Idioms of success and failure

Market Leader Upper Intermediate Units 1 and 4

Read the idioms below (or listen to your teacher say them) and guess whether each one is about success or failure:


Get off on the wrong foot                                            On its knees

Back to square one                                                                   In the bag

Blow up in your face                                                                 Close, but no cigar

Come to grief                                                                            On the crest of a wave

Draw a blank                                                                             Fall at the first hurdle

A feather in your cap                                                                 Get off to a flying start

Get a foot in the door                                                                By leaps and bounds

Let it slip through my fingers                                                     Make a killing

Miss the boat                                                                             Ahead of the pack

The sky’s the limit                                                                     Throw in the towel

Throw a spanner in the works                                    Go from strength to strength

Win hands down                                                         Fall flat (on your face)

The final nail in its coffin                                              A miss is as good as a mile

We were pipped at the post                                                      Losing your edge

Blockbuster                                                                               Fall on his sword

From rags to riches                                                                  Take off

Plunge                                                                                       Take a nosedive

Selling like hotcakes                                                                 Gone through the roof

Drop out                                                                                    Ailing

On his way out                                                            Slump

Dive                                                                                           Soar

Crash                                                                                        Rocket

Grow                                                                                         A dip


Choose one of the famous companies or business people below and try to describe their past, present or usual position with expressions of success or failure like those above until your partner guesses which one you are talking about:



Steve Jobs                                                                                Oprah Winfrey

Sir Alan Stanford                                                         Roman Abramovich

Donald Trump                                                                           Li Ka-shing

Bill Gates                                                                                   J.K. Rowling

Rudolf Dassler                                                            Adi Dassler

Kim Woo-choong                                                                      Bernie Madoff


Merck                                                                                        Roche

Citigroup (Citibank)                                                                   GE (General Electric)

Volkswagen                                                                               Porsche

AOL Time Warner                                                                    Sony

Nintendo                                                                                    Puma

Adidas                                                                                       Apple

Microsoft                                                                                   Airbus

Nokia                                                                                         Ford

GM                                                                                             Nike

Reebok                                                                        Rover

Lehman Brothers                                                                      Arthur Andersen

Enron                                                                                        TWA

Daewoo Motors                                                           Nissan

Atari                                                                                           Tesco

Fila                                                                                            Disney


Iceland                                                                                       Ireland

Spain                                                                                         China


PDF for easy saving and printing: Success failure idioms

Related pages

Business idioms page

Market Leader Upper page

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