The ball’s in your court now: idioms with ‘ball’

Wachira Khurimon / EyeEm / Getty Images

by Liz Walter

There are a surprising number of idioms that contain the word ‘ball’. This post looks at some of the most useful ones.

It seems appropriate to start with the idiom get/start the ball rolling, which means to do something to make an activity start or to encourage other people to do something similar to you:

I’m hoping we can all share our ideas today. Who would like to start the ball rolling?

If we say that the ball is in someone’s court, we mean that they need to do something before any progress can be made, and if we put the ball in someone’s court, we make sure that they are responsible for whatever happens next:

I’ve offered to pay for her driving lessons, but the ball’s in her court now.

Put the ball firmly in her court by asking her to call if she wants to meet again.

If you pick up/take the ball and run with it, you accept an idea or a plan and try enthusiastically to make progress with it:

He suggested the change, and politicians picked up the ball and ran with it.

On the other hand, someone who drops the ball makes a mistake that stops something from succeeding, often by being careless. This idiom is common in informal US English:

We’re all relying on you, so it’s important you don’t drop the ball.

Someone who is on the ball is alert and understands things quickly:

To be a successful investor, you really need to be on the ball because markets can change very quickly.

If someone plays ball, they do what someone asks them to do, especially so that they can achieve something together. This idiom in informal and is often used in negative sentences:

We wanted to replace the damaged car, but the insurance company refused to play ball.

Finally, if we say that something is a whole new ballgame, we mean that it is a totally different situation, often a more difficult or extreme one:

I’ve run several 5k races, but a marathon is a whole new ballgame!

Idioms are a good way to make your English more interesting. I hope you will find some here that you can use!

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