Cambridge advanced learner's dictionary


Below follows some important definitions:

Expression: according to Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, an expression is a word or group of words used in a particular situation or by particular people. It can be conventional or idiomatic.

Example: 'A can of worms' is an expression which means 'a difficult situation'.

Gambit: according to Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, a gambit is a remark that you make to someone in order to start a conversation.

"I hear you're a friend of Jamie's," was her opening gambit.

Other examples:

Excuse me for interrupting, but..

May I ask a question..?

Sorry, but..

Do you know..?

Gambits are those set phrases we use to start a communication.

Phrasal Verb: according to Michaelis - Dicionário de Phrasal Verbs, the phrasal verb is composed of a verb + a preposition, or in some cases, a verb + two prepositions. They are sometimes also called multi-word verbs. The verb with the preposition forms a new linguistic unit, which has a meaning generally quite different from that of the original verb, devoid of preposition.

Collocation: According to Stella Tagnin, the term collocation was introduced by the British linguist J.R. Firth to designate lexical-syntactic cases of co-occurrence, or words that usually go together. In English, for example, the word shrift practically only occurs with the adjective short in the combination short shrift (tratamento rude).

Idiom: According to Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, idiom is a group of words whose meaning is different from the meanings of the individual words: "let the cat out of the bag" is an idiom meaning to tell a secret by mistake. To "have bitten off more than you can chew" is an idiom that means you have tried to do something which is too difficult for you.

The Simpsons Sitcom

"The Simpsons" of Matt Groening is the cartoon with the largest number of seasons and episodes in the United States, with between 18 and 19 seasons with an average of 400 episodes. Known in over one hundred countries, The Simpsons has won several awards such as Emmy, Peabody, Annie, Genesis and others. Through its grandeur, it earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood. The cartoon has a highly satirical level, and targets the mediocrity of American society, their way of life (especially the middle class) and the ridicule of authority figures, especially when this does not please, and this is the likely reason for the negative reaction of the program with respect to conservative movements.

Consisting of father, Homer Simpson, mother, Marge Simpson, and three children, Bart, Lisa and Maggie, this suburban family portrays with great humor and satire the American family, as in many cities of the United States, living in a fictional place called Springfield. Besides the main characters, secondary and tertiary characters are important in the plot of the cartoon, addressing issues of politics, religion, education, friendship, personal conflicts among many others.

Analysis of 5 episodes of the sitcom The Simpsons

Our intention was to perform the analysis by means of Corpus Linguistics, with the software Wordsmith Tools version 4, observing the conventionality and idiomaticity of English Language in this specific case. We present some examples of idiomacity and conventionality found in our corpora The Simpsons, such as idiomatic expressions, collocations, gambits, phrasal verbs, prepositional verbs and adverbial particles. We used the site to compare with other types of authentic texts to validate the frequency of use.

Our analysis was performed in the following steps:

  1. Introducing the screen of Wordsmith Tools with the topic discussed;
  2. We performed the analysis as the theoretical foundation provided by the teacher in the course;
  3. Through the site Google we confirmed the frequency of use in practice;
  4. We made a rough translation of conventionalities and idiomaticities covered in this analysis.

The incidence of phrasal verbs and prepositional verbs (4 cases in 25 lines of occurrence) shows that it is quite common when we consider the horizons at the left and at the right. We observe that the pattern co-occurs in third-person singular (simple present).

It is also observed that the expression like this or like that happened 6 times in 25 lines analyzed. So, it also demonstrates a high standard of occurrence.

The two cases above show, by the high standard of co-occurrence, the conventionality of the expressions.

Another expression was found, whose meaning is not literal, that is, one arrives at a translation only if we consider its idiomaticity and the ungrammaticality of the structure.

According to Keller & Warner, reduced sentences or gambits have the function to start a conversation and introduce an idea during that conversation.

In the case of see that the reduced expression correspond to a previous structure, that is, it has a similar function to a question-tag, aiming at understanding something that was said before. So the examples are conventional and belongs to the category of gambits, as the context of the speech.

We note that in such cases the translator will find difficulties to understand the meanings of the phrases if he does not consider the idiomaticity that they represent.

