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1.

Hand in hand - together; along with



2. Same boat - (in the same situation)

3. Multi-task - (do many things at once)

4. Cut corners - (do something the cheapest or easiest way)

5. Between a rock and a hard place - (a dilemma; two possibilities that are not
good)

6. Start-up - (new businesses aimed at new markets)

7. Blow you away - (affect intensely; overwhelm)

8. Ahead of the game (successful)

9. Go for broke - (wagering everything)

10. Game plan - (the strategy of reaching an objective)

11. Go down swinging - (keep trying until the end)

12. A long shot - (something that will probably not succeed but is worth trying)

13. Trade-off - (to lose something in return of gaining something)

14. Fall through the cracks - (to be forgotten; to fail)

15. Burn out (rate) - (physical or mental exhaustion)

16. Miss the boat - (miss an opportunity)

17. Land on your feet - (to do well; to succeed)

18. Take the bull by the horns - (to confront a problem head on)

19. On the same page - (have the same understanding or knowledge)

20. See eye to eye - (to be in agreement)

21. Think out of the box - (to think differently from a new perspective)

22. Give and take - free flowing of ideas and conversation; making a deal by
trading)

23. Meeting someone halfway - (compromise).

24. Cut to the chase - (to focus on whats important)

25. Shot (shoot) from the hip - (impromptu, spontaneous, spur of the moment
reaction or decision)

26. Bent over backwards - (try hard to please; go out of the way)

27. Water over the bridge - (something that has happened and cant be
changed)

28. Win-win situation - (a situation in which everyone participating come out
on top; everyone wins or gets what they want).

