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Sports Idioms & Phrases: IELTS Speaking

One way to try to get high scores in the IELTS speaking test is to use phrasal verbs and idioms. In this blog we are going to look at sport idioms & phrasal verbs.


At upper intermediate level and above you should be learning both of them and trying to use them in your daily life. They are not easy but are one way you can move towards advanced and proficiency.  

A band 4/5 student may try to use 1 or 2 of them in the IELTS speaking test but normally in a very unnatural way. However, a band 7 student will probably know many and use them well but a band 8/9 candidate will utilise them completely naturally. At this level the student speaks very naturally and uses whatever language they need to express themselves clearly. When they choose a phrasal verb or idiom it is because it conveys more than a normal word (s) alone. This is just like a native English speaker. The band 4/5 student, on the other hand, will probably just say 1 or repeat a memorised phrase to try to sound more advanced.  

Sport Phrasal verbs

  Here are some phrasal verbs and their definitions which are used for sport:

to warm upTo do movements/stretching to get your muscles/body ready for exercise
To cool downTo do movements/stretching after your main exercise to get it back to normal
To join inTo take part in a sporting event or match
To give upTo surrender/quit
To drop outTo leave a competition or race
To knock someone outTo beat someone in competition so they are no longer in it /To hit someone in a boxing match so that they become unconscious
To bulk upTo gain weight and muscle
To work outTo do exercise routines/sessions

Here is a sample speaking part 2 question:

  Describe your favourite type of sport   You should say: -What equipment is used -Where it is normally played -How it is played And say how it compares to other sports.  

Listen to the sample sentences here:

Sport Phrasal Verbs (mp3)

Text of the Audio

  You need to use special training equipment to warm up and cool down so you don’t get cramps. It’s normally played on a pitch outside and anyone can join in. It’s a tough sport, you need determination and a high level of endurance because it involves a lot of running. This is why most people give up in the first month. Because it’s very physical, injuries are frequent so it’s not uncommon for athletes to drop out of competitions. Every match is part of a competition where each losing team is sequentially knocked out until there are only 2 remaining who play in the final. To play this sport you need a strong body and must weigh a certain amount. What this means is that competitors frequently bulk up before matches. In my opinion, it’s far more physically demanding than other sports on account of the strenuous training sessions where you work out with a coach.

Now, prepare your own 2 minute presentation using the phrasal verbs.  

Sport idioms

What’s great about idioms is that they add new meaning and a creativity to how you express yourself. One idiom can often say far more than a whole sentence. Here are some sports idioms to you can use to talk about many things.

Another string to your bowAnother skill/ability
To dive in head firstTo start doing something 100%
To get off on the wrong footTo start a relationship badly
To jump through the hoopsTo do what you are told to do
To do something off your own batTo take the initiative and do something on your own
To get off to a flying startTo make a successful start
To be on the ballTo be sharp and to know everything that’s happening
Plain sailingWithout any problems
To run rings around someoneTo be far superior to someone else
The name of the gameThe core priority. “Speed is the name of the game in athletics”
You can’t win them allIt’s impossible to win every match/contest
You win some you lose someIt’s normal to lose some matches/contests
To be out of your leagueWhen the other competitors are far superior to you


Here are some great videos to learn more sport idioms:  

Try to learn 1 phrasal verb and 1 idiom every day. You should try to use them in speaking and also writing. At the end of the week revise everything you’ve learned and ask your teacher or a friend to check.  


Blog Category: 
Academic English

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