Difference between Idioms and Phrases with Examples

Idioms are the expressions and these are quite different from the words. However, idioms can be a word or a group of words, which are prominently used in the sentences to convey the message beyond the literal meaning. In brief, Idioms have the established meanings and each of them does not relate to the individual meaning of the words. In another way, we can say, idiom has the meaning which is not understandable by the individual word. Keep in mind that idioms are also phrases.


‘Raining cats and dogs’ – is an idiom and it means heavy rain.
Based on the countries and cultures, different colloquial idioms are also available.

English Idioms:

Read between the lines (Get the hidden meaning)
Give someone the cold shoulder (Ignore someone)
Get the ax (Lose the job)
To pull someone’s leg (Doing tricks by saying something untrue)
Think on your feet (Making fast decisions and adjusting quickly)
Keep in mind that the groups of words are not always used as idioms and based on the context, the meanings of the words get changed. These examples can make it clearer.

  • An arm and a leg: I like that red dress and while taking that it costs me an arm and a leg.
  • An arm and a leg: Due to a major train accident, he has lost his an arm and a leg.
  • Meera had lost and after a long time, finally she saw the light of the houses.
  • At the end of the class, Meera saw the light and realized that how foolishly, she thought the entire concept.

Phrases in English

However, Phrase is a group of words that stands together and it plays an important role in the sentences as a conceptual unit. Generally, people includes phrase in the sentences to signify the expression with an idiomatic meaning. However, a phrase is the component of the pattern of a sentence.

However, there are eight types of phrase –

  • Noun Phrase (Noun +modifiers) – It was a story as old as time.
  • Gerund Phrase (starts with a gerund) – Getting a promotion is always good.
  • Verb Phrase (verb + modifiers) -You might enjoy a dinner.
  • Appositive Phrase (restates the noun) – My sister, an important person of my life, is my best friend.
  • Infinitive Phrase (starts with an infinitive) – People love to watch comedy movies.
  • Participial Phrase (starts with a past or present participle) – I am planning to watch the movie, having seen the trailer this week.
  • Absolute Phrase (with a subject, but not with an acting verb) – Picnic basket in hand, she went out at morning.
  • Prepositional Phrase (starts with a preposition and acts as an adverb, adjective or noun) – I waited for a while.

However, the differences between idioms and phrases at a glance:
•    Idioms carry fixed meaning, whereas phrases do not have the fixed meaning.
•    Idioms are units and the meaning cannot be understood by separating the words. On the other hand, the meaning of the each word contributes to the meaning of the phrase.
•    An idiom can only be understood when one knows the meaning, whereas a phrase can be easily deduced.