29. On the right track - (to continue on the right path or process)

30. In the office loop - (understands whats happening)

31. Ahead of the curve - (understands whats happening)

32. Get the bugs out - (find the mistakes or prevent problems)


















ace up your
sleeve
If you have an ace up your sleeve, you have something
in reserve with which you can gain an advantage.
Our new product is an ace up our sleeve.
hold all the aces A person who holds all the aces is in a very strong
position because they have more advantages than
anyone else.
Given the high unemployment rates today, employers hold
all the aces.
ambulance
chaser
A lawyer who finds work by persuading people injured
in accidents to claim money from the person who
caused the accident is called an'ambulance chaser'.
Peterson and Scott are well-known ambulance chasers -
that's how they make their money!
back to the salt
mines
Saying that you have to go back to the sale mines is a
humorous way of talking about returning to work,
usually with some reluctance.
We get two days off at Christmas and then it's back to the
salt mines!
bait and switch This term refers to a deceptive commercial practice of
advertising
a low-priced item to attract customers, then telling them
that the product is out of stock and persuading them to
buy a more expensive article.
This store is famous for its bait and switch tactics.
in the black To say that a person or organization is in the
black means that they are financially sound, have a
positive balance on their account and that they owe no
money.
black market The black market refers to the illegal buying and selling
of goods or currencies.
Be careful of what you buy on the black market - it's not
always good quality.
blamestorming A discussion among a group of people who try to
determine who
or what is to blame for a particular mistake, failure or
wrongdoing, is called 'blamestorming'.
A blamestorming session took place following the
unfavourable reviews in the press.
blank cheque If you give someone a blank cheque, you authorize
them to do what they think is best in a difficult situation.
Tom was given a blank cheque and told to negotiate the best
deal possible.
blue chip
company
This term refers to a company with a solid reputation for
the quality of its products and the stability of its growth
and earnings.
It's usually safe to invest in a blue chip company.
above board If a situation or business is described as above board, it
is open, honest and legal.
There are not secret negotiations. Our dealings have always
been above board.
get down
to brasstacks
When people get down to brass tacks, they start to
discuss the essential aspects of a problem or situation.
The situation was so serious that after a few polite
exchanges they quickly got down to brass tacks.
break your back If you work extremely hard, or put a lot of effort into
achieving something, you break your back to do it.
If you want the job done well, you should accept to pay
more. He's not going to break his back for such a low price!
bricks and
mortar / bricks
and clicks
An established trading company (office/shop) is referred
to as a 'brick-and-mortar' business.
'Click companies' refer to internet-based operations.
Companies which do both are called 'bricks and clicks'.
Click businesses are usually more flexible than brick-and-
mortar operations.
ace up your
sleeve
If you have an ace up your sleeve, you have something
in reserve with which you can gain an advantage.
Our new product is an ace up our sleeve.
hold all the aces A person who holds all the aces is in a very strong
position because they have more advantages than
anyone else.
Given the high unemployment rates today, employers
hold all the aces.
ambulance
chaser
A lawyer who finds work by persuading people injured
in accidents to claim money from the person who
caused the accident is called an'ambulance chaser'.
Peterson and Scott are well-known ambulance chasers
- that's how they make their money!
back to the salt
mines
Saying that you have to go back to the sale mines is a
humorous way of talking about returning to work,
usually with some reluctance.
We get two days off at Christmas and then it's back to
the salt mines!
bait and switch This term refers to a deceptive commercial practice of
advertising
a low-priced item to attract customers, then telling them
that the product is out of stock and persuading them to
buy a more expensive article.
This store is famous for its bait and switch tactics.
in the black To say that a person or organization is in the
black means that they are financially sound, have a
positive balance on their account and that they owe no
money.
black market The black market refers to the illegal buying and selling
of goods or currencies.
Be careful of what you buy on the black market - it's not
always good quality.
blamestorming A discussion among a group of people who try to
determine who
or what is to blame for a particular mistake, failure or
wrongdoing, is called 'blamestorming'.
A blamestorming session took place following the
unfavourable reviews in the press.
blank cheque If you give someone a blank cheque, you authorize
them to do what they think is best in a difficult situation.
Tom was given a blank cheque and told to negotiate the
best deal possible.
blue chip
company
This term refers to a company with a solid reputation for
the quality of its products and the stability of its growth
and earnings.
It's usually safe to invest in a blue chip company.
above board If a situation or business is described as above board, it
is open, honest and legal.
There are not secret negotiations. Our dealings have
always been above board.
get down
to brasstacks
When people get down to brass tacks, they start to
discuss the essential aspects of a problem or situation.
The situation was so serious that after a few polite
exchanges they quickly got down to brass tacks.
break your back If you work extremely hard, or put a lot of effort into
achieving something, you break your back to do it.
If you want the job done well, you should accept to pay
more. He's not going to break his back for such a low
price!
bricks and
mortar / bricks
and clicks
An established trading company (office/shop) is referred
to as a 'brick-and-mortar' business.
'Click companies' refer to internet-based operations.
Companies which do both are called 'bricks and clicks'.
Click businesses are usually more flexible than brick-
and-mortar operations.
corner the
market
If a company dominates an area of business, and
leaves no room for competition, it is said to
have cornered the market.
By importing large quantities and selling at low prices,
they have cornered the market.
creative
accounting
This term refers to the presentation of a company's
results in a way that, although generally legal, glosses
over the problems and makes the results appear better
than they are.
It was suggested that some creative accounting might
help to attract investors.
cut and dried If you refer to a situation, problem or solution as cut and
dried, you mean that it is clear and straightforward with
no likely complications.
When the new manager arrived, he didn't find the
situation as cut and dried as he had expected.
cutting edge This expression refers to the newest, most advanced
stage in the development of something.
The company is at the cutting edge of aeronautics.
dead wood The term dead wood refers to people or things which
are no longer considered useful or necessary.
The new manager wants to reduce costs by cutting out
the dead wood.
do the Someone who does the spadework does the
spadework preparatory work or the preliminary research.
Although I did all the spadework, my name was never
mentioned.
dog eat dog This expression refers to intense competition and rivalry
in pursuit of one's own interests, with no concern for
morality.
The business world is tough today. There's a general
dog-eat-dog attitude.
in the doldrums To say that a person, a business or the economy in
general is in the doldrums means that the situation is
gloomy and that nothing new is happening.
Despite the recent measures, the economy is in the
doldrums.
a done deal This expression is used to refer to an agreement or
decision which has been reached on a certain matter.
We're still considering several proposals, so it's not a
done deal yet.
done and dusted When a project, task or activity is done and dusted, it is
completely finished or ready.
I've nearly finished preparing the presentation. When
it's all done and dusted I'll be able to relax.
donkey work This expression is used to describe the unpleasant,
repetitive or boring parts of a job.
I do the donkey work - my boss gets the credit!
doom and gloom A general atmosphere of pessimism, and a feeling that
the situation is not going to improve, is referred to
as doom and gloom.
Fortunately it's not doom and gloom for all businesses,
in spite of the economic situation.
down the drain To say that money, time or energy has gone down the
drain means that it has been wasted or lost.
His years of research went down the drain when the
company went bankrupt.
drastic times call
for drastic
measures
When faced with a difficult situation, it is sometimes
necessary to take actions which in normal
circumstances would appear extreme
After Johnny's third accident, his father confiscated his
car.
Drastic times call for drastic measures!
dream ticket If you refer to two people as a dream ticket, you think
they would work well together and be successful.
Clinton and Obama teaming up for the elections would
be a dream ticket
for many Democrats.
dry /dummy run If you organize a rehearsal, a trial exercise or a practice
session
of something, in realistic conditions, to see how well it
will work before it is launched, you do a dry run.
Let's do a dry run of the ceremony to make sure
everything goes smoothly.
above the call
ofduty
If a person does something which is over and above the
call of duty, they show a greater degree of courage or
effort than is usually required or expected in their job.
The fire-fighter received a medal for his action which
went above and beyond the call of duty.
eager beaver The term eager beaver refers to a person who is
hardworking and enthusiastic, sometimes considered
overzealous.
The new accountant works all the time - first to arrive
and last to leave. He's a real eager beaver!
elbow grease If you use elbow grease, you need energy and strength
to do physical work such as cleaning or polishing.
