English idioms: to wing it (to improvise)


Hi and welcome to 2-minute English, brought to you by Better At English dot com. Today’s phrase is

to wing it

I didn’t have time to prepare this speech, so I’ll have to wing it.

She didn’t spend much time getting ready for the meeting; she just kind of winged it

I don’t have time to study for the test tomorrow, so I’ll be winging it

to wing it


To wing it is an idiom that means to improvise, to do something without proper preparation or time to rehearse. People often talk about winging it when they have to do something difficult that they didn’t have time to prepare — like a make speech or give a presentation. They might say something like "Sorry if I seem a bit disorganized, I’m totally winging it." You tell people that you’re winging it, that you’re improvising, so that they won’t expect too much from you, or so that they will be more forgiving if you make a mistake.

I have a little note about pronunciation for you. In rapid native-speaker speech, the final g on the i-n-g tends to disappear. So it sounds like

I’m wingin’ it
I’m wingin’ it
I’m wingin’ it here

Rather than I’m wingING it. Do you hear the difference?


Authentic example

In today’s authentic example we’ll hear a bit of Seth Godin’s presentation at the GEL 2006 conference.

And I want to…talk about what I think seven of those reasons might be. But first I gotta take a minute…I gotta explain…I’ve never given this presentation before, not one word of it, not one picture, and I may never give it again. But I’m winging it so we’ll see what happens…But…what does it mean to be broken?

If you are an upper-intermediate or advanced learner, I highly recommend you watch the full presentation on Google video. It’s really funny, entertaining and full of useful vocabulary.

Thanks for tuning in to 2-minute English. We’ll see you next time!

Look up to wing it in the dictionary.

See examples of how to wing it is used.

Link to further listening resource

You can find the full video of Mr. Godin’s presentation, “It’s Broken,” at Google Video. If there are words or phrases you’re curious about, let us know: we may feature them on an upcoming podcast! 🙂