For example: He's been punished to clean the floor but he just quickly skimmed it with a broom, with no actual care to how much cleaner the floor would become, and said he's done.
What did he do? - He _______ed it / he was ______ing it
or: How did he perform this task? - ______ly
or: "Clean the floor but don't just ________ it, make me proud!"

I have a few words in my mind but I don't think they fit what I mean or my style of expression: half-ass, skim, slacking...

Much obliged!

  • 1
    While one contextual sentence is much appreciated, it somewhat defeats the point to have more than that to include the possibility of multiple parts of speech. It makes a question category that is already somewhat open ended that attracts a plurality of answers almost unrestricted, and suggests there is no actual problem to be solved, so I am flagging this as overly broad. Please see What Types of Questions Should I Avoid Asking? and associated links for details & consider eliminating the examples that are least relevant to your intended use.
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 18:13
  • 1
    Also, I really do hate to be fickle, but while I'm here, something that may also help to narrow the scope of the question, and fulfill our research criteria is checking one of your rejected words against a thesaurus and explaining why the closest alternatives don't work for you. I really think it should be relatively easy, since you seem to have some notion of what you want, but only you know exactly what you want, so it is helpful for us to help you if you do these things.
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 18:26
  • 1
    This person is just checking the boxes. Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 19:17

10 Answers 10


Consider 'Going through the motions'

go through the motions (in British)

to act or perform the task (of doing something) mechanically or without sincerity

Collins English Dictionary

In the examples:

He just went through the motions.

or: "Clean the floor but don't just go through the motions, make me proud!"

  • 2
    A variation of this in US English is check the box: doing the bare minimum so you can say it's complete (so you can check it off on your "to-do" list.) I don't know if there's an equivalent British English ticking the box usage. BTW, "go through the motions" is used in the US as well. Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 14:45
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    @MikeHarris I'm not sure if I've heard it in that form, but I'm certainly familiar with this kind of thing being described as "box-ticking" or "a box-ticking exercise" in BrE.
    – Chris H
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 15:17
  • The (in British usage) remark is misleading; the phrase has a similar meaning in AmE. Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 18:14
  • @michael.hor257k The remark came from Collins rather than me.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 18:40
  • @Spagirl That page has go through the motions in British and immediately after that go through the motions in American (the word "usage" does not appear anywhere). That's just the way they have chosen to organize their information. Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 19:01

I would suggest "He cleaned the floor perfunctorily" (or "in a perfunctory manner"").

  • 1
    I agree that this is a good word, but consider editing in a source with the definition to make this answer complete.
    – Sabre
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 18:15

See this other ELU question: phone it in; also the answers given to that question.

What did he do? - He phoned it in / he was phoning it in

or: "Clean the floor but don't just phone it in, make me proud!"


You can say that the way he cleaned the floor was superficial: not complete and involving only the most obvious things [Cambridge].

  • Incorrect. Superficial refers only to the end result, not to the motivation of the performer or the methods used.
    – DraxDomax
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 13:15

Try Apathetic - uncaring, disinterested.

How did he perform this task? apathetically.


"Clean the floor but don't be apathetic about it, make me proud!"

Source: Dictionary

  • 1
    Scientifically correct but a little bit too scientific :) Thanks.
    – DraxDomax
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 13:12

He did the bare minimum


Now, you know it's up to you whether or not you want to just do the bare minimum. Or... well, like Brian, for example, has thirty seven pieces of flair, okay. And a terrific smile.


You've given a classic example of half-assing it.


You might like Wing it:

To do something with in an impromptu manner, improvising, with little preparation.

Source: The Phrase Finder

  • 3
    Incorrect. Winging it is about being unprepared. Nothing about the motivation to do the task or end result. Also, winging it implies you succeeded.
    – DraxDomax
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 13:14
  • 1
    @ToddMessenger I'd use 'winging it's in this context... I agree it implies success though. Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 13:20

Put in minimal effort.



to proceed easily without special application of effort or concern

By the skin of one's teeth

This means that the individual completed a task, but came very close to failing (also far from excelling), i.e Jim needs 100 university credits out of a possible 200 to graduate , Jim gets exactly 100 credits and gets a degree by the skin of his teeth.

Edit: I should point out that this example focuses on the success/failure aspect of doing a task, rather than the amount of effort put in.

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