The figures of speech used in some expressions cannot be replaced by another word in the same class, because this change can completely alter the meaning of the term.

  1. We note that the verb get will fit in the context, because it has several meanings (polysemous) when joining with another class of words, such as preposition.
  2. The verb get is synonymous with many words, so we must consider the context to understand the meaning that it will adopt within each occasion.
  3. The structures of get + preposition are the prepositional verbs which have a larger number of frequency within this analysis.

Through Google you can see a great use of items that we dealed with. In the corpora The Simpsons and also in several texts on different subjects, we identified that each example cited above is conventional to the English Language.


Sitcoms like The Simpsons are important examples of where we can see various conventional aspects of the language in our learning. Aware of them, it is much easier to perceive them, both in spoken and written language, both in the mother tongue or foreign language. As the learner incorporates the conventional linguistic units that he learns, his communication will have greater fluidity and efficiency.

As the idiomatic expressions, the conventional expressions are not bounded by a formal rule, and so their learning is considered so difficult.



  • CARTER, Ronald, McCARTHY, Michael. Cambridge Grammar of English - A Comprehensive Guide. Cambridge University Press, 2007.
  • COSTA, Cintia Cavalcanti da. Internet and Teen Language. Disal, São Paulo, 2007.
  • HARAGUCHI, Ana Masako. Preposições e partículas adverbiais em inglês. Disal, São Paulo, 2007.
  • LIMA, Denilso de. Por que assim e não assado? O guia definitivo de collocations em inglês. Campus, São Paulo, 2008.
  • MORGAN, Joseph R. Chats e Expressões. Bate papos e expressões. 21 Editora, São Paulo, 2005.
  • NOBLE III, Joe Bailey; IGREJA, José Roberto A. American Idioms! Um guia prático e atual de expressões idiomáticas americanas com os significados e usos. Disal, São Paulo, 2006.
  • SCHOLES, Jack. Slang - Gírias atuais do Inglês. Disal, São Paulo, 2004.
  • TAGNIN, Stella E.O. O jeito que a gente diz - Expressões convencionais e idiomáticas. Disal, São Paulo, 2005.
  • WARNER, Sylvia T.; KELLER, Erich. Conversation Gambits - Real English Conversation Practices. LTP-ELT, 1998.


  • BREZOLIN, Adauri; ALLEGRO, Alzira L.V.; MOBAID, Rosalind. Whatchamacallit? Novo dicionário português-inglês de idiomatismos e coloquialismos.
  • Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Third Edition. Cambridge, 2008.
  • Michaelis Dicionário de Phrasal Verbs. Melhoramentos, São Paulo, 2003.
  • Michaelis Dicionário de Expressões Idiomáticas. Melhoramentos, São Paulo, 2008.
  • Michaelis Dicionário de Gírias. Melhoramentos, São Paulo, 2008.
  • Mo' Urban Dictionary. Andrews McMeel Publishing. Kansas City, 2007.
  • Urban Dictionary. Andrews McMeel Publishing. Kansas City, 2005.
  • Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Oxford do Brasil, 2005.
  • Oxford Collocations Dictionary for students of English. Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • RAGO, Davi Emídio. Dictionary Phrasal Verbs. On Line Editora, São Paulo, 2008.
  • TORRES, Nelson. Dicionário Prático de Expressões Idiomáticas e Phrasal Verbs. Disal, São Paulo, 2003.


  • MAHMOUD, Abdulmoneim. Collocation Errors Made by Arab Learners of English. Asian EFL Journal. August, 2005. Retrieved on February, 27th, 2009, from

Sites and corpora online

  • (BNC)
  • (Cobuild Collins)

VI - Annex (Analysis of Act 1 from Episode 2F11, Season 6)

Bart's Comet script

While assisting Principal Skinner in his amateur astronomy, Bart discovers a comet is heading straight (0) for Springfield.

  • Episode 2F11, Season 6
  • First aired Feb 05, 1995
  • Written by John Swartzwelder
  • Directed by Bob Anderson


  • Red a phrasal verb, collocation or idiomatic expression
  • Blue translation into Portuguese of the items above (with numbers) or of unknown words (with a *)
  • Green unknown expressions, not found

(After the translation, there is the classification of the term)


The episode starts at Springfield Elementary. The children stand outside. Principal Skinner stands in front of then, wearing goggles(*).

