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smooth sailing: meaning and explanation

Smooth sailing = without any problems or unexpected difficulties. If you predict a process to be ‘smooth sailing’, then you are expecting it to be straightforward or easily achievable. e.g. The main challenge for us is to get our EU license application approved. Once we have that, it should be smooth sailing.

One situation in which to use this idiom is when you have achieved a positive outcome and are looking back at the journey or process and acknowledging that it was challenging at times, e.g. it wasn’t always smooth sailing. This usage can be seen in the first and third micro-dictations.

Have a go at these micro-dictation exercises to hear this expression being used in context – how much can you understand?

Listening exercises

Micro-listening #1

Accent: Scotland

, .
hasn’t been , but overall it’s year for and is .
It hasn’t been smooth , but overall it’s a good year for the and the future is looking .

About the sentence

…the future is looking bright

the future looks/is bright (for sth) is a nice way of communicating your optimism about the future (in general, or about something specific). e.g. With returns at an all time high, the future is looking bright for green tech investors.

Micro-listening #2

Accent: North America

Micro-listening #3

Accent: England (RP)


Extra practice

Here are some questions/links to help you learn the new vocabulary:

  • Can you remember a personal or professional experience where a situation was initially “smooth sailing” but unexpected challenges arose. How did you and others handle those challenges?
  • In your experience, what factors contribute to “smooth sailing” in personal or professional life? How can individuals and teams promote smooth operations?

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

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