Fast cars and fast lives. We are surrounded by speed. Speedy broadband connections and speed dating (meeting lots of people for 1-3 mins trying to find a partner) are only two ways in which our lives are pre-occupied (controlled) by speed. Here are several English idioms and sayings connected to speed.
English Idioms for Progress and Speed
GET YOUR SKATES ON
This means you have to hurry or be quick as you are either going to be late or miss something.
ex. If we are going to get the 5pm train we better get our skates on as we are behind schedule.
SPREAD LIKE WILDFIRE
Wildfires occur in forests that are very dry and have not had rain for a very long time. Sometimes caused by a lightning strike but more often due to human error, wildfires spread very quickly particularly if there is some wind. That is the literal meaning. However, we can also use it in a metaphorical sense.
ex. He told one person that he was leaving the company and in a matter of minutes the rumour had spread like wildfire through the whole building.
MAKE VERY GOOD TIME
We usually use this to highlight the fact that we are moving quickly and progressing to our destination. Sometimes we use it after we have had a short delay and then we begin to travel more quickly.
ex. I set off for Manchester but the traffic in London was very slow. After an hour the traffic cleared and I began to make very good time. I was certain I would get there ahead of schedule.
LIKE A BAT OUT OF HELL
Hell is usually associated with being very hot and not a place you would really like to go to or spend any time in. Therefore when someone is in a hurry to leave a place and does so quickly we often use this phrase “like a bat out of hell”.
ex. He went to his friends party to celebrate a birthday. When he got there he noticed his former girlfriend in the other room. He left quickly like a bat out of hell as he did not wish to meet her.
English Idioms about Speed and Progress
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NO SOONER SAID THAN DONE
Usually refers to doing something quickly when someone asks you to do them a favour.
ex. Mike’s wife was tired of looking at the broken shed door in the garden. She asked Mike would he be able to fix it. Mike did not think it would take long so promised to do it immediately, right at that very moment. He said “it will be fixed before noon. No sooner said than done”.
GET OFF TO A FLYING START
This usually refers to something that begins very well or very quickly. It might not continue but you do not know.
ex. The business got off to a flying start. No sooner had he put the advert up on the internet than he got about 5 calls. He had really got off to a flying start!
Of course, not everything goes as quickly as our English phrases and idioms suggest. In fact sometimes the opposite might happen.
AT A SNAIL’S PACE
Snails are very slow creatures and when people are slow we compare them to a snail.
ex. I wanted to go for a walk to get some exercise. I asked my wife to go with me. It was a mistake. She was walking very slowly at a snail’s pace where as I wanted to walk quickly to stretch my legs!
At a Snail's Pace Idiom Meaning
PUT THE BRAKES ON
If you want to slow down a car or your bike you apply or press the brake and the car or bike will slow down and stop. We can also use this phrase when we don’t want to finish a job too quickly. If we finish it too quickly someone might give us something else to do.
ex. I was working with my colleague putting all the good into boxes. We were working quite quickly. My colleague told me to slow down, to put the brakes on, otherwise we would be finished well before lunchtime and the boss would only give us something else to do.
TAKE YOUR TIME
A bit like the previous idiom (put the brakes on) this refers to not being in a hurry and suggests there is plenty of time.
ex. When I was young and a meal was served I would rush to the table eat very quickly so I could get back out to play or do whatever I was doing before the meal. My parents always shouted “hey,slow down take your time, it’s not a race”.
TAKE YOUR FINGER OUT
It’s more slang expression than the other and a little bit rude but it is in very common use. When somebody is a little bit frustrated or annoyed of someone’s lack of progress, they tell them to take the finger out.
ex. My boss was waiting for the sales report for several weeks, he finally lost his patience and screamed at me to take my finger out and have the report on his desk by lunchtime.
ON YOUR BIKE (Irish English)
Another informal expression to encourage somebody to ether do something or go away.
ex. My son was training to persuade me to invest heavily in a new laptop for him. When he showed me the price on the internet, my only comment was: “On your bike (get lost), you can make do with the one you have”.