5 Common Business English
Idioms & Phrases
The first clear difference between General English and Business English vocabulary is that the latter is rarely used outside of a business setting but is, in fact, commonplace in the corporate world. Without getting too technical, we could mention financial vocabulary such as bonds, bankruptcy, broker, commodity, depreciation, dividend, gross domestic product (GDP), and margin call, to short sell, to wager, and so on. All rather habitual terms in the business world, but seldom used outside of it.
For non-native speakers who need to communicate and understand English in a business environment or context, it is essential to learn and understand some of the most familiar business expressions used by Anglophones to reach and maintain an advanced English level or communicate more effectively at work.
Here are a few essential business English idioms and phrases that you are more likely to hear in the business realm but that can also be used after work in a social environment.
1. A long shot
This phrase originates from sports, like basketball, for example when a player is trying to shoot from a long distance. It means something unlikely to happen with very little chance of success.
Getting a senior position in this company is a long shot, but I’m willing to work hard for it.
2. Back to the drawing board
This expression means to start something again from the beginning because it’s not working as well as you would have liked or expected.
This project is not going as planned, let’s get back to the drawing board and try to make it better this time.
3. To touch base
To touch base with someone means to make or renew contact with them.
Even when the boss is on holiday, she likes to touch base with the staff to keep up to date with everything.
4. To learn the ropes
To learn the basics of a profession or a specific task or activity.
It took her a long time to learn the ropes, but now she is confident and we feel that we can count on her to manage her client portfolio effectively.
5. A learning curve
The process of learning; usually through trial and error. We often say that there can be a steep learning curve, which means that one has to learn things quickly to meet a job or task requirements.
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. (To get the hang of it: another idiom which means to master something).