LIVE MASTERCLASS: 7 Strategies For Parents To Help Your Child Earn $100,000 College Scholarships & Ace The New 2024 Digital SAT. Enroll Free!

Cracking the Code of SAT Idioms

Idioms are one of the most puzzling parts of the SAT because they don’t necessarily follow any specific grammar rules. It’s almost impossible to logic your way through a question about idioms without any prior knowledge about the phrase in question. It sounds scary, but with the right practice and preparation, even the trickiest idioms will become easier and easier to remember!

In this guide, we’ll strip away the mystery surrounding SAT idioms and provide you with a comprehensive list of common expressions you might see on the exam.

What Are Idioms?

Idioms are basically expressions that don’t conform to the typical rules of a language. In other words, the figurative meaning of an idiom is usually different from the literal meaning of the words in the expression. You often need additional knowledge, especially cultural context, to understand the full meaning of an idiom.

When you think of idioms, your brain probably supplies conversational phrases like “It’s raining cats and dogs” or “I’m all ears.” However, these aren’t the types of idioms that appear in SAT questions. The SAT will evaluate your knowledge on different types of idioms, which we will explore in this guide.

Types of Idioms on the SAT

So, if the SAT doesn’t test you on figurative idioms, what kinds of idioms can you expect to see on the exam? There are 3 types of idioms that appear on the SAT: prepositional idioms, infinitive idioms, and gerund idioms. Let’s break down each one in more detail.

Prepositional Idioms

Prepositional idioms are expressions that require you to use a certain preposition with a given word. There is no set grammar rule that dictates which prepositions accompany which words. You have to be familiar with the phrase to know the correct preposition that belongs in the context of the sentence.

Here’s an example of a sentence that contains an incorrect prepositional idiom: 

  • “She was amazed at the breathtaking beauty of the sunset over the ocean.”

Did you catch the mistake? “At” is not the right preposition to pair with the word “amazed.” The correct preposition would be “by,” making the phrase “amazed by.” So, the revised version of the sentence should read:

  • “She was amazed by the breathtaking beauty of the sunset over the ocean.”

Even though the original sentence doesn’t violate any specific grammar rules, it does contain an incorrect idiom phrase. You will need to be able to identify similar errors on the SAT.

Infinitive Idioms

Infinitive idioms are expressions that contain a verb followed by the infinitive form of another verb. The infinitive form is the base form of the verb and is always preceded by the word “to” as in the cases of “to sleep,” “to eat,” or “to run.”

Here’s an example of a sentence that contains an incorrect idiom phrase:

  • “They agreed to meeting at the café.”

The mistake here is that “agreed” is one of those verbs that should be followed by an infinitive, not a gerund. So, the correct version of the sentence should read:

  • “They agreed to meet at the café.”

Gerund Idioms

Gerund idioms are somewhat similar to infinitive idioms. They also contain a verb followed by a different form of another verb, but, instead of an infinitive, these verbs will be followed by a gerund. A gerund is a verb that functions as a noun and usually ends in the suffix “-ing.” Examples of gerunds include “sleeping,” “eating,” and “running.”

Here’s an example of a sentence that contains an incorrect idiom phrase:

  • “I enjoy to sleep late on Saturdays.”

The mistake in this sentence is that “enjoy” is a verb that should be followed by a gerund, not an infinitive. So, the correct version of the sentence should read:

  • “I enjoy sleeping late on Saturdays.”

Much like with prepositional idioms, there is no rule to determine which verbs are followed by an infinitive and which are followed by a gerund. You just have to be familiar with the expressions and rely on your sense of what sounds right.

Examples of SAT Idioms

Below, you will find a list of idioms you will be likely to encounter on the SAT. We don’t recommend trying to memorize this list, as that will be a big waste of your time that you could spend studying in other ways. Instead, try to familiarize yourself with the expressions on the list. Chances are, there are a lot of expressions on here that you already know, so you can focus on acquainting yourself with the ones you haven’t seen as often.