It took a considerable amount of elbow grease to
renovate the old house.
farm something
out
If something, such as work, is farmed out, it is sent out
to be done by others.
We farmed out the packaging to another company.
finger in every
pie
If someone has a finger in every pie, they are involved
in many activities.
For information about the activities in this town, you
should talk to John Brown. He's got a finger in every
pie.
work
your fingers to
the bone
A person who works their fingers to the bone is
extremely hardworking.
He deserves his success; he worked his fingers to the
bone when he started the business.
foot in the door To say that someone has a foot in the door means that
they have a small but successful start in something and
will possibly do well in the future.
With today's unemployment, it is difficult to get a foot in
the door in any profession.
get a foothold If you get a foothold somewhere, you secure a position
for yourself in a business, profession or organization.
The contract got the firm a foothold in the local
administration.
free hand If you have a free hand, you have permission to make
your own decisions, especially in a job.
My boss gave me a free hand in the choice of supplier.
funny business A business which is conducted in a deceitful, dishonest
or unethical manner is called funny business.
I've got suspicions about that association. I think
they're up to some funny business.
get your hands
dirty
If you get your hands dirty in your job, you become
involved in all aspects of it, including work that is
physical, unpleasant or less interesting.
His willingness to get his hands dirty won the respect
and approval of the whole team.
get something
off the ground
If you get something off the ground, you put it into
operation after having organized it.
After a lot of hard work, we finally got the campaign off
the ground.
get the show on
the road
If you manage to put a plan or idea into action, you get
the show on the road.
OK, we've got all we need, so let's get the show on the
road.
give someone a
run a run for
their money
If you give someone a run for their money, you present
strong competition in circumstances where the other
person expects to win easily.
We didn't get the contract but we gave our competitors
a run for their money!
go belly up If a business or project goes belly up, it is unsuccessful
or goes bankrupt.
The restaurant went belly up before the end of the first
year.
go for a song If something goes for a song, it is sold at an
unexpectedly low price.
I was able to buy the car simply because it was going
for a song.
go out of
business
If a shop, firm or enterprise goes out of business, it
closes down or goes bankrupt.
If the new road bypasses the town, a lot of shops will go
out of business.
going concern A business or activity that is dynamic and successful is
a going concern.
They opened a coffee shop that is a going concern
today.
golden handcuffs The term golden handcuffs refers to a large sum of
money or a generous financial arrangement granted to
an executive as an incentive to stay in their job, or to
ensure long-term cooperation after their departure.
golden
handshake
A golden handshake is a generous sum of money given
to a person when they leave a company or retire
(sometimes given to encourage early retirement).
golden
opportunity
A golden opportunity is a favourable time or an
excellent occasion which should not be missed.
An internship in that company would be a golden
opportunity for you - it might lead to a permanent job
later.
golden parachute A golden parachute is a clause in an executive's
employment contract stating that the executive will
receive certain large benefits if their employment is
terminated.
grease
someone's palm
If you accuse someone of greasing somebody's palm,
you are accusing them of giving money to someone in
order to gain an unfair advantage or to obtain
something they want.
In some countries, it is common practice to grease
government officials' palms.
one hand washes
the
other (together
they wash the
face)
This expression means that when people cooperate
and work well together, there is a better chance of a
achieving results.
upper hand If a person or organization gains or gets the upper
hand, especially in a fight or competition, they take
control over something.
We increased our market share and gained the upper
hand over our competitors.
all hands on
deck
When there is a need for all hands on deck, everyone
must help, especially if there's a lot of work to be done
in a short amount of time.
As the opening day approached, it was all hands on
deck to have everything ready in time.
have
one's handstied
If a person has their hands tied, something such as an
agreement or a rule is preventing them from doing what
they would like to do.
Mark deserves to earn more, but the manager's hands
are tied by the recent salary agreement.
hive of activity /
beehive
A place where there are lots of things happening, and
everyone is very busy, is called a hive of activity.
When I went to offer help, the kitchen was already a
hive of activity.
hold the fort When you hold the fort, you look after a place or a
business in the absence of the person who is normally
in charge.
Rosie, could you hold the fort please while I go to the
post office?
household
name/word
When the name of something becomes very familiar
because it is so often used, it is called a household
name or word.
The product was so successful that its name became a
household word in no time.
irons in the fire If you have a few, or many, irons in the fire, you are
involved in several projects at the same time.
The travel agency is not his only venture - he's got
more than one iron in the fire.
hit the ground
running
If someone hits the ground running, they are ready and
eager to start immediately on a new activity.
He intends to hit the ground running when he starts his
new job.
jump on the
bandwagon
If a person or organization jumps on the bandwagon,
they decide to do something when it is already
successful or fashionable.
When organic food became popular, certain stores
were quick to jump on the bandwagon and promote it.
keep head above
water
To keep one's head above water means to try to
survive by staying out of debt, for example a small
business.
Business has been slow, but we've managed to keep
our head above water.
knuckle down If someone knuckles down to something, they start to
work on it seriously.
If you want to succeed, you'll have to knuckle down to
some serious work.
lame duck A person or organization in difficulty and unable to
manage without help is called a lame duck.
Some banks have become lame ducks recently.
left hand doesn't
know what the
right hand is
doing
To say that 'the left hand doesn't know what the right
hand is doing'means that within a group or organization,
communication is so bad that one person doesn't know
what another person is doing.
licence to print
money
This expression refers to an officially authorized activity
which enables people to make a lot of money without
much effort.
The contract to supply computers to schools was a
licence to print money!
make hay while
the sun shines
This expression is used as an encouragement to take
advantage of a good situation which may not last.
Successful athletes are advised to make hay while the
sun shines.
mix business
with pleasure
When people mix business with pleasure, they combine
work and leisure or social activities.
Seminars or training sessions that include leisure
activities are a good way of mixing business and
pleasure.
money spinner If an activity is a money spinner, it is a very successful
way of making money.
Washing cars was quite a money spinner when I was a
student.
monkey
business
An activity which is organized in a deceitful or dishonest
way is calledmonkey business.
The results announced seem suspicious - I think there's
some monkey business going on.
move the
goalposts
During a course of action, if someone moves the
goalposts they change the rules or conditions.
Our objectives have been set for next year. Let's hope
the boss doesn't move the goalposts halfway through.
movers and
shakers
The term movers and shakers refers to people in power
who take an active part in making things happen.
Mover and shakers are assembling in Brussels for the
summit.
nitty-gritty When people get down to the nitty-gritty, they begin to
discuss the most important points or the practical
details.
I was interested in the project, but we didn't get down to
the nitty-gritty until his partner arrived.
nuts and bolts The nuts and bolts of something are the detailed facts
and the practical aspects.
We need to discuss the nuts and bolts of the proposal
before going any further.
opposite number A person who holds the same position as oneself in
another company or organization is called
one's opposite number.
I spoke to my opposite number in several local
companies and we all agreed to join the anti-pollution
campaign.
ostrich
strategy/policy
Someone who adopts an ostrich strategy or
policy chooses to ignore or evade an obvious problem
in the hope that it will resolve itself or disappear.
Adopting an ostrich strategy will only make matters
worse - we've got to find a solution.
overplay your
hand
If you overplay your hand, you are overconfident and
spoil your chances of success by trying to obtain too
much.
Sam is hoping for a bonus for his good results, but he
may be overplaying his hand if he asks for a promotion.
pass the buck If you say that someone is passing the buck, you are
accusing them of not taking responsibility for a problem
and letting others deal with it instead.
Whenever a customer comes to complain, she always
finds a way of looking busy - a great way of passing the
buck!
pass muster If someone or something passes muster, they are
considered to be satisfactory or acceptable.
The interview went well. I hope I'll pass muster.
pick up steam If a project or process picks up steam, it starts to
develop or become more active.
The campaign started slowly but picked up steam after
Christmas.
piece of the
action
When someone wants a piece of the action, they want
to participate in what other people are doing and benefit
from it.
The songwriter thought the show would be a success
so he wanted a piece of the action.
in the pipeline If something is in the pipeline, it is currently in progress
or being organized.
A new version is in the pipeline at the moment.
