|ace a test||If you obtain a very high score or an excellent result, you ace a test or exam.|
Maria’s parents said she could go to the party if she aced her English test.
|hold all the aces||If you have an ace up your sleeve, you have something in reserve with which you can gain an advantage and obtain success.|
I’m well prepared for the negotiations. I’ve got an ace up my sleeve.
|also-ran||This term refers to an unsuccessful competitor whose performance is so much poorer than the winner’s that it appears insignificant.|
He entered the contest hoping that he wouldn’t end up as an ‘also-ran’.
|back to square one||To say that someone is back to square one means that they have not succeeded in what they were trying to do, so they have to start again.|
When the plans were refused, it was ‘back to square one’ for the architect.
|in the bag||People use this expression when it becomes obvious that success or victory is going to be achieved.|
An hour before the polling stations closed, victory seemed in the bag for the Conservative candidate.
|bear fruit||If something bears fruit, it produces positive or successful results.|
After years of hard work, his research finally began to bear fruit.
|(up a) blind alley||If you go up a blind alley, you follow an ineffective course of action which leads nowhere or produces no results.|
The suspect’s ‘revelations’ lead the police up a blind alley.
|blockbuster||Something that is outstanding, impressive or particularly successful, such as a film or a book ,is called a blockbuster.|
The TV series was a blockbuster.
|blow up in face||When working on a plan or project, if it suddenly goes wrong or fails, it blows up in your face.|
The trip was difficult to organize, but it blew up in his face when the airline company went on strike.
|bottom fell out||When something causes a plan, project or venture to collapse or fail, the bottom falls out of it.|
When heavy rain was announced, the bottom fell out of their plans for a beach party.
|bring the house down||If you bring the house down, you give a very successful performance.|
If he sings like that on Saturday, he’ll bring the house down.
|cake not worth the candle||To say that the cake is not worth the candle means that the advantages to be gained from doing something are not worth the effort involved.|
He recorded an album but sold very few copies; the cake wasn’t worth the candle.
|chance one’s arm||If you chance your arm, you decide to do something even though there is little hope of success.|
Tony knew there was little hope of getting into Harvard but he decided to chance his arm anyway.
|had one’s chips||To say that someone has had their chips means that they have completely failed in what they set out to achieve.|
After the second round, it looked as though Watson had had his chips.
|close but no cigar||This expression refers to an effort to do something which was a good attempt but not quite good enough to succeed.|
The ball touched the goal post – close but no cigar!
|come to grief||If someone or something comes to grief, they either have an accident, are destroyed or end in failure.|
Their plans for a golf course came to grief when it was decided to build a motorway.
|come up in the world||A person who has come up in the world is richer than before and has a higher social status.|
My old school friend has bought an apartment overlooking Central Park. She has certainly come up in the world.
|come up roses||If things come up roses, the end result is successful or positive, even if there were difficult times.|
After several disappointments, everything seems to be coming up roses for the tennis player this year.
|come/turn up trumps||To say that someone has come up trumps means that they have achieved unexpectedly good results.|
Against all expectations, our team came up trumps in the cup final.
|cook someone’s goose||To cook somebody’s goose means to spoil that person’s chances of success.|
When the burglar saw the police car arriving, he realized his goose was cooked!
|on course for||If you are on course for something, you are likely to achieve it.|
Our team is on course for a victory in the national championship.
|crest of the wave||If you are on the crest of a wave, you are very successful in what you are doing.|
Our company is going from success to success. We’re on the crest of a wave right now.
|cut one’s losses||If you end or withdraw from something that is already failing, in order to reduce the loss of money, time or effort invested in it,|
you cut your losses.
