Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"

Today you’ll learn how native speakers use half idioms for an 8+ on the IELTS Speaking Exam.

To receive higher scores for IELTS Speaking, you want to show that you’re approaching native-speaker level communication.

Native speakers use a lot of idioms, of course, but did you know that some idioms are so commonplace that we now only say half of them?

Some sayings are so ingrained in our communication, that by just saying the first half, you are communicating the whole idea.

Using native natural features like this is what puts the examiner in the mind of a 7+, and these specific phrases today satisfy the requirements for an 8+ for Vocabulary.



1. If it ain’t broke (don’t fix it): If you something is going well, if it works, then don’t change it! (This is very informal grammar, but you can use it in Speaking Parts 1 and 2.)

2. When in Rome (do as the Romans do): In a situation with new people or contexts, you will behave as the other people do.

3. The bigger they are (the harder they fall): The more successful someone or something is, the bigger the failure when there is a problem.


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4. What goes up (must come down): All successes eventually falter. You could also say, “All good things must come to an end.”

5. When the going gets tough (the tough get going): When faced with challenges, you become more motivated to overcome them.

6. It takes a village (to raise a child): To do something well, like bring up a child, you need help.

7. When life gives you lemons (make lemonade): When faced with difficulties, be positive and make the best of it!

Choose 1-3 of these half idioms, and use them in your own context. Write out the sentences and then read them out loud.

Also try to pronounce them the same way I did, mimicking my stress and intonation.

How would you use these half idioms?

Share your ideas in the comments section below!

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