Alex Fink, writing on Conlang, noted that John McWhorter has for a couple decades been collecting sentences of the sort one doesn't learn how to say in second-language classes. Vocabulary words are easy to acquire; nice and obvious (Standard American English) inflectional categories invariably get their dedicated lessons; but there are types of sentences which neither of these naturally cover but which nonetheless are common in day-to-day usage, and prone to idiomaticity. (There are some overlooked lexical areas in there as well.) He has very graciously sent me his list, and I hope I'm not running afoul of him by reproducing it below!
So the question becomes: How do your conlangs handle these? I'd expect, on the grounds that irregularities pile up in the most used parts of language, that naturalistic conlangs should show a similar level of (quasi)idiomaticity to English in, if not these exact sentences, then ones much like them...
hic incipit syllabus McWhorteri:
AGE How old are you? You're getting old. I'm two years older. That's how that generation thought. "ALL" His face was covered with blood I sat on a bench for the whole trip. He ate the whole thing. I'm not going to do it all year. ALL OF A SUDDEN / BAM! I "up and" started crying. Next thing I knew ... All of sudden ... ALLEGIANCE He is on their side? ALMOST / CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR I nearly got run over. I caught my train, but barely. I can't (manage to) do it. The soup was only so-so. He got out of it pretty nicely. Not bad! AND / NOT TO MENTION Plus ... Come to think of it / As a matter of fact On the subject of / while we're on the subject As long as he is here ... APPEARANCE / IMPRESSION This looks like a dog, sounds like a cat, smells like a rat, tastes like chicken, and feels like silk. He is much better-looking. I feel like I'm dancing. It fits You're the same size as I am What's good about him? That's not like you. They suit each other. They look just alike. That feels good. APPROPRIATENESS It's against the rules. APPROXIMATION He likes animals and things like that / stuff / and shit at around six o'clock He's kind of a philosopher. It was overrated to an extent. He's been had, so to speak. I'm open-minded in a way. ASPECT (as important as tense in any language) I finally did it. I just did it. I'm about to do it. He used to drink a lot. He tends to do things like that. BECOMING It makes you hungry. She got fat. It makes you prettier. The view got prettier again. BODILY ISSUES frown sneeze shiver burp smile yawn fart cough hiccup stick your tongue out pee shit It itches. It tickles. Scratch an itch. CAUTION Careful! Watch out where you put that. You have to watch out for him. Keep away from the fence! Make sure everything is safe. COUNTEREXPECTATION He doesn't even know what a dog is. Smart as he is, he has no money. We'll meet you there anyway. I couldn't even walk, much less talk. Surprise! I smoke in secret. So NOW he understands French, huh? DEALING WITH IT He's easy to get along with. I can handle that. No problem. I managed to find him. They took advantage of the opportunity. That would come in handy. I'll make you a deal: ____ DESCRIBING DIRECTION / FORMATION We were in a circle. Your lashes curl upward; mine are straight. The line was diagonal / vertical / horizontal DO WE REALLY HAVE TO DO THIS? Maybe I can get out of it. Let's get it over with. I don't feel like it. Just put up with it. I put it off until tomorrow. How can I get rid of this? DURATION / EXTENT I worked ten hours at a stretch. How far is it from Paris to Nice? In the long run, you don't need it. Over the course of months he found himself alone. Her visits became less and less frequent. I was an accountant for a while. EFFORT I took the trouble to help you. I made sure to find it. I guess I overdid it. EVALUATION OF ACTION It's a good thing you came back. It's good for his image. It's too bad he came back. That's tough luck / too bad / awww... It serves you right. I'm ashamed I never did it. I've got the wrong house. I've got the right house. I went the wrong way. Who can blame him? You're supposed to be afraid. EVALUATION OF STATEMENT / WHAT DO YOU THINK? Not necessarily. Exactly! Maybe he's already there. I thought so. Even so, he's a liar. What do you think? It was great. EXACTLY A car passed just then. You're just who we were waiting