15 Business English Idioms and Expressions to Use in Meetings Pt. 2

15 Business English Idioms and Expressions to Use in Meetings Pt. 2

Our previous 21 Business English Idioms That Anyone in Business Should Know blog was well-received and many of you expressed your delight in the comments at becoming better prepared for meetings using business English. So, we have returned with even more business English idioms and expressions to make sure that you both understand native sayings and speak English like a native businessman or woman yourself! Then you can bag yourself an English-speaking job and blend into the environment seamlessly...

Business English idioms can be a bit vague or abstract so this list of expressions should be very helpful for clarifying some phrases or sayings that you will have definitely heard a couple of times and probably wondered what they were supposed to mean! Although these are predominantly business English idioms, they are so common and handy that many can also be used for describing other situations outside the company environment.

So, without further ado, as you learned in the first business English idioms article... let's get down to business! 

 

1. To run a tight ship 

This is a maritime expression that dates back to the second half of the 20th century. If a ship's ropes were taught and its seams well caulked, it was apparent that the vessel was being run strict and correctly. Thus, in today's usage of the expression, running a tight ship means keeping an organisation disciplined under firm control.  

Example: Our director certainly does run a tight ship, you don't want her finding out you have missed your deadlines! 

 

2. Not on my watch

That example brings us nicely onto the next business English idiom. You are most likely to hear this phrase in a disapproving, possibly even threatening tone. It means that something will not come to pass whilst that particular person is in charge - they will not let it happen!

Example: Kevin thinks he can take a longer lunch break than the rest of us...hah! Not on my watch. 

 

3. To keep someone in the loop

To keep someone in the loop is simply to keep them updated on the progress of a certain project or situation.

Example: Okay, let's talk again once you have spoken with the client. Keep me in the loop, please. 

 

4. To hear it on the grapevine

You found out certain information not through a direct conversation with the person with the full details on the matter, but rather, through rumours spread by word of mouth.

Example: I heard on the grapevine that X company missed their targets for last year...

 

5. Straight from the horse's mouth

In contrast with the previous business English idiom, this expression means that you received a message directly from the person with the most knowledge on the subject and could quote them on it. 

Example: "Did Rachel really say that we might be letting go of some of the team?"

"Yes, heard it straight from the horse's mouth."

 

6. To chase someone up 

If you need to chase someone up, it because you are expecting a message or deliverables from them, yet you have not received any updates for a while. 

Example: Well, the last thing I heard from Sandra was that the sketches would be ready this month. I'll chase her up on it if you'd like. 

 

7. To spread yourself too thin

This implies that you have attempted to juggle too many tasks at one time, and, as a result of such, have not been able to make a conspicuously positive impact with any of the projects. 

 Example: I'm not sure we're going to go ahead with the second showcase in the end; we already have a lot to prepare for the first one and we don't want to spread ourselves too thin now, do we?

 

8. To put someone in the picture

Putting someone in the picture is simply starting to include them in a certain dialogue or getting them involved with an existing project. It is the act of updating someone and is a very similar expression to business English idiom Number 3. 

Example: Well, the design has evolved quite a bit since then, let me put you in the picture. 

 

9. To get the wrong end of the stick

This funny old business English idiom means that you have completely misinterpreted the situation. 

Example: We never received a written brief, he only described it to us verbally, I think that's why we got the wrong end of the stick...

 

10. To be on the same wavelength

If you are on the same wavelength as someone, you both think in a similar way, understand a matter from the same perspective, and are likely to agree on how to tackle it.

Example: She also recognises the risk of investing in that company, I think we're on the same wavelength. 

 

11. Can't make head nor tail of it

This saying demonstrates that you are very confused about something and incapable of interpreting the information relating to it. 

Example: Well, the guidelines sent over from management are repetitive and contradictory, I can't make head nor tail of them.  

 

12. To bring your 'A' game

This is a sports saying that has wiggled its way into business terminology. If your coworker or boss asks you to bring your 'A' game, you simply need to bring your best efforts. 

Example: In tomorrow's meeting, we'll be negotiating a new deal with the partner so bring your 'A' game.

 

13.  To talk at cross-purposes

This idiom describes a situation that is far from ideal. It is the act of speaking to a colleague or client about one matter, whilst they respond to you, believing that you are discussing an entirely different subject. 

Example: I was referring to delaying the release of the catalogue, not the launch event itself! We were talking at cross-purposes. 

 

14. A ballpark figure 

This business English idiom is mostly used in the US and means a rough estimate. 

Example: Well I don't have last year's numbers in front of me at the moment as a guide, but, as a ballpark figure, we should aim to grow around 4% by next January. 

 

15. Gone MIA

This phrase has its roots in a very tragic context: MIA is the acronym used to denominate war soldiers who had gone "missing in action" and were presumed dead. These days, the idiom is a hyperbolic way of saying that somebody has stopped contacting you for a while or that you are unable to get through to them. 

Example: The last email I received from Matthew would have been in March. I've chased him up since then, but no response. He seems to have gone MIA. 

 

How did you find these business English idioms? Pretty straight forward, aren't they! We really hope you enjoy sprinkling them into your lexicon whilst doing your English-speaking job ! You are basically a native-level boss now so go and get proof of this by testing how good your English is! Considering your mother tongue, was English more or less easy to learn for you? You can see which European countries are the best at speaking English and check how your compatriots compare! Now let your newly-acquired business idioms shine and go and own those meetings!