How many of these 20 Business English Idioms do you use? - The English Training Company

How many of these 20 Business English Idioms do you use?


(Image sources –  and


My Top Tips – How many of these 20 Business English Idioms do you use?  

We often get asked by professionals and companies, “How can we become advanced Business English Speakers?”. One way is to be able to use Business English Idioms to communicate with more impact.  Here is my top list of 20 Business English Idioms to practice and use: 

How many of these 20 Business English Idioms do you use?

20 Business English Idioms – my favourite is number 20, which is yours? 

1. Cash Cow 

A Cash Cow is a product or service that makes a lot of money over a long period of time for the company that sells it. 

2. A long shot 

This phrase comes from sports, like basketball for example when a player is trying to shoot from a long distance. It means something that is unlikely to happen. With very little chance of success. Example: Getting a senior position in the corporation one day is a long shot, but if you don’t try you’ll never find out if it’s possible.

3. Back to the drawing board 

This expression means to start something again from the beginning because it’s not working as you would have liked or expected. Example: This project is not going as planned, let’s get back to the drawing board and fix what’s going wrong.

4. Hands are tied

When you are unable to carry out any meaningful action because of regulations, rules or other people with authority. Example: I wish I could help you cut through all this red tape (another business idiom meaning administrative procedures) but my hands are tied. My boss won’t let me. 

5. To corner the market 

To control enough quantity of a product or service that enables one to then change the market price willingly. It can also mean to be the only one making or providing a given product or service. Example: Intel has pretty much cornered the market of microprocessors for servers. Their direct competition, AMD, is a distant second. 

6. Up in the air 

When things are highly uncertain, when a decision has not been made yet. Example: We were hoping to sign the contract by the end of the month, but there are still too many things up in the air we need to deal with first.

7. To learn the ropes 

To learn the basics of a profession, a specific task or activity. Example: It took her a while to learn the ropes, but now she is confident and we feel that we can count on her to manage her client portfolio effectively. 

8. A learning curve 

The process of learning, usually from trial and error. We often say that there can be a steep learning curve, which means that one has to learn things quickly in order to meet the requirements of a specific job. Example: There was a steep learning curve when I started out trading stock options, but I now feel like I’m finally getting the hang of it (another idiom which means to master something).

9. To go down swinging 

An expression that comes from boxing. To swing, means to throw an arcing punch. The expression refers to someone who fights to very end, who never gives up until it’s completely over and there is no possibility of victory. Example: The future of our company is uncertain due to our massive debt, but I can guarantee that we will go down swinging whatever happens, we will not give up easily.

10. By the book

To do things strictly by the rules. Example: I don’t want to take any chances getting caught by the financial regulators and having to pay significant fines. We have to do everything by the book.

11. To cut corners 

Almost the opposite of by the book. This means to do things in the quickest and cheapest way in order to save time and money but often compromising quality and bending the rules (another expression which means not strictly following all the rules). Example: The company’s decision to cut corners ended up costing them dearly when they got caught red-handed and had to pay a huge fine for committing fraud.

12. Between a rock and a hard place

When there’s no easy way out or good solution. Whatever you do, whichever option you choose, the outcome will not be ideal. Example: Management finds itself between a rock and a hard place after the corruption scandal that has erupted. Either they file for bankruptcy and hope that law enforcement forgets about them, or they stay in business and run the risk of going to jail.

13. From the ground up 

To build or start something from nothing, from zero. Example: Building a company from the ground up can bring you great pride if you are successful.

14. The bottom line 

Usually referring to the final profit margin of a business when all expenses have been paid. Example: At the end of the day, what shareholders really care about is the bottom line which will determine the dividends they take home every year.

15. To get down to business 

To start getting serious about something. Example: We’ve wasted enough time debating on the official launch date. Let’s get down to business now, we have work to do.

16. To get someone up to speed 

To update someone on the current situation or to give them all the necessary information to allow them to complete their task or fulfill their mission. Example: Why don’t you come to the office and I’ll take the time to get you up to speed before we go to the meeting.

17. It’s not rocket science 

Something not very complicated. Example: I don’t understand why there are so many mistakes in this report. It’s really not rocket science!

18. To think outside the box

To think unconventionally, creatively and explore new non-conformist ideas. Example: If you want to succeed in this highly competitive economic environment, you have to think outside of the box to gain an edge on your rivals.

19. Low-hanging fruit

This means the most easily accomplished task or goal. For example, “Let’s go for the low-hanging fruit in the domestic market before we target tougher international markets”.

20. In the loop

For example “Keep me in the loop this month on the project’s progress”. This means to maintain someone informed about a situation or project. 



I hope this helps you with your professional English and in your professional career, Christopher!

The English Training Company – we help companies and professionals to become Advanced Business English Speakers and make their mark!



This post was written by Christopher Wright and published on 10th May 2019 under the categories: Fluency, Confidence and Motivation, Meeting In English Tips, Speaking In English Tips
Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *