Business Idioms 7: Failure I

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's an example of a total failure? It can be a personal example or a widely-known example.


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

  1. come up short—fail to reach a goal or standard.
  2. cut one's losses—avoid losing any more money than you have already lost.
  3. easy come, easy go—said when something, especially money, is easily acquired and then soon spent or lost.
  4. go broke—spend or lose all of your money.
  5. go down the drain—be completely wasted or spoiled.
A: B:
C: D:



A. Complete the anecdote

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

  1. The owners of the restaurant had been losing money consistently for more than six months when they finally decided it was time to close the business and…
  2. Thomas has been speculating on the stock market for a decade and has gained and lost a large amount of money in that time. His attitude towards money has always been… 
  3. Halfway through the research project, funding was cut. All the hard work and energy spent by the scientists…
  4. Jen worked very hard on the report but when she gave it to her boss, she was told that she would have to do it again because it…
  5. If the government doesn’t inject money into companies that have been hit hard by the financial crisis, a lot of businesses are going to…

B. Discussion

Use idioms to discuss the following topics.

  1. What can a person learn from failure?
  2. How do you feel when your time, money or effort are wasted?
  3. What advice would you give to someone who has invested in a business that is steadily losing money?



David Playford via FreeImages
Images Money via Flickr via Wikimedia
Aqua Mechanical via Flickr
Vyacheslav Lozhkin via Pixabay