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Is there a good and meaningful expression for "things are starting to work"? Italians would say "le cose stanno ingranando", where the verb "ingranare" literally translates "to gear". Can it be used in such an expression?

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  • Can you explain what you wish this phrase to mean?
    – Catija
    Jul 2, 2015 at 8:11
  • I'm looking for a prase to be used in a context, where a process is starting to work, after a long preparation, and many people/tools have been involved. Jul 2, 2015 at 8:40
  • @Josh61 - Yes, this is correct: I exactly meant "things are finally working". Jul 2, 2015 at 8:48
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    Most idiomatic would probably be "Things are starting to come together." Though to more literally translate your phrase you could say "The gears are starting to mesh."
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 2, 2015 at 11:41
  • 1
    "I love it when a plan comes together" - Hannibal Smith, The A-Team
    – Neil W
    Jul 3, 2015 at 2:20

8 Answers 8

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We also say, "Things are starting to come together" or "Things are starting to fall into place".

Fall into place:
http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/fall+into+place

(credit @Josh61 for edit )

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20

Cooking (On/With) Gas

to be making good progress and to be likely to succeed.

'We're cooking (on/with) gas. Keep the work coming in like this and we'll meet the deadline.' http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/be+cooking+on+gas

I propose this as an informal expression, certainly within the UK it is used.

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  • 1
    This is immediately what came to mind. The "cooking with gas" variant is common in the US as well.
    – Kik
    Jul 2, 2015 at 19:39
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    Often with an emphatic now at the beginning. “Ah, now we’re cooking with gas!”
    – PLL
    Jul 2, 2015 at 20:40
  • 1
    "Now we're cooking with natural gas" is at least a regional variant. Jul 2, 2015 at 23:48
  • As a BrE speaker (from up north), I've never heard this expression. Is this a southern thing?
    – Chris Down
    Jul 4, 2015 at 9:41
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I found a few other answers and then suddenly remembered that in English we have a phrase which perfectly fulfils your requirements:

Get into gear.

To start to work effectively and with energy.

This is often used in spoken British English, and seems to crop up a lot in literature also:

Google Ngram graph: get in gear, geat into gear


Alternatively, another way of saying this is to illustrate that things had previously not been working:

"After a couple of false starts, we're finally underway."

False start: A wrong beginning, as in 'After several false starts she finally managed to write the first chapter.'

You could combine this with the idiom suggested by Josh61:

"After a couple of false starts, we're finally able to get going."

In the more general sense, you could say things are looking up.

Things are looking up: Matters are improving.

All definitions sourced from thefreedictionary.com

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  • 2
    The expression that removes emphasis from an agent is slip into gear: 'Production has really slipped into gear.' Jul 2, 2015 at 10:01
  • @EdwinAshworth Thanks. I had thought that 'get into gear' was related more to an agent than a process. Funnily though, 'slip...' isn't listed in any idiom source that I can find. Although Google confirms that it's used: books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – Charon
    Jul 2, 2015 at 10:28
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Probably the expression you are looking for is, get going:

  • get something going . Start something, get something into full swing.

    • For example, Once we get production going we'll have no more problems. This usage also appears in when the going gets tough, the tough get going, meaning that difficulties spur on capable individuals; the first tough here means "difficult," whereas the second means "strong-minded, resolute." For example, That problem won't stop Tom; when the going gets tough, the tough get going. (AHD)

to get off to a good start may be used if you are referring the very beginning of a process:

  • Example: Mary’s first day of class got off to a good start because all of her students arrived on time and were excited for the first lesson of the day.

  • Meaning: To Get off to a Good Start means to start a particular activity correctly or to have a successful beginning. In this example, Mary’s first day of class had started out correctly because all of her students had arrived on time and were ready for class. Further, her students were very excited for her first lesson and the idiom implied that she would have a successful day. This idiom can apply to any situation where any particular project or activity starts off in a good way. This usually applies to an activity that required a lot of planning. It’s used as a verb in this example

(everyday-idioms)

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    As a side note for get going, there is also the informal expression 'get the ball rolling'
    – nickson104
    Jul 2, 2015 at 8:53
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OP seeks an idiomatic phrase "to be used in a context, where a process is starting to work, after a long preparation, and many people/tools have been involved." (emphasis added)

Two common variations on this theme come to mind,

1) things are “finally starting to come together"

come together”: to start to be good or effective because different parts are combining well.

• After several weeks of rehearsals, the play finally started to come together. (Macmillan Dictionary)

2) things are “finally starting to jell (gel)"

jell

1) to become clear and definite gel

• The idea jelled.

• Our plans are finally starting to jell.

• A few scenes in the movie don't jell. [= work]

(Merriam-Webster Learner's)

jell” vs “gel”?

I can never, ever, remember if it is supposed to be jell or gel when you are trying to say that something (like a team) has come together nicely. I was on deadline and didn’t have time to look it up, so I did the next best thing, I asked. The guy who sits next to me (and who has been copy editing since before I was born) told me confidently that it is jell.

(Talk Wordy To Me)

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    I'd personally (UK born and bred) use gel. Dictionary.reference.com lists them as alternative spellings.
    – AndyT
    Jul 3, 2015 at 13:43
  • @Andy - yeah, I'm in the U.S., but I prefer "gel", too. Cosby has soured me, for good, on "Jello"! :- )
    – user98990
    Jul 3, 2015 at 14:54
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In casual conversation, you could say:

Things are really shaping up!

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"Things are finally coming together" or "Everything is finally coming into place" are the best translations of MEANING. Note that the "finally" is an optional part of both of these expressions, added to convey the OP's sense that a long preparation was required. The expressions are perfectly natural without the use of finally, and other modifying words can be slipped in and out: "Things are really coming together" (emphasis on the success) "Things are starting to come together" (emphasis on a recent change or that the success is in its initial stages).

For the best LITERAL translation (one that emphasizes mechanical movement rather than, say, cooking), I would go with "The wheels are finally in motion" or "The wheels are finally turning" with the same optional use of finally.

Variations on getting things "in gear" are not as good, in my opinion, because at least in American English usage this is more often a command or threat and has a negative connotation, "You (had) better get it in gear" or "Get it in gear, granny!"

Better than "in gear", but not as good as "wheels" would be "[the idea] is finally gaining traction (or gaining ground)"

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  • +1 Was going to simply suggest "Gaining Traction", but your answer covered it
    – C. Tewalt
    Jul 6, 2015 at 14:35
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"she's sucking diesel"

Overheard in Ireland.

i.e. the farm machinery is consuming fuel.

Used for any process or task.

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