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

, .
accounts our funding, be .
the accounts department our funding, should be sailing.

Micro-listening #3

Accent: England (RP)

, .
It wasn’t , but what that we deal over .
It wasn’t always smooth , but what is that we the deal over the .

About the sentence

…the bottom line is that we got the deal over the line

If you get something over the line, then you have achieved a positive or successful outcome. Using this phrase can communicate the idea that achieving the outcome was a challenge and you probably came close to failure. e.g. Most of my colleagues didn’t think we would ever finish the report, but we got it over the line in the end.

Here’s an exercise to practise the expression ‘the bottom line’.


Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash