|acid test||To refer to something as’ the acid test‘ means that it will prove how effective or useful something is.|
The training course was very interesting but the acid test will come when I start my new job.
|(whole) bag of tricks||If you use your (whole) bag of tricks to do something, you try (all) the clever methods you know in order to succeed.|
Let’s call on George and his bag of tricks; maybe he can help us solve the problem.
|on the ball||If you are on the ball, you are aware of what is happening and are able to deal with things quickly and intelligently.|
We need someone who is really on the ball to head the fund-raising campaign.
|to the best of one’s ability||When someone does something to the best of their ability, they do it as well as they possibly can.|
I felt nervous all through the interview, but I replied to the best of my ability.
|kill two birds with one stone||If you kill two birds with the one stone, you succeed in doing two things at the same time.|
By studying on the train on the way home, Claire kills two birds with one stone.
|take the bull by the horns||To take the bull by the horns means that a person decides to act decisively in order to deal with a difficult situation or problem.|
When the argument turned into a fight, the bar owner took the bull by the horns and called the police.
|can’t hold a handle to||If one person can’t hold a candle to another, they are much less competent or do not perform as well as the other.|
John is very intelligent but he can’t hold a candle to his brother Paul when it comes to sports.
|chase your (own) tail||Someone who is chasing their (own) tail is spending a lot of time and energy doing many things but achieving very little.|
He’s been chasing his tail all week collecting data but the report is still not ready.
|like clockwork||To say that someone or something goes, runs or behaves like clockwork means that everything happens exactly as expected.|
Meals are always served on time. In their home everything runs like clockwork.
|cut the ground from under feet||When someone cuts the ground from under another’s feet, they|
do something which weakens their position or spoils theiir plans.
When we launched the new product, we cut the ground from under our competitors’ feet.
|dab hand at something||If you’re a dab hand at something, you’re very good at doing it.|
Why don’t you call Suzy? She’s a dab hand at organizing barbecues.
|deliver the goods||If a person delivers the goods, they do what is expected of them|
or what they have promised to.
Let’s hope that new whiz-kid the boss hired can deliver the goods!
|do nothing by halves||When a person does everything they are engaged in completely and thoroughly, they are said to do nothing by halves.|
When she cooks, it’s a four-course meal – she does nothing by halves!
|do the trick||If something does the trick, it does exactly what is needed, or achieves the desired effect.|
Another coat of paint should do the trick.
|explore all avenues||If you explore all avenues, you try out every possibility in order to obtain a result or find a solution.|
We can’t say it’s impossible until we’ve explored all avenues.
|fast track something||If you decide to fast track something, such as a task or project, you give it high priority so that the objective is reached as quickly as possible.|
In view of the number of homeless, it was decided to fast track the construction of low-cost housing.
|fine-tooth comb||To go over something with a fine-tooth comb means to examine it closely and thoroughly so as not to miss any details.|
The police are examining the scene of the crime with a fine-tooth comb.
|get it down to a fine art||When you learn to do something perfectly, you get it down to a fine art.|
Entertaining her husband’s business associates is not a problem for Jane; she’s got that down to a fine art!
|get one’s act together||If you get your act together, you organize your affairs better than you have done previously and deal with things more efficiently.|
Jack’s plan won’t work unless he gets his act together.
|get off the ground||If you get something off the ground, you put it into operation after having organized it.|
After a lot of hard work, we finally got the campaign off the ground.
|get ducks in a row||If you get your ducks in a row, you get things well organized.|
We need to get our ducks in a row if we want our project to succeed.
|get the show on the road||If you manage to put a plan or idea into action, you get the show on the road.|
OK, we’ve got all we need, so let’s get the show on the road.
|go the extra mile||If you go the extra mile, you do more than what is expected of you.|
You can count on Tom; he’s always willing to go the extra mile.
|go to (great) pains (or lengths)||When trying to achieve something, if you go to great pains or great lengths, you do everything that is possible in order to succeed.|
The two parties went to great lengths to reach an agreement.
|half the battle||This expression refers to a significant part of the effort or work needed to achieve something.|
We’ve already obtained a loan for the project – that’s half the battle!
|think on your feet||A person who thinks on their feet is capable of adjusting rapidly to new developments and making quick decisions,|
Good lawyers need to be able to think on their feet when pleading a case.
|not let grass grow under feet||If someone does not let the grass grow under their feet, they do not delay in getting something done.|
As soon as he received the permit, he started to build. He never lets the grass grow under his feet!
|keep your fingers on the pulse||If you keep a finger on the pulse, you are constantly aware of the most recent events or developments.|
A successful investor keeps his finger on the pulse of international business.
|leave no stone unturned||If you try everything possible in order to achieve or to find something, you leave no stone unturned.|
The management left no stone unturned in their efforts to find a solution to the crisis.
|make light work of||If a person makes light work of something, they do it very easily or with little effort.|
The boys made light work of the cleaning up. The house was spotless in no time.
|mean business||If someone means business, they are serious about what they announce.|
The boss says that in future any missing material will be reported to the police, and he looks as though he means business.
|ahead of the pack||If a person or organization is ahead of the pack, they are better or more successful than their rivals.|
Our products will have to be more innovative if we want to stay ahead of the pack.
|run a taut ship|
(also: a tight ship)
|When a group or organization is run in a well-ordered and disciplined manner, the person in charge runs a taut (or tight) ship.|
The director of the scout camp runs a taut ship.
|sail through something||If you sail through something, for example a test or presentation, you succeed in doing it without difficulty.|
Demonstrating the new product was no problem for Pedro. He sailed through it.
|take matters into your own hands||If you take matters into your hands, you take action yourself rather than waiting for others to intervene.|
When Susan saw the lack of progress, she decided to take matters into her own hands.
|tricks of the trade||This term refers to a clever or expert way of doing things, especially in a job.|
He’s a tough negotiator; he knows all the tricks of the trade.
|tried and tested||If a method has been tried and tested, it can be trusted because it has been used successfully in the past and is known to work.|
There’s no risk involved. The method has been tried and tested.
|walk and chew gum||If you can walk and chew gum (at the same time), you are able to do more than one thing at a time.|
(This expression is often used negatively to indicate incompetence)
Why did you hire that guy? He can’t walk and chew gum at the same time!
|ways and means||To say that there are ways and means of achieving something means that there are several methods which will produce the desired result.|
All ways and means wil be used to provide assistance to the survivors.
|work like a charm||If something such as a product or method works like a charm, it functions very well or has the desired effect.|
I tried cleaning it with vinegar and it worked like a charm!