15 Business English Idioms and Phrases In Use [Image]

6 Most Commonly Used Business English1. a foot in the door
to manage to enter an organization, a field of business, etc. that could bring you success

  • I always wanted to work for that company but it took me two years to get a foot in the door.

2. cash cow
the part of a business that always makes a profit and that provides money for the rest of the business

  • The new product became the company’s cash cow.

3. too many chiefs, not enough Indians
used to describe a situation in which there are too many people telling other people what to do, and not enough people to do the work

  • There are too many chiefs and not enough Indians in that company.

4. eager beaver
an enthusiastic person who works very hard

  • George is an eager beaver and is certain to succeed in business.

5. a slice of the pie
a share of something such as money, profits, etc.

  • The company made big profits and the workers want a slice of the pie.

6. go belly up
to fail completely

  • Last year the business went belly up after sales continued to fall.

7. golden handshake
a large sum of money that is given to somebody when they leave their job, or to persuade them to leave their job

  • When Tom left the company he was given a golden handshake.

8. grease someone’s palm
to give somebody money in order to persuade them to do something dishonest

  • There are rumours that the company had to grease someone’s palms to get that contract.

9. hold the fort
to have the responsibility for something or care of somebody while other people are away or out

  • While the boss is out of the office, I’ll have to hold the fort.

keep head above water

10. keep head above water
to deal with a difficult situation, especially one in which you have financial problems, and just manage to survive

  • Business is bad. I’m not sure how much longer we’ll be able to keep our heads above water.

Read more:
What Happens if You Don’t Drink Enough Water Daily? [Video]

11. red tape
official rules that seem more complicated than necessary and prevent things from being done quickly

  • You have to go through endless red tape to start up a business.

12. sell ice to Eskimos
to persuade people to go against their best interests or to accept something unnecessary or preposterous.

  • That salesman is such a smooth talker, he could sell ice to Eskimos.

13. sleeping partner
a person who has put money into a business company but who is not actually involved in running it

  • Tom found a sleeping partner to invest money in his business.

14. walking papers
the letter or notice dismissing somebody from a job

  • Helen was given her walking papers yesterday.

15. a dead duck
a plan, an event, etc. that has failed or is certain to fail and that is therefore not worth discussing

  • The project was a dead duck from the start due to a lack of funding.


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Written by: Anastasia Koltai

Founder of MyEnglishTeacher.eu. Ana is a fan of giving away free and useful materials both for English learners and teachers. In her free time she loves biking and playing with her dog.