Up to Scratch – A Simple but Useful Enlglish Idiom

Up to Scratch

Messi was disappointed because his football skills were not up to scratch this season.

When something is ‘up to scratch’ it is as good as it should be. We use it to express that something is to the standard we think it should be.  You can also say that something is ‘not up to scratch’ which means that something is not as good as you think it should be. It’s basically another way of saying that something is ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Usage of Idiom ‘Up to Scratch’

Although you could use this idiom to talk about anything, in English we normally use it to express how we feel about work which has been done.

The builder’s work was not up to scratch. I was very angry!

e.g. The builder said that he had finished the extension but when I looked I found that the work was not up to scratch. I have told him to come back next week to do a better job.

e.g. We don’t expect our new staff to be up to scratch on their first day, we have a training program to help new staff learn what they need to do.

e.g. I was worried that Messi wouldn’t be up to scratch this year but it looks like he has been training hard. I’m very impressed with his progress.

Origins of English Idiom ‘Up to Scratch’

Like all idioms it’s difficult to know for sure where this express came from. However, it is considered to come from the old world of fighting. Years ago, fighters would not start fighting at the ring of a bell, instead the referee would scratch a line into the dirt on the floor. The fight would start when both men stepped over the line. If a man was unable to step over the line, people would say that he was ‘not up to scratch’.

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Up to Scratch When something is ‘up to scratch’ it is as good as it should be. We use it to express that something...
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