Interested in Language
While word thesauruses are common in the Internet, I tried without success to find a site listing synonymous idioms/phrases/proverbs. Does any of the teachers here know of some? Perhaps these types of thesaureses are jealously guarded in recognition of the fact that without them, it is well-nigh impossible to find what is looked for. Conversly, a good phrase thesaurus would be a powerful tool in the hands of a learner allowing him to mimic a near native fluency.
At least in the dictionaries I make use of, "on tenterhooks" is not listed under "nervous", "in two minds" is not listed under "hesitant", "tell me about" under "know". It may take some effort on the part of a native speaker to realize that actually there is a market for phrase thesauruses. If you were to put yourself in the shoes of an English language learner, which steps would you propose to take to lay your hands on "as thick as two planks" without a prior knowledge of the fact that the expression you are after contains the words "thick" or "planks"?
As far as how I would go about finding the phrase "thick as two short planks", I would not expect to be able to find it if I had never heard it before. Idioms are the kind of things that one stumbles across in a foreign language, makes a note of and then gradually learns to use. You don't look them up and then try to wangle them into conversation. You said yourself that a learner would have to have "... memorised them (at least to a degree) prior to standing in need of them". That is precisely what I would expect them to do.
I personally don't equate the use of idioms with being a near-native speaker. There are a whole range of aspects of someone's use of a language which go together to create a near-native level. Idioms are simply one of them.
Still I believe that "normal" thesauruses are useful in providing a learner with a selection of synonymous words, greatly enhancing their written English and rendering it more interesting. I do no see why the same functionality cannot be extended to phrases and idioms. Surely some phrases or idioms can be groupped together because of their having a similar meaning. Having access to such a phrase thesaurus, if a learner knew "hit the iron while it is hot", they would also be able to use in their written English "make hay while it shines", wouldn't they?
Strike while the iron is hot.
Make hay while the sun shines.
They don't mean the same thing.
Would you care to suggest which other expressions or single verbs (if any) could be used interchangeably with "be on tenterhooks" or "be in two minds", just as an example.
Also would it not be beneficial for an English learner if expressions of similar contextual value were grouped together and an access to that group were possible through the knowledge of just one of them?
Example: A learner knows how to reply to a "thank you" in this way, "not at all". Having been able to lay their hands on an expression thesaurus, this learner could expand their range of appropriate responses by learning, "any time", "be my guest", "my pleasure". Or am I barking up the wrong tree?
Last edited by JarekSteliga; 23-Mar-2012 at 21:44.
I asked the same question in a different forum and someone there pointed out this dictionary
On tenterhooks | Define On tenterhooks at Dictionary.com
If it falls short of my expectations, it is also by far - with respect to the topic under discussion - the best thing I have ever come across.
Hi dear JarekSteliga
If you're interested in thesaurus, there's a dictionary which is called Cambridge advanced learner's Dictionary. I have the 3rd edition software dictionary on my laptop. Each word is followed by one thesaurus part. After clicking on that you can get more related words.