With Your English, Tim Bowen has certainly made his mark. Here, he delivers another classic article on idioms.

‘Years of conflict have left their mark on the country’. If you leave your mark on something, you have a very strong and noticeable effect, usually a bad effect that lasts a long time. If you make your mark, you change it or do something significant so that people notice and remember you, as in ‘He’s only been with the company for two weeks but he’s already made his mark’.

You can either be quick off the mark or slow off the mark, meaning either that you react quickly and gain an advantage or that you react slowly and lose an advantage, as in ‘Companies need to be quick off the mark to gain a foothold in this market’.

If your performance is not up to the mark, it is not good enough, as in ‘Health authorities have complained that many newly-trained nurses are simply not up to the mark’.

A guess, estimate or theory that is wide of the mark is incorrect, as in ‘The organizers’ claim that there were 25,000 people at the rally turned out to be wide of the mark’. Estimates that are close to the mark or near to the mark are almost correct.

If you overstep the mark, you do or say something that breaks a rule and makes people angry, as in ‘The interviewer overstepped the mark when he started asking questions about her private life’.

If you step up to the mark, you do what is rightly expected of you, as in ‘It’s high time retailers stepped up to the mark and paid farmers a realistic price for their milk’.