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An investigation into syntactic and semantic features of english“go” idioms with reference to the vietnamese equivalents

MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING
HANOI OPEN UNIVERSITY

M.A. THESIS

AN INVESTIGATION INTO SYNTACTIC AND SEMANTIC
FEATURES OF ENGLISH “GO” IDIOMS WITH REFERENCE
TO THE VIETNAMESE EQUIVALENTS
NGHIÊN CỨU CÁC ĐẶC TRƢNG CÚ PHÁP VÀ NGỮ NGHĨA CỦA CÁC
THÀNH NGỮ TIẾNG ANH CÓ ĐỘNG TỪ ‗GO‘ TRONG SỰ LIÊN HỆ VỚI
TƢƠNG ĐƢƠNG TIẾNG VIỆT

NGUYEN THI THUY LINH

Hanoi, 2016


MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING
HANOI OPEN UNIVERSITY

M.A. THESIS


AN INVESTIGATION INTO SYNTACTIC AND SEMANTIC
FEATURES OF ENGLISH “GO” IDIOMS WITH REFERENCE
TO THE VIETNAMESE EQUIVALENTS
NGHIÊN CỨU CÁC ĐẶC TRƢNG CÚ PHÁP VÀ NGỮ NGHĨA CỦA CÁC
THÀNH NGỮ TIẾNG ANH CÓ ĐỘNG TỪ ‗GO‘ TRONG SỰ LIÊN HỆ VỚI
TƢƠNG ĐƢƠNG TIẾNG VIỆT

NGUYEN THI THUY LINH
Field: English Language
Code: 60220201
Supervisor: Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong, Ph.D

Hanoi, 2016


CERTIFICATE OF ORIGINALITY

I, the undersigned, hereby certify my authority of the study project report
entitled An Investigation into Syntactic and Semantic Features of
English―Go‖ idioms with reference to the Vietnamese Equivalents submitted
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master in English
Language. Except where the reference is indicated, no other person‘s work
has been used without due acknowledgement in the text of the thesis.
Hanoi, 2016

Nguyen Thi Thuy Linh

Approved by
SUPERVISOR

Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong, Ph.D
Date………………..

iii


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This thesis could not have been completed without the help and support
from a number of people.


First of all, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to my
supervisor, Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong, Ph.D, who has patiently supported me
through the stages of the study, and whose stimulating ideas, expertise, and
suggestions have inspired me greatly through my growth as an academic
researcher.
A special word of thanks goes to many other lecturers, without whose
support and encouragement, it would have never been possible for me to have
this thesis accomplished.
Last but not least, I am greatly indebted to my family, my husband and
my children for the sacrifice they have devoted to the fulfillment of this
academic work.

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ABSTRACT
Among the most popular English words being used currently
worldwide, the verb ―GO‖ has been, without a doubt, of great concern by
linguists so far. Therefore, an initial investigation into syntactic and semantic
features of ―GO‖idioms with reference to the Vietnamese equivalents would
provide valuable experience to further studies of linguistics in general and
help Vietnamese students as learners of foreign language in translation.
Numerous examples have been analyzed cautiously by applying qualitative
approach and some other ones so as to achieve the set objectives.

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LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES
Table 1: Syntactic structures of ―GO‖ combinations ................................................16
Table 2: The semantic senses encoded by the verb GO ............................................16
Table 3.The structure of ―GO‖ idioms with GO as a single verb .............................38
Table 4.The structure of ―GO‖ idioms with GO as a phrasal verb ...........................39
Table 5. Idioms with ―GO‖ denoting ―movement‖...................................................41
Table 6. Common categories of noun phrases in ―GO‖ idioms ................................67
Table 7. Frequency of ―GO‖ idioms denoting different meanings ...........................73
Chart 1: The second component of ―GO‖ idioms with GO as a single verb ............38
Chart 2: Phrasal verb "GO" + components ...............................................................39
Chart 3: Common categories of noun phrases in ―GO‖ idioms ...............................67
Chart 4: Frequency of ―GO‖ idioms denoting different meanings ...........................73

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
CERTIFICATE OF ORIGINALITY ........................................................................ iii
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ...................................................................................... iv
ABSTRACT ................................................................................................................v
LIST OF TABLES .................................................................................................... vi
Chapter 1 .....................................................................................................................1
INTRODUCTION .......................................................................................................1
1.1.

