4. Dialogs with Idiomatic Expressions

On many TOEFL exams, up to half the dialogs in Part A contain idiomatic expressions. Many of the idiomatic expressions are two- or three-word verbs, such as call off and look out for. Remember, you cannot get the meaning of an idiomatic expression by combining the literal meaning of the words that compose it. Idiomatic expressions have figurative meaning.
Sample Items

You will hear:

F1: I wonder where Mike is.
M1: He’ll show up as soon as the work is done, I bet.
M2: What does the man say about Mike?

You will read:

(A) He probably won’t arrive until the work is finished.
(B) He went to a show instead of going to work.
(C) He can show them how to do the work.
(D) He’ll probably work late today.

The answer is (A). The idiom show up means “arrive.” Choices (B) and (C) contain the word show, but it is not used in the idiomatic sense.

In most dialogs, the second speaker uses the idiomatic expression. Most questions about this type of dialog are questions about meaning (“What does the man mean?” for example), but some are inference questions or other types of questions. The correct answer often contains a synonym for the idiom (arrive for show up in choice (A) of the Sample Item). Incorrect choices often contain references to the literal meaning of idioms, as in choices (B) and (C).
You may practice by reading and memorizing idiomatic expressions from books or the Internet. However, memorizing these phrases does not guarantee that you will recognize all the idiomatic expressions that you will hear in the Listening Comprehension section. After all, there are thousands of these expressions in English. You must develop “a good ear” for guessing the meaning
of idioms. The context of the sentence will help you understand the expression, even if you’re unfamiliar with it.

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