Starting, Re-starting, Finishing
Troubles And Difficulties
O I N G T H I N
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- To lay the foundations (to get in gear, to set the ball
- I know that our company is not doing big business
at the moment, we're just laying the foundations (getting in gear, setting the
ball rolling)... it's early days yet!
- From scratch
- All you can see here
was built up from scratch by him.
- To get a foot in the door
already worked as a porter, he got his foot in the door, and now is the owner
of the hotel.
see how the land lies
- I want to see how the land lies
before putting all the money in it.
- To see which way the wind is blowing (to hold fire)
our argument, I was scared to contact her.. I want to see which way the wind is
blowing first.. it's better to hold fire!
- A watched kettle never boils
spending all your time watching the telephone! She will call you sooner or later!
Remember that a watched kettle never boils.
- To get a foothold
got a foothold with the first little shop they opened.. now they have ten of them.
- To get one's skates on (chop chop, shake a leg)
very late... get going, Dan! Get your skates on! (chop chop! shake a leg!)
- To get off to a flying start
he opened his business, he got it off to a flying start by selling everything
with fifty per cent off.
- Where there's a will there's a way
- Harry never
neglected studying after working hours, and now he has passed his exams: where
there's a will there's a way!
- Make hay while the sun shines
better have the barbecue on the beach today, for tomorrow it will probably rain...
make hay while the sun shines.
- To strike while the iron is hot
were so clever, asking for a company car during the interview... better to strike
while the iron is hot.
- The early bird catches the worm
is said to be a junk market, but if you get there early in the morning you can
find good bargains... the early bird catches the worm!
- It's easier said than done
considers himself a perfect organiser, but he's always too busy to help us: it's
easier said than done.
- Rome wasn't built in a day
don't be in a hurry doing up the front of your house: Rome wasn't built in a day.
- A bird in the hand is worth
two in the bush
- After working all year, we hardly made
anything, but a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
fare nulla, un tubo, essere incapaci
- Couldn't organize a
piss-up in a brewery!
good chap, but he’s unable to manage difficult situations… he couldn’t
organize a piss-up in a brewery!
Monkey see, monkey do
The educational system have embraced a "monkey see, monkey do" approach to
- (as easy as) a walk in the park
Giving up smoking is a walk in the park...
- A cinch
The final test? It was a cinch!... I
finished it quickly and
- A slapdash
work is becoming very slapdash. This is because he has too many clients and so
cannot give his best to all of them.
- To knock someone (something) into shape
- He's very
talented but, lazy... his tutor will knock him into shape!
Fare meglio, (dover) darsi
una regolata, smetterla di fare cavolate
clean up one's act
We all think it's time Shawna and Tricia cleaned up their act... they're so
need to clean up your act,
or you'll lose the job!
what will you do?
Listen Ned... you're
going to have to clean up your act if you
care fot her.
- There's more than one way to skin
- Tony.. the way you lead the group's
not the most appropriate: there's more than one way to skin a cat.
- Ways and means
many ways and means of reaching the goal but, what's important is the achieving.
- To be a jack-of-all-trades (but master of none)
being an actor, he led a jack-of-all-trades existence, doing all sorts of jobs.
- To be like a bull at a gate
cleaned the kitchen in a frenzy... like a bull at a gate!
- To set the wheels in motion
people in show business could set the wheels in motion and help you get introduced
to the right producer.
- You've made your bed, now you must lie on it!
that you have the promotion, you've to work harder: you've made your bed, now
you must lie on it!
- Why keep a dog and bark yourself?
the book there: the librarian will put it on the shelf... why keep a dog and bark
- A labour of love
- Even though I helped him, I hadn't
the nerve to ask for some money: it was a labour of love!
- To carry coals to Newcastle
so funny: she went to France, bringing wine and cheese with her: a pretty case
of carrying coals to Newcastle.
- To bite off more than one can chew
not a bad bloke, but he's not reliable.. he always tries to bite off more than
he can chew.
over-egg the pudding (to gild the lily)
- Her good taste
for interiors sometimes let her down when she over-eggs the pudding (gilds the
lily), with dazzling details.
- To bite the bullet
- After the lecture from my boss,
I have to bite the bullet and do as much as I can.
- To take one's time
- There is a
big backlog of invoices to register, but take your time: we cannot make mistakes
in the general accounting!
- To have a crack at something (to have a go at something)
have a crack (have a go)... you are always so lucky!
