acid test

To refer to something as’ the acid test‘ means that it will prove how effective or useful something is.
“The training course was very interesting but the acid test will come when I start my new job.”

(whole) bag of tricks

If you use your (whole) bag of tricks to do something, you try (all) the clever methods, skills, techniques or resources available to you in order to succeed.
“Let’s call on George and his bag of tricks; maybe he can help us solve the problem.”

on the ball

If you are on the ball, you are aware of what is happening and are able to deal with things quickly and intelligently.
“We need someone who is really on the ball to head the fund-raising campaign.”

to the best of one’s ability

When someone does something to the best of their ability, they do it as well as they possibly can.
“I felt nervous all through the interview, but I replied to the best of my ability.”

kill two birds with one stone

If you kill two birds with one stone, you succeed in doing two things at the same time.
“By studying on the train on the way home, Claire kills two birds with one stone.”

boil the ocean

To boil the ocean means to waste time on a task or project that is unnecessary, not worth doing or impossible to achieve.
“I expect you to do the job well but don’t try to boil the ocean

take the bull by the horns

To take the bull by the horns means that a person decides to act decisively in order to deal with a difficult situation or problem.
“When the argument turned into a fight, the bar owner took the bull by the horns and called the police.”

can’t hold a candle to

If one person can’t hold a candle to another, they are much less competent or do not perform as well as the other.
“John is very intelligent but he can’t hold a candle to his brother Paul when it comes to sports.”

chase your (own) tail

Someone who is chasing their (own) tail is spending a lot of time and energy doing many things but achieving very little.
“He’s been chasing his tail all week collecting data but the report is still not ready.”

like clockwork

To say that someone or something goes, runs or behaves like clockwork means that everything happens exactly as expected.
“Meals are always served on time. In their home everything runs like clockwork.”

cut the ground from under feet

When someone cuts the ground from under another’s feet, they do something which weakens their position or spoils their plans.
“When we launched the new product, we cut the ground from under our competitors’ feet.

(a) dab hand at something

If you’re a dab hand at something, you’re very good at doing it.
“Why don’t you call Suzy? She’s a dab hand at organising barbecues.”

deliver the goods

If a person delivers the goods, they do what is expected of them or what they have promised to.
“Let’s hope that new whiz-kid the boss hired can deliver the goods!”

do nothing by halves

When a person does everything they are engaged in completely and thoroughly, they are said to do nothing by halves.
“When she cooks, it’s a four-course meal – she does nothing by halves!”

do the trick

If something does the trick, it does exactly what is needed, or achieves the desired effect.
“Another coat of paint should do the trick.”

explore all avenues

If you explore all avenues, you try out every possibility in order to obtain a result or find a solution.
“We can’t say it’s impossible until we’ve explored all avenues.”

fast track something

If you decide to fast track something, such as a task or project, you give it high priority so that the objective is reached as quickly as possible.
“In view of the number of homeless, it was decided to fast track the construction of low-cost housing.”

get it down to a fine art

When you learn to do something perfectly, you get it down to a fine art.
“Entertaining her husband’s business associates is not a problem for Jane; she’s got that down to a fine art!

fine-tooth comb

To go over something with a fine-tooth comb means to examine it closely and thoroughly so as not to miss any details.
“The police are examining the scene of the crime with a fine-tooth comb.”

get one’s act together

If you get your act together, you organise your affairs better than you have done previously and deal with things more efficiently.
“Jack’s plan won’t work unless he gets his act together.”

get (something) off the ground

If you get something off the ground, you put it into operation after having organised it.
“After a lot of hard work, we finally got the campaign off the ground.”

get your ducks in a row

If you get your ducks in a row, you get things well organised.
“We need to get our ducks in a row if we want our project to succeed.”

get the show on the road

If you manage to put a plan or idea into action, you get the show on the road.
“OK, we’ve got all we need, so let’s get the show on the road.”

go the extra mile

If you go the extra mile, you do more than what is expected of you.
“You can count on Tom; he’s always willing to go the extra mile.”

go to (great) pains (or lengths)

When trying to achieve something, if you go to great pains or great lengths, you do everything that is possible in order to succeed.
“The two parties went to great lengths to reach an agreement.”

half the battle

This expression refers to a significant part of the effort or work needed to achieve something.
“We’ve already obtained a loan for the project – that’s half the battle!”

think on your feet

A person who thinks on their feet is capable of adjusting rapidly to new developments and making quick decisions.
“Good lawyers need to be able to think on their feet when pleading a case.”

not let grass grow under feet

If someone does not let the grass grow under their feet, they do not delay in getting something done.
“As soon as he received the permit, he started to build. He never lets the grass grow under his feet!”

keep your fingers on the pulse

If you keep a finger on the pulse, you are constantly aware of the most recent events or developments.
“A successful investor keeps his finger on the pulse of international business.”

kill two birds with one stone

If you kill two birds with one stone, you succeed in doing two things at the same time.
“By studying on the train on the way home, Claire kills two birds with one stone.”

leave no stone unturned

If you try everything possible in order to achieve or to find something, you leave no stone unturned.
“The management left no stone unturned in their efforts to find a solution to the crisis.”

make light work of (something)

If a person makes light work of something, they do it very easily or with little effort.
“The boys made light work of the cleaning up. The house was spotless in no time.”

mean business

If someone means business, they are serious about what they announce.
“The boss says that in future any missing material will be reported to the police, and he looks as though he means business.”

ahead of the pack

If a person or organisation is ahead of the pack, they are better or more successful than their rivals.
“Our products will have to be more innovative if we want to stay ahead of the pack.”

run a taut ship
(also: ‘run a tight ship’)

When a group or organisation is run in a well-ordered and disciplined manner, the person in charge runs a taut (or tight) ship.
“The director of the scout camp runs a taut ship.”

sail through something

If you sail through something, for example a test or presentation, you succeed in doing it without difficulty.
“Demonstrating the new product was no problem for Pedro. He sailed through it.”

sell ice to Eskimos

This expression is used to describe a person who has the ability to persuade someone to accept something totally unnecessary or useless.
“It’s not surprising Mark was named ‘salesman of the year’. He could sell ice to Eskimos!”

take matters into your own hands

If you take matters into your hands, you take action yourself rather than waiting for others to intervene.
“When Susan saw the lack of progress, she decided to take matters into her own hands.”

tricks of the trade

This term refers to a clever or expert way of doing things, especially in a job.
“He’s a tough negotiator; he knows all the tricks of the trade.”

tried and tested

If a method has been tried and tested, it can be trusted because it has been used successfully in the past and is known to work.
“There’s no risk involved. The method has been tried and tested.”

walk and chew gum

If you can walk and chew gum (at the same time), you are able to do more than one thing at a time.
“Why did you hire that guy? He can’t walk and chew gum at the same time!”

ways and means

To say that there are ways and means of achieving something means that there are several methods which will produce the desired result.
“All ways and means wil be used to provide assistance to the survivors.”

work like a charm

If something such as a product or method works like a charm, it functions very well or has the desired effect.
“I tried cleaning it with vinegar and it worked like a charm!”