10 Useful Business Idioms in
Easy Explanations, Examples, and Exercises
In this lesson, we will cover 10 commonly used business
idioms in English, along with their meanings and examples
of how they can be used in a business context. We will also provide
exercises for you to practice using these idioms in your own writing
By the end of this lesson, you will have a good
understanding of these business idioms
and be able to use them confidently in your professional
communications. Let's get started!
To be on the same page means that two people
are thinking about something in the same way, or have agreed with
each other about something.
It can also mean that two people are working
together as a team because they understand each other well enough to
work together smoothly and efficiently.
- "We need everyone on board if we're going to pull this off
successfully! Let's make sure everyone's on the same page."
- "I think it would be helpful if we could talk about this issue
in more depth so that we are both on the same page."
- "The two of you need to be on the same page when it
comes to budgeting."
2. "On the back burner": not a top priority at the moment.
In business, it is common to hear about an idea or
project being put on the back burner. It means that
something is not a priority at the moment, but it might be later.
It comes from the practice of placing pots or pans
on the back burner of a stove when they need to cook slowly, while
the front burners are used for more immediate or urgent tasks.
(Items placed on the back burner of a stove are
typically cooked at a lower heat and take longer to be ready, as
they are not the main focus of the cooking process.)
- "We haven't decided about our new website yet, but we'll put
it on the back burner for now."
- "I've been putting my own goals on the back burner for
years, and I'm not happy about it."
- "I'll get back to you on this as soon as possible, but it's
currently on the back burner."
3. "Back to the drawing board": starting something over again.
When something does not work out as expected, you
can go back to the drawing board. This idiom means that you
will have to start from scratch again and think of new ideas based
on your experience.
(A drawing board
is a flat surface used for
drawing or drafting.)
- "The design we came up with last week wasn't very good so
we're going back to the drawing board."
- "We thought this would be a good idea, but it turned out to be
a disaster so we're going back to the drawing board."
- "We need to go back to the drawing board and see if we
can come up with a better plan."
4. "To get the ball rolling": to start something or begin a
When you want to get things done, this idiom is a
good one to use. You can use it to refer to starting a project or
even getting a meeting started. To get the ball rolling
means to start something, especially something that will take a lot
of effort and hard work.
- "I see you've got a new client. That's great! But don't stop
there. You need to get the ball rolling on this
- "I've been thinking about starting a business for some time
now, but I never seem to get the ball rolling."
- "Let's get the ball rolling with a discussion on
what makes your company unique."
5. "In the red": being in debt or having a negative balance.
A company is said to be in the red when it
owes more money than it has. You can also use it to refer to losing
In other words, it means you owe more money than
you have available. This can apply to both individuals and
The phrase comes from the practice of recording debts
in red ink in accounting
- "We are in the red this month because we just
- "The company was losing money every year and was in the
- "The small business has been struggling to turn a profit for
the past year, and according to their latest financial report,
they are currently $50,000 in the red."
- "After overspending on his credit card and not being able to
pay off the balance, John found himself in the red for
the first time in his life."
- "The stock market took a downturn last quarter, and many
investors found themselves in the red as a result."
6. "In the black": financially successful or profitable.
The opposite of "in
the red" is "in the black."
This term is used to refer to being financially
well or having a positive balance, meaning that you have more money
than you owe.
For example, if a company is operating at a profit
and has positive earnings, it is said to be in the black.
The phrase "in the black" comes from the practice
of recording profits in black ink in
- "The business is doing well and we are in the black
for this quarter."
- "The company is in the black this year, so they can
give bonuses to their employees."
- "After the company's first year, it was finally in the
7. "To break even": neither make a profit nor lose money.
To break even is an expression that is used
in accounting and finance. It means to get back what you invested or
to make neither a profit nor a loss.
For example, if you own a small business and you
spend $1,000 on supplies and labor to create a product, and then you
sell that product for $1,000, you have broken even
. You have
earned the same amount of money that you spent to create the
product, so you are not making a profit or a loss.
is important because it means that you are not
losing money on a particular investment. However, breaking even
is not the same as making a profit
. To make a profit, you
need to earn more money than you spend.
- "The economy has been struggling lately but it looks like
we're finally starting to break even again."
- "The new sales director was able to turn around our business
so that we stopped losing money and now we're at least breaking
even each month."
- "We invested a lot of money in marketing and advertising for
our new product, but we were only able to break even in
the end. We didn't make a profit, but at least we didn't
lose any money."
- "After years of operating at a loss, the small business was
finally able to break even last quarter."
8. "Under pressure": feeling stressed or anxious.
When you are under pressure
, you feel
stressed and pressured by something that is happening around you. It
may be due to deadlines, tight budgets, or other things that put
stress on you at work or home.
- "The marketing department was under pressure because
their new product launch had been delayed by several months due
to production issues abroad."
- "The deadline for the report was approaching and I was feeling
really under pressure to finish it on time."
- "I am under pressure at work these days because the
boss gave me so much work to do."
9. "To get down to brass tacks": focus on the most important or
To get down to brass tacks means to begin
discussing or thinking about the most important information. It can
be used in any context where people are talking about something that
needs to be done or discussed, but it is especially common in
meetings and negotiations.
