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English Idioms & Idiomatic Expressions


Success - Failure

(Idioms page 1 :  ace a test  → had one's chips)

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.
have an ace up your sleeve 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.
hold all the aces A person who holds all the aces is in a very strong position because they have more advantages than anyone else.
Given the high unemployment rates today, employers hold all the aces.
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 organise, 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.
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