The project is heading for failure. Let’s cut our losses before it’s too late.
|cut one’s own throat||If you cut your own throat, you do something that will be the cause of your own failure or ruin your chances in the future.|
Tony has already missed a lot of classes. He’s cutting his own throat.
|dead cert||Something that is certain to happen or be achieved is a dead cert.|
After such praise, his appointment as captain of the team is a dead cert.
|dead duck||This expression refers to a project or scheme which has been abandoned or is certain to fail.|
The new cinema is going to be a dead duck because it’s too far away from the town centre.
|dead in the water||A plan or project that is dead in the water is at a standstill or has ceased to function and is unlikely to be reactivated in the future.|
Because of the crisis, the planned housing development is now dead in the water.
|dice are loaded||If everything seems to work to your disadvantage, and you are not likely to succeed, the dice are loaded against you.|
I applied for the job, but being a woman, and over forty, the dice were loaded against me.
|disaster written all over||If something, such as a plan or idea, has disaster written all over it, it is thought to be heading for complete failure, or will cause a lot of trouble.|
Mary’s idea of a holiday with her in-laws has disaster written all over it!
downhill all the way
|If something is all downhill or downhill all the way, it is very easy to achieve considering the difficulties encountered beforehand.|
The hardest part for the burglars was turning off the alarm system. After that it was all downhill.
|draw a blank||If you look for or try to remember something, and draw a blank, you fail to find it.|
I nearly won the quiz; unfortunately I drew a blank at the last question!
|every dog has its day||This expression means that everyone can be successful at something at some time in their life.|
I didn’t win this time, but I’ll be lucky one day. Every dog has its day.
|fall at first hurdle||If you fall at the first hurdle, you fail to overcome the first difficulty encountered.|
Scott fell at the first hurdle. He didn’t study enough and failed his first exam.
|fall flat||If a joke, a story or a form of entertainment falls flat, it does not amuse people, or fails to have the effect that was intended.|
He made a few attempts at humour during his speech but most of his jokes fell flat.
|fall from grace||To say that someone has fallen from grace means that they have done something wrong, immoral or unacceptable, and as a result have lost their good reputation.|
The Finance Minister fell from grace as a result of a sex scandal.
|fall on one’s sword||If you fall on your sword, you accept the consequences of an unsuccessful or wrong action.|
The organizer of the referendum resigned when the poor results were announced. It was said that he’ fell on his sword’.
|feather in one’s cap||To describe someone’s achievement as a feather in their cap means that it is something they can be proud of.|
The overwhelming victory of the team was a feather in the cap for the new manager.
|fight a losing battle||If someone is fighting a losing battle, they are trying to do something even when there is little chance of succeeding.|
The headmaster is fighting a losing battle trying to ban mobile phones at school.
|(reach) first base||When you get to (or reach) first base, you make progress or begin to have success with someone or something.|
If you go to the interview dressed like that, you won’t get to first base!
|flash in the pan||If you refer to somebody’s success as a flash in the pan, you mean that it is not likely to be repeated.|
The manager hoped that the team’s unexpected victory was not just
a flash in the pan.
|will never fly||To say that something will never fly means that it will not be successul.|
He’s got incredible ideas, but none that will ever fly!
|with flying colours||To achieve something with flying colours means to do it very successfully.|
My daughter passed the entrance exam with flying colours. I’m so proud of her.
|flying start||If something gets off to a flying start, it is immediately successful.|
Sales of the book got off to a flying start and exceeded our expectations.
|fool’s errand||If you go on a fool’s errand, you try to do something which is useless, unnecessary or has no chance of success.|
I realized it was a fool’s errand to look for a bank in such an isolated region.
|foot in the door||To say that someone has a foot in the door means that they have a small but successful start in something and will possibly do well in the future.|
With today’s unemployment, it is difficult to get a foot in the door in any profession.
|get a foothold||If you get a foothold somewhere, you secure a position for yourself in a business, profession or organisation.|
The contract got the firm a foothold in the local administration.
|front runner||In a contest, race or election, the front runner is the person who is most likely to succeed or win.|
Who are the front runners in the coming elections?
|get the better of you||If someone or something gets the better of you, they defeat you.|
She went on a diet but it didn’t last long – her love of chocolate got the better of her!
|go to the dogs||To say that a company, organization or country is going to the dogsmeans that it is becoming less successful or efficient than before.|
Some think the company will go to the dogs if it is nationalized.
|go great guns||If someone or something is going great guns, they are successful or doing very well.|
Fred’s night club is going great guns. It’s becoming hard to get in!
|go (off/over) with a bang||If something such as an event or performance goes off with a bang, it is very successful.|
The party went off with a bang – everyone enjoyed it.
|go up in smoke||If a plan or project goes up in smoke, it fails or ends before producing a result.|
When Amy and Tom separated, my mother’s dream of a romantic wedding went up in smoke.
