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I'm not a native English speaker and I have a hard time finding good words sometimes. Sometimes I feel like there should be an idiom for the thing I want to say, but cannot remember it correctly. For example, the case I'm struggling with currently is that I want to express a van door opening abruptly. I think maybe:

  • The van door busted open

or

  • The van door blasted open

But none of those feel right. So I have two questions:

  1. Is there some resource on the Internet (or a computer program) where I could type "door opening abruptly" and get the related idioms if they exist

  2. Any suggestions on the door dilemma above?

Thanks.

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2  
re the door dilemma: picture the action in your head. How is the door opening? Is it being blown open by a grenade? Flung back by a hand? Kicked off in a piece so it clatters to the ground? That will give you the words/idiom you need. –  Lauren Ipsum Aug 8 at 0:56
1  
Don't forget that idioms vary by country and even regions within a country. That said, Google is probably your best bet (e.g. "idiom door open abruptly"). I found 100 American ones here. For the door, I'm not aware of an American idiom (perhaps what Lauren Ipsum was alluding to), so being descriptive is the way to go. –  Jeremy Miller Aug 8 at 3:34
1  
I think this is a situation where reading a lot will benefit you a lot more than any resource. Even if this exists, you'd be copying phrases by rote. –  Neil Fein Sep 17 at 22:57
    
Favourited it. Because I know how it feels. Because I'm an Indian. –  Amin Mohamed Ajani Sep 20 at 21:48

3 Answers 3

I see your problem. This is something that I run into all the time. When you can't figure out the right word. just use a free online dictionary and go through the synonym list for the word you decided doesn't sound right.

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Idiom is defined as: an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements, as in "kick the bucket";; OR -- a construction or expression of one language whose parts correspond to elements in another language but whose total structure or meaning is not matched in the same way in the second language.

Not sure if given your example ("door opening abruptly"), that it falls into the definition of idiom. (Note: might you be looking for some kind of "similar phrase" resource? that would be different.) Doing a quick search for idiom resources provides quite a few results. Here are a couple of links you can check out:

http://www.usingenglish.com/reference/idioms/
http://www.idiomreference.com/

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The van door sprang open.


If I am unsure about the common collocations of a word, I use a concordance.

I write in German, so I use German references and cannot recommend any resources that I have experience with, but from a quick search this appears to be a useful English concordance:

If you search for other concordances, make sure they use sources that have the level of language you strive for. Concordances created from internet content include English written by non-native speakers, slang and other non-standard uses you might want to avoid. Best use a concordance built from newspapers or literature.

Some references list the most common words that appear with your search term, for example http://oxforddictionary.so8848.com/search?word=door. Others output a collocation graph. Again, the usefulness of this depends on the number and quality of the corpus. Here is a collocation graph for "door" from http://collocations.ooz.ie/search?q=door

enter image description here

I also endorse user8727's answer. I do the same.

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