play the market If you play the market, you buy stocks and shares in the
hope of making a profit when you sell them.
It's always tempting to play the market, but it's more
risky at the present time.
pull your weight To say that somebody pulls their weight means that
they do their fair share of the work.
It's great working with Sandra. She always pulls her
weight.
put your
shoulder to the
wheel
If you put your shoulder to the wheel, you start putting a
lot of effort into a difficult task.
We'll have to put our shoulders to the wheel to deliver
the goods on time.
red tape The term red tape refers to official rules and
bureaucratic paperwork that prevent things from being
done quickly.
If there wasn't so much red tape, the company would be
up and running already.
roaring trade If you do a roaring trade, your business is very
successful.
Cosmetic surgeons are doing a roaring trade these
days.
roll up your
sleeves
When you roll up your sleeves, you get ready for hard
work.
The house was in a mess after the party so we had to
roll up our sleeves and start cleaning.
learn the ropes If you learn the ropes, you learn how to do a particular
job correctly.
He's a smart kid. It won't take him long to learn the
ropes.
seal of approval If a project or contract receives a seal of approval, it
receives formal support or approval from higher
authorities.
We can't conclude the deal without the director's seal of
approval.
second a motion During a meeting, if you second a motion, you formally
agree with a proposal.
She seconded the motion to introduce flexible working
hours.
sell ice to
Eskimos
This expression is used to describe a person who has
the ability
to persuade someone to accept something totally
unnecessary or useless.
It's not surprising he was named 'salesman of the year'.
He could sell
ice to Eskimos!
send up a trial
balloon
If you test something such as an idea, a project or a
product, to see how people respond to it, you send up a
trial balloon.
The idea seemed excellent but when they sent up a trial
balloon the reaction was very negative.
separate the
sheep from the
goats
If you separate the sheep from the goats, you examine
a group of people and decide which are suitable and
which are not.
Examining job applications is the first stage in
separating the sheep from the goats.
set the stage for If you set the stage for an event or a development, you
create conditions that allow it to happen.
The agreement set the stage for their future working
relationship.
shape up or ship This expression is used to warn someone that if they do
out not improve, they will have to leave their job.
When Tom started neglecting the customers, he was
told to shape up or ship out.
pick up steam If a project or process picks up steam, it starts to
develop or become more active.
The campaign started slowly but picked up steam after
Christmas.
piece of the
action
When someone wants a piece of the action, they want
to participate in what other people are doing and benefit
from it.
The songwriter thought the show would be a success
so he wanted a piece of the action.
in the pipeline If something is in the pipeline, it is currently in progress
or being organized.
A new version is in the pipeline at the moment.
play the market If you play the market, you buy stocks and shares in the
hope of making a profit when you sell them.
It's always tempting to play the market, but it's more
risky at the present time.
pull your weight To say that somebody pulls their weight means that
they do their fair share of the work.
It's great working with Sandra. She always pulls her
weight.
put your
shoulder to the
wheel
If you put your shoulder to the wheel, you start putting a
lot of effort into a difficult task.
We'll have to put our shoulders to the wheel to deliver
the goods on time.
red tape The term red tape refers to official rules and
bureaucratic paperwork that prevent things from being
done quickly.
If there wasn't so much red tape, the company would be
up and running already.
roaring trade If you do a roaring trade, your business is very
successful.
Cosmetic surgeons are doing a roaring trade these
days.
roll up your
sleeves
When you roll up your sleeves, you get ready for hard
work.
The house was in a mess after the party so we had to
roll up our sleeves and start cleaning.
learn the ropes If you learn the ropes, you learn how to do a particular
job correctly.
He's a smart kid. It won't take him long to learn the
ropes.
seal of approval If a project or contract receives a seal of approval, it
receives formal support or approval from higher
authorities.
We can't conclude the deal without the director's seal of
approval.
second a motion During a meeting, if you second a motion, you formally
agree with a proposal.
She seconded the motion to introduce flexible working
hours.
sell ice to
Eskimos
This expression is used to describe a person who has
the ability
to persuade someone to accept something totally
unnecessary or useless.
It's not surprising he was named 'salesman of the year'.
He could sell
ice to Eskimos!
send up a trial
balloon
If you test something such as an idea, a project or a
product, to see how people respond to it, you send up a
trial balloon.
The idea seemed excellent but when they sent up a trial
balloon the reaction was very negative.
separate the
sheep from the
goats
If you separate the sheep from the goats, you examine
a group of people and decide which are suitable and
which are not.
Examining job applications is the first stage in
separating the sheep from the goats.
set the stage for If you set the stage for an event or a development, you
create conditions that allow it to happen.
The agreement set the stage for their future working
relationship.
shape up or ship
out
This expression is used to warn someone that if they do
not improve, they will have to leave their job.
When Tom started neglecting the customers, he was
told to shape up or ship out.
step into
someone's
shoes
If you step into someone's shoes, you take over a job or
position held by someone else before you.
William has been trained to step into his father's shoes
when he retires.
strictly business An appointment or event that is entirely devoted to
business, with no leisure or relaxation, is called strictly
business.
Yes we had lunch together but it was strictly business.
sweat of your
brow
If you earn or achieve something by the sweat of your
brow, you do it through hard work and no help.
I got a comfortable lifestyle by the sweat of my brow - I
owe it to nobody but myself!
sweetheart deal The term sweetheart deal is used to refer to an
abnormally lucrative arrangement between two parties.
Opponents say the contract was awarded to the builder
as part of a sweetheart deal, and is therefore illegal.
take the floor When someone takes the floor, they rise to make a
speech or presentation.
'When I take the floor, my speech will be short.' he said.
take a nosedive If something takes a nosedive, it drops or decreases in
value very rapidly.
The stock market took a nosedive when the property
market began to weaken.
take offline If you suggest that a subject be taken offline (during a
meeting for example), you consider that it is a separate
issue and should be discussed at another time.
Peter, you're confusing things, so let's take that offline
shall we?
talk shop If you talk shop, you talk about your work or business in
a social situation with someone you work with, and
make the conversation boring for the others present.
I never go out with my colleagues because we
inevitably end up talking shop.
there for the
taking
If something is there for the taking, it is easy to obtain.
When our main competitor went out of business, the
market segment was there for the taking.
things are
looking up
To say that things are looking up means that the
situation is improving and you feel more positive about
the future.
Andy has got two job interviews next week so things are
looking up.
throw over the
wall
If someone throws something over the wall, they deal
with part of a problem or project, then pass the
responsibility to another person or department without
any communication or coordination.
You can't just manufacture a product then throw it over
the wall to the sales department!
too many
chiefs, not
enough Indians
This expression refers to a situation where there are too
many people giving instructions and not enough people
doing the work.
The business wasn't successful. There were too many
chiefs and not enough Indians.
too much like
hard work
An activity or task that requires too much effort is too
much like hard work.
It's so hot today, there's no way I'm going to do any
cooking. That's too much like hard work!
trade secret This term refers to the secrecy of a company's
production methods but is often used teasingly.
"Can you give me the recipe for your lemon meringue
pie?" " No way - that's a trade secret!"
tricks of the
trade
This term refers to a clever or expert way of doing
things, especially in a job.
He's a tough negotiator; he knows all the tricks of the
trade.
up and running If a business or a project is up and running, it has
started and is fully operational.
In some countries you can have a company up and
running in a very short time.
nothing
ventured,
nothing gained
You cannot expect to achieve anything is you risk
nothing.
He's going to ask his boss for a promotion even though
he has little chance of obtaining satisfaction. Nothing
ventured, nothing gained!
walking papers If you are given your walking papers, your contract or a
relationship has ended.
After causing a diplomatic incident, Carter got his
walking papers.
wear many hats Someone who wears many hats has to do many
different types of tasks or play a variety of roles.
Our company is small so the employees need to be
flexible and accept to wear many hats.
wheeling and
dealing
Someone accused of wheeling and dealing is though to
be involved in complicated, if not dishonest, deals in
business or politics.
Since the beginning of the election campaign, there's
been a lot of wheeling and dealing going on.
win-win The term win-win refers to a situation or proposition
where both or all parties benefit from the outcome.
There were smiles all round when the contract was
signed - it was a win-win situation.
have your work
cut out
If you have to face a difficult task or a challenging
situation, youhave your work cut out for you.
I've got a month to reorganize the accounts
department. I have my work cut out for me!












