Do you work in an international environment? Do you need to speak or write emails in English with colleagues and clients? Last week, we looked at business idioms that are commonly used in the workplace. It is a great idea to develop business English vocabulary, because it helps you to better understand native speakers and to speak English naturally yourself. Here are 5 more useful expressions to improve English speaking at work.
We recommended that you should always learn new vocabulary in context, because this helps us to understand and remember the meaning. It also gives examples of how to use words and expressions for the right topics and situations. Naturally, you don’t want to use business expressions on a romantic first date, or romantic expressions at your job interview!
Can you understand the business idioms in this conversation?
Here is a conversation between colleagues, James and David, who work on the same team at a marketing company. They are from England and speak English naturally, so they use a number of English idioms while they are chatting about a new project. We recommend that you read through the conversation once – don’t worry too much about words or expressions that are new – just try to get a general idea of their chat. Then you can read again in more detail and try to work out or guess the meaning of the business idioms in bold.
James meets Max
Hello Max. Did you get my email about the new project? We need to make a proposal to an external client for the best way to develop their online marketing strategies.
Hi James. Yes, I saw it before I left yesterday, and was thinking about it on the train this morning.
Me too, I think that this could be really exciting. I heard that the client had given this job to our competitors, and so I was surprised to find out that the other company has thrown in the towel. Hopefully, we’re going to be more successful!
I agree. I think this could be a lot of fun, and I’m confident that we can do a better job. Maybe they had some problems with their new boss as well. We were colleagues at a previous company and she always used to rock the boat at work and with clients.
I didn’t know that, but I think we have to be really careful, because this client’s industry has a lot of rules and regulations for marketing.
Actually, I had the same feeling. We definitely need to do everything by the book for this project, but I’m sure we can make this work.
Would you like to meet this afternoon with the rest of the team so that we can start to brainstorm new ideas?
That sounds like a plan! We all need to think outside the box to the get the best results. Do you think our new colleague is ready for this as well?
Well, I spoke to him a lot last week, and I think that he’s really on the ball. So, would four o’ clock this afternoon be a good time to meet?
That’s fine with me too.
Definitions and examples to develop business English vocabulary
Did you understand the business idioms in the conversation? Were you able to guess the meanings from the context? We have also put together definitions of the idioms below with extra examples.
1. throw in the towel
to quit or give up something
One of the applicants competing for the new position has just thrown in the towel.
2. rock the boat
to do something which changes a stable routine and may cause problems
I told the new manager not to rock the boat before she gets to know her team.
3. by the book
to do things according to the rules or the law
Our accountant does everything by the book so there are no problems in the future.
4. think outside the box
to think creatively and develop new and original ideas
To be successful in our industry, we need staff who think outside the box.
5. on the ball
to be competent, alert and quick to understand new things
Your team are really on the ball and getting great results.
Tips to improve English speaking at work and speak English naturally
In order to speak English naturally at work, it is important to develop business English vocabulary for different situations. This will help you to communicate with colleagues and clients, but it is important to practise as much as possible. There are many great resources to study at home, but it is possible to learn English faster by taking English courses or private lessons with qualified teachers. This can give a good structure to your study plan and come with feedback and correction to develop your English skills.
Please visit our list of English business idioms to develop your business English vocabulary further.
You can also learn another 5 business idioms to improve English speaking at work in Part 1 of our focus on English idioms and expressions for the workplace.