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English Idioms About the Word “Ball”

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The Six Nations Rugby Championship isn’t over yet, but Ireland has played so well that they already know they have won the competition. I guess that’s because they managed to keep their eye on the ball all the way through!

No, I don’t mean that literally (although rugby players do need to watch where the real ball is, of course!). This is just one of many idioms in the English language that use the word ‘ball’.

Let’s take a look at what they mean.

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

This means that you know exactly what you are trying to achieve, or what goal you want to reach, and you stay focused on it all the time. If someone tells you to keep your eye on the ball, they mean that you shouldn’t get distracted by anything else – you need to remember what you want and keep doing everything you can to get there.

For example:

“It doesn’t matter if your friends think you’re a nerd for studying every night. You need to keep your eye on the ball if you want to get a Level 7 on your IELTS test!”

“If you really keep your eye on the ball you could be promoted to manager in six months.”

“She could have been a famous violinist if she had just kept her eye on the ball.”

Get the Ball Rolling

This is an easy one. It means to get something started.

For example:

“Let’s get the ball rolling on this new project!”

“We’ve been talking about starting a new band for ages. We should just get the ball rolling!”

“If you don’t get the ball rolling on your dissertation soon, I don’t think you’ll have time to finish it before the deadline.”

The Ball is in Your / Their Court

This is a sports expression, although it actually comes from tennis, not rugby. If you say “the ball is in their court” it means that it’s up to the other person what happens next – you have done your bit, and the other person needs to make the next decision, perform the next action, or reply to you in some way. In tennis, that is because you have hit the ball over the net and you can’t do anything until the other person hits it back to you.

For example:

“Well, I’ve sent in my application. The ball is in their court now.”

“He’s texted me back at last, so guess the ball is in my court.”

“I’ve given you all the information you need to start the project, so the ball is in your court.”

To Play Ball

If you “play ball” with someone, you agree to go along with what they want, or behave in a way that fits in with them.

For example:

“I’ve tried to get him to come to the meetings, but he won’t play ball.”

“If you refuse to play ball with the police, they might make things difficult for you.”

“You’re making things really difficult for me. Will you just play ball?”

How about you? Are you ready to get the ball rolling on improving your English skills? Take a look at our range of courses at www.Eurocentres.com