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How Can You Use Phrases and Idioms in Business English?

Akshat Biyani
Akshat Biyani

English is an international language with vast sway over how business is conducted in a globalized world. From developed markets in the Americas and Europe to emerging economies like India, no other language commands as much respect or utility as English does.
Proficiency in English is essential to communicating your ideas to partners and clients worldwide. A firm grasp of the nuances of this language and familiarity with its business-specific phrases and idioms is crucial for anyone who has picked up English as a second or third language. 

While learning new phrases and usages is usually fun, it can be quite challenging for non-native English speakers. To make things easier, we have compiled a list of the most commonly used phrases and idioms that can improve your communication skills in the workplace. 

Before we do that, let's first clarify what is business English and what are idioms and phrases are. 

What is Business English? 

Business English is a form of English that enables accurate communication in business and corporate environments. It contains vocabulary that is specifically business-related and would not likely make sense outside of particular industries and work environments. For instance, terminologies such as margin call, gig economy, and workflow all constitute business English since they often make sense only within a business context.  

Business English also includes key phrases and idioms that are used in professional settings and are important for English learners to understand and use correctly. A firm grasp of common business English phrases is crucial to avoid miscommunication at work and to elevate your command over the English language as a whole. 

What are Phrases and Idioms? 

A phrase is a grammatical arrangement of words that acts as a unit of a sentence. It is mostly illustrative in nature and enriches a sentence by providing context, detail, and clarity. Phrases are often used to describe people, things, or events. Let’s use some examples to understand phrases better. 

  • Renewed with energy, the athlete resumed his sprint. 

           ‘Renewed with energy’, which describes an occurrence, is the phrase here. 

  • The man with the briefcase is the company’s CEO.

          Here, the phrase ‘man with the briefcase’ uses a description to define a person. 

  • She wrote the article while traveling on a plane.

           In this sentence, ‘while traveling on a plane’ is a phrase that describes how a particular activity was conducted. 

An idiom is a combination of words that conveys something other than the literal meaning of the words. Idioms often have a metaphorical or symbolic meaning that is tied to a cultural, historical, or professional context. For instance, ‘letting the cat out of the bag’. This is a common English phrase that means revealing an important secret and not what it literally seems to mean. Here are a few more examples of popular English phrases with their meanings: 

  • Draw a blank: This means an unsuccessful attempt at doing something. 
  • Face the music: It means facing the consequences of doing something. 
  • Pay through the nose: To end up paying more than the fair value.   

15 Must-Know Business English Phrases and Idioms

Here are 15 phrases and idioms that will be useful when communicating with your colleagues. 

  1. Cut corners

    Meaning: To perform a task hastily or without paying due attention to details in an attempt to save time or money.

    Usage: “He is cutting corners by ordering cheap equipment”.

  2. Think outside the box

    Meaning: Implies coming up with ideas that upset the norm and are new, creative, or different.

    Usage: “Advertising copywriters need to think outside the box to create campaigns”.

  3. Call it a day

    Meaning: To stop doing what you are doing because you are either tired or unsuccessful at it.

    Usage: “I am exhausted! Let’s call it a day and start again tomorrow”.

  4. Up in the air

    Meaning: It refers to a matter or issue that has yet to be settled, decided, or resolved.

    Usage: “My vacation plans are still up in the air since my boss hasn’t approved my leave yet.”

  5. Touch base

    Meaning: To connect or reconnect with someone briefly over a matter.

    Usage: “Let’s touch base in a month to see how both parties feel about the merger.”

  6. It’s not rocket science

    Meaning: A task that is not as difficult as it appears and one that can be achieved easily.

    Usage: “All you have to do is reformat the laptop. It’s not rocket science!”.

  7. Keep me in the loop

    Meaning: A common Business English phrase that refers to keeping someone informed or updated about the progress of a task or project.

    Usage: “I want to know how he responds, so keep me in the loop”.

  8. Bring to the table

    Meaning: To contribute a skill, knowledge, or quality to a group effort.

    Usage: “Mark was the right person to hire for this job. He brings a lot to the table”.

  9. Lots of moving parts

    Meaning: A task or activity that has several variables or components and is therefore complicated.

    Usage: “All our suppliers need to be brought up to speed soon. Let’s get this done first because this project has lots of moving parts”.

  10. Get your ducks in a row

    Meaning: To get everything necessary for a task organized.

    Usage: “Make sure you get all your ducks in a row before you sign the papers”.

  11. Beat the clock

    Meaning: To finish a task before a stipulated time or deadline.

    Usage: “Despite a slow start, my team managed to beat the clock and submit the report on time”.

  12. Move the needle

    Meaning: Manage to have a noticeable impact on a situation.

    Usage: “The new strategy has failed to move the needle on sales”.

  13. Sell ice to Eskimos

    Meaning: It describes a particularly charming or persuasive salesperson who can convince people to buy something unnecessary or superfluous.

    Usage: “He is so charismatic, he could sell ice to Eskimos.”

  14. Go the extra mile

    Meaning: To make an extra effort to achieve something.

    Usage: “Nick is a great hire. He is always ready to go the extra mile on his tasks”.

  15. A win-win situation

    Meaning: An outcome that is good for everyone involved.

    Usage: “This merger between the two companies is a win-win situation for both parties”.

Learn professional English vocabulary with Immigo

At Immigo, we help non-native English speakers master the English language with ease and proficiency. Our live speaking courses, practice sessions with other learners, and an intuitive AI bot are all specially designed to help you become fluent in English in no time. You can also sign-up for a one-on-one personal learning manager to give you that extra boost. 

Learning with Immigo will help you use English idioms, proverbs, and common colloquialisms with the utmost confidence. 

Sign up with Immigo today for a free English classes trial!

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