5 business idioms to improve English speaking at work (Part 1)

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Here are some business idioms which you can use to improve English speaking at work. The problem with idioms is that you can’t always guess the meaning just by looking at the individual words. These are expressions which you need learn as one item, and we have five English idioms to get you started.

We have chosen idioms that are used in the workplace, which can develop your business English vocabulary. They can improve your understanding when listening to native English speakers, and help you to speak English naturally.

We also recommend learning any new vocabulary, including words, phrases and English idioms, in context. When you see new vocabulary in a text, it can be sometimes possible to predict or guess the meaning. It also gives great examples of how to use English idioms correctly, and you may even notice that you have similar expressions in your native language. You can also find the meaning in a dictionary, but you don’t need to check every single word either!

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Can you guess the meaning of these business idioms?

Read the conversation between Sarah and David below and try to guess the meaning of the business idioms in bold.

Sarah:
I would really like to have my own business, but I’m not sure that I want to do this from the ground up. I’ve heard that a large number of start-up businesses fail in the first few years after opening.

David:
I understand what you mean. It’s a big commitment and you need to be sure that this is the right choice.

Sarah:
I’ve also considered investing in or buying an existing business. I have done a lot of research on the different possibilities and might be interested in buying a small café that is already established in the city centre. I’ve got a lot of experience and am confident that I can bring some great ideas to the table to make it successful.

David:
That sounds like a good option. Would you keep the staff that already work there?

Sarah:
I think that keeping the staff would be part of the agreement. However, I know that some people don’t like changes, and hopefully we would start off on the right foot.

David:
I don’t think that will be too much of a problem, because you work well with people. So, what do you need to do first to get the ball rolling?

Sarah:
Well, I’ve already booked a meeting with my bank manager and an accountant. I also need to request the business accounts from the current owners.

David:
You should also ask them how long they have been the owners and why they want to sell the business. Maybe they are retiring or just moving to another place.

Sarah:
That was my plan too! Well, it was great to see you again and now I need to get down to business. I’ll let you know how things are going, and maybe next time we can meet at a charming little café downtown!

David:
Good idea, and hopefully the food there is not too expensive!

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Definitions and examples to develop business English vocabulary

Here are our definitions and examples of the business idioms that we used in the conversation. Were you able to guess the meanings from the text?

1. get the ball rolling

Definition:
to make something start happening
Example:
We need to get the ball rolling to prepare our presentation for next week's meeting.

2. start/get off on the right foot

Definition:
to start a relationship in a positive way
Example:
Everyone hopes to get off on the right foot when they start a new job.

3. bring something to the table

Definition:
to contribute something of value (to a company)
Example:
She brings a great deal of experience to the table.

4. from the ground up

Definition:
To do something from the start/very beginning
Example:
Our boss built this company from the ground up.

5. get down to business

Definition:
to start focussing on a specific task (after introductions/small talk)
Example:
We only have a limited time to discuss this today, so let’s get down to business.

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Tips to improve English speaking at work and speak English naturally

Many English students make it a priority to study and improve their English grammar. In order to communicate at work, it is also important to develop business English vocabulary as well.

The best way to remember vocabulary is to practise using new words, phrases or idioms. Try using some of our business idioms to improve English speaking at work or with friends. You can also use our flashcards, or try creating your own dialogue.

Now it’s time to get the ball rolling!

Please visit our directory of business idioms to learn more expressions for the workplace.

You can also read more strategies to remember new English vocabulary on our blog.