We’ll touch base on that project tomorrow, but for now, we need to go back to the drawing board to discuss our marketing plan—our current plan isn’t really as on-brand as I would like it to be. We really need to get the ball rolling on this and brainstorm a better idea!
Wait, what? You just read a paragraph littered with business words, phrases, and idioms. In general, the English language contains numerous bizarre idioms and words, which, when heard in a literal context, sound really weird. For example, the idiom once in a blue moon doesn’t mean there’s actually a blue moon. It means that something happens not very often.
And to make matters more complicated, the English language contains a cacophony of business terms that may not make sense when directly translated, but they are important to learn. I’ll get to unveiling popular around-the-office business phrases in a second, but first, let’s discuss why it’s vital to learn corporate jargon.
Why Is It Important to Learn English Business Phrases?
English has played an integral part in ESL learning for years. One source reveals that English is the “[third] largest mother tongue in the world." Plus, most international business transactions are conducted in English—it has become the “universal language for business around the world.”
Another source notes that English “has become the working language or bridge language of our time.” And it’s arguably the most popular second-language learned across the globe. It’s a bridge for international communication.
While there is a concoction of both formal and informal business words, phrases, and idioms, I believe it’s best to start with common around-the-office business phrases. It’s essential to understand basic idioms before graduating to more formal corporate terms. If you find yourself working in an English-speaking country or with English-speaking clients, you’ll find the following phrases super beneficial.
Around-The-Office Business Words, Idioms, and Phrases
Get ready to learn some around-the-office business words and idioms, ones that will help you understand some things your English-speaking colleagues or clients say during meetings, in an email, or around the office. Beware: some will sound super weird, but they make sense. I promise.
To touch base
Meaning: To touch base is to talk about a project in progress.
Example sentence: Let’s touch base on Monday regarding the water proposal.
Translation: Let’s meet on Monday to discuss how the water proposal is coming along!
To stay on top of things
Meaning: To work at an efficient pace to avoid falling behind and missing assignments or deadlines, or losing control of your workload.
Example sentence: I have so much work to do! But I need to stay on top of things if we want to succeed!
Translation: I have so much work to do! But I need to continue working hard, so I don’t fall behind on assignments.
To get the ball rolling
Meaning: If you imagine a snowball at the top of a hill, you must first push or roll it to get it moving, and then once it starts moving, it gets bigger and bigger. “Let’s get the ball rolling.” It basically means to get started on something!
Example sentence: We really need to get the ball rolling on this sales pitch. We’re meeting the client in two days!
Translation: We really need to get started on this sales pitch! We are meeting the client in two days!
Keep me in the loop
Meaning: To be informed about whatever you’re discussing. If you want to stay in the loop, you want someone to fill you in on whatever they are working on or developing.
Example sentence: Don’t forget to keep me in the loop on your plans for your upcoming presentation at our next meeting.
Translation: Don’t forget to tell me about your plans for your upcoming presentation at our next meeting.
Go the extra mile
Meaning: To go above and beyond! In simple terms: to put in a lot of extra work.
Example sentence: Wow, Kelsey, you really went the extra mile this month! And as a result, I’m going to give you a bonus.
Translation: Wow, Kelsey, you did a lot of extra work this month! And as a result, I’m going to give a bonus (more money).
Through the roof
Meaning: Free Dictionary writes the meaning of through the roof: “To rise unexpectedly high; also, to lose one’s temper.” If the term is used in an office setting, it likely means: "To grow, intensify, or rise to an enormous, often unexpected degree.”
Example sentence: Our sales were through the roof this month!
Translation: Our sales were super high this month!
Up in the air
Meaning: It’s unknown.
Example sentence: It’s up in the air whether that new client will sign with us or not.
Translation: We don’t know if that new client will sign with us—it’s unsure.
Ducks in a row
Meaning: To get organized.
Example sentence: We need to get our ducks in a row if we want to meet our financial goals for this quarter.
Translation: We need to organize our business if we want to meet our financial goals this quarter.
On the same page
Meaning: To think the same way or to have a cohesive understanding of whatever is being discussed.
Example sentence: Come on John! You need to get on the same page as me!
Translation: Come on John! You need to have the same level of understanding as me on this particular subject.
Meaning: To see and understand something the way someone else does.
Example sentence: How are we going to work together if we don’t see eye-to-eye?
Translation: How are we going to work together if we don’t agree with one another?
Put on the back burner
Meaning: When you put something on the back burner, it means it’s not that important or doesn’t require immediate attention.
Example sentence: Great idea! I don’t think we can execute it now, though. Let’s put it on the back burner for the time being.
Translation: Great idea! I don’t think we can do it now, though. Let’s save it and come back to it another time.
Meaning: To come up with ideas.
Example sentence: During our next meeting, we will brainstorm marketing ideas for our new product.
Translation: During our next meeting, we will work together to come up with marketing ideas for our new product.
Get you up to speed
Meaning: To update someone on what’s been happening around the office (or wherever).
Example sentence: I know you’ve been sick for the last week, but don’t worry! We’ll get you up to speed.
Translation: I know you’ve been sick for the last week, but don’t worry! We’ll update you on the latest happenings.
Back to the drawing board
Meaning: To start over or to think of another plan.
Example sentence: I don’t like that idea. We need to go back to the drawing board.
Translation: I don’t like that idea. We need to think of another plan (or idea).
Meaning: In the future or next time.
Example sentence: Moving forward, I expect you to tell me when you want an extension two days before the deadline, and not one hour before.
Translation: In the future, I expect you to tell me when you want an extension two days before the deadline, and not one hour before.
Meaning: The image of your company is your brand. It’s how people perceive your company. To be on brand means to develop something that correlates with the overall vibe of your company.
Example sentence: That idea isn’t really on brand. I think we can come up with something better.
Translation: That idea doesn’t really suit who we are as a business or what others perceive us as. I think we can come up with something better.
Meaning: To meet other likeminded individuals and form business connections, ones that can benefit your company.
Example sentence: Business is all about networking!
Translation: Business is all about meeting and connecting with likeminded individuals who can benefit your business, somehow, some way.
Meaning: As soon as possible (right now).
Example sentence: I expect you to finish this article ASAP.
Translation: I expect you to finish this article as soon as possible.
Tips on How to Sound Like a Savvy Businessperson
Now onto the hard part: actually using these phrases in an office setting or with your English-speaking clients. Here are two simple tips and tricks on how to sound like a savvy businessperson:
- Talk in the active tense! Speaking in the active tense showcases that you know what you’re doing. You are the one in charge. You are the one making decisions. It shows you’re confident!
Passive voice: An idea was developed.
Active voice: I developed an idea.
Which one sounds more confident? Active voice!
Pause for emphasis! This one works best when you’re guiding a meeting, leading a presentation, or public speaking in any way, shape, or form. It not only gives your audience a chance to mull over what you said, but it’s also better to pause than to mutter filler words and sounds such as like, um, uh.
Lastly, when you’re learning, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback! Ask your teachers, coworkers, or native English speakers for advice.
I hope this article will help to keep you in the loop when it comes to business terms and words! Even if you don’t feel confident saying the idioms, words, or phrases out loud, it’s always advised to fake it until you make it. If you want to practice, you can always write down the business phrases mentioned above and create your own sentences before saying them out loud in an office setting.
It’s also okay to use the aforementioned phrases in a business email as well. You can apply some tips and tricks mentioned in our How to Write a Formal Letter in English article, in a business email, too!
Be sure to pay attention to the instructions on how to write a greeting, how to say goodbye, and the language rules.