for. I had just enough to buy it. What exactly were you looking for? It was the same man. We've had exactly the same education. You've come just at the right time. EXTENT OTHER THAN "VERY" You hate me that much? She saw how fat he had become. We argued over something so unimportant! It could cost as much as 500 francs. He was all wet. There was blood all over the table. She sank in up to her ankles. FAILURE I missed the train. I failed the test. FEIGNING To make up for being late. To make up for being short. He's pretending to sleep. He acted like the boss. He took the credit for the new profits. To make a face Don't look sad. He played a trick on me. He thinks he's a horse. In theory, it's against the rules. Supposedly she got there the night before. I wish I could pass it off as my figure. FIRST AND LAST I want to do it first. I did it on the first try. At first he had a good chance of winning. I want to be last. I'm next. No dog does that first thing in the morning. First of all, let's try this. FITTING INTO I've got to get out of this situation. How did I get into this? That doesn't really fit. HABIT I'm not in the habit of repeating myself. Usually it gets dark earlier. Most cats don't bark. HANDLING IT I'll take care of it. How will you go about it? HIGHLIGHTING WHAT'S IMPORTANT That's the main thing. That's why he ... Who cares whether .... ? That's a whole nother issue. First of all, he likes his job so much. When you get right down to it... Let's see here -- I'll make you a deal. It came down to that. It means a lot to me. You mean he did it? He really did it? HIGH PRAISE / CONDEMNATION You've never seen anything like it. Nothing beats / there's nothing like music. You should have seen the stripes! It just sucked. It was great. ILLNESS Gargle and then lie down. I have a cold. I have a scratchy throat. My stomach hurts. I'm dizzy. INDEFINITE They sent him somewhere. I can't take you along even if you find any. INTENSITY She is much prettier than her mother. I felt no guilt of any kind about myself. JUST / RIGHT They hear you all the way out in the street. She walked all the way around the park. He did it right in the middle of the meeting. You fell right into it. I'm right here. KEEPING YOUR EYE ON IT Watch for ticks. There's one! Keep your eye on it. KID STUFF Tie your shoes. Behave yourself. Don't pick your nose. Blow. KNOWING It came to my mind that they hold hands. I figured out that I found out that I realized that I know about that. MANIPULATING OBJECTS Take it. They took the cigarettes. Take it off of / out of / put it onto / put it into pick that up / put that down Go get it. Let that go. Bring down the glasses from up there. Put the glasses down there. put on clothes take off clothes Pull me out of here. I want to keep it. Want to hold her? MENTAL ISSUES I had a bad dream. He tends to make things up. MERIT That will serve him right. It's up to you. MINIMIZING It's no big deal / Never mind. Don't worry about the money. Good enough. So what? I don't care / give a damn That has nothing to do with it. That was just a guess. MORE / MUCH AND COMPARISON I happened to do it on a larger scale. I want more (of them). I don't like him either. What else do you want me to do? I couldn't see much. He used to drink a lot. He is as tall as me. They are twice as tall as me. MOVEMENT Never go backwards. Always move forward. He came in the opposite direction / the other way. Get out of my way. I went through a red light. He'll get through the bars. He jumped over the counter. Come on, climb up. Now, can you climb down? It came from under the table. It crashed into a tree. He's headed for the hospital. Go after it! I'm glad he bounced onto the toilet seat. Can I drop you off? I'm stuck. Time to get up! She went around the table. Go away. Get out of here. She sank into the mud. Can she ride a bike? Can she drive a car? NUMBER AND LETTER ISSUES Odd or even? Heads or tails? Add up these numbers. Subtract two from five. Multiply five by six. Divide six by two. All the signs began with M. Capital / lower-case OBSTACLES It was dark and she couldn't see. ONLY Only thinking about it feels so good. I'm the only one here. Just try it on. Now all we have to do is wait. I want my own chair. I want to do it by myself. PERFORMANCE You're making progress. You're getting there. How far have you gotten? I got there at last. I'm