My Successful Friend

Learn Idioms in Context Through Reading

man at a cafe

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Here is a story about a successful friend who has had a fantastic career. Try reading the story one time to understand the gist without using the idiom definitions. On your second reading, use the definitions to help you understand the text while learning new idioms. Finally, you'll find idiom definitions and a short quiz on some of the expressions at the end of the story.  

My Successful Friend

My friend Doug has really done well for himself in life. I'm very proud of him and all of his achievements! We get together every year or so for a two or three-day hike in Oregon. It's a great time to reflect on how life is going, talk about old times and have new adventures. Let me tell you a little bit about Doug.

It was clear from the very beginning that he was going places. He did very well in school, and everyone knew he was a smart cookie. Not only were his grades good, but he was also an outstanding athlete, as well as keeping his nose clean. Some accused him of being squeaky clean, but that didn't bother him. He wasn't going to let anyone rain on his parade! 

After he graduated from college, he decided to go to New York. As the song goes: "If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere!" Back in those days, New York was a hotbed of innovation. Doug was a product design specialist and had some great designs on tap. Unfortunately, he didn't immediately succeed. Things weren't easy in the beginning, and it took him a while to learn the ins and outs of the Big Apple. In any case, it soon became to clear to him that he needed to make some brownie points with his director. He decided he would volunteer to create the presentation for a new product at the company's yearly dog and pony show. 

The boss wasn't so sure, but the decision about who would make the presentation wasn't carved in stone. In the end, the manager decided that Doug would do a good job. Doug gladly accepted the challenge and decided to make quite an impression. He wasn't exactly going to reinvent the wheel, but he knew he could improve on past presentations. He felt that giving a great presentation would improve his standing in the company.

The day of the presentation arrived, and, no surprise, Doug did an outstanding job. His presentation was informative, and he didn't blow any smoke. Where there were problems, he pointed them out and made suggestions as to how to improve the situation. Long story short, because of his excellent presentation the director realized that he was the genuine article. Doug started taking more and more responsibility at the company. Within three years, he had sealed the deal on the development of two of his best ideas. As they say, the rest is history. 

Idioms Used in the Story

be on a roll = to have one success after another have a string of successes 
Big Apple = New York New York
blow smoke = to fake or provide false information in order to gain something
brownie points = extra good will 
carved in stone = not changeable 
dog and pony show = a presentation during which a company's best products are shown
genuine article = real true not fake
go places = to become successful
hotbed of something = an area that is famous for a certain type of industry or success
ins and outs = the details and inside information about a place or situation 
keep one's nose clean = to not make any illegal or unethical mistakes
on tap = ready
rain on someone's parade = to criticize the success of someone
reinvent the wheel = to remake or invent something that already exists 
seal the deal = to make an agreement sign a contract
smart cookie = very intelligent person
squeaky clean = without fault not having problems or mistakes


  1. I think we're ___________. All of our products are selling very well.
  2. This bag looks like it's ______________. It doesn't look fake.
  3. We ________________ with our partners and start the project in May.
  4. The contract isn't ________________. We can still negotiate the details.
  5. Work with Anna and she'll show you the ____________ of the company.
  6. I don't want to _________ your _________, but there are still a few problems.
  7. I think she''ll ______________. She's very intelligent AND competitive. 
  8. I wouldn't believe that. He's known for ______________. 

Quiz Answers

  1. on a roll
  2. genuine article 
  3. sealed the deal
  4. carved in stone
  5. ins and outs
  6. rain on your parade
  7. go places
  8. blowing smoke

More Idioms and Expressions in Context Stories

Learn more expressions using stories with one or more of these further idioms in context stories with quizzes.

It's important to learn and use idioms in context. Of course, idioms are not always easy to understand. There are idiom and expression resources that can help with definitions, but reading them in short stories can also provide context that makes them come more alive.