Business Expressions

Idioms and figures of speech are a key part of every language.  We all know several in our native tongues, and we probably just know them instinctively.  It isn’t until you have to explain them to a non-native speaker, or until you learn a new language yourself, that you realize how many they are and how odd they can be.  

For example, one phrase that is used in English to communicate that an action you are doing won’t produce results for a long time, if ever, is “until the cows come home.”  

If someone is typing on a broken computer, you could say, “You can keep typing until the cows come home, but it won’t work unless you get that computer fixed.”  That’s English. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it takes a long time for cows to come home from the fields. 

But in the Russian language, they don’t say “until the cows come home.” They say, “until the craw fish on the mountain whistles.” I suppose whistling mountain craw fish are even rarer than cows coming home.

Here are some idioms that are common in business situations.  Learning these will help you as you work with other English speakers, make you a more natural speaker, and therefore help you seem more professional and experienced in the business world.

1) To think big – To be ambitious, or to have a larger vision for something that you’re doing.  It is usually seen as a positive thing in business. – “Hasan was not satisfied with opening one store. He decided to think big and work towards eventually having a shop in every district of the city.”

2) To catch (someone) off guard – When something unexpected happens that a person doesn’t know how to react to or doesn’t have an answer for because they were not prepared for it. – “Elif was caught off guard during the job interview when they asked her why she left her previous job. She wasn’t sure how much of the story to tell.”

3) To learn the ropes – Refers to the process of learning the basics of something new. – “Azra knew that her first week in her new position at the company would just be about learning the ropes and getting comfortable with her new responsibilities.”

4) To corner the market – To dominate a specific market. It’s difficult for any other businesses to impact that market because one company has it blocked off in a corner. –  “ has really cornered the market in America for online shopping.”

5) In a nutshell – Used to let people know that what you are about to say is a summary, or a very brief version of the facts and details in an idea.  It could be used when you don’t have time to give all the details, or it could be used to summarize after details are given.  – “Ahmet closed his presentation by saying, ‘In a nutshell, we feel we are clearly the best people to handle this account for you. We look forward to working together.”

6) Red tape – Refers to official rules or procedures that make it very complicated to get anything done. The rules or procedures might even seem unnecessary.  – “The new laws created a lot of red tape for people wanting to start a business.”

7) To call it a day – To wrap things up, to end the meeting or the work day.  It could be used even when out with friends when you want to go home. It can be used if all the work has been done and it’s time to go; or if all the work hasn’t been done but you need to stop anyway.  – “Burak turned his computer off, saying, “I’m at a good stopping point in my speech, so I’m just going to call it a day and head home. I’ll finish the rest tomorrow.”

Well, I hope these have helped you learn the ropes of common business idioms.  If you read any you want to know more about, comment below.

If you want these idioms and expressions in the form of flashcards to study on your own, click here to sign up for Fener Weekly.

And most importantly, what idiom would you use for  “until the cows come home” in Turkish?

With that, we’ll call it a day.