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 Business Idioms
Home • ~Alexandra Rowe • Business Idioms
Business English Expressions
20 Useful Idioms from

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,
2. (a rising tide that) lifts all boats - something that helps all people
or all groups
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 paperwork."
10. (draw) a line in the sand - make final conditions that cannot be
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 ride?"
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
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."

contributed by David Pearson, Former EPI Teaching Associate, University of South Carolina, now teaching in Qatar