A to Z Prepositional Idioms

The following are idioms that require a certain preposition:

  • A fan of
  • A model of
  • A selection of
  • A source of
  • A threat to
  • A wealth of
  • Able to
  • Abstain from
  • Accompanied by
  • Accustomed to
  • Adapt to
  • Adhere to
  • Adjacent to
  • Admit to
  • Advise against
  • Advocate for
  • Agree to
  • Agree with
  • Aim at
  • Amazed by
  • An offer of
  • An understanding of
  • Anxious about
  • Approve of
  • Argue against
  • Argue over
  • Arrive at
  • As opposed to
  • Ask about
  • Ask for
  • Bargain with
  • Base on
  • Belong to
  • Blame for
  • Bring about
  • Capable of
  • Celebrate as
  • Central to
  • Certain of
  • Characteristic of
  • Combination of X and Y
  • Come to
  • Confused by
  • Contribute to
  • Correlate with
  • Count against
  • Cure of
  • Curious about
  • Decide against
  • Defend against
  • Deprive of
  • Devoted to
  • Die of 
  • Different from
  • Draw on
  • Engage in
  • Enter into
  • Excuse from
  • Fall in love
  • Familiar with
  • Famous for
  • Far from
  • Focus on
  • Followed by
  • Go against
  • Go by
  • Hear about
  • Identify with
  • Impose on
  • Impressed by
  • In addition to
  • In contrast to
  • In danger of
  • In keeping with
  • In recognition of
  • In the hope of
  • In X as in Y
  • Inquire into
  • Insist on
  • Interested in
  • Interfere with
  • Known for
  • Last for
  • Laugh at
  • Listen to
  • Look at
  • Look into
  • Made up of
  • Meant for
  • Move on
  • Named for
  • Necessary for
  • Object to
  • Obvious from
  • On the border of
  • Organized by
  • Partial to
  • Pay for
  • Prefer X to Y
  • Prey on
  • Protect from
  • Read into
  • Ready for
  • Rebel against
  • Regard as
  • Reluctant to
  • Rely on
  • Remind of
  • Reply to
  • Responsible for
  • Rule over
  • See as
  • See to
  • Similar to
  • Strive for
  • Struck by
  • Succeed at
  • Succeed in 
  • Suspicious of
  • Sympathize with
  • Take advantage of
  • Take in
  • Talk about
  • Talk over
  • Think about
  • Think over
  • Tolerance for
  • Trust with
  • Try to
  • Unique to
  • View as
  • Wait for
  • Watch for
  • Worry about

A to Z Infinitive Idioms

The following are idioms that contain a verb followed by an infinitive:

  • Agree
  • Attempt
  • Choose
  • Condescend
  • Dare
  • Decide
  • Deserve
  • Encourage
  • Expect
  • Fail
  • Intend
  • Love
  • Mean
  • Neglect
  • Offer
  • Plan
  • Prepare
  • Promise
  • Refuse
  • Scramble
  • Seem
  • Strive
  • Swear
  • Tend
  • Threaten
  • Want

A to Z Gerund Idioms

The following are idioms that contain a verb or a preposition followed by a gerund:

  • Accuse of
  • Admire for
  • After
  • Allow
  • Appreciate
  • Before
  • Capable of
  • Complete
  • Concentrate on
  • Confess to
  • Consider
  • Delay
  • Describe
  • Discourage from
  • Discuss
  • Dislike
  • Effective at
  • Enjoy
  • Escape
  • Finish
  • Forbid
  • Imagine
  • Insist on
  • Permit
  • Plan on
  • Postpone
  • Refrain from
  • Report
  • Resent
  • Resume
  • Stop
  • Tolerate
  • Without

Get Extra SAT Help from Prep Expert

Learn more about SAT idioms and lots of other tricky parts of the exam with help from Prep Expert! Our SAT prep courses are packed full of extraordinary tips and tricks that you can use on the SAT, ACT, and any other test you take in the future.

And, for even more SAT tips you can’t find anywhere else, you can check out perfect scorer and Prep Expert CEO Dr. Shaan Patel’s hand-crafted resources, including his free webinar, 7 Strategies For Parents To Help Your Child Earn $100,000+ College Scholarships & Ace The New 2024 Digital SAT, and his brand new SAT prep book, Prep Expert Digital SAT Playbook: Winning Strategies to Achieve Your Dream Score.

Prep Expert

Written by Prep Expert

More from Prep Expert