Rationale for the research ..............................................................................1

1.2. Aims of the research .........................................................................................2
1.3. Objectives of the research .................................................................................2
1.4. Scope of the research ........................................................................................3
1.5. Significance of the research ..............................................................................4
1.6. Structural organization of the thesis .................................................................5
Chapter 2 .....................................................................................................................7
LITERATURE REVIEW............................................................................................7
2.1. Review of previous studies ...............................................................................7
2.2. Review of theoretical background ....................................................................8
2.2.1. Definition of idioms ...................................................................................8
2.2.2. Aspects of idioms. ......................................................................................9
2.2.3. Features of idioms ....................................................................................10
2.2.4. Source of idioms .......................................................................................11
2.2.5. Types of idioms ........................................................................................11
2.2.6. Verbal idioms ...........................................................................................13
2.2.7. Collocations and idioms ...........................................................................14
2.2.8. Application of idioms ...............................................................................15
2.2.9. Overview of the verb ―GO‖......................................................................15
2.3.

Summary ......................................................................................................17

Chapter 3 ...................................................................................................................18
RESEARCH METHODOLOGY ..............................................................................18
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3.1. Research orientations ......................................................................................18
3.1.1. Research questions ...................................................................................18
3.1.2. Research setting ........................................................................................18
3.1.3. Research approaches ................................................................................19
3.1.4. Criteria for intended data collection and data analysis ............................19
3.2. Research methods ...........................................................................................20
3.2.1. Major methods and supporting methods ..................................................20
3.2.2. Data collection techniques........................................................................21
3.2.3. Data analysis techniques ..........................................................................21
3.3. Summary .........................................................................................................22
Chapter 4 ...................................................................................................................23
Findings and Discussion ...........................................................................................23
4.1. Syntactic features of ―GO‖ idioms .................................................................23
4.1.1.

Group 1: Single verb (GO) +noun phrase.............................................23

4.1.3.

Group 3: Single verb (GO) + adjective.................................................26

4.1.4.

Group 4: Single verb (GO) + adverb ....................................................28

4.1.5.

Group 5: Single verb (GO) + preposition.............................................29

4.1.6.

Group 6: Phrasal verb + noun phrase ...................................................30

4.1.7.

Group 7: Gerund + noun phrases ..........................................................34

4.1.8.

Group 8: Phrasal verb + preposition + pronoun / noun phrase .............35

4.1.9.

Group 9: Comparison............................................................................36

4.1.10. Group 10: Others ..................................................................................39
4.2.

Semantic features of ―GO‖ idioms ..............................................................40

4.2.1. Go + NP indicating fruit ...........................................................................42
4.2.2. Go + NP indicating a work of art .............................................................44
4.2.3. Go + NP indicating a kind of weapon ......................................................45
4.2.4. Go + NP indicating distance .....................................................................46
4.2.5. Go + NP indicating a kind of animals. .....................................................47
4.2.6. Go + NP indicating kinds of material .....................................................49
4.2.7. Go + NP indicating an object ...................................................................51

