Number one for English language teachers

Your English: Idioms: ball

Type: Article

Tim Bowen proves he’s always on the ball as he starts the ball rolling with these ball-related idioms.

‘I have no intention of retiring. I’m having a ball’. In other words, the speaker is having a great time.

If someone is on the ball, they are quick to understand what is happening and what must be done, as in ‘He’s really on the ball and exactly the sort of person we need in this company’.

To start the ball rolling means to make something such as a meeting or a discussion start, as in ‘OK. There are several things we need to discuss this evening. Who’d like to start the ball rolling?’

If the ball is in someone’s court, it is their responsibility to take action or make a decision, as in ‘We’ve done all we can. Now the ball is firmly in the government’s court and it’s up to them to pick up the ball and run with it’ (take responsibility for getting something done, especially after someone else has tried and failed).

If you have several balls in the air, you are trying to do several things at the same time and if you keep your eye on the ball, you remain alert to events that are happening around you. The opposite is to take your eye off the ball, as in ‘In a competitive market like this one, you can’t afford to take your eye off the ball for a moment’.

If you play ball, you cooperate with someone in an effective way, as in ‘When manufacturers refused to play ball, the company stopped buying’.

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