I'm wondering which cases can I use the expression "standing still" and which I can't, for example, using "standing still" for abstract concepts like a project, not concrete objects. May you guys provide me some examples and some alternatives to such expression?
What makes you think you can't use "standing still" in a metaphorical sense? There's no problem with doing so:
Bob has been out sick for two weeks, so the project has been standing still.
And, from a 2013 news article:
The companies that built the wind projects in time, even without a transmission line, were paid strictly according to the contract, even if the project was standing still.
If you're looking for an alternate phrase, you can use in a holding pattern. That phrase is used to describe airplanes circling an airport, waiting for their turn to land. However, it is also used metaphorically to describe projects or other work efforts that are making no progress. As a matter of fact, this phrase often creeps into newspaper headlines, such as:
- Carpenter Park project in a 'holding pattern'
- City in holding pattern on Mill Village project
- TVCC project in a holding pattern
- Seattle tunnel project in a holding pattern
- City in holding pattern on what will be done with bridges
- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik appears to be in a holding pattern on Prince Fielder
In the case of a project, you can use 'on hold', e.g.
The project was put on hold.
Also, closer to your original expression: to come to a standstill
At the height of rush hour, traffic comes to a standstill.