100 Business English Idioms

Business English Idioms for Describing Problems

  •  I’ve come across a brick wall.  – Something is blocking me from doing what I want to do.
  • I’ve come up against a stumbling block. – I am facing a problem which stops me from achieving something.
  • I put my foot in it. – I said something tactless and embarrasing.
  • I am in dire straits. – I am in a very difficult and dangerous situation.
  • I’ve spread myself too thin. – I am trying to do too many things at the same time (with the results that I can’t give any of them the attention they need).
  • I’ve drawn a blank. – I am unable to find information or to achieve something I’d hoped for.
  • It’s a fact of life. – An unpleasant situation which has to be accepted because it cannot be changed

Business English Idioms for How to Deal with Problems

  •  Make do – Manage to get along with the means available
  • Give it a shot. – Give something a try (informal)
  • Get to grips with it. – Make an effort to understand or to deal with a problem/situation
  • To be on the safe side. – To protect oneself even though it might not be necessary
  • Get to the bottom of (it) – Try to discover the truth about (something)
  • Shed/throw a great deal of light on (something) –  Help (people) understand the situation
  • See the light at the end of the tunnel – Something makes you belive that a difficult and unpleasant situation is coming to an end

Business English Idioms for Describing Power and Authority

  •  Take the law into one’s own hands – To ignore or bypass the law when redressing a grievance
  • To lay down the law – Be very firm and clear about the law, and enforce it
  • To stop bending the rules – To stop making special exceptions; letting some people disobey the rules
  • Carry the can (for something which happens) – Accept the blame/responsibility alone, though other people were responsible
  • Get/let someone off the hook – Be free/leave someone free from all responsibility or from a difficult situation
  • Leave someone to their own devices – Allow them to decide how to act; do not control or supervise them
  • Are at/on the receiving end (of something, e.g. a person’s criticism) – Suffer from/are the target of (the other person’s criticism)
  • Are at someone’s beck and call – Do everything they tell you to do, whenever they tell you to do it
  • Get your own way – Persuade other people to let you do what you want
  • There is/Have a hidden agenda in one’s plans – An attempt to hide one’s real intentions

Business English Idioms for  Describing  Behavior

  • Look right/straight through someone – Behave as if you do not see (someone) either because you do not notice them or because you are ignoring them
  • Leave someone on the lurch – Leave someone at a time when they need you to stay and help them
  • Give someone a hard/rough/tough time – Make things difficult for someone
  • Keep a lid on something – Control the level of something in order to stop it increasing
  • Let (yourself) go – Ether take less care of your appearance, or relax completely and enjoy yourself
  • Blow something out of all proportion – Behave as if something that has happened is much worse than it really is

Business English Idioms for Describing  Attitudes to Events

  • Think nothing of… Regard something as routine/easy, or have a very low opinion of…
  • It brought a lump to my throat – I found it so moving that I wanted to cry
  • To make the most of it – To take full advantage of something because it might not last long
  • Hang in the balance – No one knows what will happen to it in the future
  • (It/Something) faded/paled into insignificance – (It/Something) did not seem at all important
  • when compared to something else
  • I would not even dream of… – I would never do something because I think it is wrong
  • Come to terms with (something)… – Start to accept emotionally and to deal with a difficult situation

Business English Idioms for Describing Social Status

  •  Putting on/giving yourself airs and graces – i.e. acting as if you were someone of a higher social class than you really are
  • A pillar of society – i.e. a solid, respectable and respected member of society
  • Be a bit of a rough diamond – i.e. a person who seems impolite/of low education at first but who is usually of good character
  • To keep up appearances – i.e. continue to live at the same social standard even when one has money problems
  • Be a high-flyer – i.e. rise very quickly to a successful position
  • Keep a low profile at (work) – i.e. not draw attention to oneself, be unnoticed
  • Anybody who is anybody will be there. – i.e. all the important people
  • Be the odd one out – i.e. be different from everyone else
  • Make it big one day – i.e. succeed, become famous

Business English Idioms for Describing Financial Situations

  •  Live in the lap of luxury – i.e. live an extremely comfortable life, because you have a lot of money
  • Make a killing – i.e. earn a lot of money easily
  • Be on the breadline – i.e. be very poor
  • Be well-off/well-to-do – i.e. have plenty of money
  • It (Something) is a rip-off (informal) – i.e. it is not worth the money that you (anyone) paid for it
  • Pick up the bill for (something) – i.e. pay for something (often for something) that is not your responsibility (informal) 

Business English Idioms for Describing  Necessity  

  • (Something) wouldn’t go amiss – (something) would be very useful, i.e. we need it
  • If need be, I/we will… – if it is really necessary, I/we will ….
  • I feel duty bound to …- I feel that it is my duty, i.e. I ought to …
  • I am dying to… – I am really looking forward to…
  • I would give anything to … – I would do anything for a chance to…

Business English Idioms for Describing  Probability and Luck

  • Against all the odds… – i.e. despite all the problems making it unlikely that you will succeed…
  • Take someone/something for granted – i.e. you don’t show you are grateful to someone /for something
  •  Don’t push your luck! – i.e. don’t try hard to get what you want and risk losing what you have achieved
  • We’ll take pot luck. – i.e. we will take whatever is available without knowing if it will be good or not
  • Just my luck! – i.e. you say this (usually humorously) to mean that you are always unlucky
  • No such luck! – i.e. you are disappointed because you were not able to do what you would have liked to do
  • You should be so lucky! – i.e. what someone wants to happen is unlikely to happen.

Business English Idioms for Social and Professional Situations

  • Be on the same page – Have the same understanding about the situation or information
  • Think out of the box – Be creative, approach a situation/problem in a new way
  • Shoot from the hip – Be very direct; express ideas without planning
  • See eye to eye – To agree about or have the same perspective on something
  • Bend over backwards – try very hard to please someone or to do something
  • Lay it on the line – Be very direct or frank
  • Back out – Change or cancel an agreement/arrangement
  • Give and take – Cooperation or compromise
  • Meet someone halfway – Compromise
  • Cut the/a deal – Reach an agreement
  • Water under the bridge – A past issue or problem that is no longer a concern
  • A win-win situation – A situation where everyone involved benefits or wins
  • On one’s plate – (something that is) waiting to be done
  • Have the bandwidth – Have the ability or capacity to handle the work
  • Know the ropes – Be familiar with job processes, procedures, or people
  • Catch on – Quickly and easily learn or understand something
  • A dry run – A rehearsal or practice session
  • Troubleshoot something – Identify the problems in a program or a process
  • Get the bugs out – Fix any problems in software programs
  • Plug and play – Easy to install and easy to use
  • Down to the wire – Close to the deadline
  • Heads up – A warning that a change or new procedure is coming
  • Be burned out – To feel very tired and not want to continue an activity
  • Make waves – To cause trouble or problems
  • Cut corners – Save money/time by substituting inferior materials or not carrying out all the required steps
  • Make do – Complete a task using only the available supplies or people
  • Be in the same boat – Be in the same situation as someone else
  • A pain in the neck – A difficult problem/person
  • Be in someone’s face – Make someone uncomfortable; be confrontational
  • Be between a rock and a hard place – Be in a difficult position, unable to escape
  • The market goes south – The value goes down/declines
  • Be up a creek (without a paddle) – Be in a difficult situation
  • Be plugged in/be dialed in – Be connected or be knowledgeable about a situation
  • Blow someone away – Greatly impress someone; exceed expectations
  • A long shot – A very difficult goal that one does not expect to achieve