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"Drop the ball" is probably from a sport where losing control of the ball by dropping it can cause a mistake (like in American football or basketball). This is usually used in very important situations where if you make a mistake, it can cause a lot of complications.Boss: "I need that report by tomorrow if we are going to get that big contract, ok?" Employee: "No problem, boss. I won't drop the ball on this.".. or the boss could tell the employee not to drop the ball. It basically means "to mess up". Does that make sense, or did I drop the ball with that explination?
Yes, and in English, "Step on the ball" has a different meaning. It means "to hurry up, to get moving, to get something done." A boss might say this to an employee who is working slowly or who is goofing off at work. Idioms often don't translate well because the literal meaning of the words is often different from the actual meaning of the phrase. That's what makes them more challenging for language learners. [edit: I've been thinking about this, and I think I accidentally mixed two English idioms, "Get on the ball" and "Step on it". Both mean to hurry up, get moving, get things done.]
An American English speaker from childhood, I have never heard "step on the ball". I have heard "step on it" to mean "hurry up", a reference I have always associated with pressing the accelerator in an automobile.
When learning an idiom in a new language, I prefer to learn the actual translation of the phrase and how it applies in the culture from which the idiom sprang, rather than associating it with some saying in English which uses an unrelated metaphor. In this case, if "trample the ball" is the literal meaning, Duo should accept if not prefer it.
Probably from baseball, as most american "ball" idioms pertain to it. An outfielder can drop the ball and not get an out. "Keep your eye on the ball" is a baseball specific idiom. "You knocked it outta the park" "bases're loaded" "homerun!" And we cannot forget about "getting to first base".
The only basketball one I can think of is "the ball is in your court"
In the Serbian language, "drop the ball" is used to de-escalate a situation, as an order for someone to calm down. You would usually say it a person who is instigating a conflict or reacting aggressively, in the context of "burying the hatchet" for the time being. However, based on what I see from the other comments, I'm not sure if it has a similar connotation in Portuguese.
This translation means nothing to this Brit. I am confused. Does it mean "to have butter fingers" or does it mean "to make a mess of something" / "to make a pig's ear of something"?
Ah, I've just spoken to a Brazilian friend who teaches English and Portuguese....it means "to make a mess of something".
So, literal translation of this phrase is: "To step/trample on the ball". This makes complete sense to me as a football (soccer) reference. It conjures up a picture of a player dribbling with the ball then stepping on it and bringing the ball to a halt. Which is exactly what "drop the ball means", to fail by doing something that brings momentum to a halt. It sounds like a Rugby reference. https://www.youth.gov.hk/en/special/ddb/rugby.htm