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4.2.8. Go + NP indicating a part of the house ....................................................56
4.2.9. Go + NP indicating sport equipment. .......................................................58
4.2.10. Go + NP indicating body parts ...............................................................60
4.2.11. Go + NP indicating living things and natural phenomena. ....................62
4. 3. Summary ........................................................................................................75
Chapter 5 ...................................................................................................................77
CONCLUSION .........................................................................................................77
5.1. Recapitulation .................................................................................................77
5.2. Concluding remarks ........................................................................................77
5.3. Implications ....................................................................................................78
5.3.1. Implication for learning ―GO‖ idioms .....................................................78
5.2.2. Implication for teaching ―GO‖ idioms .....................................................78
5.2.3. Implication for translating ―GO‖ idioms ..................................................79
5.3. Limitations of the study ..................................................................................80
5.4. Suggestions for further studies .......................................................................80
REFERENCES ..........................................................................................................82
APPENDIX I LIST OF GO IDIOMS AND THEIR MEANINGS .........................85
APPENDIX II LIST OF GO IDIOMS AND THE VIETNAMESE EQUIVALENTS
...................................................................................................................................99
APPENDIX III ........................................................................................................105
SOURCES OF EXAMPLES USED IN THE STUDY ...........................................105

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Chapter 1
INTRODUCTION
1.1.

Rationale for the research
It is obviously undeniable that language is an indispensable part in the

life of humanity. Language is an effective and irreplaceable tool of expressing
mind, thought, saying, etc. English is a very rich language and when people
want to be proficient in English, all the linguistic phenomena have to be
covered.
In fact, we are daily dealing with different kinds of figurative language,
like idiomatic expressions, metonymies and metaphors. Some of them are
conventional while some of them may be created as we speak (Caillies &
Declercq, 2011:207). Accordingly, the comprehension of the former, usually
idiomatic expressions, depends on retrieval of a figurative meaning stored in
memory, whereas the comprehension of the latter, usually metaphors, depends
on an online sense creation process (Caillies & Declercq, 2011: 219).
According to Glucksberg (2001), ―metaphors and idioms reflect both
universal and culture-specific ways of thinking‖ as well as being ―the traps in
the language‖. Those who learn English desires to master English as the
native speakers. However, we usually face the difficulties that prevent us
from gaining natural conversations. One of the reasons for these problems lies
in the way we perceive and use idioms. The structural and semantic problems
posed by idioms puzzle us because most idioms do not mean what they
appear to mean. The sense of the whole idiom is usually different from the
meanings of the combination of its component parts. The study is carried out
with the hope of minimizing the problems of understanding idioms.
It can be said that studying idioms is not new, but it has never been old.

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There exist various approaches in studying idioms, not only in Vietnam, but
also in the world. Here, I would merely like to choose a verb in English and
make an investigation into idioms using it - the verb ―GO‖.
Through the history of the development of English there has been a list
of around 1,000 most commonly used words of all parts of speech (that can be
used on a daily basis for learners of English to comprehend.) In addition,
Oxford Dictionary and some other academic sources have also managed to
conduct a study of 100 most used English words out of a billion words found
worldwide. And GO is one of the most common verbs in English, which is
able to capture special attention of all-time linguists.
For the reasons presented above, I made a decision to conduct my
thesis titled “AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE SYNTACTIC AND
SEMANTIC

FEATURES

OF

ENGLISH

“GO”

