Hitting the ground running (Idioms and phrases in newspapers)


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by Kate Woodford

The idioms and phrases in today’s post come from a range of national newspapers that were published on the same day. We write a post like this every couple of months in order to provide you with a regular supply of contemporary, frequently used English idioms.

One tabloid reports on a politician who has been accused of breaking parliamentary rules. Her career, it writes, is ‘on a knife edge, meaning that it is very uncertain and could end in failure. A similar idiom is used elsewhere in the same paper where it describes the life of a very ill person as ‘hanging by a thread’. Something that hangs by a thread is likely to end badly, for example in death or failure.

The same newspaper writes that a TV presenter is ‘in hot water’ over a humorous comment that she made about a politician. To be in hot water is to be in a difficult situation in which you are likely to be punished.

In the gossip pages of that newspaper, a columnist describes the scandalous behaviour of a celebrity but then refuses to give their name, writing ‘My lips are sealed.’ This is something that you say when you are promising to keep a secret.

In the entertainment pages of the tabloid, we read that a very popular police thriller is keeping its viewers ‘on tenterhooks’. To be on tenterhooks is to be anxious or excited because you don’t know what is going to happen.

In another tabloid, a young singer who has just won an award that an older, established singer won a few years ago is said to be ‘following in her footsteps’. To follow in someone’s footsteps is to do the same thing as someone else before you.

The sports pages of this paper provide two nice expressions. A young footballer who scored the winning goal in a semi-final is said to have ‘risen to the occasion’. If you rise to the occasion, you show that you can perform well when it is important that you do so. On the same page, a national side are said to have ‘raised their game’ for an important match. To raise/up your game is to make an effort to improve the quality of what you are doing. (This phrase can apply to anything – not just games.)

On page two of the third paper, a political party leader promises that their candidate will ‘hit the ground running’ during an election campaign. To hit the ground running is to put all your energy into something from the start so that you immediately succeed.

Finally, an expert in public health warns the UK government that they must take action to ‘bridge the gap’ between the poor and the wealthy in society. To bridge the gap between two things is to reduce the difference between them.

I hope you enjoyed this round-up of idioms in newspapers. I’ll be back with another of these in a couple of months.

32 thoughts on “Hitting the ground running (Idioms and phrases in newspapers)

  1. Sanath Nanayakkare

    Thank you ever so much. You are helping us raise our game on using English idioms. For those of us who live in non-English speaking countries, your warm hearted, cheerful work is immensely helpful. I love your style. That’s fabulous.

    Sanath from Colombo-Sri Lanka

    1. Mohamud

      Thank you for boosting our English vocabulary and being teachers and reporters for us both in one time .
      I really delighted with your great efforts for improving the techniques of writing and making the readers more interested in following your magazines .

    2. Khalid Elbahga

      Thank you very much dear
      Really you bridge the gab between our knowledege and our english vocabulary store as people who live in none english speaker country.

  2. R Sekar

    A great job you have done . It is a herculean task but you are doing like a micky mouse course. I doff my hats to you.

      1. Hello
        I am confused by one thing about gerunds.

        For example, when I search some gerunds such as reading, swimming, smoking, I can see the definitions in the dictionaries.

        But When I wrote a gerund such as snooping ,trespassing,etc.I couldn’t see their definitions.

        Could you explain me why dictionaries don’t show all gerunds’ meanings? and show some gerunds’?
        I’d really appreciate it.

      2. Dear Yiğitcan,
        Thanks for your question! Usually, we only make a separate entry for gerunds in the Cambridge Dictionary if they have a meaning that can’t easily be guessed from the meaning of the verb, or if they are particularly common. If you can’t find the information you’re looking for by searching for the gerund form (e.g. ‘running’), try the infinitive (e.g. ‘run’). Thank you for your interest in the Cambridge Dictionary, and we hope you continue to find it useful!

    1. Thank you for keeping us informed to improve further in our communication skills. Idioms no doubt make our writing effective and interesting.
      I appreciate the way you explain the idioms about their actual contexts.

      Keep sharing your valuable inputs


    2. Thanks for the time you spared to make our reading worth. Appreciate a lot and would like to see more. Fascinating writing style. 👍

  3. Theekshana Liyanage

    Very worthwhile article for all English learners. Simply explained. Expecting to read more.

    1. Kate Woodford

      Thanks for your kind words! We post a new blog every week so keep checking in! Best wishes from Cambridge.

  4. Manu Jindal

    I love to read Cambridge dictionary blog post. The all material from this site gives us lucid explanation of every word, idiom, etc. But it will be more better if you will tell origin along with meaning.

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hello! Thank you for your nice comments! Regarding the word/phrase origins, readers of this blog do sometimes request this, and we totally understand why, but these posts are quite short and in order to include a good number of target words and phrases, we have to focus on meaning and use. This doesn’t allow for etymological information. I hope that helps. Best wishes from Cambridge.

  5. Mohamud

    Thank you for your great efforts of boosting our English language studying.
    you are reports beside that our best English teachers .

  6. Kate Woodford

    Many thanks to you all for leaving such kind comments! I’m delighted you found the post useful. We publish a newspaper idioms post like this every couple of months so keep checking in!

  7. Maryem Salama

    In an attempt to bridge the gap between my mother tongue and my second language, I decided to hit the ground running to the highest level of both languages and never stop raising my game up till I have my aim achieved. Thank you, Kate. I appreciate your efforts, but I would like to put the idiom in an example. I mean a sentence either you repeat it as it is in the newspaper or create a new one.

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hi Maryem, nice to hear from you and many thanks for your feedback. Yes, I wondered whether to include the example sentences but it would have meant including fewer phrases in the post. Swings and roundabouts! Best wishes from Cambridge!

  8. Hello, Kate,
    Thank you very much for this post. It is such a good idea to analyse phrases and words used in articles and then share your knowledge with us, non-native speakers. Thanks for taking time out of your your busy days for this project.

    Stay safe,

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