Triumphs and success stories (The language of success, Part 1)

a man wearing a tuxedo and holding a trophy, with stage lights in background
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by Kate Woodford

We like positive posts on the About words blog, so this week we’re looking at language connected with success. As there are so many useful words and phrases in this area this post, focusing mainly on nouns, is the first of three. As ever, we’ll look at the most frequent and useful words and phrases.

Let’s kick off with the noun ‘success’ itself, which has a few nice collocations. We emphasize how successful something is by saying it is a huge success, a great success or, even more emphatically, a resounding, phenomenal or roaring success:

The scheme proved a resounding success.

Can they repeat the phenomenal success of the first series?

Sadly, the event was not the roaring success they’d been hoping for.

We say that someone scores a success with a piece of work, meaning that they achieve success. We also say that someone makes a success of a business or career, meaning that they manage to succeed in it:

They scored a huge success with their next single.

If Emily does decide to start her own company, I feel sure she’ll make a success of it.

Looking at other nouns in this area, the word triumph is used to mean ‘a very great success’:

Her next film was an absolute triumph. / This was the party’s third election triumph in a row.

We sometimes use the noun results to refer to success that comes after a lot of effort. Two nice collocations are see results (=succeed) and get results (= make sure something succeeds):

They’ve worked very hard to improve their game and, at last, they’re starting to see results.

She’s a really tough coach but she gets results.

A success story, meanwhile, is someone or something that succeeds, sometimes in a way that is surprising:

The protection of this rare bird has been a real success story in wildlife management.

A smash or smash hit is an extremely successful song, film or play:

Her next play was a West-end smash.

The phrase the big time is sometimes used to refer to the most successful level of a profession, especially a very public profession, such as acting. We say that someone ‘makes’ or ‘hits’ the big time: It’s the story of how a small-town boy made the big time. / It was with her next film that she hit the big time.

Finally, if someone has the Midas touch, they seem to succeed in everything they do:

For several years, he was known as the manager with the Midas touch. / Is she perhaps losing her Midas touch?

In the next post in this series, we’ll look at ‘succeed’ phrasal verbs, (of which there are many!)

20 thoughts on “Triumphs and success stories (The language of success, Part 1)

  1. junamith Bello

    I don’t speak English very well, but I think the words in question are going to be used according to the context.

  2. Tatiana Balandina

    Thank you, Kate! I am sure you have the Midas touch explaining to us the riichness of the English Language.

  3. Denis

    Hi Kate,
    I relished reading this article. However, I’d really like you to demystify the following query for me.
    In the post, you say that if someone has the Midas touch, they seem to succeed in everything they do. As you can see, you sort of generalize here by saying ‘in everything they do’. On the contrary, this dictionary, along with another reputable one, says that if someone has the Midas touch, that person is financially successful in everything they do. So, is ‘the Midas touch’ used to talk about a person succeeding in everything or, more specifically, about someone being financially successful in everything they do?

    Kind regards

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