The Most Common Idioms To Boost Your IELTS Score – Topic: Progress


be barking up the wrong tree

If someone is barking up the wrong tree, they are following the wrong course of action because their beliefs about something are not correct.

NOTE: This expression comes from raccoon (= a small long-tailed animal in North and Central America) hunting, which takes place at night. Dogs that are trained to show where raccoons are by barking sometimes indicate the wrong tree.

Scientists in Switzerland realized that most other researchers had been barking up the wrong tree.

be flogging a dead horse

If someone is flogging a dead horse, they are wasting their time trying to achieve something that cannot be done. [BRITISH]

After all our hard work, we don’t seem to be making any progress. It feels like we’re flogging a dead horse – it’s all very discouraging.

gain ground

If something or someone gains ground, they make progress and become more important or more powerful.

His ideas on nutrition have been gaining ground in recent years.

NOTE: The opposite of gain ground is lose ground.

get to grips with something or come to grips with something

If you get to grips with or come to grips with a problem or task, you start to deal with it effectively, usually by making an effort to understand it.

The present government has completely failed to get to grips with our economic problems.

I must come to grips with this new system.

get your act together

If you get your act together, you organize yourself effectively so that you can deal successfully with things. [INFORMAL]

We’re going to be 22 points behind by Monday and we’ve got to get our act together.

go around in circles or go round in circles

If someone goes around in circles or goes round in circles, they achieve little because they repeatedly deal with the same point or problem.

This was one of those debates which simply went round in circles.

My mind was going around in circles, worrying, but I knew that no news was good news.

in the doldrums

If a person, organization, economy, etc. is in the doldrums, they are not successful and are not making any progress.

NOTE: This expression relates to the Doldrums, which is an area of sea near the equator where there is often little or no wind. This meant that sailing ships could be stuck there for long periods.

The restaurant business, like many other businesses, is in the doldrums.

in the pipeline

If something is in the pipeline, it is being planned or developed.

NOTE: A pipeline is a large pipe that carries oil or gas over a long distance, often underground.

Another development in the pipeline is closed-circuit TV cameras in most stores.

light at the end of the tunnel

If there is light at the end of the tunnel, there is hope that a difficult situation might be coming to an end.

After a very difficult time we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

make headway

If you make headway, you make progress with something that you are trying to achieve.

A spokesman said the two sides have made headway on some issues.

on a roll

If you are on a roll, you are making great progress and having a lot of success.

NOTE: This expression probably comes from surfing.

I’d done my first deal and I was on a roll, I couldn’t see anything going wrong.

NOTE: You can say that someone gets on a roll.

Once you get on a roll you feel as though you’re unbeatable.

on the right track

If someone or something is on the right track, they are acting or developing in a way that is likely to be successful.

We are finding that guests for lunch and dinner are returning in increasing numbers – a sure sign that we are

on the right track.

NOTE: The opposite of on the right track is on the wrong track.

put something on hold

If you put something on hold, you decide not to do it or deal with it until a later time.

NOTE: This expression is probably from the term used in the past when someone making a telephone call waited for the operator to connect them.

We’ll have to put the project on hold until we get some more money.

NOTE: You can also just say that something is on hold.

A few months later it was announced that the deal was on hold, perhaps permanently.


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