6 NEW Business English IDIOMS πŸ’Ό

Lesson Overview

Lesson SummaryΒ 

Starting a new job can be a steep learning curve – but one that you need to overcome if you want to climb the corporate ladder! There will be times where you feel out of your depth, you’ll get thrown in the deep end and have to learn the ropes quickly. But you are the type of person who thinks outside the box and you know that learning these useful English idioms will help you take your conversation to the next level!

Business English Listening Practice – Try a free audiobook today
(my business-related audiobook recommendations are below!)
– The Power of Habit
– 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
– Start With Why
– The 5 Second Rule
– Good To Great
– Built To LastΒ 
– Elon Musk Biography
– Insanely Great: A Steve Jobs Biography

Video Transcript
Section 1
Hey there I’m Emma from mmmEnglish! In this lesson, we’re going to get down to business, knowing some of the idioms used in a professional context is going to help you to sound more relaxed and natural in the workplace. And of course, help you to understand what the heck And of course, help you to understand what the heck everyone else is talking about!

So today, I’ve got five useful idioms for you that are commonly used in a professional context – a business context. And that means they’re perfect and fantastic to use in an interview as well, so stay tuned!

Now I always tell my students one of the best ways to learn and remember English idioms is to link them to a memory or an experience in your life. That way, when you think about the idiom or you hear it somewhere you connect it with the personal moment in your life and experience.

And when you think about the experience, it helps you to think about the idiom as well. Now you don’t have to learn and remember every idiom in English, but you should learn some common ones that you can actually use to talk about your life.

I’m going to tell you a story.

My first job out of university was with a huge corporate company. I was an intern. I thought it was going to be photocopying and stapling and getting cups of tea for my boss. But at the time that I started, my department was really understaffed. They just didn’t have enough people to manage the workload. So I really got thrown in the deep end. Within weeks of starting, I was writing reports and I was making presentations to the management team which was kind of cool but a bit scary.

thrown in the deep end

So in this idiom, the β€˜deep endβ€˜ is referring to the deepest part of a swimming pool where often your feet can’t touch the ground. So if someone throws you or pushes you into the pool, that’s a bit of a shock, isn’t it? You can’t feel the ground. So you’re thrown in the deep end when you’re put into a new or a difficult situation without any preparation. And this often happens in the workplace, doesn’t it?

  • Sarah’s been so stressed lately. She started a new job last month, but they’ve really thrown her in the deep end.
  • I’m not afraid of being thrown in the deep end. I think it’s the best way to learn!
  • Now I don’t want to throw you in the deep end on your first day, but do you think you could make a presentation to the CEO by the end of the week?

out of (one’s) depth

A similar idiom is to be β€˜out of one’s depthβ€˜ and it has a similar meaning because it’s an uncomfortable place. Again, thinking about the deep end of your swimming pool, your feet can’t touch the ground and you have to swim to keep yourself alive, right?

  • My brother loves the company that he works for but he feels a little out of his depth in the finance team.

learn the ropes

Now when you start a new job, maybe a new role or a position in your company or you start working for a new company, or you start working for a new company, it usually takes some time to learn the ropes.

So this means to learn the basic tasks that allow you to do your job well and efficiently. You know, like how to use the photocopier, how to use the company’s email system, who to call if your computer won’t start, who you report to and which meetings you need to attend – all of the simple things take a week or two to get used to when you start a new job.

  • How’s the new job?
  • It’s going well! I’m still learning the ropes, but my colleagues are really great.

You’ll also hear people say β€œI’ll show you the ropes” which means that they’ll show you how things are done, the standard, normal way that things are done.

So note that if a person has been working at their job for over a month, this idiom isn’t really relevant anymore because they’ve already learnt the basic tasks because they’ve already learnt the basic tasks they need to do their job.

(to) climb the corporate ladder

Now, once you’ve had your job for a while, it might be time to focus on climbing the corporate ladder.

So this idiom talks about the progression of roles through a career, starting with an entry-level job, an internship or a position straight out of university. But over the years, you get promotions, you switch companies, you become known in your industry, you work your way up to better and better opportunities. You get paid more, you have more responsibilities, you’ll be a manager and then one day maybe even the CEO! So this progression is called β€˜climbing the corporate ladder’

  • Tim climbed the corporate ladder quickly. He became a partner at the company by the time he was 26.
  • But James has never been interested in climbing the corporate ladder.
  • I feel inspired by women who climb the corporate ladder and raise a family at the same time. Amazing!

think outside the box

People who think outside the box are usually pretty valuable employees because they think creatively and they solve problems in non-standard ways. So they think outside or beyond the normal or standard way of thinking which often leads to really interesting, creative solutions to problems.

  • We need to think outside the box and find a different solution.
  • Steve’s probably the most creative guy on the team – he’s always thinking outside the box.

Now in Australia, you’ll often hear this expression as β€˜thinking outside the squareβ€˜ – it’s the same thing.

Are you the type of person who thinks outside the square?

(a) steep learning curve

Last one, a β€˜steep learning curveβ€˜. Now this is a brilliant idiom to use during a job interview – so was the last one actually – but this one is a brilliant idiom to use during an interview or a speaking exam.

So use it when you’re reflecting or thinking about some of the challenges that you’ve overcome in the past. So it could be relating to work or even life experiences. So it’s used when someone has to learn something really quickly, usually just by giving it a shot, by doing their best and then learning from their mistakes.

So using this idiom to describe an experience that you’ve had helps to show that you’re not afraid of hard work or challenges and that you’re willing to build new skills and overcome problems. So it’s a really handy one to have!

  • For many international students, studying in an English-speaking country can be a steep learning curve.
  • Going from employee to business owner was a really steep learning curve for me! It’s still steep actually, I’m only about here!

So that’s it! Six new business idioms for you. I’m sure that you can think of some others as well that relate to jobs and business. So if you can, pop them in the comments below and share the with everyone.

And of course, I always, always love to see you actually using the English that I teach you. So take a moment right now to write a sentence using one of the idioms that you’ve learned today and add it to the comments. I’ll check it for you but you’ll also get to see how the idioms are being used in lots of different examples from all of your peers. Once you do that, then come over here, keep practising with me. Try out this lesson here or maybe even that one.

Make sure you subscribe if you haven’t already subscribed, you’ll get a new lesson every single week. Bye for now!

Links mentioned in the video

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