9 common business English expressions you need to know

Management English can seem intimidating at first but it doesn’t need to be. There are lots of business English expressions that can be used in almost any industry. Using these expressions will help you fit into an English-speaking business environment and knowing what they mean will help you understand your colleagues better. Here are 9 common business English expressions you are likely to hear at work.

1. To stay on top of (something)

This means to stay in control, and not get behind or let your work pile up.
Eg: I’ve got so much work on at the moment that it’s difficult to stay on top of it all.

2. To be on the ball

This phrase comes from the sports field. When you are on the ball, you have to be alert and sure not to make any mistakes. It means the same at work.
Eg: Sam’s great – he’s really on the ball and never makes any mistakes.

3. To think outside the box

This means to think of a solution that is different to what is normally done or to think of an unusual, creative solution to a problem.
Eg: We don’t have a lot of money to spend on our marketing so we need to think outside the box to find a way of reaching a lot of customers.

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4. To get the ball rolling

This idiom means to start something, usually a project or process.
Eg: Let’s get the ball rolling on this project by contacting some suppliers and getting some estimates.

5. To brainstorm

This means spending time thinking up lots of ideas on a topic or problem.
Eg: Let’s brainstorm new ideas for the advertising campaign then choose the best ones to develop further.

6. To pull strings

What happens when you pull the strings to a puppet? It does what you want it to do. This phrase means to use your power or influence to make something happen that would usually be difficult or impossible.
Eg: People aren’t usually allowed to schedule meeting with the directors if I pull some strings, I might be able to find a time for you to meet them.

7. Multitasking

This means doing several tasks at the same time.
Eg: Andrea’s great at multitasking – I’m so impressed with the way she handles so many client accounts at the same time.

8. To bite off more than you can chew

If you put too much food in your mouth at once, it’s difficult to eat. Likewise, if you accept too much work or a project that is too big or difficult, you might not be able to complete it. This is called biting of more than you can chew.
Eg: Designing a new website all by myself is a real challenge. I might have bitten off more than I can chew.

9. Downtime

This is time when you are not busy working on your main job.
Eg: If you have some downtime this week, please brainstorm some ideas for our next team outing.

Next time you’re at work listen out for these expressions from your English-speaking colleagues. You’ll notice using all of them. Make a note of how they use the expressions to get more ideas for how you can use them in sentences.

Article related: 5 Business English expressions to get you one step ahead of your English boss