It is often used to refer to getting to the heart
of a matter or focusing on the main points of a discussion or
"Brass" is a strong, yellow metal that is often
used in door handles, locks, zippers, etc.
are small, sharp nails
with a flat head that are often used to fasten fabric or other
materials to a surface.
- "The meeting was going nowhere until we got down to brass
tacks and discussed our budget."
- "I've been working on this project for a long time, so let's
cut to the chase and get down to brass tacks."
- "We need to get down to brass tacks and decide what
we're going to do about this situation."
10. "To go the extra mile": to do more than what is required.
To go the extra mile is an idiom that means
to go beyond what is required or expected in order to achieve
It can be used in a variety of situations, such as
when trying to do a good job, help someone, or achieve a goal.
Going the extra mile is generally considered
to be a positive quality because it shows dedication, commitment,
and a willingness to put in extra effort to achieve a goal or task.
When you go the extra mile, you demonstrate
that you are not just putting in the minimum amount of effort, but
that you are willing to put in additional time and effort in order
to achieve a higher level of quality or success.
Going the extra mile can also be beneficial in a professional
setting, as it can help you stand out from others and show your
dedication to your work.
It can also help you build strong relationships
with coworkers and clients, as it demonstrates your willingness to go
above and beyond
to help others.
- "You went the extra mile to help me with my project,
staying late and offering to present it to the team. Your hard
work paid off and I couldn't have done it without you."
- "The customer service at this store is always top-notch, going
the extra mile to make sure that I have a great shopping
- "Our company values employees who go the extra mile to
ensure that our clients are satisfied. Your dedication and hard
work have not gone unnoticed."
David: "I know we've been trying to get the
ball rolling on this project for a a while. But I think it's
time we went the extra mile. The client is really pushing
for a final product by the end of the week."
Richard: "I'm on the same page as you
100%. We can't afford to delay our schedule now. Otherwise, we
risk being breaking even again."
David: "Or even ending up in the red.
I've been thinking about it. I'm sorry to put you under
pressure. But what if we work even longer hours? We could
get this done by the end of the weekend."
Richard: "That's a good idea, but we need to get
down to brass tacks with the team. If we can pull this off,
we'll be back in the black and on track for the rest of
Alice: "Bob, I've been wanting to get the
ball rolling on this project for a while now. I think we've
got a real opportunity to make a big impact in this industry."
Bob: "I'm not so sure, Alice. I actually think we
should keep this on the back burner for now. We don't want
to risk ending up in the red."
Alice: "But we can't afford to break even
either. We need to get down to brass tacks and come up
with a solid plan if we want to make this a success."
Bob: "I'm sorry, but I disagree. We should go back
to the drawing board and reassess our options. We don't want
to put ourselves under too much pressure."
Alice: "I guess you are right. We don't want to
put ourselves in a position where we're struggling to stay in
Maria: "I've been thinking about starting my own
business, but I'm not sure where to begin."
Susan: "Well, have you done any research or made
a business plan yet?"
Maria: "Not really, I've been under so
much pressure lately, so I've just been thinking about it.
I guess I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed."
Susan: "I see. If you want, we can sit down and
work on a business plan together. That way we can get the ball
rolling on your business idea."
Maria: "That would be great! I just don't want
to invest a lot of time and effort into something that might not
Susan: "I understand, but sometimes you have to
be willing to take a risk. And if your business doesn't work out,
we can always go back to the drawing board and come up
with a new plan."
Maria: "You're right. Let's get started on a
business plan. I don't want to put my dream of starting a business
on the back burner any longer!"
Complete the sentences with the correct option:
- I'm glad we're on the ______________ (one / same) page about
this project. Let's get started on the next steps.
- We've had to put our plans for expansion on the ______________
(front / back) burner for now due to the pandemic.
- Our marketing campaign didn't go as well as we had hoped, so
it's back to the drawing ______________ (board / table) for us.
- It's time to ______________ (have / get) the ball rolling on
this project. Who can volunteer to lead the team?
- If we don't increase sales soon, we'll be in ______________ (a
/ the) red for the third quarter in a row.
- We've been in the ______________ (black / gray) for the past
two years, thanks to our successful expansion into new markets.
- We were able to ______________ (split / break) even on our
investment after three years of hard work.
- We're ______________ (under / off) a lot of pressure to meet
this deadline, but I know we can do it if we work together.
- Let's get down to brass ______________ (tacks / tracks) and
figure out a plan to increase productivity.
- I know we're all tired, but if we go the extra ______________
(kilometer / mile) and put in a few more hours of work, we'll be
able to finish this project on time.
- I'm glad we're on the same page about this project.
Let's get started on the next steps.
- We've had to put our plans for expansion on the back
burner for now due to the pandemic.
- Our marketing campaign didn't go as well as we had hoped, so
it's back to the drawing board for us.
- It's time to get the ball rolling on this project. Who
can volunteer to lead the team?
- If we don't increase sales soon, we'll be in the red
for the third quarter in a row.
- We've been in the black for the past two years, thanks
to our successful expansion into new markets.
- We were able to break even on our investment after
three years of hard work.
- We're under a lot of pressure to meet this deadline,
but I know we can do it if we work together.
- Let's get down to brass tacks and figure out a plan to
- I know we're all tired, but if we go the extra mile
and put in a few more hours of work, we'll be able to finish
this project on time.
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