How do you use "smooth sailing" idiomatically? Can someone explain to me how to use "smooth sailing" idiomatically? I thought it was a verb, but being an idiom I am wondering if you can use is as if it was an ordinary phrase. I am also wondering if "smooth sailing" is a verb accompanied by an adverb or it's considered an adjective accompanied by a noun and we use it as if it were the case.

I am smooth sailing on this new job I got at Google.

He used to smooth sailing on this new job he had at Google.

  • 1
    An [x] is smooth sailing. – Lambie Aug 14 '19 at 16:34

Smooth is an adjective. Smoothly is the adverbial form. This should tell you that sailing is a noun, not a verb.

Typically, we would not say, "I am smooth sailing." We might say, "I am smoothly sailing," as in "I'm smoothly sailing through this work."

The idiomatic use of this phrase "smooth sailing" would look something like this:

"How's the new job at Google?"
"It's been smooth sailing, so far."

Here's what Merriam-Webster says about the idiom:

smooth sailing

: easy progress without impediment or difficulty
// After the mix-up was rectified, it was smooth sailing again.
— Mike Brown

// He just kept talking and talking his nonstop sunny talk about what a great summer we were going to have and that he had tons of plans and that we would get caught up as father and son and soon all our rough past would be behind us and we would have nothing but smooth sailing for our future.
— Jack Ganto


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    Note: in Britain we are more likely to say 'plain sailing'. – Michael Harvey Aug 14 '19 at 16:49
  • Can we say "smooth sailing on my new job"? – codifixation Aug 14 '19 at 19:40
  • @codifixation, maybe. What's the whole sentence? – Juhasz Aug 14 '19 at 19:51
  • She had smooth sailing on her new job. – codifixation Aug 14 '19 at 19:57

Lexico does not have an entry for "smooth sailing" but it does have

plain sailing

Smooth and easy progress in a process or activity.
team-building was not all plain sailing

So I suggest your (re-ordered) sentence could be

My new job at Google is plain sailing.

I thought of this before I noticed the comment from @MichaelHarvey

following the helpful comment from @Lambie.

The dictionary search engine OneLook has about 20 dictionaries referencing "plain sailing" and about 5 for "smooth sailing".

  • smooth sailing exists and it is just like plain sailing, grammatically. – Lambie Aug 14 '19 at 18:35
  • @Lambie yes, "smooth sailing" is in Merriam-Webster. The search engine Onelook has about 20 dictionaries referencing "plain sailing" and about 5 for "smooth sailing". – Weather Vane Aug 14 '19 at 18:40
  • I'm just wondering why you didn't mention it then. – Lambie Aug 14 '19 at 18:42
  • @Lambie because another answer did. This answer is about "plain sailing." – Weather Vane Aug 14 '19 at 18:43
  • Can we say "smooth sailing on my new job"? – codifixation Aug 14 '19 at 19:41

From a British perspective, we tend to use "plain sailing" when talking about the unimpeded good progress of something, when a poor outcome was possible, expected, predicted, feared, or happened before or after. The wedding was all plain sailing until the groom shot the priest; the teachers were worried about the school inspection but it was plain sailing from beginning to end; Tiger Woods hit a couple of bad shots early in his round, but it was plain sailing after that and he won the match easily. Were there any problems at your job interview? No, it was plain sailing.


Idiomatic use is as a metaphor and informal. “Smooth sailing on my new job” or “She had smooth sailing on her new job” are both awkward constructions. I’d suggest

My (or her) new job was smooth sailing.

When asked “How’s the new job going?” the cool response is a simple

Smooth sailing.

perhaps with a hand gesture for emphasis where the speaker starts with the elbow bent, hand next to the shoulder, palm flat and downward, and extending the hand out and on a gradually downward curve ending at about elbow height. Imagine the speaker showing an airplane coming in for a soft, gentle landing. For fullest effect, make a relaxed, easy going face with one or more of head tilted slightly back and to the side, eyes narrowed, and lips pursed slightly to indicate “The situation is completely under control.”

Another answer suggests plain sailing as an alternative. In the U.S., I have never heard plain sailing used. I would guess that it is used in the same way in the U.K. but am not qualified to state as much. Idiomatic usage is a world all its own.

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