Resources: Notes on Life and Language in the United States

10 American English Idioms for a Smooth Day at Work

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Mon, Jul 08, 2013 @ 07:30 AM

smooth American English terms at workAre you ready for your workweek?

Are you feeling nervous that maybe this week your colleagues will say something in English and you won't have any idea what they are saying?

Do you sit in your office and listen to your American English-speaking colleagues all day, wondering what they are talking about when they use idioms and expressions that don't seem to make any sense?

Even if you already know English grammar and pronunciation, that's just one part of what you need for a smooth day at work with your colleagues. You also need to know idioms and expressions.

Today I am very happy to bring back Lizzie Davey as a guest writer for our blog. A few months ago Lizzie contributed a great post called 7 American English Terms for the Office. Today she is back to give you 10 more terms and expressions to help you jump into conversations more often with your American English-speaking colleagues.

Check out Lizzie's post!



#1) "Bite the Bullet"


bite the bullet and call American English expressionThis phrase isn’t just limited to the office.

In fact, it can be used for any occasion where someone has to make a difficult decision.

You will often hear it in a situation where someone doesn’t really want to do something or they are not sure what the outcome will be.  

Usually, though, it refers to something that needs to be done.

 In context: To make that sale you’re going to have to bite the bullet and call the client.



#2) "Brownie Points"


 good job brownie points English phraseGiving someone “brownie points” is like saying well done or thank you.

They are basically an invisible credit for doing something well or doing something good that has helped someone else – maybe your boss or another colleague.

In context: I scored brownie points from my boss for handing my report in early.






#3) "Cash Cow"


 cash cow, american English termThis phrase does not refer to a farm animal that carries money.

In fact, it describes a product or service that makes a lot of profit for a company without much work.

In context: The new booking service is a real cash cow for my travel company.







#4) "Dog-Eat-Dog World"


 dog eat dogAgain, this can be used outside of the office, but it is most often used to refer to the aggressive and sometimes mean world of business.

It implies that a lot of people within the industry only care about themselves and will do anything to get to where they want to be.

In context: I'm up against my friend for the promotion, but it's a dog-eat-dog world so I am going to do anything I can to get it.





#5) "Generate lots of buzz"


buzz‘Buzz’ is another word for interest or attention, so to generate lots of buzz means to make a lot of people start talking about a product or service in a positive way.

If thousands of people recommend a service and are writing and saying great things about it, this is successfully generating a buzz.

In context: Our marketing campaign has generated lots of buzz for the new booking service.






#6) "Keep your eye on prize"


targetKeeping your eye on the prize means you are looking ahead to the end result and know exactly want you want to get out of a project.

It means you are staying focused and are aware of the steps you need to take to get there, even if they don’t seem like they will help at the time.

In context: There are lots of difficult tasks in this project, but if you keep your eye on the prize you'll get there in the end.





#7) "Hard sell"


This doesn’t mean that something is hard to sell.

It actually refers to selling using force and pressure, sometimes in an aggressive way to make sure that the customer buys the product.


In context: I used the hard sell today and sold double what I usually do.





#8) "Dot your I's and cross your T's"


dot your i's and cross your T'sThis looks like it might be a fairly complicated phrase, but it's one of the easiest ones on this list.

It simply means to be really carefuly and pay attention to all of the small details.

In context: Make sure you dot your I's and cross your T's for this report, because the client is going to be looking really closely for any mistakes.





#9) "Face the music"


face the musicFacing the music refers to a potentially bad situation that you need to give your attention to.

It could be an angry customer or a meeting with the boss.

Either way, you know that there is a problem that needs to be dealth with.

In context: I've been called to the boss's office. It's time to face the music.



#10) "To have a lot on your plate"


 a lot on your plate expressionHaving a lot on your plate is, quite simply, having too much to do.

You might have lots of reports to fill out, several meetings, and a number of new projects to start.

This would be considered having a lot on your plate.

In context: Sorry, I can’t take on this new project; I already have a lot on my plate.






Prepare for your next presentation in English



Author Bio: Lizzie is currently learning Spanish, and writes for global language schools that offer classes all over the world, like Language Abroad’s Spanish courses in Argentina, and Teenager Abroad’s English courses in Malta.





Photo credit: highways agency, avlxyz, Diana Parkhouse, justintravels, stevendepolo, 401K2013, simonov, Sean MacEntree, comedy_nose

Topics: English Lessons, Vocabulary Workshop, English Idioms, Business English Vocabulary

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