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Learning English with Vietnamese Connect

English Business Idioms

Learning English idioms is to not only present your professional skills but also allow you to understand native English speaker easily. We have compiled a list of 20 commonly used business idioms, explaining the meaning and also give you examples of how to use them. Learning, practising and using them, you will improve your professional English.


1. A long shot

Meaning: something unlikely happened, very little chance of success

Example: Getting successful in this industry is a long shot but if you can find the right way and have the critical thinking, you can do it.

2. Get back to the drawing board = back to square one

Meaning: to start something again from the beginning because it’s not working as you would have liked or expected.

Example: If your strategy is not successful, you have to get back to the drawing board/go back to square one and analyse the strategic position very carefully.

3. To corner the market

Meaning: to control a product or service that enable you can change market price. Or it means to be the only one make or provide a given product or service.

Example: Apple has cornered the market of IOs system.


4. Hands are tied

Meaning: when you are unable to carry out a meaningful action because of regulation rules or other people with authority.

Example: l wish l could go back to Vietnam this summer but my hands are tied. The Vietnamese government has closed the border.

5. To learn the ropes

Meaning: to learn the basics of a profession, a specific task or activity

Example: it took me 2 years to learn the ropes to be a website developer.


6. Ahead of the pack

Meaning: to be more successful than the competitors

Example: if we want to stay ahead of the pack, we must have to increase marketing budget and have a good strategy.


7. By the book

Meaning: to do things exactly according to the rules or the law

Example: Every business in the UK has to do by the book.

8. Easy come, easy go

Meaning: something is gained very easily also lost very easily.

Example: I gained £500 yesterday but l just lost them one minute earlier, easy come, easy go.


9. Game plan

Meaning: a strategy or plan for achieving success

Example: what is our game plan for the new market?


10. Go down the drain

Meaning: something is wasted or lost

Example: all my efforts in the gym go down the drain because of cheating days.


11. Between a rock and a hard place

Meaning: where you are in the situation that whatever you do, whichever option you choose, the outcome is still not ideal

Example: due to COVID 19, the company is in between a rock and hard place.


12. To get down to business

Meaning: start getting serious about something

Example: Instead of learning English, you haven’t wasted time to watch videos on Youtube. Let’s get down to business now, you can pass your IELTS test.

13. To get someone up to speed

Meaning: to update someone current situation or to give them all the necessary information to allow them to complete their task or fulfil their mission.

Example: The situation of COVID in the UK is so complicated, l have to get my mum up to speed daily to let her know that l am still safe.


14. To think outside the box

Meaning: to think creatively and explore new and non-conformist ideas

Example: to succeed in a highly competitive market, you need to think outside the box.


15. Bring to the table

Meaning: to provide benefit or negotiation in some way or give something to discuss.

Example: the negative impacts of COVID 19 pandemic should be brought to the table in the next meeting.


16. Go the extra mile

Meaning: to do more than what someone expects

Example: l went the extra mile in my work, but my boss is still not satisfied.


17. Keep one’s eyes on the ball

Meaning: to give something one’s full attention and to not lose focus

Example: Our competitor is producing a new product, we should keep our eyes on the ball.


18. Put all one’s eggs in one basket

Meaning: to rely on only one thing to bring success

Example: in order to succeed, we cannot put all our eggs in one basket, we need to have different game plans.


19. Shoot something down

Meaning: to reject something (ideas)

Example: during the brainstorming session, you shouldn’t shoot your colleague’s ideas, because we don’t know which idea is right or wrong yet.

20. Take someone into something

Meaning: to convince someone to do something

Example: I will take my boss into my project at this meeting.


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