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Describing Success and Failure

Phrases to Describe Success

The phrases below connect to a verb (underlined) that was done successfully. In the expression "manage to do", the verb "manage" does not mean "management" - it means that you found success in something that was not easy and required skill or luck to accomplish:

  • Be able (to do): “I’m glad that I was able to complete the project on time.”

  • Manage (to do): “I’m not sure how she managed to convince him.”

  • Succeed in (doing): “Our team succeeded in winning our league championship.”

  • Find a way (to do): “It wasn’t easy, but I found a way to get into the event without a ticket.”

The phrasal verbs "get through (it)" can describe surviving a difficult situation, such as a stressful situation or tiring task. The phrasal verb "pull (it) off" means that something was done successfully even though it seemed impossible or very unlikely.

  • Get through (something): “It was a very stressful situation but I got through it.

  • Pull (something) off: “She got from her home to the airport in only 30 minutes and caught her flight in time. I don’t know how she pulled it off.



Phrases to Describe Failure

The phrases below connect to a verb (underlined) that was not done successfully.

  • Not be able (to do): “I wasn’t able to find the information I was looking for.”

  • Fail (to do): “She failed to impress the recruiters, so she didn’t get the job.”

  • Fall short: “We were hoping to reach our donation goal of one million dollars but we fell short and only got $850,000 from donors.”

Collocations about Success

The phrases below are common combinations of verbs and nouns to describe success. The expression "make inroads" means that you have some success at the beginning of a new goal or project and the expression "reach a turning point" is when something that happens that changes your momentum.

For example, if you meet someone who significantly helps you towards your goal, you can say that the event of meeting that person was a turning point.

  • Set a goal: "I've set a goal for myself to run for 30 minutes every day."

  • Achieve a goal: "Our company achieved our goal of enrolling 50 new members this month."

  • Reach a milestone: "I reached a milestone when I got 1,000 followers on Instagram."

  • Overcome an obstacle: "I had to overcome many obstacles to start my business, including many banks refusing to lend money to me to start the business."

  • Make inroads: "The government is making inroads with their new initiative to reduce distracted driving. There have been less arrests for distracted driving so far."

  • Reach a turning point: "Our band reached a turning point when a music producer attended our concert. He liked our music and offered us a chance to work with him!"

  • Be/Stay on track towards a goal: "I want to complete my book in the next 3 months. So far I'm on track. Now I just need to make sure that I ignore distractions and stay on track the rest of the way."

Collocations about Failure and Difficulty

The phrases below can describe challenges that are experienced when trying to accomplish a goal.

  • Suffer a setback: "Our team suffered a setback when our best player got injured during a game."

  • Run into trouble: "I wanted to save $500 every month but I ran into trouble when my friend invited me to the casino. I lost $300 that night!."



Practice

Change the sentences below by removing the underlined part and replacing it with the expression in brackets.

ex. "I successfully passed my driver's test." (manage to do) = "I managed to pass my driver's test."

  1. I didn't think anyone would buy my used car but I successfully sold it. (find a way to do)

  2. It was a long hike but we successfully reached the peak of the mountain (succeed in doing)

  3. I saw the actor Ryan Reynolds in New York. I still can't believe that I successfully took a picture with him. (be able to do)

  4. I successfully painted my house all by myself without any help (manage to do)

  5. Unfortunately, I didn't get a date with her. She rejected my invitation (fail to do)

  6. I was supposed to learn 10 new French words every day but I didn't. I need to be more disciplined. (fall short)

  7. I was trying to get a job as a professor at the university but I didn't (not be able to)

Choose the correct phrase from below to complete the sentence:

suffered a setback / making inroads / overcome obstacles / reached a milestone / pulled it off

  1. I _____________ when I got my first book deal with a publishing company. It was a huge accomplishment for me!

  2. I was recovering well from a broken leg when I ______________ and injured it again while walking on some ice. It was a big mistake and now I have to start recovery again.

  3. My sister had to raise her daughter alone. It was a difficult task but she ___________ and her daughter has become a polite, intelligent young woman.

  4. My parents had to _______________ to come to United States as immigrants, such as finding a job without any work experience or personal connections in USA.

  5. Our company set a goal to reduce the amount of energy our offices consume and so far we are ____________. It's still early but energy consumption has already decreased by 10%.

Answers

  1. I didn't think anyone would buy my used car but I found a way to sell it. (find a way to do)

  2. It was a long hike but we succeeded in reaching the peak of the mountain (succeed in doing)

  3. I saw the actor Ryan Reynolds in New York. I still can't believe that I was able to take a picture with him. (be able to do)

  4. I managed to paint my house all by myself without any help (manage to do)

  5. Unfortunately, I failed to get a date with her. She rejected my invitation (fail to do)

  6. I was supposed to learn 10 new French words every day but I fell short. I need to be more disciplined. (fall short)

  7. I was trying to get a job as a professor at the university but I wasn't able to. (not be able to)

Choose the correct phrase from below to complete the sentence:

  1. I reached a milestone when I got my first book deal with a publishing company. It was a huge accomplishment for me!

  2. I was recovering well from a broken leg when I suffered a setback and injured it again while walking on some ice. It was a big mistake and now I have to start recovery again.

  3. My sister had to raise her daughter alone. It was a difficult task but she pulled it off and her daughter has become a polite, intelligent young woman.

  4. My parents had to overcome obstacles to come to United States as immigrants, such as finding a job without any work experience or personal connections in USA.

  5. Our company set a goal to reduce the amount of energy our offices consume and so far we are making inroads. It's still early but energy consumption has already decreased by 10%.

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