By fits and starts

Hello everyone,

After doing a lot of research here on W.R and on Google, (as I didn't find the answer), I'd like to know if "by fits and starts" necessarily implies "that doing something" was difficult, complicated, in a way that caused the process not to be constant, steady. None of the definitions I found mention "difficulty", "problems", "obstacles" in "by fits and starts". My question: does "by fits and starts" mean that there was difficulty, problems, obstacles or it only means "not constant, steady"?

My example:

We finished the job by fits and starts.

Meaning intended: we finished it in a way that was not constant, steady and also with great difficulty, problems, obstacles.

Thank you in advance!
  • JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    If there were difficulties that might result in the work progressing in fits and starts, but that is not an intrinsic part of the meaning of the idiom.


    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    This idiom means that you start, stop before the work is finished, start again, stop again, start again ... That's all it means. It doesn't say why. As JulianStuart wrote, the reason might be difficulties, but it also might have be something else:

    "My model airplane is progressing by fits and starts. I have to spend most of my time working and taking care of our new baby."

    Here there are no difficulties with the model airplane, but there are more important demands on the speaker's time.