Business Idioms 12: Failure II

This lesson will focus on using a variety of expressions related to failure.


This lesson will help you use these idioms describing failure. You will also get a chance to talk about your own experiences.

Warm Up: 

What failures were associated with the 2008 Global Financial Crisis? 


Please consider each expression and match them to the images. Your instructor has an example and a question regarding each one. 

  1. lose ground—to fall behind; to fail to maintain your position.
  2. a no-win situation—a situation which is certain to end in failure. 
  3. not going to fly—will not be successful.
  4. a disaster waiting to happen—something that is going to fail sooner or later.
  5. run into the ground—ruined or destroyed by bad management (can be used in the passive or active; here the subject is a company or a project, not a person; also has other meanings, e.g., exhausted)
A: B:
C: D:



A. Complete the anecdote

Read each section and choose an appropriate idiom from the list above.

  1. There was an accident at the warehouse, and as a result, we couldn’t distribute anything for a month. During this time, our competitors took advantage of the situation and increased their advertising. As a result, the quarterly figures clearly show that we have…
  2. The changes in the import tax mean that the price of the components we use from foreign suppliers will rise by about 5%. However, the same parts manufactured in this country are 5% more expensive than the foreign parts. So whatever we do, we are going to pay more for the components. It’s…
  3. Unless we have more investment in the company to develop the new product line, we won’t be able to take the next step. We have explored all the options, and quite clearly, we need more capital or we cannot move forward with the project. Without a cash injection, or a substantial loan, it’s…
  4. The consultant explained the terrible situation to the board. The company was not well-organised, communication was inefficient and the staff were unmotivated. The company wanted to expand into a new market at this time but the consultant thought it was a bad idea. In fact, he said it was…
  5. The manager had no experience and didn’t understand how to manage his staff or organise his team, and as a result, projects had failed, contracts had been lost and the company was losing money for the first time. The business had been quite successful, but due to his incompetence, it had been…

B. Discussion

Use idioms to discuss the following topics.

  1. Why do some companies go bankrupt?
  2. How important is the composition of a team in the success of a project?
  3. Is it easy to anticipate and avoid failure?



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