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The Meaning of U-Turn

Oct 25, 2023

In this podcast, you will learn a few different ways to describe a sudden reversal in policy. Hi everyone. Welcome to English for Economists, the only podcast that focuses on the English needs of anyone who has to speak, read, or even write about the economy in English. My name is Alan Robert, and this is podcast number 82. If you haven’t done so already, sign up for our newsletter and become part of our community at

 Our headline today comes from the British newspaper, The Guardian. It was published on October 4th. Listen closely: “Firms will hesitate to invest in UK after Sunak’s climate U-turns,” says Mark Carney. Listen again: “Firms will hesitate to invest in UK after Sunak’s climate U-turns,” says Mark Carney.

So what is the headline telling us? It suggests that Mark Carney, the former head of the Bank of England, believes that companies will be hesitant to invest in the United Kingdom. This is because its Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has reversed several commitments made to protect the environment, thereby making the UK a less attractive place for green business. The newspaper writes this: “Carney indicated that global companies would now think twice about locating their activities in the UK after Sunak pushed back key net zero deadlines and sanctioned new oil and gas drilling.” The headline mentions that Sunak made a so-called ‘U-turn’ on earlier policy decisions. A U-turn? That’s a clever way to describe a complete change in direction. Just picture the shape of the letter U; it goes down one side and comes back up the opposite side, heading the other way! Here’s a common use of the expression ‘U-turn’: “The driver made a U-turn at the intersection to return to where she started.” U-turn can refer to a change in traffic direction or a shift in policy direction. Other English expressions that convey a similar idea include: reversing the policy, changing direction, adopting a new course of action, or making a policy reversal. Depending on one’s viewpoint, someone who is in favor of the reversal might choose to say something like: ‘reassessing their strategy’ or ‘reevaluating their stance’. While the term U-turn is somewhat informal, it’s perfectly acceptable in conferences or, as demonstrated, in articles.

Here are some invented examples: “The finance ministry considered a U-turn on its monetary policy.” “The central bank’s U-turn on interest rates shocked the markets.”

I haven’t introduced new idioms lately, so here’s one relevant to our topic: “changing horses in midstream”. This means altering one’s approach or leadership in the midst of a task or situation. For instance: “The government decided against introducing the new regulation, believing it would be like changing horses in midstream.” Switching horses while crossing a river does sound precarious! Clearly, this idiom’s metaphorical usage is vivid and easily grasped.

In conclusion, I encourage you to employ the term U-turn in your conversations today – in a positive manner, of course. Practicing is the best way to solidify new vocabulary.

Stay tuned for our upcoming course, ‘Economists in Action’. Designed for those seeking rapid progress, it concentrates on essential terms and phrases useful when discussing the economy. Not only is it excellent for listening practice, but it also aids in correcting frequent pronunciation errors. I’ll provide more details soon.

I’ve truly enjoyed our time together today. I’ll return soon with another English lesson for economists.

Foto de Jim Wilson en Unsplash


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