Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

What do native speakers mean when they say “I dropped the ball”?

They mean that they didn’t do what they were supposed to do.

How can you use this phrase in natural conversations?

We’ll show you how to do it in today’s episode. Today we have a question from a listener that is related.

We’ll answer this listener’s question then we’ll talk about the phrase “drop the ball.”

Here is the question from our listener:

Hi Girls,

I love your podcast and wants to thank you for doing this! It is very helpful to improve my English. I have a question for you. I heard in another podcast this phrase: “he is dropping his jam” and I wonder what that means.  Maybe you can help me to understand 🙂 Thanks a lot- Ina from Switzerland


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“He’s dropping my jam”

It means that someone is playing your song. You would usually say this about a DJ at a nightclub when they are playing your favorite song.

  • Related expressions:
    • “That’s my jam”: You might say this when a song comes on the radio that you love.

A more useful phrase we want to teach you today is “to drop the ball.”

“To drop the ball”:

There was a big fire out in Oakland CA this past weekend and I was watching a news report on it and the reporter was asking who “dropped the ball” in that situation?

It was the city of Oakland that dropped the ball.

They had received complaints that the building was not up to code or not safe to be lived in but no one did anything.

The city didn’t do anything so they dropped the ball.

The landlord also dropped the ball.

He claimed that he didn’t know people were living in there but that is probably not true.

He didn’t make sure that his building was safe enough to survive a fire.

What does it mean?

  • To not follow up on or fulfill a responsibility
  • To let something go that you’re in charge of
  • Usually  it is not done on purpose (you are busy or lazy but not intentionally skipping the task)

Other situations where you can use this phrase”

  • At work there is a meeting and you were supposed to complete a report but you didn’t do it. You dropped the ball.
  • You forgot to get Christmas gifts for someone.
  • You were supposed to pick your friend up after her soccer game and you forgot.

Other phrases that mean the same thing:

  • I really messed up.
  • I completely spaced it.
  • I couldn’t get it done.

Any questions from today?

Let us know in the comments below.

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