IDIOMS

WITH

REFERENCE TO THE VIETNAMESE EQUIVALENTS”.
By studying cautiously into a minor aspect of linguistics, the author
confidently hopes that this study would effectively provide experience to
further studies of linguistics in general as well as English idioms with the verb
―GO‖ and those of other verbs in particular. What is more, analysis of their
equivalents in Vietnamese would also be drawn in order to comprehend and
make use of them more effectively.
1.2. Aims of the research
This research is conducted to achieve the targets of finding out
syntactic and semantic features of ―GO‖ idioms with reference to the
Vietnamese equivalents as well as suggesting some possible implications for
Vietnamese students who study English as a foreign language.
1.3. Objectives of the research
To achieve the above-mentioned aims, the following objectives can be
put forwards:
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(i) Pointing out syntactic features of ―GO‖ idioms with reference to the
Vietnamese equivalents.
(ii) Figuring out semantic features of ―GO‖idioms with reference to the
Vietnamese equivalents.
(iii) Suggesting possible implications for Vietnamese students in
learning, teaching and translating ―GO‖ idioms.
1.4. Scope of the research
(i) Academic scope
The study focuses on studying syntactic and semantic features of ―GO‖
idioms and the equivalents in Vietnamese so as to make crucial contributions
to the field of linguistics and improve the efficiency of teaching English
idioms with the verb ―GO‖ for Vietnamese students who learn English as a
foreign language, especially for those specialize in the field of translation.
The findings hopefully would bring out various suggestions for teachers and
researchers to conduct further studies related to English idioms with the verb
―GO‖ and those of other verbs as well as advance teaching effectiveness of
idioms. Such approach definitely helps students efficiently expand their
lexical items as students are exposed to a new look at how words are
frequently used in reality, not purely the definitions of words without notes
for practical ways of using them. It is better if English idioms with more verbs
are analyzed and totalized, contributing considerably to English learning and
teaching in Vietnam.
(ii) Social scope
The applications of this work will, hopefully, contribute greatly to out
appropriate methods

of

teaching English idioms in Vietnam and make

changes to how Vietnamese learners of English view English idioms not only
in their study at school as a compulsory subject but also in their daily use of
English as a foreign language. As mentioned previously, regarding English
3


lexical terms, students often learn English words‘ definitions separately with
their actual uses. In fact, teachers and students often make their own examples
without collecting and analyzing examples of idioms indicating how native
speakers combine some words with each other while others are not used
frequently. Consequently, they might find English expressions rather difficult
and complicated in some cases. This study, therefore, suggests that they
should learn about English idioms of different types of parts of speech and
discover the rules to make use of them.
1.5. Significance of the research
(i) Theoretical significance
It is true that lexical aspect has been given little attention so far and
teachers instead only pay attention to grammar or other aspects. Thus,
students are often not provided with full understandings of English idioms of
some certain words and only learn their definitions. A frequent difficulty is
that students might find some common expressions complicated because they
have no idea while a combination of the word with another one is not
approved. In order to overcome such a trouble, the research is carried out in
order to offer needed knowledge as to syntactic and semantic features of
―GO‖ idioms. By providing an innovative approach to learning English
lexical terms, the author expects to change how students learn English words
as well as how teachers change their traditional methods of teaching
vocabulary. If words are separated from their specific contexts and are
exposed to students only through their meanings in dictionaries, it is not easy
for these 2nd language users to obtain the real meanings of the words in
different cases.
(ii) Practical significance
The author hopes that this study‘s findings and conclusions would make
great contributions to raising awareness of the importance of studying English
4


idioms in general and ―GO‖ idioms specifically with reference to the
Vietnamese equivalents. First of all, normally, when Vietnamese students
study idioms, they might learn them by heart; however, the main problem will
lie in applications of these idioms in appropriate contexts. Therefore, learning
about idioms is the beginning of the whole process. The main step is to
understand comprehensively how they are applied in diverse situations and
students can only do this by analyzing examples made by native speakers.
Secondly, regarding translation, students will have problems with
understanding the meanings if they learn the words‘ definitions separately
with its idioms and meanings. This study‘s implication is to deal with these
issues in the hope that it will help Vietnamese students overcome their
troubles.
1.6. Structural organization of the thesis
The study will consist of the 5 following parts.
Chapter 1 – Introduction: gives a brief overview of the research with
the rationale for choosing the topic of the research, aims, objectives, scope of
the research, and the structural organization of the thesis.
Chapter 2 – Literature Review: reviews the previous studies related to
the research topic, a variety of pragmatic concepts most relevant to the
research topic such as idiom, lexical verbs, etc., and the framework, based on
which the research is conducted.
Chapter 3 – Methodology: presents the research-governing orientations
and the research methods used in implementing and developing the study.
This chapter focuses on research questions, research setting, approaches to
investigate the research problem, the principles, techniques to collect and
analyze data, etc.
Chapter 4 – Findings and Discussion: shows the findings which address
the research questions through the data gathered and analyzed. This section
5


also discusses the results obtained in relation to the research questions and
some previous studies. The research implications for teaching and learning
English as a foreign language can be found as the last part of this chapter.
Chapter 5 – Conclusion: summarizes major findings of the study, points
out the limitations and proposes some suggestions for further research.

