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40 Useful Business English Expressions

1. 800 pound gorilla - the biggest, most powerful group or company

Example: "If we follow our plan to make this new software, we're going to
have][] a lot of competition, including from the 800 pound gorilla, Microsoft."

2. (a rising tide that) lifts all boats - something that helps all people or all
Example: "We're only number three, but the current economic growth will lift
all boats, so we're sure to make a profit this year."

3. an old hand - a person who has long experience, especially in one place
Example: "He can help us set up a company in Beijing. He's been working in China for many years and
speaks Chinese fluently. He's an old China hand."

4. at the 11th hour - very late, at the very last minute

Example: " ."

5. on a shoestring - with limited money

Example: "They started their company on a shoestring and built it up to one of the largest companies in
the world!"

6. bring to the table - whatever you can possibly offer

Example: "I will meet with Teacher Joe's new company to show him what we can bring to the table."

7. carve out a niche - find a special market that you can control
Example: "To succeed in this competitive world, you have to focus on part of it. Try to carve out a niche
and be number one in that are."

8. deep pockets - have a lot of money

Example: "If there is a price war, we won't win because we don't have deep enough pockets."

9. down time - when equipment of facilities are not available, so you cannot work
Example: "There will probably be a lot of down time at the conference, so I'm bringing a lot of

10. (draw) a line in the sand - make final conditions that cannot be changed
Example: "We have to draw a line in the sand so they will see that this is really our final offer."

11. free ride - get benefit at no cost

Example: "Of course we should make them pay for our travel expenses. WHy should we give them a free

12. from day one - from the beginning

Example: "Teacher Joe has been providing the best English-learning web site from day one!"

13. get your foot in the door - have a small opportunity that can become a big opportunity in the future,
if you do good work
Example: "Right now, I just want to get my foot in the door, so they can see what I can do. Next year I
hope to start moving up in the company."

14. I need it yesterday - an informal way to say it is needed immediately

Example: "Can I send that report to you later this afternoon?"
"No! I need that report yesterday!"

15. a two-way street - both people or both groups can contribute or benefit from the situation
Example: "We want to help you, but we need your help too. It should be a two-way street."

16. it will never fly - it won't be successful

Example: "We don't have to worry about their idea competing with ours. It will never fly."

17. it's a jungle out there - it's a difficult market with many, tough competitors
Example: "Do you think a new company can survise without a unique product? It's a real jungle out

18. jump through hoops - trying very hard (like a dog doing tricks!)
Example: "He's a tough boss. All of his subordinates have to jump through hoops to prove their loyalty to
the company."

19. put your cards on the table - be completely honest

Example: "I think it's time to put all of our cards on the table. Here's what we need..."

20. learning curve - how much time needed to learn something new
Example: "This new software has a long learning curve, so we have to give our staff enough time to learn
how to use it well."

21. level playing field - equal conditions for all people or groups
Example: "The WTO agreement helps to level the playing field, which gives us the chance to compete
anywhere in the world."

22. the lion's share - the largest part

Example: "If we want the lion's share of the profit, we'll have to do the lion's share of the work."

23. number crunching - analyze numbers

Example: "I'll go back to my office and do some number crunching, then tell you the results tomorrow."

24. pipe dream - something that is unrealistic

Example: "Do you think we can really live on the moon some day, or is it just a pipe dream?"

25. play hardball - deal in a tough way

Example: "If he tries to block this deal in any way, we'll just have to start playing hardball."

26. power lunch - big business dealing while eating lunch

Example: "The top executives met with their bankers at the best restaurant in town. It was a real power

27. push the envelope - move beyond current limits

Example: "Teacher Joe is always pushing the envelope by giving us new activities such as dictations,
jokes and interesting discussion topics."

28. put on the map - make well-known

Example: "They've had some good products in the past, but nothing special. This new device is so good
that it finally puts them on the map."

29. savvy - smart and knowledgeable

Example: "He's a savvy investor so there is a high probability this project will be successful."

30. sea change - a large change

Example: "Globalization has brought about a sea change. Those who don't change will end up sinking!"