- To set one's sights on something (to
set one's heart on something)
- Sally seems really determined:
she confessed she set her sights (her heart) on being a journalist in the local
put one's shoulder to the wheel
- If only you just could
put your shoulder to the wheel, you could have been half done already.
- To take the bit between one's teeth
taking the bit between his teeth to carry out the project without delay.
- To keep plugging away
- Lisa hadn't
passed the final test: she has to keep plugging away and applying herself more,
if she wants to get through the next session.
- To break one's back
- He's breaking
his back doing this hard work, just to have enough money to go to the States.
- To sweat blood over something (to work one's
- John always believed in the documentary project
and he sweated blood over (worked his guts out) filming it.
- To move heaven and earth
moving heaven and earth to get her phone number!
- By hook or by crook
- She worked
hard all year long and now she's determined to get the promotion, by hook or by
- You can pass the test only by trying harder
and studying for all the remaining days.
- To be at the cutting-edge
new sports car that the company brought out is not really what one would call
- To have a lot of irons on the fire
admire you for being able to have a lot of irons on the fire, and for the way
you take full advantage of every single opportunity.
- To go the whole hog
so many months of hard work, we now have to go the whole hog to finish refurbishing
- To stick to one's guns
- The restaurant's owner
had to stick to his guns, when the new fast food place opened a few doors down
be in the thick of things
- Even though John owned the company,
he still got involved in the every-day running of the business, as he liked being
in the thick of things.
To have a lot on (much on)
A party tomorrow? Oh no, I've got a lot
on this week...
Sheila hasn't got much on: she's waiting
for a new job.
- To play ball
learn how to play ball with
- To burn the midnight oil
- I had to
finish all the plans and, so, I was burning the midnight oil.
- To be quick (slow) off the
- Linda prepares very accurate reports, but unfortunately
she is really slow off the mark.
- To save the day
- The lift
Jo gave to you saved the day, as the bus strike is still on.
- To work up a head of steam
(to build up a head of steam)
- You're training so hard
that your steadiness will work up a head of steam in the game.
- To get the hang of something
the intensive training, Jim got the hang of driving the new big lorry.
I think I've finally got the hang of it!
- To do something by the seat of
one's pants (to pull oneself up by one's own bootstrap)
won the prize without any help: she did it by the seat of her pants (by her own
- To do one's own thing
them do their own thing... they're old enough to do what they want!
- To get a handle on something
climbing Everest, the climbers had to get a handle on their body reactions to
the lack of oxygen.
- You can trust him..
even if the contract is not signed, it's cut-and-dried.
- To get one's act together (to get one's shit together)
your act together, Beverly... otherwise the holiday will turn into a shambles.
- To do one's homework
Helen has something to organise, you can bet that she always does her homework;
that way, she cuts her work in half.
- To get something over and done with
it over and done with straight away, Jill... there's no time left!
- To be on the right track
reaction of all the colleagues dispelled any doubt about how his proposal was
on the right track.
- To take to something like a duck to water
took to the hard training with enthusiasm... like a duck to water.
- To go by the book
supervisor is so strict that we've always to go by the book.
- To be stuck in a rut
feels very demotivated after working the night shift... he's now stuck in a rut
and needs to do something different with his life.
- To know a thing or two
much more than a mechanic, as he has great experience in repairing and tuning
engines, and now he knows a thing or two about every kind of car.
- A small sea never made a skilful mariner
proved his good instinct in the small local business, but he's not up to the level
of leading a big company... a small sea never made a good mariner.
- To be an old hand at something
mum is an old hand at looking after children.
- Not to do things by
- Enjoy your meal! She's a good cook and she doesn't
do things by halves... so there will be plenty of grub!
- To be a wizard at doing something
(to be a dab hand at doing something)
- Gino is a wiz (a
dab hand) at discovering new fantastic restaurants.
- To do something with one hand tied
behind one's back
- Jerry knows his work so well that he
could do it with one hand tied behind his back!
- To do the trick
adding some oil to the petrol: it will do the trick.
- To make the most of something
in Chicago for ten days only, we made the most of the time by having a lot of
trips all around the Michigan Lake.
- To set the pace
designers are setting the pace in the current fashion.
- Take matters
into one's own hands
- After Jack tried in vain to repair
the engine, he decided to take it to the garage and let the experts take matters
into their own hands.