IDIOM WHAT IT MEANS EXAMPLES
24/7 "24/7" means 24 hours a day, seven
days a week.
The convenience store on the
corner is open 24/7.
a tough break When something unfortunate
happens, it can be called a "tough
break."
It was a tough break for us
when Caroline quit. She was
one of our top performers.
ahead of the curve To be "ahead of the curve" means to
be more advanced than the
competition.
We're investing a lot of money
in research and development
so we can stay ahead of the
curve.
ahead of the pack To be "ahead of the pack" means to be
better or more successful than the
competition.
If we want to stay ahead of the
pack, we're going to have to
work really hard and continue
to innovate.
ASAP "ASAP" is an acronym for "as soon as
possible."
I need to finish these reports.
My boss needs them ASAP.
at stake "At stake" means at risk. I'n a little nervous about
giving this presentation.
There's a lot at stake.
back to square one To go "back to square one" means to
start something over again.
Our programmers identified
what they thought the
problem was with the
software. After working for
several hours, it turns out that
the problem is something
totally different, so it looks like
we have to go back to square
one.
back to the drawing
board
To go "back to the drawing board"
means to start something over again,
The prototype wasn't
successful. We have to go back
IDIOM WHAT IT MEANS EXAMPLES
and go back to the planning stage of
something.
to the drawing board.
backroom deal A backroom deal is an agreement or
decision that is made without the
public knowing about it.
I think they got the
government contract because
of a backroom deal.
ballpark number A ballpark number is a very inexact
estimate.
Im not sure what a Super
Bowl commercial costs, but to
give you a ballpark figure, Id
say about three million
dollars.
behind someone's
back
To do something "behind someone's
back" means to do something without
someone's knowledge and in a way
that is not fair.
She didn't think it would be
fair to go behind his back and
talk to management, so she
confronted him directly.
behind the scenes What happens in secret or not in front
of the general public is said to happen
"behind the scenes."
They make it look so effortless,
but they do a lot of hard work
and planning behind the
scenes.
big picture Everything that is involved with a
particular situation is called "the big
picture."
Even though we all have very
specific tasks to do, our
manager makes sure we don't
lose sight of the big picture.
blue collar A blue collar worker is someone
who works with his or her hands
(manufacturing, construction,
maintenance, etc.) The opposite is a
white collar worker. A white collar
worker is someone who works in an
office (customer service, management,
sales, etc.) Blue collar(and white
It's a blue collar town, with a
lot of farmers and factory
workers.
IDIOM WHAT IT MEANS EXAMPLES
collar) can also be used to describe a
job, position, or a place.
by the book To do things "by the book" means to
do things according to company policy
or law. It means to follow the rules
100%.
There are a lot of regulatory
industries that audit us on a
regular basis. It's important
that we do everything by the
book.
call it a day To "call it a day" means to decide to
stop working for the day.
Well, John, it's 7:00 and I'm
getting hungry. How about we
call it a day?
catch someone off
guard
To catch someone off guard means
to surprise someone by doing
something that he or she was not
expecting.
Mike was caught off guard
when they asked him to direct
the meeting.
cave (or cave in) If someone "caves" or "caves in" it
means that the person gives in to
something or agrees to something that
he or she previously did not want to
accept.
The employees complained
about the change in policy, but
the supervisor refused to cave
in.
change of pace A change of paceis something
different from a normal routine or
schedule.
Its nice to go on business
trips because
its a change of pace.
come up short To "come up short means to try to
achieve something but fail. We often
say that someone has come up short
when someone fails to achieve a goal,
but not completely.
The charity fund raiser was
supposed to raise three million
dollars, but they came up
short.
corner a market To "corner a market" means to
dominate a particular market.
Apple has cornered the market
on mp3 players. They have a
IDIOM WHAT IT MEANS EXAMPLES
very large percentage of
market share.
cut corners To "cut corners" means to take
shortcuts and find an easier or
cheaper way to do something.
We don't cut corners on our
luxury products. They are all
made to high standards with
materials of the highest
quality.
cut one's losses If you stop doing something that is
unproductive and won't ever generate
results, you "cut your losses."
Advertising through that
company was expensive and
we didn't see an increase in
sales. So, we decided to cut
our losses and stop doing
business with them.
cut-throat "Cut-throat" is used to describe
something that is very intense,
aggressive and merciless.
In business school, the
competition was cut-throat.
diamond in the rough A "diamond in the rough" is
something or someone that has a lot
of potential but first requires a lot of
work.
He was a diamond in the
rough. He was really
intelligent and had great ideas,
but his management and
English skills weren't very
good.
easy come, easy go "Easy come, easy go," is an expression
used to communicate that something
gained easily is also lost easily. We use
this expression after something has
been lost.
A lot of people who inherit
money waste it on stupid
things. I guess it's easy come,
easy go.
fifty-fifty "Fifty-fifty" means something is
divided equally -- 50% for one person,
50% for the other person.
My business partner and I
split everything fifty-fifty.
IDIOM WHAT IT MEANS EXAMPLES
from the ground up If you start a business, project, or
something else from zero, you start it
"from the ground up."
Bill Gates built Microsoft from
the ground up.
game plan A game plan is a strategy or plan. They're not sure what their
game plan is for the upcoming
election.
get back in/into the
swing of things
To "get back in/into the swing of
things" means to get used to doing
something after you have had a break
from that activity.
Our company shuts down
operations for three weeks
during the holiday season.
When I go back to work in
January, it's always difficult to
get back in the swing of things.
get down to business To "get down to business" means to
stop making small talk and start
talking about serious topics related to
business.
Well, everyone's here, and I
know everyone is very busy.
So, let's get down to business
and talk about the proposal.
get something off the
ground
To "get something off the ground"
means to start a project or business.
We're very glad that the
planning process is over.
We're looking forward to
getting the project off the
ground.
get the ball rolling To "get the ball rollingmeans to start
something (a work project, for
example).
We really need to get the ball
rolling on this project. The
deadline is in June, and it's
already April.
get/be on the good
side of someone
If someone likes you, you are "on the
good side" of that person.
I always remember my
coworkers' birthdays and get
them a card or small gift. I like
to get on people's good side.
IDIOM WHAT IT MEANS EXAMPLES
get/have foot in the
door
To "get or have your foot in the door"
means to take a low-level position
with a company with the goal of
eventually getting a better position
with the same company in the future.
My son just took a low-paying
internship position with a
large company. He was happy
to get his foot in the door at a
well-known, respected
company.
give someone a pat on
the back
To "give someone a pat on the back"
means to tell someone that he or she
did a good job.
The boss gave Brian a pat on
the back for coming up with
such a good idea.
give
something/someone
the thumbs down
To "give something or someone the
thumbs down" means to deny
approval.
I can't believe she gave us the
thumbs down. I thought it was
a great idea.
give
something/someone
the thumbs up
To "give something or someone the
thumbs up" means to approve.
They gave our new proposal
the thumbs up. We're going
out to celebrate tonight.
go broke To "go broke" means to go bankrupt
or to lose all the money a person or
business had.
There was too much
competition and their
expenses were too high. They
eventually went broke.
go down the drain When you waste or lose something, it
is said to "go down the drain."
He dropped out of college in
his third year and never
continued his studies. All of
his hard work and money went
down the drain.
go the extra mile To "go the extra mile" means to do
more than what people expect of you.
We go the extra mile for our
customers. If someone is
dissatisfied with a purchase,
we refund their money and
offer them a discount on their
next purchase.
IDIOM WHAT IT MEANS EXAMPLES
go through the roof If something is going through the
roof, it means it is increasing very
quickly.
We're really happy that our
number of Facebook followers
has gone through the roof.
gray area If something is in a gray area it
means that it is something undefined
that is not easily categorized.
I asked our lawyers if it was
legal, and they said it wasn't
clear. It's in a gray area.
ground-breaking If something is ground-breaking it
means it is new and innovative.
The iPhone was a ground-
breaking piece of technology
when it was released in 2008.
hands are tied If you do not have any control over a
situation, your "hands are tied."
I would love to get you a job at
my company, but my hands
are tied. Management isn't
hiring any additional
employees this year.
have someone's work
cut out
If you have a lot of work to do or a
particularly difficult assignment, you
"have your work cut out for you."
She has to sell $35,000 worth
of products by the end of the
month. She has her work cut
out for her.
hit the nail on the
head
To "hit the nail on the head" means to
do or say something 100% correctly.
I agree with John 100%. I
think he really hit the nail on
the head.
in a nutshell "In a nutshell" means in a few words. In a nutshell, this book is
about how to motivate
employees.
in full swing If a project is "in full swing," it means
that it has been completely started
and that it is progressing or moving as
fast as it ever will.
Construction on the new site is
in full swing now.
in the black If a company is "in the black," it We're not having a great year,
IDIOM WHAT IT MEANS EXAMPLES
means that they are making a profit. but at least we're in the black.
in the driver's seat To be in the drivers seat means to
be in control.
I'm not used to being in the
driver's seat. I should probably
buy some management books.
in the red If a company is "in the red," it means
that they are not profitable and are
operating at a loss.
When I started my own
business, we were in the red
for the first two years. We
didn't see a profit until the
third year.
keep your eye on the
ball
To "keep your eye on the ball means
to focus and concentrate on what you
want to achieve.
I know we can do it. We just
need to keep our eye on the
ball and not lose our focus.
last straw The "last straw" means the last
annoyance, disturbance, or betrayal
which causes someone to give up, lose
his or her patience, or become very
angry.
Our boss was unhappy with
Brian's performance for a
while, but when he came to
work three hours late without
calling, it was the last straw.
learn the ropes To "learn the ropesmeans to learn
the basics of something.
I like my new position.
Im starting to learn the
ropes.
long shot A "long shot" is something that has a
very low probability of happening.
Winning the lottery is a long
shot, but millions of people
still buy lottery tickets.
loophole A legal "loophole" occurs If a law is
unclear or omits information. This
lack of legal clarity allows people or
corporations to take advantage of the
situation and pay less in taxes or gain
some other advantage.
Some people complain that
millionaires avoid paying
taxes by finding loopholes in
tax laws.
IDIOM WHAT IT MEANS EXAMPLES
lose ground (opposite
is to "gain ground")
To "lose ground" means to lose some
type of an advantage (market share,
for example) to a competitor.
Apple lost some ground to
Samsung last quarter.
lose-lose situation
(also called a "no-win
situation")
A "lose-lose situation" is when
someone has to choose between
various options and all the options are
bad.
It's a lose-lose situation. If
they lay off more workers,
they'll get bad press. If they
don't lay off more workers,
they won't be able to compete.
nine-to-five A "nine-to-five" is a job during normal
working hours. The term came into
existence because many work days
