List of common idiomatic expressions for the GMAT

Last updated: 12 Apr 2009

We cannot give you all of the idiomatic expressions in English, but here are some that consistently appear on GMAT tests.

The ones marked with the asterix (*) often appear on the GMAT - please take note of them, and memorize them. They are very important.

The correct idiomatic expression is given on the LEFT, while a sentence demonstrating how the expression is used can be found on the RIGHT.

Remember to add any other idiomatic expressions to this list if you find them in the GMAT questions you take in practice.

If you have any questions about idiomatic expressions on the GMAT exam that are not covered here then please contact us.

A B C D E F G H I L M N O P R S T U W
A
able + infinitiveTom is able to play the guitar with his toes.
access toSteve never has access to his dad's bank account.
act asTom acts as a scout for GQ here in South America.
agree on + nounWe agreed on the plan.
agree on + gerundWe agreed on going to town.
agree toWe agreed to go away.
aid + person/thingThe magnifying glass aided his search.
allows forYour schedule does not allow for much time.
appeal toHe wants to appeal to my good sense.
*as....asShe is as tired as I am.
ask + infinitiveHe asked to go home.
ask + person + infinitiveHe asked me to go home.
*associate withWe never associate with Steve - he is far too tacky!
*attribute toHis tackiness can be attributed to too many comic books as a child.
B
*base onI think that the movie Star Wars is based on a true story.
begin + infinitiveIt soon began to rain.
boom inThere was a boom in the sale of yellow polka-dot bikinis as soon as Natalia Paris tried one on.
built byThe Avro Arrow was built by proud Canadians.
C
care aboutWho cares about that?
care forI don't care for your tone.
centers on + person/thingThe story centers on the struggle for meaning in a chaotic universe.
choose + infinitiveI do it because I choose to do it.
to be + composed of + thingThe atom is composed of various parts.
consistent withYour story is not consistent with Joel's story.
contend thatJoel contends that you are lying.
*consider + person/thingI consider you a friend.
continue + infinitiveIf you continue to do that we will not be friends.
contrast A with BIf you contrast Bill with Bob, you find....
convert toThe new device will convert matter to energy.
*compare A to BCaliban is compared to a beast in Shakespeare's The Tempest.
(compare to stresses similarities).
*compare A with BCompared with you, I cannot sing well at all.
(compare with stresses differences).
*count on + person/thingI count on you for the correct answers.
to credit withColumbus is credited with discovering the Americas.
give credit forI have to give you credit for working so hard.
D
are in danger of + gerundThe robber was in danger of being captured.
decide + infinitiveWe decided to leave the party early.
decide on + thing/personWe decided on the all-meat pizza.
delighted bySteve was delighted by the new findings.
depend onSteve depends on Joel for financial support.
*different fromCanadians are very different from Americans.
difficult + infinitiveSteve finds it difficult to dance to Latin music.
disclose to + person/organizationJoel decided to disclose to the world the truth about Steve's crazy ideas.
*distinguish between X and YI want to distinguish between London and Paris.
*distinguish X from YIf you distinguish London from Paris....
draw on (take out)Unlike Felix, Steve can draw on funds from Joel's bank account.
draw + thingThe tattoo artist drew a lovely flower on Joel's left bicep.
to be drawn to + thing/person Women are drawn to Steve's bulging muscles.
*dream of/aboutNatalia Paris often dreams about Steve.
dwindle fromMr. Bolton's bank account dwindled from one thousand dollars to less than half that in less than a week.
E
easy toIt's easy to see why Mark is so popular.
elect toMark will be elected to the Congress in 2016.
elect + personWe elected Steve as our office "gopher".
emerges fromThe snail emerges from its shell.
*enable + person + infinitiveMy job enables me to travel.
*encourage + person + infinitiveWe encouraged him to paint.
escape fromSteve wishes to escape from grinding poverty.
to be + essential to + person/thingCoffee is essential to me, especially in the morning.
except for + person/thingEveryone is here except for the teacher.
except for + gerundExcept for being handsome, he wasn't very special.
explain toJuan explained to Steve the difference between salsa and merengue.
expose toSteve is exposed to intense ridicule every day of his life.
F
fail toWe fail to see the humor in these sentences.
flee fromSteve fled from their sharp criticisms.
*forbid toWe forbid you to go.
force + thing/person + infinitiveThis mishap forces me to plan ahead.
focus on + thing/personI want to focus on our mutual problem.
G
get credit for/give credit forI have to give you credit for your good work.
grow fromJoel predicts that PrepForTests will grow from a small company to a major multinational within five years.
grow out ofSteve grew out of his overalls just last year.
H
help + thing/person + infinitiveMusic helps me to think.
I
indicate thatStudies indicate that people with gray hair are smarter than the majority.
indicate to + personSteve's constant worrying over his gray hair indicates to me a serious self-esteem problem.
inherit from Steve inherits his gray hair from his mother's family.
invest inSteve should invest in hair dye.
L
leads toLack of exercise leads to obesity.
likelihood thatIn the likelihood that he comes to town...
localized inThe pain is localized in my left foot.
M
manage toYou've managed to screw this up again, Steve.
*make + thing/person + verb (simple form)Chocolate makes me think of Switzerland.
*mistake + thing/person + forI'm sorry. I mistook you for someone else.