6


Chapter 2
LITERATURE REVIEW
This chapter will provide an overview of the theoretical background as
well as relevant knowledge and summaries of previous research‘s findings
and conclusions associated with the theme of the investigation. In other
words, the review is to explain several related terms and definitions as to
idioms and verbs. These later would further highlight the features conducted
of the study as well as suggest an array of possible implications for teaching
English idioms with the verb ―GO‖ to students in Vietnam.
2.1. Review of previous studies
There have been a number of writers making investigations into idioms
with different points of view and objectives. In English, some famous ones
were collected and written by researchers such as ―The American Heritage
Dictionary of Idioms‖ by Ammer, C. In ―NTC‘s American Idioms
Dictionary‖, Spears, R. and Kirkpatrick, B. focus on the meaning, usage
and appropriate contexts for each idiomatic phrase. Nguyễn Lực, Lƣơng Văn
Đang are two authors who made a significant contribution in the field of
Vietnamese idioms. They wrote ―Thành ngữ Tiếng Việt‖ which is a collection
of Vietnamese idioms arranged in alphabetical order with clear explanations
and examples extracted from Vietnamese novels, newspapers and magazines.
Moreover, Nguyễn Trần Trụ who wrote ―Thành ngữ tục ngữ lược
giải‖ explains meanings of the most common idioms and proverbs in such
simple, clear ways that learners can use this book for consulting and reference
purposes.
In addition, ―Từ điển thành ngữ tục ngữ Việt Nam‖ by Đặng Hồng
Chƣơng, ―1575 Thành ngữ - Tục ngữ cần bàn thêm‖ by Lê Gia and a number
of contrastive studies on the various aspects of idioms have been carried out
in Danang University by Vietnamese researchers.
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Some studies of Vietnamese researchers that the author has found so far
tend to make comparisons between ways of using some popular structures
with the verbs they chose. They also listed grammatical structures and
provided a wide range of examples and Vietnamese translated versions in
order to help other linguists to obtain the examples‘ meanings more broadly.
Thanks to this, when these authors presented their conclusions, their findings
can be viewed on a more comprehensive scale.
Relating to the verb ―GO‖, Hà Thị Hồng (2010) conducted ―A
Contrastive Sudy of the verb Go in English and Đi in Vietnamese: A
Perspective of Embodiment in Cognitive Linguistics.‖The study provided a
critical analysis of theoretical approaches of cognition of explaining language
phenomena. Through the analysis of the verb ―GO‖ in English and the verb
ĐI in Vietnamese, the researcher attempted to present another viewpoint of
linguistic exploration, i.e. to interpret the use of language from the
understanding of our cognition.
Recognizing the potential of the verb ―GO‖ and being interested in
idioms as well, the author decided to do a research in ―GO‖ idioms. That is
the reason why the study with the title ―An Investigation into Syntactic and
Semantic Features of English “GO” idioms with Reference to the
Vietnamese Equivalents” is conducted.
2.2. Review of theoretical background
2.2.1. Definition of idioms
Language grows and changes as well as living things. Present-day
English is different from the older one because nowadays it is quite popular to
use idioms. (Mc Mordie and Seidl, 1978). There are many different
definitions of an idiom. Various authors define an idiom in different ways. "In
standard spoken and written English today idiom is an established, universal

