go down well/badly: meaning and explanation

When you want to talk about how people reacted to something (e.g. some news, a joke, a meal), we can use the phrasal verb to go down well/badly. e.g. I made an inappropriate joke during the speech and it didn’t go down very well.

If we say that some news went down badly, we are saying that people reacted badly to the news. If people reacted positively, then it went down well.

We can also use this phrasal verb to ask about a reaction to something, e.g. I heard you had to give a presentation to the new boss yesterday. How did it go down?

When we want to specify, you can use to go down well/badly with somebody. e.g. His behaviour at his wedding didn’t go down well with his parents-in-law.

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

Listening exercises

Dictation #1

Accent: North America

. .
I about my university . It went than I .

About the sentence

…I told my parents about my decision to quit university…

When someone quits university, school or a course, we can also use the phrasal verb to drop out of something.

Dictation #2

Accent: England (RP)

Available soon

Dictation #3

Accent: England (RP)

Available soon

Extra practice

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

  • Can you remember a time when you told someone something, and it went down really badly?
  • Using this phrasal verb, give me an example of something you cooked for someone which was a great success/a big failure.

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