I'm having a difficulty using the right preposition with the phrase "make headway". When I looked the word up from online Oxford and Cambridge Dictionaries, I found they use different prepositions.

they appear to be making headway in bringing the rebels under control

So far it seems that negotiations are not making headway on a key issue.

I'm trying to learn to drive, but I'm not making much headway (with it).

Little headway has been made so far in the negotiations.

Haven't I noticed the use of "with, on, and into" prepositions, I would normally use the preposition "in". Is there a specific rule?

  • Those all seem perfectly fine. I doubt you will find a "rule" here, but I realize that is no help to a non-native speaker.
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 5:12
  • @tchrist Does that mean there is room for options?
    – Anomalisa
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 5:14
  • 1
    Yes, I think perhaps so. I'd have to run any given sentence over in my head a few times different ways to say for sure what sounds ok or not in that particular sentence.
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 5:16
  • With works for all options, in works with gerunds, in and on work with nouns (but not pronouns) as a rough guide but I don't think there is a rule.
    – Chris M
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 6:13

1 Answer 1


It seems the idiom 'make headway' can be followed by any preposition as required by the context, without any sort of restriction.

Definition of make headway: to move forward or make progress(https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/make%20headway)

The wind kept the boat from making headway toward shore.>

The boat made little headway against the strong current.>

We're gradually making headway with the project.>

They've recently made some headway in their search for a cure.>

  • I'm gonna guess you can't make headway backwards.
    – deadrat
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 8:53
  • @deadrat - I don't get your comment. Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 4:39
  • Headway is forward motion. A preposition that indicates backward motion wouldn't be idiomatic.
    – deadrat
    Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 5:04

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