good at this. I'm still in training. I got the hang of breaking into houses. You're not much of a doctor. He got nowhere... He is behind in his payments. PETS The dog sniffed me wagging his tail. I patted the dog. The dog barked. I walked the dog. A dog is loose. You have to keep him tied up. Sit! Lay down! He bites. Bad dog! He tamed a skunk. PHYSICAL DISCOMFORT BEYOND "MY HEAD HURTS" Don't push me. Don't touch me. Stop pinching me. I'm stuck. It's pressing down upon me. I'm tense. POSITIONS / THINGS YOU REALLY DO WITH YOUR BODY I curled up. He learned to crawl at six months. He got down on all fours. Tap your foot. I pointed at the zippers I had saved. kneel They hold hands. Sit still. Bend over. He stood up and stretched. Lay your hands flat in your lap. I'm standing on my head! Tiptoe over to her. POSSIBILITY He had a chance to win. I wish there were a bucket in there. PRAGMATIC SOFTENERS Don't get me wrong / I'm just saying. Let's take a look. I'll bring it back in a bit. Could you give me a hand? Not to be moralistic, but ... Don't go to any trouble. PREFERENCE I'd rather stay. We might as well go. PROHIBITION No cats! Add, or you'll be late for school. Hurry or else I'll do it. You're going to get yourself into trouble. REALNESS / EXTREMES I actually did fall off. / No, really. Half done for real! It got the point where it led to a search. I took it literally. Why don't you just ask her straight out? There! RELATIONSHIPS We lost touch. We got closer. We had an argument. They dated for a while. RELIEF At least she didn't put it in her hair. I'm glad she didn't. Thank God she didn't. It's a good thing she didn't. REPETITION / RESTORATION He's not back yet. Put it back. Put your things away. He keeps doing it. I can't afford to do it three days in a row. You've paid me back. Bring back my hangers! THE REST / JUST PART We got something else. She never saw him again. I saw the rest of the film. I wanted to see more of the film. Cover your ears for the rest of the day It's part of our lives. The man was part dog. SCARCITY / EXHAUSTION All gone. I'm out of quarters. He used up his small change. They ran out of stamps. We'll have to do without it. I can't afford to do it three days in a row. SEARCHING / SETTLING UP What about him? How about lamb? What happened to my cigarettes? Why don't you try calling him? SIZE My brother is a meter tall. I'm your size. SKEPTICISM That'll be the day I doubt it I can't see him -ing There's no way it ____ SUBSTITUTION How about lamb instead? SURMISE I'll bet you two dollars he's good at math. I wonder what it's like. I have a feeling she's offended. Suppose he keeps on at that rate. That must have been awful. I guess that's the end. THINGS GETTING UGLY I made fun of him. Don't use that tone with me. I had a bad dream and it's your fault. Don't you dare try that. He called me a pig. You're jumping to conclusions. He made a big fuss about leaving. Don't take it out on me. TRANSFORMATION She turns him into a beast. You always exaggerate. He's trying to play it down. Let's paint the wall red. He'll grow out of it. He set it on fire and burned it down. What's the soup made of? VAGUE IMPRESSIONS You can tell. It shows. There's something strange about him. (Mm ...), you'll see. WAYS / FASHIONS/ PERSPECTIVES The way he behaved was embarrassing. Take a look from this angle. WHEN? FOR HOW LONG? Finish it by Friday. He showed up on time. He was late. I worked out a few hours early. Okay, time me. I read for two hours. In an hour he'll be here. A week from Tuesday he'll be here. I want them for as long as I can have them. WHERE IS IT REALLY? Let's race to the top of the tree! It's down on the bottom. It's in the back of the room. It's in the front of the room. It's on the edge. It's somewhere out there. It's right in here. There's a check inside. There's a name on it. In the house next door. In the next room. WHOOPSY! / SURPRISE / THE UNEXPECTED I spilled it. I knocked it over. I tripped over a brick. Oopsy-daisy! He walks with a limp. He turned it inside-out. They were upside-down. It's the other way around. What are you doing washing that? YOU'RE WRONG IF YOU THINK ... Don't think you can just tell her. You won't get away with this. Actually it's different. You'd better tell her. He may have a lot of clothes, but he's still a jerk. It's raining, you know. / After all, it's raining.