  • culos de proteo


And now, to top off(1) our most propane-explosion-free science week ever, our grand finale: the launching of a weather balloon!

The children cheer. Bart's voice can be heard over the top.

Culminar (phrasal verb)


Go, weather balloon! Hurrah for science (2), woo!

Viva a cincia! (idiomatic expression)


(quietly) "Hurrah for science, woo"? I can't say I approve of the "woo" but the "hurrah" was quite heartening(*). (louder) Release the balloon!

  • animador

Groundskeeper Willy releases the balloon as the kids cheer. As the balloon rises, Bart can be seen holding a piece of string(*). It is connected to the balloon, and he pulls it sharply. Two flaps(*) on the balloon unroll, revealing a picture of Skinner's head on one side and his legs on the other. A banner on the balloon reads "Hi, I'm Big Butt(3) Skinner". The kids laugh.

  • corda; aba;

bunda (AmE)(slang, idiomatic expression)



Skinner runs after (4) the balloon.

Corre atrs(prepositional verb)


I don't think I really captured the eyes.


Bart, if you have a failing, it's that you're always demanding perfection. If you have a failing.


Whoever brings down(5) that balloon doesn't have to learn fractions!

The children cheer and start throwing rocks. Many land on Skinner's car, which is beneath the balloon.

Derrubar, trazer abaixo(phrasal verb)


Uh, uh careful, children, that's my car!

Nelson, Jimbo throw several rocks directly at the car.


Ha ha!


(to Willy) Destroy that balloon.



He shoots a gun into the sky several times, as two fighter planes fly past.

Outra palavra para 'yes' (UK)(idiomatic expression)


Tango 14, we're being fired at(7). I'm getting an exact ID on the boogey now.

A screen flashes "Iraqi Fighter Jet".

atacados(phrasal verb)


Iraqis again. Launching sidewinder missile. (A missile is launched and destroys the other plane.) Missed 'em. Launching second sidewinder missile. (The missile destroys his plane, and both pilots parachute.) (to the other pilot) This is what happens when you cut money out(8) of the military and put it into(9) health care!

tirar algo (phrasal verb)

investor (phrasal verb)


It's a good program! Just give it a chance, that's all I ask!

Suddenly, the parachutes rip, and both pilots fall to the ground. They get straight up(10) and start punching each other. Back at the school, Skinner watches the balloon float off(11).

ficam em p (phrasal verb)

distanciar-se, voar cada vez mais loonge (phrasal verb)


Oh, it won't come down(12) for months. Curse(13) the man who invented helium! Curse Pierre-Jules-Cesar Janssen! Now to find out(14) who did this. (He turns to the children.) Bart! Empty your pockets.

descer (phrasal verb)

amaldioado seja (idiomatic expression)

descobrir (phrasal verb)


Empty my pockets, you say? (he takes things out of(15) his pockets) Well, certainly, but I fail to see how(16)

Skinner picks up(17) some paper.

tirar (phrasal verb)

No vejo como (collocation)

pegar (phrasal verb)


Hmm... blueprints of the dummy... notarized photos of you making the dummy... and an alternate wording for the banner, "Buttzilla".


Race you to Utah, Milhouse.



As Bart runs off(18), Skinner grabs him.

fugir (phrasal verb)


I'm going to punish you for this, Bart. And it won't just be a simple caning (*) this time. Because you have impeded science, you must now aid science. Yes... Starting tomorrow, you will assist me with my amateur astronomy, taking down(19) coordinates, carrying equipment, and so forth (20). Four-thirty in the morning.

  • surra

anotando (phrasal verb)

e assim por diante (idiomatic expression)


There's a four-thirty in the morning now?

At four o'clock the next morning, Bart's radio alarm clock wakes him up(21).

acordar (phrasal verb)


Top of the hour, time for the morning news. But of course, there is no news yet, everyone's still asleep in their comfy, comfy(22) beds. Good night, everybody.

Bart groans(*), then gets out(23) of bed and walks to his parents' room.

confortable (infml)(slang, idiomatic expression)

sai (phrasal verb)

  • gemer


Mom, will you make me breakfast?


(yawns)(*) There's a stuffed pepper in the trash from last night. Just rinse it good.

Downstairs, the pets watch TV. A boy's voice can be heard.

  • bocejos)


Come home(24), Lassie. Here, boy! Come on(25), girl. Atta boy!

As Bart comes downstairs, the pets turn the TV off(26) and pretend to be asleep. Bart gets his bike from(27) the garage and leaves the house.

Venha para casa(collocation)

Vamos (idiomatic expression)

desligam (phrasal verb)

apanha(phrasal verb)


Still dark. Better use the generator.

He turns it on(28), but the force against his back wheel slows him down(29) enormously. He cycles past(*) the school and meets Skinner nearby.

liga (phrasal verb)

retarda-o (phrasal verb)

  • pela (com verbos de movimento)


Ah, there's nothing more exciting than science. You get all the fun of... sitting still, being quiet, writing down(30) numbers, paying attention... Science has it all.

anotar (phrasal verb)


Is that the telescope we're going to be looking through(31)?

examiner (phrasal verb)


Yes, but you won't be looking through(31) it. (he chuckles)(*) I forbid it. But you don't need a telescope to enjoy astronomy, Bart. (pointing) There are all the constellations you've heard so much about. There's Orion, the swan, the chariot race...

  • rir baixo


Why don't they look anything like(32) their names?

parecer (phrasal verb)


Well, you do have to use your imagination. Look, there's the three wise men.

He points at a constellation which clearly depicts three men.


Who names these things anyway?


Whoever discovers them. I've been hoping I could find something that would be named after me.


And you've never found anything?


Once. But by the time(33) I got to the phone, my discovery had already been reported by Principal Kahoutek. I got back at(34) him, though... him and that little boy of his. Anyway, that's why I always keep a cellular phone next to me. (Skinner gives the phone to Bart, who puts it in his pocket.) Now, this morning we're going to be mapping a small square of sky that's thought to be empty. It's my hope that it's not.

quando (idiomatic expression)

voltei-me para, dirigi-me (phrasal verb)


So what am I supposed to do exactly?


Just write down(35) my findings as I give them to you. Six hours, nineteen minutes, right ascension, fourteen degrees, twenty-two minutes declination... no sighting.

anotar (phrasal verb)




Six hours, nineteen minutes, right ascension, fourteen degrees, twenty-three minutes declination... no sighting.



The scene fades(*) to later.

  • desvanecer-se, apagar-se


(excitedly) Six hours, nineteen minutes, right ascension, fourteen degrees, fifty-eight minutes declination! sighting. Did you get that one Bart?


Hell no(36).

Claro que no (idiomatic expression)



Skinner spots(*) something.

  • avistar


My stars! Give me the phone, quick!

He dials the phone. At the Observatory, a woman picks up(37) the phone.

pegar (phrasal verb)


(to a man) Check out(38) 6-19-14-59.

The man focuses on Skinner's weather balloon.

averigue, confira (phrasal verb)


No, there's no need to do that... it's already named after me(39). (hangs up(40) the phone) It's pretty close to the ground, maybe I can catch it. (as he is about to leave) Don't touch the telescope, Bart. Even a slight(*) change in elevation can destroy a whole morning's work.

He runs off. Bart looks at the telescope, then spins it wildly.

ele j est com meu nome (collocation)

desliga(phrasal verb)

  • leve, pequena


Woo! All hands on deck, pirates off the port bow! (looks into the telescope) Hey... (presses "redial" on the phone) Hello, observatory? This is Bart Simpson. I see something weird in the sky at 4-12-8 and the last number is 7.

Skinner is on top of the climbing frame. He manages to catch the balloon.


Ah, got you, my rumpy doppelganger. (he floats to the ground) I've got it! I-- (sees Bart on the phone) what are you doing? Give me that phone!


(on phone) Congratulations, Bart. You've just discovered a comet.


Nooooo! (lets go of balloon accidentally) Nooooo!!! (a paper boy rides by, throwing a paper in front of him with the headline "Prez Sez: school is for losers") NOOOOO!!!

Collocations and Idiomatic Expressions: uses in daily communication

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