start at 9 AM and end at 5 PM.
She was tired of working a
nine-to-five job, so she took
her savings and started a
restaurant.
no brainer If a decision is really obvious or really
easy to make, the decision is a "no
brainer."
Taking the new job was a no
brainer. They offered me more
money, a better schedule, and
more vacation days.
no strings attached If something is given without
expecting anything in return, it is
given with "no strings attached."
They will let you try the
product for free with no
strings attached. If you don't
like it, there is no pressure to
buy it or give them anything in
return.
no time to lose If there is "no time to lose," it means
that there is a lot of pressure to
complete something quickly.
I told them I'd send the email
by the end of the day and it's
already 4:45. I need to get to
work. There's no time to lose.
not going to fly If a solution isn't effective, people say
that it "isn't going to fly."
I don't think that idea's going
to fly. Let's keep generating
ideas.
IDIOM WHAT IT MEANS EXAMPLES
off the top of one's
head
If someone says something "off the
top of his or her head," it means that
he or she gives a response without
thinking about it for a long time or
doing any research on the subject.
I have no idea how many
branches they have. Off the
top of my head, I'd say about
20.
on a roll If someone is "on a roll," it means that
he or she has had several successes in
a row.
Our profits have been above
our projected numbers for five
months in a row. We're really
on a roll.
on the ball To be "one the ball" means to be alert
and aware of things.
My new personal assistant is
working out well. He's really
on the ball.
on the same page page If two people are "on the same page,"
they are in agreement about
something.
Let's go over the details of
what we agreed on just to
make sure that we're on the
same page.
on top of something To be "on top of something" means to
be in control of a situation and aware
of changes.
I read a lot to stay on top of
the latest changes in my
industry.
on your toes To be "on your toes" means to be alert. Stay on your toes. Anything
can happen.
out in the open If something is "out in the open" it is
public knowledge and not hidden
from people.
I think it's a good policy to do
things out in the open because
people get suspicious if you do
things in secret.
out of the loop
(opposite: in the loop)
To be out of the loop means to not
know something that a select group of
people knows. The opposite, to be in
the loop, means to be part of a select
I felt like I was out of the loop
after being on vacation for two
weeks.
IDIOM WHAT IT MEANS EXAMPLES
group with knowledge that others do
not have.
pink slip If someone gets the "pink slip," it
means they have been fired.
They gave him the pink slip.
He wasn't performing very
well.
play hardball To "play hardball" means to be
competitive in a cruel way and without
showing mercy. Playing hardball
means doing anything possible to win.
He played hardball to get
where he is, so I would be
careful what you say and do
around him.
put all someone's eggs
in one basket
To "put all someone's eggs in one
basket," means to rely on only one
thing to bring you success.
It's not good to only invest in
the stock market. You don't
want to put all your eggs in
one basket.
put the cart before the
horse
To "put the cart before the horse"
means to do or think about things in
the wrong order.
They were trying to find
investors without even having
a business plan. They were
putting the cart before the
horse.
raise the bar To "raise the bar" means to set the
standards or expectations higher,
usually by achieving or creating
something better than what had
previously existed.
The new software is getting
great reviews. It looks like
they've really raised the bar for
the competition.
read between the lines To "read between the lines" means to
understand something that wasn't
communicated directly. Reading
between the lines involves
understanding what someone is
implying or suggesting but not saying
directly.
He didn't say that he wants to
leave the company, but I can
read between the lines. He's
thinking of getting a new job.
IDIOM WHAT IT MEANS EXAMPLES
red tape "Red tape" refers to excessive rules,
procedures, and regulations that make
it difficult to accomplish something.
We usually use "red tape" to talk
about government requirements that
create difficult, time-consuming
barriers for people and businesses.
The new law is going to create
a lot of extra red tape and
we're going to have to pay our
lawyers a lot more money.
rock the boat To "rock the boat" means to cause
problems or disrupt a peaceful
situation.
He thought about demanding
a raise, but then he decided he
didn't want to rock the boat.
round-the-clock "Round the clock" means 24 hours a
day.
We have round-the-clock
production at all our
manufacturing facilities.
run/go around in
circles
To "run (or go) around in circles"
means to do the same thing over and
over again without getting any results.
I've made phone calls all day
and haven't made a single sale.
I feel like I've been running
around in circles all day.
safe bet A "safe bet" means something that will
probably happen.
It's a safe bet that smart
phones will be much more
advanced in 10 years.
same boat If people are in the same difficult
situation, they are in the "same boat."
We're all worried about losing
our jobs. We're in the same
boat.
second nature When someone learns how to do
something so well that it appears that
he or she was born knowing how to do
it, we say that the activity is "second
nature" to him or her.
He's been a computer
programmer for ten years. At
this point, programming is
second nature him.
see eye to eye To see eye to eye with someone We don't always see eye to eye,
IDIOM WHAT IT MEANS EXAMPLES
means to agree with that person. but I respect her opinions and
appreciate her honesty.
see something through To "see something through" means to
do something until it is finished.
I told my boss that I really
wanted to see my current
project through before taking
on another project.
sever ties To "sever ties" means to end a
relationship.
We had to sever ties with
several of our suppliers due to
late shipments.
shoot something down To "shoot something down" means to
deny something, such as a proposal or
idea.
It's best not to shoot ideas
down during a brainstorming
session. The goal is to generate
ideas, not to criticize them.
sky's the limit If there is no limit to the possibilities
of something, people often say "the
sky's the limit."
With their commission
structure, the sky's the limit to
what you can make.
small talk Small talk is conversation about
unimportant topics that do not offend
people (the weather, for example).
We typically spend about 15
minutes making small talk
before we start our meetings.
smooth sailing (or
clear sailing)
"Smooth sailing" is a term used to
describe a situation where success is
achieved without difficulties.
Once our largest competitor
went out of business, it was
smooth sailing.
snail mail Snail mail is the term used for the
traditional mail that goes through the
post office. The term is used because a
snail is a slow-moving animal.
If you want to fill out form 52-
E and send it to the
government, you have to do it
using snail mail. They don't
allow you to scan the
document.
stand one's ground If you "stand your ground," it means We tried to change the dress
IDIOM WHAT IT MEANS EXAMPLES
that you will not change your opinion
or position on an issue.
code, but Human Resources
stood their ground.
start off on the right
foot
To "start off on the right foot" means
to start something in a positive way.
We offered them a very
generous price on their first
order and everything shipped
on time. We really started off
on the right foot.
start off on the wrong
foot
To "start off on the wrong foot" means
to start something in a negative way.
I just switched cable
companies. They overcharged
me for the first month's
service. They really started off
on the wrong foot.
state of the art Something that is state of the art is
modern and technologically advanced.
Bill Gates lives in a state-of-
the-art home with a lot of
modern technology that most
people don't have access to.
take something lying
down
To "take something lying down
means to accept something
unpleasant without fighting back.
The proposed law would kill
our industry, but we're not
going to take it lying down.
We're going to fight back and
try to make sure the law
doesn't get passed.
take the bull by the
horns
To "take the bull by the horns means
to directly confront a difficult
situation.
One of our mid-level managers
wasn't very popular and was
causing some problems, so we
took the bull by the horns and
replaced him with somebody
else.
talk someone into
something
To "talk someone into something"
means to convince someone to do
I was hesitant to redesign our
website, but my employees
IDIOM WHAT IT MEANS EXAMPLES
something. talked me into it. I'm glad they
did. The new site is much
better than the previous one.
talk someone out of
something
To "talk someone out of something"
means to convince someone not to do
something.
I wanted to make a real estate
investment, but my financial
adviser talked me out of it.
the elephant in the
room
"The elephant in the room" refers to a
big problem or controversial issue
which is obvious, but which no one
wants to talk about.
We should have been talking
about our huge debt, but it
seemed like no one wanted to
talk about the elephant in the
room.
think big To "think big" means to have high
goals and big plans for the future.
I'm not content with just
opening one or two more
stores. I'm thinking big -- I
think we can open 10 more
stores in the next five years.
think outside the box To "think outside the box" means to
think of creative solutions instead of
common ones. Thinking outside the
box involves thinking of
unconventional ideas.
Creating a completely new
product that no one has ever
sold before is an example of
thinking outside the box.
throw in the towel To "throw in the towel" means to quit. I was trying to learn
Portuguese, but I got
frustrated and threw in the
towel.
time's up "Time's up" means that the time for
something or someone has ended.
I think his time's up as the
CEO. They're going to replace
him as soon as they find a
suitable candidate.
IDIOM WHAT IT MEANS EXAMPLES
touch base To "touch base means to make
contact with someone.
Let me make a few phone calls
to try to get an answer to your
question. I'll touch base with
you later today.
twist someone's arm To "twist someone's arm" means to
persuade or convince someone to do
something that he or she does not
want to do.
The owner thought the
advertising budget was a little
high. We had to twist his arm
to get him to agree to it.
under the table Something done secretly (and usually
illegally) in the business world is done
"under the table."
To avoid paying taxes, they
paid some of their employees
under the table.
up in the air If something is undecided, it is "up in
the air."
We're looking for a test market
right now, but nothing has
been decided yet. Everything's
still up in the air.
uphill battle Something that is difficult to achieve
because of obstacles and difficulties is
an uphill battle.
Winning the election is going
to be an uphill battle. He
doesn't have a lot of support at
the moment.
upper hand If someone has an advantage over
someone else, he or she has the "upper
hand."
He was more experienced and
well respected, so he had the
upper hand in the argument.
white collar A white collar worker is someone
who works in an office (customer
service, management, sales, etc.) The
opposite of a white collar worker is a
blue collar worker. A blue collar
worker is someone who works with his
or her hands (manufacturing,
construction, maintenance, etc.)
There are mostly
manufacturing positions here.
There aren't a lot of white-
collar jobs here.
IDIOM WHAT IT MEANS EXAMPLES
White collar (and blue collarcan
also be used to describe a job,
position, or place.
win-win situation A "win-win situation" is a situation
where everyone involved gains
something.
We were happy to get the
contract, and they were happy
to get such a good price. It was
a win-win situation.
word of mouth If something spreads by "word of
mouth," people hear about it by
informal conversation with friends,
family members, acquaintances, etc.
A lot of local restaurants rely
on word of mouth to get new
customers.
writing on the wall The "writing on the wall" refers to the
evidence and clues that something
(usually negative) is going to happen.
I'm going to get my resume
ready. I can see the writing on
the wall.
yes man A yes man is someone who always
agrees with his or her superiors.