|got it made||Someone who has got it made is so happy and successful in life that they have no worries.|
With a happy family life, a new house and a super job, Sam’s got it made.
|hit pay dirt||If you hit pay dirt, you are lucky and suddenly find yourself in a successful money-making situation.|
Charlie finally hit pay dirt with his latent invention.
|on its knees||When something such as a country or organization is on its knees, or brought to its knees, it is in a very weak situation or on the verge of failure.|
The civil war brought the country to its knees.
|landslide victory||The victory of a candidate or a political paarty by an overwhelming majority is called a landslide victory.|
Major newspapers predict a landslide victory for the Democratic Party.
|lead to a dead end||If a plan or project leads to a dead end, it develops no further because it has no future.|
In spite of the scientists’ efforts, the research lead to a dead end.
|leaps and bounds||If you do something in leaps and bounds, you make rapid or spectacular progress or growth.|
The number of subscribers to the newsletter has grown in leaps and bounds.
|let slip through fingers||If you let something slip through your fingers, such as a good opportunity, you fail to obtain it or keep it.|
He should have accepted the job when it was offered. He let the opportunity slip through his fingers.
|live to fight another day||This expression means that even though you have not been successful, you will have another chance in the future to try again.|
He was defeated in the final match but he lived to fight another day.
|come a long way||When someone has come a long way, they have made a lot of progress or have become successful.|
Tony has come a long way since he opened his first little restaurant.
|at a low ebb||A person or organization at a low ebb is not as strong or successful as usual.|
The recent political crisis has left the country at a low ebb.
|make a comeback||When someone makes a comeback, they succeed in returning to their former successful career.|
After devoting several years to her children, she made a comeback on Broadway.
|make the cut||If you make the cut, you reach a required standard or succeed in passing from one round of a competition to another.|
After intensive training, Sarah made the cut and joined the team.
|make a go of||When you make a go of something, you succeed in your enterprise or produce good results.|
He opened a restaurant and worked hard to make a go of it.
|make headway||If you make headway, you make progress in what you are trying to achieve.|
Investigators have made little headway in their search for the causes of the catastrophe.
|make inroads||If someone or something makes inroads, for example in a new field or area, they advance successfully or make progress.|
Foreign cars have made inroads into the European market.
|make a killing||If you say that someone has made a killing you mean that they have had great financial success.|
He made a killing on the stock market.
|make or break||Circumstances or events that will make or break someone or something will cause either total success or total ruin.|
The assignment will make or break his career.
|make a pig’s ear of||If you make a pig’s ear of something, you do a task or a chore very badly or make a complete mess of it.|
Gary offered to paint the kitchen but he made a pig’s ear of it.
|miss the boat||If you miss the boat, you fail to take advantage of an opportunity because you don’t act quickly enough.|
I managed to get my order through before the end of the special offer – but I nearly missed th boat!
|moment of truth||A critical or decisive time when you face the reality of a situation, and find out if your efforts have succeeded, is called the moment of truth.|
The moment of truth has arrived – I’m going to serve my first soufflé!
|move up in the world||A person who moves up in the world becomes more important in society or successful in their careeer.|
Rachel Jones has moved up in the world since we were kids.
|murphy’s law||Referring to Murphy’s law expresses a sentiment of bad luck and the idea that if anything can go wrong, it will.|
We’ve tried to prepare for every possible incident, but remember Murphy’s law …!
|not getting anywhere||If you are not getting anywhere, you are making no progress at all.|
I’ve spent the whole day looking for a solution but I’m not getting anywhere.
|nothing succeeds like success!||This expression means that success often leads to further successes.|
The success of my first book encouraged to continue writing. Nothing succeeds like success!
|nothing ventured, nothing gained||You cannot expect to achieve anything is you risk nothing.|
He’s going to ask his boss for a promotion even though he has little chance of obtaining satisfaction. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!
|out of the picture||To say that a person or group is out of the picture means that they have been eliminated in a contest or tournament.|
We were beaten in the semi-finals, so that’s us out of the picture!
|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.
|pack something in||If you pack something in, you abandon it or give it up.|
She found city life so stressful, she decided to pack it in and move to the country.
|pass muster||If someone or something passes muster, they are considered to be satisfactory or acceptable.|
The interview went well. I hope I’ll pass muster.
