Fun with Business English Idioms

ETI..

Idioms are phrases where the whole phrase means something different from the meaning of the individual words. If you give someone the cold shoulder, it has nothing to do with your shoulder being cold; you treat them in an unfriendly manner and ignore them.

A cash cow, does not mean a cow that produces money as opposed to milk ; it means an easy and dependable source of income.

English Idiom. Cash Cow explanation by ETI Malta

English Idiom|Cash Cow

 

Idioms are very common in spoken English, but far less common in written texts or formal situations.

In English, idioms are very often used in business contexts to create a relaxed atmosphere. A person whose English is very good, but who uses no idioms, can sound formal, impersonal and, thus, a little unfriendly. Therefore, idioms are important in building a pleasant atmosphere and relationship, and helping to make sure that your business meetings do not seem ‘cold’.

All languages have idioms, but an idiom in one language may have no direct equivalent in another. Non-native speakers of English find it difficult to understand and learn the unusual combination of words in idioms. Even worse, native speakers don’t even realise that they are using these special expressions. They don’t realise that foreign colleagues, customer or suppliers may have trouble with them.

So, in this blog piece, I’ll try to help you understand and practise a few business idioms in, what I hope, will be a relaxed and fun way.

Read the following extract:

Yesterday I had a bad day at the office. It all started going wrong when my supposedly quick meeting to sort out the next week’s rosters for my departmental staff got out of hand. I thought I knew them like the back of my hand, with all their likes and dislikes, and I also had a note of their preferred days off. It was going like a bomb when, all of a sudden, the bomb went off. It had slipped my mind that Tom’s wife was going through a difficult pregnancy and that he couldn’t take the night shift on his own. It should have rang a bell when he, uncharacteristically, started to kick up a fuss. I’m usually on the ball at these weekly meetings, but I couldn’t make head nor tail of his unusual behaviour. He went on and on about how unfair I was being and how I always picked on him; I couldn’t get a word in edgeways. Just as the penny started to drop, my secretary came rushing into the meeting room to tell me that my impatient demanding director wanted me in his office urgently. She had told him that I was tied up in a meeting, but he had insisted that I was to be interrupted. So I put the meeting off till the afternoon to attend to his wishes and go to his office.

I found him pacing up and down with his hands behind his back. He stopped for a moment, turned round to frown at me, and started pacing up and down again. “How can I help you?” I said in a sheepish voice. After a short pause he grunted “I want to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.” “What is it you want to hear” I replied politely. “I’m not going to beat around the bush. Are you or are you not going to sign your contract extension?” he asked bluntly. “I gave you the papers last week and I haven’t heard a word. Are you still considering it?”

I had been rushed off my feet at work and at home; I hadn’t even looked at them, let alone studied them. “I stuck them in my briefcase and forgot all about them. What has brought this on?” I replied innocently. “Well, you see, I heard it on the grapevine that you might be considering a job with one of our competitors.” I put two and two together and I recalled that I had mentioned something to one of my colleagues that Smith’s, one of our main rivals, was looking for a new production manager. “Don’t worry Jack. I’ll get back to you first thing tomorrow morning. I’m sure you’ll be pleased with my answer. Was there anything else you wanted?”

He dismissed me and I went back downstairs so see to Tom. It took me all day to patch things up with him and re-organise the roster. I had to reconvene the meeting with my staff for the following day.

 

 

Now complete the exercise below by matching the idioms with their meaning.

1

a bad day at the office

A

extremely busy

2

got out of hand

B

couldn’t work it out or understand

3

knew them like the back of my hand

C

going extremely well

4

going like a bomb

D

started to realise

5

rang a bell

E

to solve differences

6

kick up a fuss

F

busy doing something else

7

on the ball

G

couldn’t say anything because another person is talking so much

8

couldn’t make head nor tail

H

went out of control

9

couldn’t get a word in edgeways

I

sounds familiar

10

the penny started to drop

J

understand the situation well

11

tied up

K

make a deduction from the evidence

12

straight from the horse’s mouth

L

knew them very well

13

not beat around the bush

M

heard a rumour

14

rushed off my feet

N

unnecessary agitation

15

heard it on the grapevine

O

go straight to the point

16

put two and two together

P

things not going as planned

17

patch things up

Q

from the person concerned

Check your answers by scrolling down to the end.

 

For more Idiom resources log in to our Pinterest page or join us on one of our Fluency English courses.

 

 

Blog headshots (1)

 

 

This blog piece was written by Pierre Naudi, our Director of Studies.

 

 

 


 

Check  your answers

1P

2H

3L

4C

5I

6N

7J

8B

9G

10D

11F

12Q

130

14A

15M

16K

17E

 

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