- To be meat and drink to somebody
sorted out that strange noise coming from the engine in five minutes, after all
the other mechanics had failed... it really was meat and drink to him!
- To be at somebody's beck
- It's a hard life being a personal assistant as
you are... always at your boss's beck and call.
- To run rings round somebody
was the first to reach the target, he has been running rings round all the other
- To be plain sailing
- The first part of the driving
trip is plain sailing... the hard part will come later.
- As easy as ABC (a piece of cake)
the team seriously undertakes to finish that work it will be as easy as ABC...
a piece of cake!
- To go from strength to strength
the new activity is going from strength to strength!
- To hit the mark (to hit the spot)
interview I had yesterday hit the mark: they complimented me on my good preparation!
- To go with a bang
party went with a bang: Ed managed the barbecue and everybody enjoyed themselves
- To do a roaring trade (to go like hot cakes)
new shop is doing a roaring trade... its stuff is going like hot cakes.
- To be a blessing in disguise (to
be a mixed blessing)
- The accident was a blessing in disguise:
the driver who knocked him down is now his wife.
- To make a fresh start
- After his new business flopped
last month, Harris told me that he wants to wait for a while before making a fresh
turn over a new leaf
- She turned over a new leaf, when
she gave up smoking.
- To get another bite at the cherry
- Don't worry
too much about being passed up for promotion.. you will get another bite of the
cherry next year.
- To go through something like a hot knife through butter
the board approved the last part of the project, we're going through it like a
hot knife through butter.
- To go like clockwork
work's going really smoothly... just like clockwork.
- To strike it lucky
you remember Jasper? ...so jammy! I heard he struck it lucky, by opening a chain
Everything but the kitchen sink
time we travel Mary take everything possible... but the kitchen sink!
Tom's new car is fantastic, much better than a limo: satellite TV, fridge...
everything but the kitchen sink.
- To be on the last lap
nearly finished restoring the house: we're on the last lap!
- To call it a day (wind it up, wrap it up)
such hard overtime we've finished! Call it a day! (wind it up! wrap it up!)
- To be in apple pie order
is a room in apple pie order! A place for everything and everything in its place!
- To take off your hat to somebody
have to take off my hat to you, Sam: you refurbished the house perfectly.
- To take the rough with the smooth
have to take the rough with the smooth in driving this sports car: it's very fast
but, it uses a lot of petrol.
have it coming
split with Frank last week… he had it coming: he was unfaithful to her.
fired for poor performance...
with all the problems she caused, she had it coming!
He's mean to everyone...
when Ed hit him he had it coming!
- To start (to get off) on the wrong foot
Edward, that is not the work we were expecting for! You started (got off) on the
be in a jam (to be in hot water, in a pickle, in a stew)
shouldn't have cheated in the exams; now, I'm in really in a jam (in hot water,
in a pickle, in a stew).
- A hard (tough) nut to crack
ended up being persuaded, but it was a hard nut (a tough nut) to crack!
- To be barking up the wrong
- Waiting for a cab there was like barking up the wrong
tree... they only stop in the city center at night.
- If the worst comes to the worst
the worst comes to the worst, I will quit the company and sell my shares.
- Come hell or high water
definitely want to try it, even if it's something risky... come hell or high water!
- There is the rub
- I told you,
be focused in doing this... there's the rub!
- To go up in smoke
- It was too sad
even to describe, seeing Arthur's plans going up in smoke.
- To cross a bridge when one
comes to it
- Let's get there and see how the wind blows:
cross that bridge when you come to it... It's too early at the moment!
- To keep one's shirt on
down... keep your shirt on! You have to finish that work, somehow or other!
- More haste less speed
is a very good driver but, he goes too fast and has a lot of accidents... I always
tell him: "More haste less speed!"
- Not to have a cat's chance in hell
haven't got a cat's chance in hell of getting that job: you're not qualified for
the devil and the deep blue sea
- I didn't know whether
to accept the new job offer or to stay where I was; I felt as if I were stuck
between the devil and the deep blue sea.
- Not to be able to make heads or tails
of something (to be in two minds, going around in circles)
so hard to come to a final decision: I'm still not able to make head or tails
of the choice.. I'm in two minds (going around in circles).
- The last straw (the straw that
breaks the camel's back)
- ..it was the last straw (the
straw that broke the camel's back), when the driver got out screaming, after crashing
into my parked car.
be up to no good
- The old man used to think that young
people were only up to no good.
