Common Idioms to Boost your IELTS Score – Topic : Starting and Stopping


Starting and Stopping

call it a day

  1. If you call it a day, you decide to stop doing something you have been doing that day.

I searched for hours but I had to call it a day when it got dark.

NOTE: In the evening, people sometimes say that they are going to call it a night.

Tomorrow is going to be busy, so let’s call it a night.

  1. If someone calls it a day, they retire from their job.

It’s no secret I want his job when he calls it a day.

call it quits

If you call it quits, you decide to stop doing something or stop being involved in something.

The nightclub stays open until the last customer is ready to call it quits.

cut your losses

If you cut your losses, you decide to stop spending time, energy, or money on an activity or situation on which you have already spent a lot without having any success.

Competition in the market was very strong, so we decided to cut our losses and close the business.

enough is enough

People say enough is enough when they think that something, usually something bad, should stop.

How much longer will we allow ourselves to be insulted before saying enough is enough?

from scratch

If you do something or start something from scratch, you create something completely new, rather than adding to something that already exists.

NOTE: In the past, the starting line for races was often a line scratched in the earth.

He would rather start again from scratch with new rules, new members, and a new electoral system.

grind to a halt

If a process or an activity grinds to a halt, it gradually becomes slower or less active until it stops.

The peace process has ground to a halt.

NOTE: This expression refers to the way metal parts, for example in an engine, rub together and make a noise when they are not oiled well enough.

hit the ground running

If you hit the ground running, you start a new activity with great energy and enthusiasm, working effectively from the beginning.

NOTE: This image here may be of soldiers landing by parachute or helicopter in a battle area and moving off quickly as soon as they reach the ground.

She’s having a holiday just now and will no doubt hit the ground running with all sorts of new ideas when she gets back.

In business

If you say that you are in business, you mean that you can start doing something because you have got everything ready for it. [SPOKEN]

The new software is installed and working, right? Okay, we’re in business.

Knock something on the head

  1. If you knock a story or idea on the head, you show that it is not true or correct. [INFORMAL, BRITISH]

It’s time to knock the idea that we are not living a full life unless we are married on the head.

  1. If you knock an activity on the head, you stop doing it, or decide not to do it. [INFORMAL]

We’ll never be a famous band. When we stop enjoying ourselves, we’ll knock it on the head.

nip something in the bud

If you nip a bad situation or bad behaviour in the bud, you stop it at an early stage.

NOTE: This expression may refer to extremely cold weather damaging a plant and stopping it flowering. Alternatively, it may refer to a gardener removing buds from a plant to prevent it flowering.

It is important to recognize jealousy as soon as possible and to nip it in the bud before it becomes a serious problem.

set the ball rolling or start the ball rolling

If you set the ball rolling or start the ball rolling, you start an activity or you do something which other people will join in with later.

I’ve already started the ball rolling. I’ve set up meetings with all sorts of people.

NOTE: You can also use verbs such as get and keep.

Once you get the ball rolling, everyone wants to be involved.

turn over a new leaf

If someone has turned over a new leaf, they have started to behave in a better way than before.

While Eddie has turned over a new leaf, his brother is still racing around in fast cars and causing trouble.

up and running

If a system, business, or plan is up and running, it has started and is functioning successfully.

The project, once it is up and running, will be very dangerous. 


Exercise 1

Complete the sentences with the words in the box.

ball       day      bud      halt      head    business          leaf      ground

1          Evans set the _________ rolling with a £1 million donation to the charity.

2          The family has agreed to turn over a new _________ in their relations with each other.

3          We need someone who is fully trained so that they can hit the _________ running.

4          This is worrying – we need to knock this idea on the _________ very quickly.

5          The negotiations ground to a _________ when the foreign minister walked out.

6          When the students start getting nervous you must nip it in the _________ .

7          The walking group decided to call it a _________ when the rain turned to snow.

8          If you really mean _________, you’ll need to buy some better gardening tools.

Exercise 2

Match idioms 1-6 with a word or phrase A-F with the same meaning.

1 I think it’s time to set the ball rolling.

2 This kind of behaviour needs to be nipped in the bud.

3 You should turn over a new leaf. You might surprise yourself.

4 Is the green light flashing? Then we’re in business.

5 ‘Enough is enough!’ said the children’s exasperated mother.

6 Sometimes it’s quicker just to do the whole job from scratch.

A from the beginning

B off to a good start

C stopped quickly

D start

E behave better

F it’s time to stop

Exercise 3

Complete the sentences. Choose the best answers.

