English Idioms & Idiomatic Expressions
Success - Failure
|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
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
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
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
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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