31. flying by the seat of your pants - intuitively (flying an airplane with no instruments)
Example: "Who knows if they will succeed or not? Without a clear business plan, they are just flying by
the seat of their pants."

32. shotgun approach - strike widely rather than focussing

Example: "Taking a shotgun approach is a big risk. We may not hit any target at all. If we can identify one
good target, we can develop a more precise marketing plan."

33. step up to the plate - take responsibility

Example: "We've done all that we can to prepare. Now it's time to step up to the plate and do it!"

34. talk until you are blue in the face - try to persuade someone with no results
Example: "You can talk until you are blue in the face, but I will never believe that Teacher Joe is the
funniest English teacher in the world."

35. the bottom line - the final result

Example: "Although we worked hard on this deal, the bottom line is we didn't make the sale, so it was a
complete failure."

36. the name of the game is... - the basic purpose

Example: "The name of the game is service. If we focus on that, the customers will always come back."

37. take a haircut - take a loss

Example: "We really took a haircut on that one! We're going to have to negotiate a better deal next time."

38. tweak something - make a slight adjustment

Example: "By tweaking the economy, the government hopes to avoid a recession."

39. unwind a deal - take apart or undo something

Example: "We have to unwind this deal, then we can start over again."

40. a zero sum game - a situation where someone wins so someone else must lose
Example: "I don't think this is a zero-sum game. If the customer wins, we win too."

20 Key Words Used in Negotiations

1. alternatives - any other choices a person or group has, rather
then agreeing with the other person or group
Example: "We can ask them to do A if we do B, but they have many

2. arbitration - when a neutral person or group comes in to settle a


xample: "If we can't agree by midnight tomorrow, this case will go to arbitration."

3. commitment - an obligation to do something or deliver something

Example: "We've made a commitment on this point. If we don't do it, the agreement will fall apart."

4. compromise - an agreement where you get less than you want but also give less than the other
person wants
Example: "If we don't compromise, this deal will never get done."

5. concession - accepting less on one specific point in order to get something from the other person on
a different point
Example: "Okay, you've made a concession on price, so we can make a concession on the delivery

6. confidentiality - an agreement that prevents either side from talking about the agreement in public
Example: "I'm sorry but our confidentiality agreement prevents me from answering your questions in

7. equivalent - a proprosed agreement that is different from, but equal in value to, a previous proposal
Example: "We can't agree to that proposal, but here we would like to suggest an equivalent package for
you to consider."

8. facilitation - a process where people, called facilitators, try to make it easier for two people to reach
an agreement
Example: "You may not reach a better agreement with facilitation, but you will reach an agreement

9. final agreement - the results of the negotation that everyone agrees to put into action
Example: "After six long months, we now have a final agreement."

10. good faith - being honest about your intentions

Example: "If we negotiate in good faith, we are sure to reach an agreement eventually."

11. impasse - when two sides hold different positions that they are unwilling to change
Example: "We were close to an agreement but we suddenly hit an impasse over payment terms."

12. intermediary - a person who communicates between the two sides of a negotiation
Example: "They've been negotiating through an intermediary after that big argument last week."

13. issue - a topic that needs to be discussed in a negotiation

Example: "Money is the biggest issue in this negotiation, but resources and responsibilities are
important issues too."

14. mediation - when a neutral person or group comes in to identify the issues, explore options and
clarify goals
Example: "If we use mediation, it may help to move the negotiations forward."

15. offer - one or more options that is sent by one negotiator to the other
Example: "Let's offer them a one-year service contract and see how they respond."

16. package - a combination of options that has been offered as a solution

Example: "John put this package together last night. Let's look at each option and see if we really want
to offer this."

17. party - either side in a negotiation is called a party, whether one individual or a whole group
Example: "If party A accepts party B's proposal, then the negotiation is finished."

18. proposal - any suggestion or idea given to one party from the other
Example: "We'll look at your proposal during the coming week and give you our response the following

19. tentative solution

- an agreement that depends on some conditions, so that it might not be a final agreement Example:
"At last we've reached a tentative agreement. Perhaps these long negotiations will be over soon."

20. trade-off
- an exchange process in which one side gives up partly on some issues in order to gain on other issues
Example: "There are always trade-offs when negotiating. You can't win them all!"