25 Common Business English Idioms & Phrases

Do you want to sound more like a native speaker and improve your English fluency for work? It’s interesting how many idioms are used in the business world every day. In this post, you'll learn some of the most common business English idioms and expressions. Hopefully, this article will help you feel more confident in understanding some most commonly used English idioms and phrases. 

List of business English idioms and phrases:

1. Ahead of the pack
2. Back to square one
3. Bring something to the table
4. By the book
5. Call it a day
6. Call the shots (also call the tune)
7. Corner the market
8. Cut corners
9. Cut-throat
10. Get (something) off the ground
11. Get/set/start the ball rolling
12. Go the extra mile
13. Hands are tied
14. In a nutshell
15. It’s not rocket science
16. Keep your eye on the ball
17. Know​/​learn the ropes
18. Put the cart before the horse
19. Red tape
20. The bottom line
21. The elephant in the room
22. Think outside the box
23. Twist someone’s arm
24. Up in the air
25. Uphill battle

25 Common Business English Idioms & Phrases

Business English idioms phrases
business English idioms

1) Ahead of the pack

to be more successful than other people who are trying to acquire the same things as you.

Our new management system has kept the company far ahead of the pack in terms of product development.

2) Back to square one

If someone is back to square one, they have to start working on a plan from the beginning because their previous attempt failed completely.

If this idea doesn't work you're back to square one.

3) Bring something to the table

to provide or contribute something that will be a benefit

Dev was the right person to hire – he brings a lot of experience and some important skills to the table.

Keep reading: Love idioms

4) By the book

by following the official rules very strictly

Our boss insists on doing everything by the book.

5Call it a day

to stop doing something because you do not want to do any more or think you have done enough

I've been studying hard – I think I should call it a day.

6) Call the shots (also call the tune)

to be in charge of what is happening and what should happen

Your staff has to do what you say because you're the boss, and you call all the shots here!

7) Corner the market 

If a company corners the market in a specific product, it is more successful than any other company at selling that product.

The company quickly cornered the market on video games.

8) Cut corners

to not do a task as thoroughly as you should, especially because you want to finish it quickly or save money

You could finish this project early only if you cut corners.

Cut corners idiom

9) Cut-throat

a cut-throat situation or activity is one in which people behave in an unfair or immoral way in order to get an advantage over other people

The competition is going to be cut-throat today.

Keep reading: Eye idioms

10) Get (something) off the ground

If an activity or plan gets off the ground or you get it off the ground, it starts or succeeds.

A lot more money will be required to get this plan off the ground.

11) Get/set/start the ball rolling

to begin an activity or process

At the meeting, he tried to get the ball rolling by asking a few questions.

Get the ball rolling idiom

12) Go the extra mile

to do more than you are required to do

She is a nice girl, always ready to go the extra mile for her friends.

13) Hands are tied

If someone says that their hands are tied, they mean that something is preventing them from acting in the way that they want to.

I'd like to help you, but my hands are tied.

14) In a nutshell

very briefly, giving only the main points

Just tell me the truth in a nutshell.

15) It’s not rocket science 

used to say that someone doesn't think that something is very difficult to do or to understand

Our trainer always said, "Basketball is not rocket science. It's about putting the ball in the basket."

It’s not rocket science idiom

16) Keep your eye on the ball

to give your attention to what you are doing at the time

He really needs to keep his eye on the ball if he wants to win the election.

17) Know​/​learn the ropes

to know or learn how to do something, especially a job

It will take a few days for new employees to know the ropes.

18) Put the cart before the horse

to do things in the wrong order

Isn't she putting the cart before the horse by deciding what to wear for the wedding before she's even been invited to it?

19) Red tape

official rules, laws and processes that seem unnecessary and delay results

She couldn't get her passport in time because of red tape.

20) The bottom line

the final line in the accounts of an organisation or company, stating the total profit or loss that has been made

Kiara keeps a careful eye on the bottom line.

Keep reading: Idioms about time

21) The elephant in the room

a serious problem that everybody is aware of but no one wants to talk about

I do not want to ask the question, but it's the big elephant in the room.

The elephant in the room idiom

22) Think outside the box

to find new ways of doing things, especially of solving problems

To solve this problem, you'll have to think outside the box.

23) Twist someone’s arm

(informal) to try to force somebody to do something

I didn't want to go but Nisha twisted my arm.

24) Up in the air

If a plan is up in the air, you haven't yet decided what will happen.

The whole future of our project is still up in the air.

25) Uphill battle

a very difficult struggle

Starting her own firm has proven to be an uphill battle.

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