at a premium

at a high price; at a relatively high price

Example: When flat-screen televisions first came out, they were selling at a premium.

back-of-the-envelope calculations

quick calculations; estimates using approximate numbers, instead of exact numbers

Example: I don't need the exact numbers right now. Just give me some back-of-the-envelope
calculations.

Note: This expression refers to the quick calculations one would do informally, as on the back of an
envelope.

belt-tightening

reduction of expenses

Example: When worldwide demand for software decreased, Microsoft had to do somebelt-tightening.

(to) bite the bullet

to make a difficult or painful decision; to take a difficult step

Example: When demand was down, U.S. automakers had to bite the bullet and cut jobs.
Origin: This idiom comes from the military. During the Civil War in the United States, doctors
sometimes ran out of whiskey for killing the pain. A bullet would be put in the wounded soldier's
mouth during surgery. He would "bite the bullet" to distract him from the pain and keep him quiet so
the doctor could do his work in peace.

bitter pill to swallow

bad news; something unpleasant to accept

Example: After Gina spent her whole summer working as an intern for American Express, failing to get
a full-time job offer from the company was a bitter pill to swallow.

blockbuster

a big success; a huge hit

Example: Eli Lilly made a lot of money with the prescription drug, Prozac. It was a realblockbuster.
Origin: This term comes from the blockbuster bombs used during World War Two by the British Royal
Air Force. They were huge and created a large explosive force. Blockbuster ideas similarly create a big
impact - and hopefully don't cause destruction like blockbuster bombs!

brownie points

credit for doing a good deed or for giving someone a compliment (usually a boss or teacher)

Example: Sara scored brownie points with her boss by volunteering to organize the company's
holiday party.
Origin: The junior branch of the Girl Scouts is called the Brownies. Brownies earn credit to then earn a
badge by doing good deeds and tasks. When applied to adults, the meaning is sarcastic.

cash cow

a product, service, or business division that generates a lot of cash for the company, without requiring
much investment

Example: With strong sales every year and a great brand name, Mercedes is a cash cowfor
DaimlerChrysler.

(to) cash in on

to make money on; to benefit financially from

Example: Jamie Oliver, star of the TV show The Naked Chef, cashed in on his popularity by writing
cookbooks and opening restaurants.

(to) climb the corporate ladder

advance in one's career; the process of getting promoted and making it to senior management

Example: You want to climb the corporate ladder? It helps to be productive and to look good in
front of your boss.

(to) compare apples to oranges

to compare two unlike things; to make an invalid comparison

Example: Comparing a night at EconoLodge with a night at the Four Seasons is likecomparing
apples to oranges. One is a budget motel, and the other is a luxury hotel.
Note: You will also see the related expression "compare apples to apples" which means to compare
two things of the same type. This means that you are making a valid comparison, as opposed to when
you're comparing apples to oranges.

crunch time

a short period when there's high pressure to achieve a result

Example: It's crunch time for stem cell researchers in Korea. New government regulations may soon
make their work illegal.

dog-eat-dog world

a cruel and aggressive world in which people just look out for themselves

Example: Your company fired you shortly after you had a heart attack? Well, it's certainly a dog-eat-
dog world!
Origin: This expression dates back to the 1500's. Wild dogs were observed fighting aggressively over a
piece of food. The connection was made that people, like dogs, often compete aggressively to get
what they want.