8


and essential element that, used with care, ornaments and enriches the
language." (Collins, 1958:11). Definition of V.H. Collins originates from the
year 1958 and emphasizes mainly that idioms enrich language, both the
written and the spoken form. Seidl and McMordie (1978: 1) claim that:
"Idioms are not a separate part of the language which one can choose either
to use or to omit, but they form an essential part of the general vocabulary of
English." They put an accent on the incorporation of idioms into a language.
Idioms should not be considered as a separate part of language. It is not
necessary to be an expert in foreign languages in order to understand that the
vocabulary of a language grows together with new development in
knowledge. (McMordie and Seidl, 1978)
"Knowing a language includes knowing morphemes, simple words,
compound words, and their meanings." (Fromkin et al. 2003: 205). This
phrase means that the knowledge of language is based on knowing fixed
phrases that consist of more than one word. Idioms can be included in word
formations because they are created by giving two or more words together.
The words acquire new meaning when given together and it is important to
learn idioms as a whole.
2.2.2. Aspects of idioms.
Language is enriched by creating new words. Idioms represent one way
in which new expressions can be created.
Idioms are not only colloquial expressions, they also appear in formal
style, slang, poetry, in language of Shakespeare and in the Bible. According to
V.H. Collins (1958), there is no clear difference between slang and
colloquialisms. Many words or phrases that were in the past used by
uneducated people had been regarded as slang but later they became
colloquialisms that are used by educated people and nowadays they can
become idioms. Seidl and McMordie also claim that some words that were
9


considered to be slang in the past are nowadays more acceptable and they can
be considered as colloquial or informal. McMordie and Seidl (1978) say that:
"an idiom is a number of words which, taken together, mean something
different from the individual words of the idiom when they stand alone."
Similar definitions were provided by Huddleston and Pullum (2002) who
consider idioms as: "an expression larger than a word whose meaning cannot
be systematically derived from meanings that the parts have when used
independently of each other." Bolinger and Sears (1981) define an idiom as:
"groups of words with set meanings that cannot be calculated by adding up
the separate meanings of the parts‖. Based on this, it can be deduced that an
idiom used as a whole means something different than its parts separately.
Idioms in which the word-order is stable are called fixed idioms. Some fixed
idioms are fixed only in certain parts. For example, the idiom to come to a
bad/nasty/sticky/no good/untimely end is not fixed in all parts because
different adjectives can be used in its structure. (McMordie and Seidl, 1978)
All the above mentioned definitions of idioms are similar because they
emphasize that idioms consist of more than one word and every word gets a
special meaning when it is used in an idiom and thus it is difficult to
understand idioms.
2.2.3. Features of idioms
The main features of idioms are based on the fact that they are
unchangeable and tight. When idioms are unchangeable, it is impossible to
change subject, verb or object. On the other hand, there are idioms which can
allow a limited manipulation. This manipulation is often connected with time
or person. Transformation of idioms is also possible. In these cases, a passive
of the original idiom can be made. Bolinger and Sears (1981) mention an
example: ―He found fault with them that can be made passive- Fault was
found with them‖. Degree of tightness is likewise connected with idioms.
10


"The three idioms to take fright, to take courage, and to take heart stand in
order of increasing tightness." There is a question whether everything that is
said can be in some way idiomatic because idioms can vary widely in
tightness. Some linguists do not like this because they prefer to analyze things
down to the smallest elements. Some idioms have special features which are
connected with the ways in which the words are put together. These ways are
usually odd, illogical or even grammatically incorrect. On the other hand,
there are also idioms that are completely regular and logical in their
vocabulary and grammar. Idioms ought to be learnt in a correct word-order
because in some cases this word-order cannot be changed. The idiom has
been fixed by a long usage. (McMordie and Seidl, 1978)
2.2.4. Source of idioms
Idioms come from different sources. When the source of an idiom is
known, it is much easier to understand its meaning. According to Seidl and
McMordie (1978), many idioms are connected with home life (e.g. to make a
clean sweep of something), food and cooking (e.g. to be in the soup),
agricultural life (e.g. to go to seed), nautical and military life (e.g. to be in
deep waters, to fight a pitched battle), parts of body, animals and colors.
Another source of idioms is the Bible. "There are many phrases in the King
James Bible which have entered the general idiom of the language
(sometimes with minor changes in grammar or emphasis)." (Crystal 2003).
Crystal mentioned in his book these examples: my brother‗s keeper, a good
old age, to spy out the land, the apple of his eye, go from strength to strength,
the salt of the earth, etc.
2.2.5. Types of idioms
Idioms can be either short or long, they can have different forms or
structures. Their structures can be irregular or even grammatically incorrect.
Seidl and McMordie (1978) distinguish three main types of idioms:
11