|on the pig’s back||A person who is on the pig’s back is in a successful situation and everything is going well for them.|
Before the recession, Ireland was on the pig’s back, but the situation has changed greatly.
|place in the sun||If you find a place in the sun, you reach a position which provides you with success, wealth and/or happiness, or whatever you have been hoping to obtain in life.|
She finally found a place in the sun with the triumph of her latest book.
|put the kibosh on||If you do something to prevent a plan or activity from happening or being successful, you put the kibosh on it.|
The bank’s refusal to grant him a loan put the kibosh on Jack’s project.
|pyrrhic victory||A victory that is obtained at a tremendous cost, or causes such a great loss that it is not worth winning, is called a Pyrrhic victory.|
It was a Pyrrhic victory. The shop owner won the lawsuit but went bankrupt because of the legal expenses involved.
|rags to riches||If a person goes from rags to riches, they start off being very poor and become very rich and successful.|
By renovating old houses in the right places, he went from rags to riches.
|riding high||Someone who is riding high is enjoying a period of success or popularity.|
He’s been riding high since the success of his last film.
|rise to the occasion||If you rise to the occasion, you manage to do something successfully in difficult circumstances.|
When her boss broke his leg, Julie had to represent the company at the congress, and she rose to the occasion extremely well.
|run rings around||If you show much more skill or ability than your opponent, you run rings (or circles) around them.|
In a quiz show on TV yesterday, a teenage girl ran rings around the other contestants.
|sail through||If you sail through something, for example a test or an exam, you succeed in doing it without difficulty.|
The English test was no problem for Pedro. He sailed through it.
|save the day||If you find a solution to a serious problem, and ensure the success of something that was expected to fail, you save the day.|
The dog ate the apple pie I had made for my guests, but my sister saved the day by making one of her speedy desserts!
|sink or swim||If someone has to sink or swim, they have to do something alone, and their success or failure depends entirely on their own efforts.|
The sink-or-swim attitude in the company can be very difficult for young recruits.
|sky’s the limit||To say the sky’s the limit means that there is no limit to the possibility of success or progress for someone or something.|
“How successful do you think the project will be?”
“Who knows … the sky’s the limit!”
|smash hit||A very successful performance in music, films, theatre, etc. is called a smash hit.|
The film ‘Titanic’ was a smash hit all over the world.
|snatch victory from the jaws of defeat||If you manage to win something such as a match or a contest, when you are on the verge of losing, you snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.|
With a last-minute goal, the team snatched victory form the jaws of defeat.
|spread onself too thin||If you spread yourself too thin, you do too many things at the same time and can’t do any of them well.|
Don’t spread yourself too thin or you’ll get nowhere.
|throw a spanner in the works||If someone or something throws a spanner (or a wrench) in the works,they do something that causes problems and prevents the success of a plan or event.|
The two companies were keen to sign the agreement before anything happened to throw a spanner in the works.
|throw in the towel||If you throw in the towel, you admit that you cannot succeed.|
After unsuccessfully competing in several championships, she decided to throw in the towel and go back to college.
|top dog||To say that a person, group or country is top dog means that they are more successful or more powerful than others.|
She’s top dog in cosmetics today.
|on the up and up||If you are on the up and up, you are becoming increasingly successful.|
The architect has been on the up and up since he designed a building in Dubai.
|weather the storm||If you weather the storm, you succeed in surviving a difficult period or situation.|
Given the current recession, the company is weathering the storm better than most.
|win-win||The term win-win refers to a situation or proposition where both or all parties benefit from the outcome.|
There were smiles all round when the contract was signed – it was a win-win situation.
|wither on the vine||If something withers on the vine, it fails or ceases to exist because people do not support or encourage it.|
Let’s hope the recent efforts towards peace will not wither on the vine.
|wooden spoon||The person who finishes last in a race or competition receives an imaginary prize called the wooden spoon.|
Our team got the wooden spoon in this year’s tournament.
|have the world at your feet||If you have the world at your feet, you are extremely successful and greatly admired.|
The talented young actress has the world at her feet.
|have the world|
by its tail
|Someone who has the world by its tail is very successful and has many opportunities to choose from.|
Due to her intelligence and hard work, she now has the world by its tail.