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Merriam-Webster defines an idiom as “an expression in the usage of a language that is peculiar to itself either grammatically or in having a meaning that cannot be derived from the conjoined meanings of its elements.” While a phrase like it’s raining cats and dogs is therefore an idiom, that’s not what we’re talking about on the GMAT. Rather, idioms that you’ll encounter on the Sentence Correction portion of the GMAT will be phraseologies that are correct simply because that’s the way they are written or spoken in English. Period.

In that sense, idioms aren’t necessarily difficult for a native English speaker. We recognize them because we’ve read them and heard them forever. For example, what word must always follow the word responsible (e.g. “Tom is responsible ____ showing the new student around campus.”)?

Answer: for…. You’re always responsible for something. Good job if you got that.

You’ve probably noticed that even though the idioms themselves might be “easy,” however, it’s not always easy to detect them on Sentence Corrections because the GMAT likes to hide them. You can check out my video lesson on “Sentence Correction – Part 2” for a useful strategy for isolating idioms and identifying right answers.

Nevertheless, it’s helpful to know and recognize some of the most commonly-tested idioms you’ll see on the GMAT. Some of these you probably won’t have to think twice about. Others, you may need to study. While this isn’t an exhaustive list of every possible idiom you may encounter, I think you’ll find that they’ll pop up time and time again, and will serve you well.

So, without further ado:

a result of a responsibility to a debate over
appeal to approve of / disapprove of as a consequence of X
as … as as … as do / as … as does as good as or better than
as many X as Y ask X to do Y attribute X to Y
averse to based on be afraid of
believe X to be Y between X and Y both X and Y
believe X to be Y centers on choose from / choose to
compare … to (emphasizes similarities) compare…with (emphasizes differences) concerned with
collaborate with concerned about conform to
consider(ed) (with “to be”) consider(ed) (without “to be”) consistent with
contrast X with Y convert to credit X with having
debate over declare X to be Y demonstrate that
depends on whether desirous of determined by
differ from / differ with different from disagree with (person / idea)
differentiate between X and Y differentiate X from Y distinguish X from Y
distinguish between X and Y enamored of / with enough X that Y
fascinated by from X rather than from Y hypothesize that
help … to identical with in contrast to
in association with indifferent toward(s) in regard to / with regard to
intend(ed) to intersection of X and Y in the same way that
in violation of independent from just as X, so (too) Y
less X than Y mistake X for Y neither X nor Y
not X but rather Y not only X but (also) Y not so much X as Y
on the one hand / on the other hand in comparison to in conjunction with
in contrast to in danger of independent from
prefer X to Y prohibit X from Y question whether
regard as replace with responsible for
refer to so X as to be Y so X that Y
the more X the greater Y to result in used to (not “use to”)
view X as Y whether X or Y X regarded as Y