1) Idioms that are irregular or illogical in their grammatical structure.
For example, in the idiom I am good friends with him, the form is irregular
but the meaning is clear.
2) Idioms whose form is irregular but the meaning is not clear, e.g. to
have a bee in one‗s bonnet.
3) Idioms whose forms and meanings are both irregular, e.g. to be at large.
It has been found out by Seidl and McMordie (1978) that most idioms belong
to the group of idioms whose form is irregular and the meaning is not clear.
There is also a difference among idioms in this group because some of them
are clearer than others. Meaning of idioms that are easy to understand can be
guessed from the context. On the contrary, it is very difficult to size up the
meaning of idioms that have nothing in common with the original meaning of
the individual words. Now it is clear that the meaning of idioms is the most
important but different authors who delay with idioms have different
opinions. V.H. Collins (1958) claims that meaning of the idioms is not the
main problem. Its origin can also cause inconvenience because there is a
difference between using idioms in the past and nowadays.
Seidl and McMordie (1978) divided idioms into these groups:
• Idioms combining adjectives and nouns
• Idioms with verbs and nouns
• Idioms with prepositions and adverbs
• Adjectives with prepositions
• Verbs with prepositions and adverbial particles
• Idioms with the verb TO BE
• Idioms with common verbs
• Idioms based on special situations and categories
• Idioms of comparison

12


2.2.6. Verbal idioms
Idioms can be centered around certain common verbs such as break,
come, do, fall, give, go, make, pull, set, turn, etc.
Constructions formed by verbs with prepositions or particles or other
parts of speech such as noun, adjective, adverb represent another problem for
second-language learners. They usually try to avoid these constructions if
possible but it is not a solution. Every-day spoken English is full of such
constructions and it is necessary to be able to use them. Sometimes, they are
highly idiomatic thus they have a special meaning, e.g. to take someone off
means 'to take to another place'. Verbs in combination with prepositions do
not have to be idiomatic but it should be distinguished among constructions
that are more idiomatic than the others. The main problem is not to be able to
recognize the meanings of the combinations but to use these combinations
correctly in sentences.
According to Seidl and McMordie (1978), there are six basic verb
patterns out of which three are for transitive verbs, i.e. "verbs that select an
obligatory noun-phrase complement" (Fromkin et al.,2003), and other three
for the intransitive ones, i.e. "verbs that must not have a direct object
complement" (Fromkin et al., 2003).
According to Seidl and McMordie (1978: 115), the six patterns are:
1) Intransitive + Particle (E.g. slow down)
2) Intransitive + Preposition (E.g. go off someone/something)
3) Intransitive + Particle + Preposition (E.g. come up against
someone/something)
4) Transitive + Particle (E.g. pack something in, pack in something)
5) Transitive + Preposition (E.g. put someone off something)
6) Transitive + Particle + Preposition (E.g. put someone up to something)