1 The traffic was so bad that our car ground to a halt / nipped it in the bud / cut our losses.

2 After ten hours’ studying, I decided to hit the ground running / set the ball rolling / call it a day.

3 Henry’s a changed person. He must have called it quits / been in business / turned over a new leaf.

4 This situation has gone on too long. I think it’s time we knocked it on the head / hit the ground running / ground to a halt.

5 We need someone who can start the job immediately and nip it in the bud / hit the ground running / call it quits.

6 I forgot to save the file, and I’ve lost all the work I did today. I’ve got to turn over a new leaf / start in business / start from scratch.

Exercise 4

Match idioms 1-6 with situations A-F.

  1. Bob has decided to retire as manager.
  2. Many of these students have never studied English before.
  3. The team were amazing when they came back for the second half and won the match easily.
  4. The series was getting boring so the producers decided to end it.
  5. We unpacked the new PC and installed the software.
  6. You should accept your failures and concentrate on your successes.
A They hit the ground running.

B They have to start from scratch.

C He is going to call it a day.

D You must cut your losses.

E They knocked it on the head.

F We got it up and running.

Exercise 5

Correct the idioms in these sentences.

  1. I was exhausted, ready to call it the day, go home and fall asleep.
  2. If you want a lift to the city centre, you’re starting in business because that’s exactly where I’m going.
  3. The existing software was no longer usable and had to be rewritten from the scratch.
  4. There came a point when I had to say enough is quits and the discussion had to stop.
  5. Shall I stay and finish my degree or cut my loss and go travelling?
  6. I’ll make films for one more year and then I’m going to keep it quits.
  7. The first stage of our advertising campaign is now up and turning.
  8. The best way to stop an argument is to hit it in the bud.

Exercise 6

Choose the most appropriate thing to say A-F in each situation 1-6.

  1. You’ve been working long hours. You think it’s time to go home.
  2. You’ve noticed a lot of negative behaviour in your workplace lately. You don’t want it to continue.
  3. You want to start an activity that you hope everyone will join in with.
  4. Your new business has started and is functioning successfully.
  5. Development on something is slowing down will soon stop completely.
  6. You want to create something completely new, rather than improve what you already have.
A We’re up and running.

B We need to nip this in the bud.

C Let’s start from scratch.

D It’s grinding to a halt.

E I’m going to call it day.

F I’ll start the ball rolling.

Exercise 7

Complete the table with idioms from this unit.

Starting1 ____________________________________

2 ____________________________________

3 ____________________________________

4 ____________________________________

5 ____________________________________

Stopping1 ____________________________________

2 ____________________________________

3 ____________________________________

4 ____________________________________

5 ____________________________________

6 ____________________________________

7 ____________________________________

8 ____________________________________

Both1 ____________________________________

Your turn!

Think about something you’ve done recently. Use the idioms in this unit to describe the way you or another person started or stopped doing things. For example:

My computer crashed and I had to start my essay all over again from scratch.

I’ve been going to bed too late recently. But enough Is enough, I need to get more sleep.

Answer Key

Exercise 1

1          ball

2          leaf

3          ground

4          head

5          halt

6          bud

7          day

8          business

Exercise 2

1          D

2          C

3          E

4          B

5          F

6          A

Exercise 3

1 ground to a halt

2 call it a day

3 turned over a new leaf

4 knocked it on the head

5 hit the ground running

6 start from scratch

Exercise 4

1 C

2 B

3 A

4 E

5 F

6 D

Exercise 5

1 call it a day

2 you’re in business

3 from scratch

4 enough is enough

5 cut my losses

6 call it quits

7 up and running

8 nip it in the bud

Exercise 6

1 E

2 B

3 F

4 A

5 D

6 C

Exercise 7



set/start the ball rolling

hit the ground running

in business

from scratch

up and running

stoppingnip something in the bud

call it a day

grind to a halt

knock something on the head

call it quits

enough is enough

cut your losses

bothturn over a new leaf

Written By

Nafia Zuhana is an experienced content writer and IELTS Trainer. Currently, she is guiding students who are appearing for IELTS General and Academic exams through With an 8.5 score herself, she trains and provides test takers with strategies, tips, and nuances on how to crack the IELTS Exam. She holds a degree in Master of Arts – Creative Writing, Oxford Brookes University, UK. She has worked with The Hindu for over a year as an English language trainer.

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