Business English · expressions · idiom

Business Idiomatic Expressions

This week I talked with some students about business meetings and the (weird) expressions you may hear in them. My students almost fell off their chairs when I said they didn’t need to bother learning to use them; only to understand them.

Why?

Because many business idioms are terrible clichés.

Silly Phrases

Saying silly phrases such as “ballpark figure,” “let’s get the ball rolling” and “the clock is ticking” will just make you one of the crowd. Worse, they may cause your listeners to fall asleep or take you less seriously. And that’s definitely not good for business!

It’s often easier and more stylish to say just what you mean employing normal, clear language. On the other hand, there are some expressions that are funny and witty, and that you don’t hear every day.

You may notice, by the way, that many business expressions are taken from football or some other sport. For instance, slam-dunk comes from basketball.

slamdunk

slamdunk

As a warm-up, see whether you can match the following business expressions with their equivalents (= the same thing) in normal words. The first one has been done for you:

Expression Meaning
1 This one is a slam-dunk. G A We should assess whether things are realistic.
2 You’ve got the green light. B This job will take a very long time.
3 The clock is ticking. C You can go ahead with this.
4 The deadline is right around the corner. D Can you give me a rough number?
5 In a nutshell. E Try to be creative.
6 To see eye to eye. F In short.
7 Try to think outside of the box. G It’s an easy deal.
8 You can work on it until the cows come home. H We’re approaching the deadline.
9 Let’s get the ball rolling. I Something is wrong about this situation.
10 We must do a reality check. J To agree.
11 Do you have a ballpark figure for this? K Let’s start working.
12 The numbers don’t add up. L We’re running out of time.

(Solutions at the bottom of this page.)

Which of the expressions that we’ve read about do I think are clichés? Well, all of them, except until the cows come home, which sounds rather cute and quaint* and may bring a smile to the lips of your business partners.

*see Word to the Wise

My advice is: please avoid using the clichéd expressions.

I found a nice list of clichés on the web, in case you’d like to investigate this subject a bit more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solutions:

Expression Meaning
1 This one is a slam-dunk. A It’s an easy deal.
2 You’ve got the green light. B You can go ahead with this.
3 The clock is ticking. C We’re running out of time.
4 The deadline is right around the corner. D We’re approaching the deadline.
5 In a nutshell. E In short.
6 To see eye to eye. F To agree.
7 Try to think outside of the box. G Try to be creative.
8 You can work on it until the cows come home. H This job will take a very long time.
9 Let’s get the ball rolling. I Let’s start working.
10 We must do a reality check. J We must assess whether things are realistic.
11 Do you have a ballpark figure for this? K Can you give me a rough number?
12 The numbers don’t add up. L Something is wrong about this situation.

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