The idiomatic expression is for the rest of my life.

Correction:

I realized the place where I would live for the rest of my life had many good people who embraced my soul with their kindness.
11. This incident left many bad memories on me. The idiomatic expression is to be left with bad memories.

Correction:

The incident left me with many bad memories.
12. Immigrants in the U.S. are working hard to make their livings. The idiom is to make a living.

It would also be preferable to use simple present tense because the sentence states a generalization that is true in most cases.

Correction:

Immigrants in the U.S. work very hard to make a living.
13. My brother went into jail and had a horrible experience. The idiom is to go to jail or to be sent to jail.

Correction:

My brother went to jail and had a horrible experience.

My brother was sent to jail and had a horrible experience.
14. After the fresh exhilarting feeling had been passed by, I felt culture shock and homesickness. An idiomatic way to express the idea is "the initial feeling of exhilaration passed."

Possible Correction:

After the initial feeling of exhilaration passed, I felt culture shock and homesickness.
15. My father said angrily, "Are you sure? Don't tell a lie with me!" The idiom is, "Don't lie to me." Or, "Don't tell me a lie."
16. He was brought of the value of responsibility by his parents. The idiom is to be brought up with a particular value.

Correction:

He was brought up (by his parents) with the value of responsibility.
Note that parents bring children up. It is not necessary to include the phrase "by his parents."
17. This country is the country of the opportunities and many immigrants come here for a better life. The idiomatic expression is "the land of opportunity."

Correction:

This country is known as the land of opportunity, so many immigrants come here for a better life. [note the cause-effect relationship between clauses.]
18. These students lose nothing but their time if they fail because they are free of charge for their classes. A person is never free of charge. Something that one would usually pay for can be free of charge.

Correction:

These students lose nothing but their time if they fail because their classes were free of charge.
19. Low income families live paychecks to paychecks. The meaning of the idiom is to live from one paycheck to the next.

Low income families live paycheck to paycheck.
20. Looking at my respective view, offering free community college education will benefit a lot of students. The writer could say "In my opinion," or "I believe that..." However these expressions aren't even necessary if the writer asserts a clear statement.

Correction:
Offering free community college education will benefit a lot of students.
21. However, in real our lives, everybody who lives in the U.S. can go to school easily even though community colleges charge tuition and fees. Avoid all expressions like "in my life, in our lives, in real life," etc. The writer could use "In reality," or "It is realistic to assume that"... or "realistically"...

Correction:
It is realistic to assume that everybody who lives in the U.S. can go to school easily even though community colleges charge tuition and fees.
22. Ho Chi Minh was applauded and looked up by the Northern people while the southern people have abhorred him since the fall of Saigon on April 30. 1975. The writer means that the northern Vietnamese respected and admired Ho Chi Minh while the southern Vietnamese abhorred him. The phrasal verb idiom is to LOOK UP TO him.

One looks up a word in a dictionary or looks up an old friend to get back in touch.

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