- When in doubt, do nowt
- Calm down,
hold back: if you're uncertain, don't take any action... when in doubt, do nowt.
- To put someone through one's paces
getting a regular contract, they put me through my paces for three months.
- Through thick and thin
activity had come to a standstill, but his partner seems to stick by him through
thick and thin.
all the odds
- Janet had an extremely difficult year, however,
she managed, against all the odds, to pass her exams.
- To ride for a fall
- Be focused..
you're riding for a fall with your scatty mood.
- To let things get on top
- Andrew was always so busy at work, that things
began to get on top of him and he had a nervous breakdown.
rendere un problema più difficile
- A turn
of the screw; another turn of the screw
government's tax increase package
is another turn of the screw for
the whole working class.
letter from his ex girlfriend
is another turn of
- To play merry hell with
of improving the situation, your presence played merry hell with people at the
be bone idle
- Mike is a good chap, but I don't like working
with him: he's bone idle.
- Not to do something for all the tea in China
this sunny day, I wouldn't do homework for all the tea in China!
- To chase one's tail
- He's a hard worker,
but not very efficient: yesterday he was chasing his tail all day, trying to find
some old reports.
- To drop something like a hot brick
sold his car, dropping the old banger like a hot brick, for not much money at
- Don't give up the day job
- I know you think you're
a great dancer Danny but, don't give up the day job!
- To be all thumbs
- Even after so
many hours of private lessons, you will never have a perfect style: you are all
thumbs when it comes to drawing.
- Like a bull in a china shop
such an awkward character, always dropping bricks with the customers... just like
a bull in a china shop.
- To open a can of worms
there was one complaint about corruption in the company, all the others soon followed...
it opened a can of worms.
- To nip something in the bud
- When your child starts
misbehaving, you have to teach him right from wrong immediately; that way, you
nip the problem in the bud.
- Like water off a duck's back
- When the boss was
shouting at Linda, it did not upset her at all... she was so used to it that it
was like water off a duck's back.
More kicks than half-pence
Working all the day for a little money? No, that's only more kicks than half-pence!
- To be none the wiser
still don't know about it... even when my manager explained the situation, I was
still none the wiser.
- Looking for a needle in a haystack
was in trouble when she lost her contact lenses in the shaggy carpet; it was like
looking for a needle in a haystack.
- To get blood out of a stone
think that you'll get any help from him: it's like getting blood out of a stone.
- To flog a dead horse
no point in taking your old car to the garage again: it's a jalope... you're flogging
a dead horse!
- To pick holes
- Stop picking holes Frank: we will
never finish going on like this!
- A fly in the ointment
can never be perfect... there's always a fly in the ointment.
- To go to pot
- The project
went to pot because there was no one ready to finance it.
- All show no go (all mouth and trousers, full
of hot hair)
- Don't listen to him! He promised me a lot
of things but, at the end, it was all show no go!... he's all mouth and trousers
(full of hot air).
- To smell a rat (something fishy)
- I smelled a rat
when they said that they needed another couple of days to finish the work... there's
something fishy going on there!
- A wild goose chase
- Stop pushing
John so hard: it's a wild goose chase.
- To have a narrow escape (to escape by the skin of one's
- Don't ask me how I survived that car crash! I think
I escaped by the skin of my teeth!
- To cry wolf
- Stop crying wolf: there
is no danger at all!
- Forewarned is forearmed
- Now you know what you
are risking.. forewarned is forearmed!
- Every man for himself
- In that cruel
competition the only rule seems to be "every man for himself".
- To be out on one's ear
cannot insult all the people in the bar: you'll be out on your ear.
- To scrape the barrel
- I see you're
reviving those old colours for doing up your room... are you scraping the barrel?
- To throw in the towel (to throw in the sponge)
months and months passed in trying to win the race, the mature runner threw in
the towel (threw in the sponge).
- To be a flop (to be a turkey)
worked a lot but, it was a flop... a turkey
- To get the sack
- He wasn't up
to the level: he got the sack!
- Lightning doesn't strike twice
the traffic police issued him with a ticket, Sam left his car in the same place..
lightning doesn't strike twice.
- To land on one's feet
- They thought of punishing
Jim with that unfair dismissal, but he should gain a lot of money if he brings
an action against the company: he will land on his feet!
- To be out of the woods
was a very hard test and I was put in the corner, but now I can forget it.. now
I feel like I am out of the woods at last.