Set phrase

From Teflpedia

A set phrase, also known as a fixed phrase, is an unvarying phrase combining two or more words that can often be associated.

It can be very useful for students to learn set phrases as it helps them to group words together - thus "saving" time and energy - when listening to speech. Likewise, set phrases tend to be favourites for multiple choice and cloze tests, together with multi-word verbs and collocations, especially in exams such as the FCE. Critics claim that many students undergoing more formal teaching methods tend to end up speaking in set phrases and clichés, rather than engaging in meaningful and natural communication.

In many cases a set phrase may be the only context in which a word appears, for example the word “aback” in “taken aback”, or "amends" in "make amends".[1]

Examples include:

  • book review
  • box office hit
  • pension plan
  • sick/maternity/unpaid leave
  • washing machine

English uses many set phrases of (mainly) French or Latin origin:

  • á la carte;
  • á la mode;
  • coup d'état;
  • crème de la crème;
  • cul-de-sac;
  • de facto;
  • déjà vu;
  • deus ex machina;
  • prêt-à-porter;
  • vice-versa;

There are also many set phrases using the proposition "by":

  • by car/train/bus, etc.
  • by mail
  • by hand
  • (learn) by heart
  • with time: by the end of the week; by lunchtime; etc.
  • by the sea

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