Business English and everyday English differ greatly. The one is approached with a more formal tone whereas conversational English is more casual. The same goes for idioms and phrases. Business expressions generally express a task to do with business, but since there are so many business professionals today, many of these you may even hear in everyday conversation. You’ll certainly hear them around the office, in the boardroom, on a phone call or in a meeting. Before becoming puzzled or flustered, let’s take a closer look at what each expression means, and how it would be used in a sentence. These are our top 20 business English expressions to improve your career and succeed in the workplace.
Phrases If You’re Running Late or Need Something Urgently
Native English speakers will use these phrases quite frequently to express a deadline or due date or to ensure you understand a matter is urgent. In the real world and as you begin to improve your business English you’ll use them as well.
1. Time Is Money
This expression shows that you mean serious business and that you don’t like wasting time.
I’d simply say “Time is money, so let’s have this done by the end of the day”
2. At The 11th (Eleventh) Hour
Professionally you’d want to avoid doing something at the 11th hour. Since it means at the last minute. But this can be a good thing if something happened last minute that helped you complete a project on time.
“Sarah handed me the proposal at the 11th hour, so I’m running late” is just an example of how you’d use it in a sentence.
3. Needed It Yesterday
This is a more abrupt, borderline rude expression. So you would never want to use it to a senior team member or even colleagues you’re trying to build a close relationship with. It simply means that you would have liked the thing sooner and technically you’re running late or running out of time already.
“Send me the spreadsheet right away I needed it yesterday!” Is how you could use this expression in a sentence.
4. Hit The Ground Running/ Get The Ball Rolling
You don’t need to be good at sport or even fit to use any of these two expressions. Both mean to start with something immediately, to proceed quickly or go-ahead without any delays.
“Once we’re done with this meeting, send me all your notes and ideas, I want to hit the ground running.” Or. “We don’t need to wait for Ed’s go ahead let’s get the ball rolling on this project.”
I’m sure you’ve heard someone say they need this ASAP. But this isn’t just a word to express that you need something done quickly. In fact it’s an acronym meaning as soon as possible.
To use it in a sentence you could say “John I need the minutes from the meeting ASAP”
6. No Time To Lose
If you’re short for time and need something done immediately it’s a good idea to use this phrase. It means that you’re pressed for time and a deadline is fast approaching.
“Send John the notes immediately we don’t have time to lose on closing this deal” is one way to use it in a sentence.
Expressions For idea Sessions and Negotiations
Language learning is a piece of cake, especially if you’re using these common English idioms.
7. Off the top of my head
This expression allows you to give ideas without having to be too detailed about it. It’s especially great in a brainstorming session or in an initial meeting. You can give your clients, colleagues or management good ideas to get their feedback without having to spend the time creating a proposal or draft.
“Just off the top of my head, I say we look at streaming music to bring in extra revenue” makes use of this phrase superbly.
8. Big Picture
If you want those in the discussion to be less tunnel visioned, small minded or critical. You could simply request that they look at the big picture instead of being overcome by smaller details or finding a problem with everything. It simply means take things into context, think long term, focus on the outcome rather than the small details.
“Let’s not worry about the smaller details, I want us to focus on the bigger picture”
9. Back To The Drawing Board
Perhaps your negotiation or idea session didn’t go as planned. Maybe your clients, colleagues and senior team members didn’t like your ideas. No to worry. It’s back to the drawing board. This simply means to start over and look at things from a fresh or different perspective.
“Seems like we aren’t making any progress let’s go back to the drawing board and reconvene later”
10. Get Down To Business
If you want to stop the chit chat or small talk, or even the brainstorming portion of a meeting this is a good phrase to have in your arsenal. Getting down to business means you’re going to focus on serious decisions or business topics that will ultimately reach a desired goal or outcome.
“We don’t have time to go around in circles, let’s get down to business!”
11. On A Roll
Sometimes ideas just flow and they’re good ideas as well. That’s when you’ll use the expression on a roll. You may want to bring attention to a colleagues or team members performance in the meeting to show that they’re coming up with good ideas. This is where this phrase comes in handy. It means that they’ve consistently been giving good feedback or input. It can also mean that they’re on a winning streak and excelling in their career.
This is how you can use it in a sentence “Jim you’re on a roll with all these good ideas”
12. On The Same Page
You’re finally seeing eye to eye with someone, clearly you’re both on the same page. It doesn’t mean you’re reading the same book and happen to be on the same page, in fact this idiom means that you understand each other and have found common ground. If this is the case you can definitely proceed with your negotiations or get the ball rolling on your other projects.
“I like where your heads at, seem like we’re on the same page” expresses appreciation and that you’ve found common ground with the individual. This is just one way to use it in a sentence.
Financial Expressions And Business Terms
There are phrases like “cost an arm and a leg” which means something’s very expensive. Other business terms include “win win situation” which means that everyone benefits. But this list of terms will help you look great in a boardroom or meeting with other executives or team members.
13. Red Tape
There are always hindrances along the way that are usually enforced by the government or required by law to complete before you can proceed. This would be red tape. It’s simply another task or requirement that doesn’t seem necessary but is legally required.
“All this red tape is going to turn investors away” would be one of the ways to use it in a sentence.
14. “Safe Bet” or “Take A Gamble”
You don’t have to be someone who bets to use this phrase. It simply means that it’s something that is more likely to happen than not. It’s the opposite of taking a gamble which means to do something risky without knowing how it will end up.
“This isn’t a safe bet, if we invest in AI we’ll be taking a gamble” incorporates both expressions seamlessly.
15. Cash Cow
Money doesn’t grow on trees and there certainly aren’t any cows made of cash. It’s a metaphoric term meaning something that will make a lot of money.
This is one way to use it in a sentence: “Music streaming is a cash cow! So, we’re transforming our business model to include it”
If you don’t want to complete all the red tape you might want to find a loophole. A loophole is a business term that means finding a way around something, or not having to complete something or even taking advantage of the lack of clarity generally in a legal sense.
“There must be a loophole somewhere so we can avoid all this red tape” expresses that you need a way around red tape. It’s just one way to use this term in a sentence.
17. Corner A Market
This phrase means to dominate a market of a product or service.
You could simply say, “Spotify has cornered the market on streaming music”
18. “In the Black” or “In the Red”
Every business wants to be in the black, but some may find themselves in the red. In the black means a company is making a profit, while in the red means it’s making a loss.
“This quarter we need to get into the black and avoid being in the red” Is a great way to use both phrases.
19. Tighten Your Belts
So, your company is in the red, it’s definitely time to cut costs and make savings. You’re going to need to tighten your belts. What this means is to spend money more restrictively and with caution.
“The economy is really hitting our revenue. It’s time to tighten our belts” would express this perfectly.
20. Lions Share
It means what it sounds like. The lions share refers to getting the largest piece of whatever you’re talking about. It can also mean contributing significantly more than anyone else.
To use it in a sentence you could say “Our third quarter results were buoyed. Retail contributed the lions share of our outstanding results”
If you really want to improve your English grammar and English vocabulary you should be studying English in the United Kingdom, on an English course for business professionals. We have a fantastic business English course which would be perfect for you.