N
*native to Penguins are native to the Antarctic.
*a native ofSteve is a native of Canada.
need toSteve needs to think of some better sentences.
to be + necessary + infinitiveIt is necessary to be creative.
not only...but alsoDerek is not only an old age pensioner but also a DJ.
O
originate inLiberalism, as we know it, originated in 17th century England.
P
*permit + thing/person + infinitiveMoney permits us to live a comfortable life.
prized asStephen is prized as a teacher in Bogota.
prized forStephen is prized for his ability to dance the salsa.
*prohibit from + gerundIn school, we were prohibited from fighting.
promise of + thingThe promise of success drove us to the mountain's peak.
promise toI promise to tell the truth more often - I swear.
published bySabih's first novel 'Love and the GMAT' is published by Penguin.
published inSteve's first novel will be published in March.
R
*range from X to YHis clients range from multinationals to the smallest businesses.
refer toI wish to refer to the latest work by Foucault....
*regard asShe is regarded as an expert.
require + thing/person + infinitiveMy work requires me to travel.
required of + thing/personThe GMAT is required of most students applying for admission to an MBA program.
resemble + thing/personSteve resembles a young Charles Atlas.
results inRough play often results in injuries.
results fromInjuries often result from rough play.
rivalry between X and YThe rivalry between Joel and Enrique Iglesias is legendary.
*the rivals X and YThe rivals Enrique and Joel quarreled often.
S
save forSave for that inconvenience, the trip was a success.
save fromThey saved me from another boring party.
seek + infinitiveHe seeks to save your soul.
seek + thing/personI seek the truth.
seem + infinitiveYou seem to be sleepy today.
sleep withI can sleep with whoever I want!
speak to + personI spoke to my secretary about the report I wanted.
speak with + personI spoke with my colleague about the upcoming report.
T
take advantage ofSteve loves to take advantage of those around him.
teach + person + infinitiveShe taught Jim to dance.
teach + person + thingShe taught Jim the lambada.
tell + person She told him that he was a terrible dancer.
tie toThe rope is tied to the chair.
transmit toWe transmitted the e-mail to him.
U
use + person/thing + infinitiveI use a light to read.
used + infinitiveYears ago, he used to walk every day to work.
to be + used to + gerundHe is used to walking to work.
W
to be + willing + infinitiveFortunately, he was willing to help us.
will try toCindy will try to improve next year.

The bare minimum that you should do is make sure that you are familiar with all those marked with an asterix (*).

You should also make sure you know the idioms used in comparisons.

We have also made this list available as a PDF to make it is easy for you to print out and have to hand when you are practising GMAT questions.

Remember to add any other idiomatic expressions, you did not know, to the list. If you have any questions about idiomatic expressions on the GMAT exam that are not covered here then please contact us.

Next page: Idiomatic expressions tips

Comments (3):

  1. I see you have the Idiom for "grow", but how can I apply that idiom? I mean, I have a sentence here that says it is unidiomatic, but I do not how to apply the correct idiom to it.

    The sentence is:
    Extraordinarily accomplished and honored by many awards, the athlete had fame that only grew.

    And supposedly after the coma there is something wrong with an idiom, but I can not find it.

    Anonymous on 10 Aug 2007 (permalink)
  2. The GMAT is required of most students applying for admission to an MBA program. --- typo? a MBA???

    Save for that inconvenience, the trip was a success.
    hhmmmm... something seems off... no?

    keets2000 on 31 Jan 2009 (permalink)
  3. The Chicago Manual of Style says "Write what you say. MBA is an initialism, pronounced “em be ayy” (or something like that). It begins, then, with a vowel sound: write “an MBA.”

    joel on 2 Feb 2009 (permalink)

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