How to Succeed In Business: 20 English Business Idioms That Will Improve Your Professional Communications
When you’re a non-native speaker of English, the international business world can be a bit scary. Though you may have studied English at school or even at a private academy, coping with the communicative demands of a business meeting is not only about using good grammar and big words.
If you want to succeed in a competitive professional world, you will need to understand how English speakers use the language in real life. How can you do this? Easy. By learning business idioms.
Mastering informal expressions improves communication, helps you to gain your colleagues’ trust, and more importantly, boosts your self-confidence at work meetings.
Below, you will find a list of English business idioms so that no job opportunities slip through your fingers ever again.
1. Ahead of the pack
Meaning: Doing things more successfully than the competition
Example: Our priority is to stay ahead of the pack, so we’ll have to revolutionize the way we advertise our products.
2. Back to square one
Meaning: To start something over with no progress having been made.
Example: I think we got it all wrong from the beginning with this app. If we want it to make it work, we might have to go back to square one.
3. Ballpark figure
Meaning: An inexact numerical estimate (usually a business idiom but it can be used in other situations)
Example: Give a ballpark figure here, how many new customers did we get with the last campaign?
4. Big picture
Meaning: The most important elements in a situation.
Example: It’s all very good to focus on the details, but let’s not lose sight of the big picture, guys.
5. By the book
Meaning: To do things strictly according to the rules
Example: If we want to avoid problems with the auditors, we’ll have to make sure the safety protocols are followed by the book.
6. Game plan
Meaning: A strategy worked out in advance for achieving success
Example: Mark, have you seen the competitor’s new campaign? What’s our game plan to put them out of the market?
7. Get down to business
Meaning: Stop making small talk and start doing what has to be done
Example: Okay, maybe we can talk about Julianne’s wedding after the meeting. Why don’t we get down to business and start with the presentation?
8. Go down the drain
Meaning: Be lost or wasted
Example: That’s a very good idea, but without a great marketing campaign, all our efforts will go down the drain.
9. Go the extra mile
Meaning: To do more than is expected of you
Example: We go the extra mile to ensure our clients get the best traveling experience of their lives.
10. Hands are tied
Meaning: Not being able to act freely
Example: I’d love to help you, believe me. But my hands are tied. It’s not up to me this time.
11. In a nutshell
Meaning: One of the most useful business idioms, which means summing things up using as few words as possible
Example: In a nutshell, it’s only May and we have used all our budget.
12. In the driver’s seat
Meaning: To be in a position in which you can control what happens
Example: The person who gets the most votes will be made a leader of the project, which means they will be in the driver’s seat when it comes to making important decisions.
13. Keep your eye on the ball
Meaning: To pay attention to a person or situation and not lose focus. You can use this business idiom when people get off-topic.
Example: Diversification is all very good, but we shouldn’t give customers too much choice. It’s better to keep our eyes on the ball.
14. Long shot
Meaning: Something that is very unlikely to happen.
Example: What if we reached out to Sony and see if they’re interested in a partnership? I know it’s a long shot, but what do we have to lose?
15. Not going to fly
Meaning: Something that is unlikely to work out.
Example: I know you’re very passionate about this product, Mike. But we’ve been here before. It’s just not gonna fly.
16. On the same page
Meaning: Multiple people being in agreement about something (often used as a business idiom, but also useful to talk about relationships)
Example: Let’s go over the details of the launch event one more time to make sure we’re all on the same page.
17. Put all one’s eggs in one basket
Meaning: Not devote all efforts and resources to one thing.
Example: I think investing all our budget in Chinese tech stocks right now would be to put all our eggs in one basket. Why don’t we consider other options?
18. Raise the bar
Meaning: raise the standards and expectations which need to be met in the future.
Example: Congratulations, team. The launch was so successful that it raised the bar for everyone working in this industry.
19. See eye to eye
Meaning: To be in full agreement with somebody (both used as a business idiom and a general expression)
Example: I don’t always see eye to eye with my boss, but we surely agree on the important stuff.
20. Sever ties
Meaning: To put an end to a relationship.
Example: It hurts me to announce that we’ve decided to sever ties with Rose. Our differences made it impossible for us to continue working together, but we wish her all the best.
There you go. With these 20 English business idioms, you can demonstrate to your colleagues that you are in full command not only of English but also of business language.
Do you want to learn more about colloquial expressions and how to use them? Then read our post on American English idioms.
However, if you really want to improve your fluency so you can impress your potential business partners, we suggest you explore our English courses taught by qualified native teachers. Send us a quick inquiry and we’ll get in touch with you in no time with information about our tailor-made lesson plans.