20 Common Business Idioms

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A good oral command of English is not only about speaking properly and correctly. It is also about using idioms the right way. In particular, idioms are absolutely essential in talking business when it comes down to understanding others and expressing yourself. If you are lacking a good understanding of English idioms, you will easily get lost in a business conversation.

In order to help you find your way through the jungle of business idioms, we have compiled a list of the 50 very commonly used ones, explaining their meaning and giving you an example of how to use them.




Ahead of the packTo be more successful than the competitionIf we want to stay ahead of the pack, we’ll have to increase our marketing budget.
Back to square oneTo start something over again because a previous attempt failedTo make this software finally work, we have to go back to square one.
Ballpark number/figureA very inexact estimateTo give you a ballpark figure, how much the border wall to Mexico is going to cost, I’d say about 30 million dollars.
Big pictureEverything that is involved with a particular situationWorking on all these details, we have lost sight of the big picture.
By the bookTo do things exactly according to the rules or the lawWe told our auditors that we do everything by the book.
Corner the marketTo dominate a particular marketAmazon more or less corners the online retailing market.
Cut-throatVery intense, aggressive, and merciless competitionCompetition in the food retailing business is cut-throat.
Easy come, easy goSomething gained easily is also lost easilyI lost 500 Euros in a poker game last night, but that’s life – easy come, easy go.
Game planA strategy or plan for achieving successWhat is our game plan for dealing with our new competitor?
Get down to businessStop making small talk and start talking about serious business topicsNow that everyone’s here, let’s get down to business and start with the presentation.
Get something off the groundTo start something (e.g. a project or a business)Now that we have finished the planning phase, we’re eager the get the project off the ground.
Go down the drainSomething is wasted or lostAll our efforts in entering this new market went down the drain.
Go the extra mileTo do more than what people expectTo give our customers the best shopping experience, we go the extra mile.
Hands are tiedNot being free to behave in the way that you would likeI’d love to help you, but my hands are tied.
In a nutshellUsing as few words as possibleIn a nutshell, we will run out of cash in three months time.
No strings attached
Something is given without involving special demands or limits
They will let you try the product for free with no strings attached.
In the driver’s seatTo be in charge or in control of a situationBeing offered the position of managing director, I’ll soon be in the driver’s seat.
Keep one’s eye on the ballTo give something one’s full attention and to not lose focusWe should not diversify our product offering too much, but rather keep our eyes on the ball.
Learn the ropesLearn the basics of something (e.g. a job)I’m learning the ropes in my new position.
On the same pageTo be in agreement about somethingLet’s go over the contract details once more to make sure we’re on the same page.

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