(to) dot your i's and cross your t's

to be very careful; to pay attention to details

Example: When preparing financial statements, accuracy is very important. Be sure to dot your i's
and cross your t's.

(to) drum up business

to create business; to find new customers

Example: Sales have been very slow lately. Do you have any ideas for drumming up business?

(to) face the music

to admit that there's a problem; to deal with an unpleasant situation realistically

Example: Enron executives finally had to face the music and admit that they were involved in some
illegal activities.

(to) fast track a project

to make a project a high priority; to speed up the time frame of a project

Example: Let's fast track this project. We've heard rumors that our competitors are developing
similar products.

(to) generate lots of buzz

to cause many people to start talking about a product or service, usually in a positive way that
increases sales

Example: Procter & Gamble generated lots of buzz for its new toothpaste by giving away free
samples to people on the streets of New York City.
Note: "Buzz" is a popular word for "attention."

(to) have a lot on one's plate

to have a lot to do; to have too much to do; to have too much to cope with

Example: Carlos turned down the project, explaining that he already had a lot on his plate.

Note: There is also the variation: to have too much on one's plate.

(the) hard sell

an aggressive way of selling

Example: Car salesmen are famous for using the hard sell on their customers.
Note: The opposite of "the hard sell" is "the soft sell," which is a sales technique using little or no
pressure.

(to) jump the gun

to start doing something too soon or ahead of everybody else

Example: The company jumped the gun by releasing a new product before the results of the
consumer testing were in.
Origin: A runner "jumps the gun" if he or she starts running before the starter's pistol has been fired.

(to) jump through hoops

to go through a lot of difficult work for something; to face many bureaucratic obstacles

Example: We had to jump through hoops to get our visas to Russia, but we finally got them.

(to) keep one's eye on the prize

to stay focused on the end result; to not let small problems get in the way of good results

Example: I know it's difficult going to class after work, but just keep your eye on the prize. At the
end of next year, you'll have your MBA.
Note: You will also see the variation: keep one's eyes on the prize.

(to) keep something under wraps

to keep something secret; to not let anybody know about a new project or plan

Example: I'm sorry I can't tell you anything about the project I'm working on. My boss told me
to keep it under wraps.
Note: "Wraps" are things that provide cover, so if something is "under wraps" it's covered up and
hidden.

mum's the word

let's keep quiet about this; I agree not to tell anyone about this

Example: Please don't tell anybody about our new project. Remember: mum's the word!
Origin: The word "mum" comes from the murmur "mmmmm," the only sound you can make when
your mouth is shut firmly. Try making other sounds besides "mmmmm" with your lips and mouth shut
firmly, and you will see that it's impossible!

my gut tells me

I have a strong feeling that; my intuition tells me

Example: It's true that I don't know him well, but my gut tells me that James is the right person for
the sales director position.
Note: The "gut" is both the intestines and stomach and also the innermost emotional response.

nothing ventured, nothing gained

If you don't try to do something, you'll never succeed.

Example: It's risky to spend so much money developing a new brand, but nothing ventured, nothing
gained.

on top of trends

modern; aware and responding to the latest tastes

Example: The Gap is on top of trends. They always have the latest styles in their stores.

(to) pass the buck

to shift the blame; to blame somebody else

Example: It's your fault. Don't try to pass the buck!
Origin: This expression comes from the world of poker. In the nineteenth century, a knife with a
buckhorn handle (the "buck") was passed to the next dealer when it was his turn to give out the
cards.

(to) plug (a product)

to promote a product; to talk positively about a product

Example: American Express often hires famous people to plug their credit cards. No wonder people
pay attention to their ads!

(to) pull one's weight

to do one's share of the work

Example: Don't rely on others to get your job done. You need to pull your own weight.

Note: You will also hear the variation: to pull one's own weight.

(to) pull the plug

to put a stop to a project or initiative, usually because it's not going well; to stop something from
moving forward; to discontinue

Example: After losing millions of dollars drilling for oil in Nebraska and finding nothing, the oil
company finally pulled the plug on its exploration project.

Origin: This expression refers to removing a plug to make something stop working - when you pull the
plug out of the wall, your appliance doesn't work. In the 19th century, when this term originated, the
plug was for a toilet. To flush the toilet, you had to pull out a plug.

(to) put a stake in the ground

to take the first step; to make a big move to get something started; to make a commitment

Example: Our business in California has grown steadily over the past two years. Now is the time
to put a stake in the ground and open a regional office there.

(to) rally the troops

to motivate others; to get other people excited about doing something; to do something to improve
the morale of the employees and get them energized about doing their work

Example: After the lay-offs and salary cuts, the airline president organized a meeting torally the
troops and plan for the next year.
Note: The verb "to rally" has several definitions, but in this case means to "call together for a common
goal or purpose." Troops is an informal way of describing a group of employees. The term comes from
the military - a troop is a military unit.

reality check

let's think realistically about this situation (said when you don't like something that's being suggested
because you don't think the other person is thinking practically or logically)

Example: You think we can start selling our products through our website next month? Time for
a reality check! Nobody at our company knows anything about e-commerce.

(to) scale back one's hours

to reduce the number of hours one works

Example: When Christine had a baby, she decided to scale back her hours and just work part-time.
Synonym: to cut back one's hours

Shape up or ship out!

improve your behavior or leave; if you don't improve your performance, you're going to get fired

Example: Martin finally had enough of Todd's negative attitude. "Shape up or ship out!" he told
Todd.
Origin: This expression was first used in the U.S. military during World War Two, meaning: you'd
better follow regulations and behave yourself ("shape up"), or you're going to be sent overseas to a
war zone ("ship out").

(to) step up to the plate

to take action; to do one's best; to volunteer

Example: We need somebody to be in charge of organizing the company holiday party. Who'd like
to step up to the plate and start working on this project?
Note: This expression comes from baseball. You step up to the plate (a plastic mat on the ground)
when it's your turn to hit the ball.

(to) throw cold water over (an idea, a plan)

to present reasons why something will not work; to discourage

Example: Pat presented her boss with a plan to expand their business into China, but he threw cold
water over her plan and told her to just focus on developing business in the United States.
Note: You will also hear the variation: to throw cold water on.

though the roof

very high; higher than expected

Example: No wonder people are complaining about the cost of heating their homes. Oil prices have
gone through the roof!

(to) turn around one's business

to make a business profitable again; to go from not making profits to being profitable again

Example: The telecom company was able to turn around its business by developing a popular new
line of services.

(to) work down to the wire

to work until the last minute; to work until just before the deadline

Example: The investment bankers need to turn in their report at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning, and
they've still got many hours of work left on it. They're going to be working down to the wire.
Note: This expression comes from horse racing. In the 19th century, American racetracks placed wire
across the track above the finish line. The wire helped determine which horse's nose crossed the line
first. If a race was "down to the wire," it was a very close race, undecided until the very last second.

(to) work out the (or some) kinks

to solve the problems with

Example: The company announced that they will delay the launch of their new product by two weeks.
They still need to work out the kinks with their packaging process.
Note: A "kink" is a problem or flaw in a system or plan.

yes man

an employee who always agrees with the boss or does whatever the boss says

Example: Don't expect Larry to argue with the boss. He's a yes man.