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Verbal idioms can enter different idiomatic constructions (Greenbaum
et al., 1985)
1) Non-idiomatic constructions
In these constructions the meaning of components is not constant in possible
substitutions, e.g. the verb ―bring‖ can be used with more than one
component such as ―in‖, ―out‖, etc.
2) Semi-idiomatic constructions
Semi-idiomatic constructions are changeable but this changeability is limited.
Verb keeps its meaning while the meaning of its particle is less easy to
separate.
3) Highly idiomatic constructions
There is no possibility of contrastive substitution, e.g. bring up, come by.
2.2.7. Collocations and idioms
Collocations and idioms have common features and that is a reason
why they are very difficult to differentiate. Many linguists approached the
problems of collocations and idioms in their work and for illustration the
definitions by Bolinger and Sears and McCarthy and Sampson are provided
below. Bolinger and Sears (1981: 55) say that: "the range and variety of
collocations is enormous." And they also add that words are not only
elements that have a more or less fixed correlation with meaning, it is very
significant to make a difference between idioms and collocations.
In their opinion, if a part of a collocation is known, its meaning can be
deduced and thus a collocation is not quite an idiom but it is in some way
specialized. On the other hand, McCarthy and Sampson (2005) claim that
when learning collocations, the attention should be paid to how words are
used rather than to individual words by themselves.
"Collocational knowledge indicates which words co-occur frequently with
other words and how they combine within the sentence." (McCarthy and
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Sampson, 2005)
Idioms as well as collocations are very difficult to learn for secondlanguage learners but idioms are not as suitable to translate as collocations are.
2.2.8. Application of idioms
Idioms are used both in written and spoken English, it is almost
impossible to avoid using them. Seidl and McMordie (1978) claim that native
speakers use idioms in daily speeches and they do not realize that these
idioms are grammatically incorrect. There is a difference among the
perception of idioms by native speakers and second language learners. Second
language learners realize that idioms are grammatically incorrect and that is
why it is quite difficult for them to learn them but the hard study of them can
help very much. Seidl and McMordie (1978) also add that application of
idioms can sometimes cause a big problem for the users. The English learners
usually do not know in which situation they should use idioms because
idioms can be used both in formal and informal situations. The words ought to
be chosen according to the situation in which a certain person is. When
speaking to a friend, it is preferred to use informal or slang expressions. In a
formal situation, words must be chosen much more carefully. Formal
expressions can be found in the written form of language rather than in the
spoken one. Informal expressions are thus used in day-to-day speeches, e.g.
among friends. The connection between the origin and the current use can be
another problem while using idioms. "It has often been necessary, in dealing
with an idiom of which the current meaning is clear and that is generally used
correctly, to state that the connection between the origin and the meaning in
unknown." (Collins, 1958).
2.2.9. Overview of the verb “GO”
―GO‖ is a lexical (or main) verb. It can be viewed as a dynamic and an
intransitive verb sharing the typical syntactic functions of a verb.
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Table 1: Syntactic structures of “GO” combinations
Structures

Examples

(1) V (Go) + adverb

Go right/ go wrong

(2) V (Go) + PP

Go out

(3) Go + infinitive / gerund

Go shopping

(4) Go + preposition

Go in there

(5) Go + adjective

Go fast/ Go home

Table 2: The semantic senses encoded by the verb “GO”
Meanings

Examples

(1)Movement (move / travel from one He‘s gone to school; I‘m going in the
location to another)

car

(2) Belong / fit (person or entity Does that piece go there?; The book
belongs in a specific location, fits in a goes on the shelf.
specific location)
(3) Disappearance (person or entity is Where‘s that book gone? (when
no longer present/ missing without looking for it)
implication of prior movement)
(4) Future intent (infinitival)

I‘m going to dance; She goes to get
him from school.

(5) Encourage

Go on, you can do it.

(6) Sound (sound, noise or speech)

It went bang; Dogs go woof.

(7) Happening

What‘s going on? What went on here ?

(8) Give up possession

Let go.

(9) Specified motion (at specific Go like this with your foot; The
location)

tape‘s going round and round.

(10) State / outcome

It‘s gone wrong; It‘s going cold.

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