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to be a dark horse


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Choose the correct definition a, b or c.

a) to not be very good at something

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b) to be very quick at something

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c) to be surprisingly good at something

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To be a dark horse means to obtain unexpected success, usually in a competitive situation, like a political election. It also means you are capable of doing things people did not expect from you.

French translation

être un outsider, surprendre, bien cacher son jeu, faire la surprise

How NOT to translate : *être un cheval sombre

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Examples in context

‘Rahul Gandhi, heir apparent of the powerful Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty which has dominated Indian politics for decades, faces his biggest political test in 2014.

Many within the Congress party saw his move into politics as positive, although the decision was seen by some to highlight the party’s lack of alternatives and its continuing reliance on the Nehru-Gandhi family for leadership and direction. Whatever the concerns, expectations were high that he would play a major role in the government and the party. Despite his ‘dark horse’ image, he is said by some analysts to have a detailed political knowledge and to be a practised backroom operator.’

27 Jan. ’14, BBC News

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‘Aussie enters race to take over as Bank of England governor

The head of Australia’s central bank has emerged as a dark horse contender in the race to become the new governor of the Bank of England. Glenn Stevens, 54, who has served as governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia for six years, is a respected economist who carries weight among central bankers.’

7th August ’13, The Times

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Everyday usage

She is quite a dark horse. I did not expect that from her at all !

I didn’t know you had written a novel. You’re a bit of a dark horse, aren’t you ?


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