go off the rails 12

to go off the rails: meaning and explanation

to go off the rails = to begin behaving in an unacceptable or outrageous way.

We tend to use this expression to say that someone’s life has started to go in the wrong direction (in a sudden and dramatic way).

Imagine a gifted student – his life was “going in the right direction” until he broke up with his girlfriend, and then everything started to go wrong. If he went off the rails, maybe he stopped studying, started partying every night, drank too much, stopped taking care of himself and so on.

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

Dictation #1

Accent: Northern England

My sister rails during of university out.
My sister off the rails during first year of university ended up out.

…and ended up dropping out…

There are two phrasal verbs in this sentence: to end up doing something, and to drop out. Do you know them?

Discussion questions

Write your answers to these questions in the comments section, and I’ll get back to you with some feedback:

  • Have you ever gone off the rails, or do you know anyone who has? What caused it and what happened? How did you get your life back on track?
  • Is it normal for teenagers to go off the rails at some point?

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Erich
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Erich

7 years ago I dropped out the army life when I was living in Spain, because I felt that my life had gone off the rails after my girlfriend switch me with another guy. But now, I’m much better and wiser 🙂

Lenin
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Lenin

Once I was passing through a zebra pass by bycicle and a guy almost ran over me and my byke but I could manage to jump off the byke before something happened to me then I stood up and started discussing with the driver … But he didn’t say anything and left

Gulnar
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Gulnar

I used to know a man who was an intelligent, good-looking and wealthy some years ago. But he had gone off the rail, used drugs, lost all his earned: family, children, money, and respect.

Victoria
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Victoria

Actually, I’ve never gone off the rails as I’ve always been trying to do my best to become a perfect student

Marisela
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Marisela

Sadly, I remember when my aunt died back then in 1997, then my cousin, who was just a 15-year-old girl, went completely off the rails. Besides dropping out of high school, she got pregnant and after that her boyfriend dumped her.

Unfortunately, she could never got his life back on track and live a quiet and peaceful life ever since.

Tanya
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Tanya

I know one guy who was a professional sportsman. But then – friends, parties.. and he went off the rails. Now he takes drugs and live not a good life.

P.S. What does the phrasal verb “to drop out of something” means?

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