10 Idiomatic Expressions for Business English Learners

Learning English at a more advanced level should include the study of idioms. This is especially true for Business English and English for Politics—two English vocabulary areas with a relatively high percentage of idioms being used regularly. The efficiency of idioms might explain their frequent use in business and politics. One can say a lot using an idiom in the right context.

English learners who have mastered the art of using idioms are not only able to use language more efficiently but also make themselves more relatable to English native speakers. This can be useful in meetings, trade negotiations, and many other occasions where language takes on an additional dimension beyond simply conveying meaning. Often times speakers have to not only relay factual information but also develop relationships, set up expectations, and leave the intended first impressions needed to bridge cultural divides.

What is an idiom? Check out my previous blog posts on the topic:

10 Idiomatic Expressions with Meanings for English Learners

Business English - Idioms for Negotiations

How to best learn idioms?

The best way to learn English idioms is to study them systematically. Familiarize yourself with their figurative meaning. Look up examples online that use the idiom you are trying to memorize. Context is key here. Be strategic. Group your target idioms based on areas of usage that are relevant to you and your life. Below, you’ll find some of the most common idioms in the English language. You’ll encounter these while watching movies, reading English books, or out with your friends.

10 Business English Idioms

  1. To give a heads up to tell someone about something in advance/an early warning (in the mildest sense of the word)
    Examples: To give you a heads up, I won't be able to attend the meeting next week.
    Thanks so much for giving me a heads up about the meeting next month.

  2. It is not an easy feat — it is not an easy task
    Example: This is not gonna be an easy feat. We should dedicate at least a week to this task.

  3. A bread and butter issue — a standard issue
    Examples: Analyzing statistics is a bread and butter issue for statisticians.
    What's your bread and butter? Teaching is my bread and butter!

  4. Someone will beat you to it/this — someone else will be first
    Example: The start-up company was very paranoid about guarding their secrets because they were afraid that someone else was going to beat them to it and release an even better product even earlier.

  5. To be a fly on the wall — a person who can listen to a conversation while remaining completely undetected 
    Example: I'd really like to be a fly on the wall when the board members discuss our company's future.

  6. To keep something under wraps — to keep something a secret
    Example: The new marketing plan will have to be kept under wraps until we reveal it to the implementation team.

  7. A game changer — something that completely changes the rules of a market
    Examples: Whole Foods was a real game changer for the supermarket industry.
    The new strategy is a real game changer. We will be able to change our whole marketing strategy.

  8. Lips are sealed — with this expression you promise not to reveal a secret
    Example: I will not tell anyone. My lips are sealed. Don't worry.

  9. An open secret — information that is supposed to be a secret but is, in fact, widely known
    Example: It's an open secret that Peter wants to take his supervisor's job.

  10. It's not rocket science — it is not that difficult
    Example: Just check online. It’s not rocket science.