When doing business with Native Speakers of English you will hear a lot of metaphors and idiomatic expressions used. They can relate to all sorts of areas like war, fire, health.
One of the biggest areas is sports. If you want to use these Business English phrases like a native speaker, it would be useful to have an understanding of what they are and what they mean.
What is a metaphor? The Macmillan Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines the metaphor as “a word or phrase that means one thing and is used for referring to another thing in order to emphasize their similar qualities”.
Business English uses a lot of metaphorical imagery such as
- war (takeover battle),
- health (economic recovery),
- fire (heated debate),
- water (cash flow) and so on.
In this blog post, I’d like to explore the strong relationship that exists between sports and business. If you look at the qualities that sports and business share, you’ll begin to see why Business English has so many sporting metaphors.
Both Business and Sports:
- require certain skills
- are competitive
- need self- confidence
- take planning
- use strategies and tactics
- take concentration
- teamwork may be important
Having established their similarities, let’s take a look at some of the expressions we use, in what situations and what sport they relate to.
- Good Morning everyone. Shall we kick off the meeting then? (Football)
[Tweet “Kick off: to start”]
making good progress and likely to achieve what has been planned
- It looks like we are pretty much on target with this project. (Archery)
[Tweet “On target: making good progress and likely to achieve what has been planned”]
Up to scratch
to be of a good standard
- I know we have a great team whose work is really up to scratch. (Track and Field)
[Tweet “Up to scratch: to be of a good standard”]
Know the ropes
to be able to do something well
- Our new Sales Director has a lot of experience and really knows all the ropes. (Sailing)
[Tweet “Know the ropes: to be able to do something well”]
a rough estimate
- Can you give me a ballpark figure on the total sales costs? (Baseball)
[Tweet “Ballpark figure: a rough estimate”]
Jump the gun
to do something too soon, especially without thinking about it carefully
- We still have some costs to factor in and I don’t want to jump the gun. (Track and Field)
[Tweet “Jump the gun: to do something too soon, especially without thinking about it carefully”]
In pole position
to be in the best possible position
- We are in pole position to win the contract. (Motor Racing)
[Tweet “In pole position: to be in the best possible position”]
Neck and neck
to have the same chance of winning as someone else
- We are neck and neck with our competitors, so we really need to work hard to maintain our market share. (Horse Racing)
[Tweet “Neck and neck: to have the same chance of winning as someone else”]
The ball in our court
to be in a position to make the next step
- We have done what we can, the ball is in your court now. (Tennis)
[Tweet “The ball in our court: to be in a position to make the next step”]
Take our eye off the ball
to make a mistake, especially by doing something carelessly
- We really cannot take our eye off the ball with this deal as it will be a real winner for us. (Football)
[Tweet “Take our eye off the ball: to make a mistake, especially by doing something carelessly”]
A great way for you to familiarise yourself with sports idioms is to check out the70 Remarkable Sports Idioms You Can Use In Business And Daily Life.
Try and find different ways it is used in a business context. You may find these in advertisements, articles or hear them. Decide which one you find most interesting and try to use them in a similar situation with English speakers.
This is just a taster of the sports idioms there are in the English Language. Do you know others? Do you know how and when to use them? Do share them with us. And if you think that your friends and colleague could benefit from these expressions, please share this blog post with them.