|ace up your sleeve||If you have an ace up your sleeve, you have something in reserve with which you can gain an advantage.|
Our new product is an ace up our sleeve.
|hold all the aces||A person who holds all the aces is in a very strong position because they have more advantages than anyone else.|
Given the high unemployment rates today, employers hold all the aces.
|ambulance chaser||A lawyer who finds work by persuading people injured in accidents to claim money from the person who caused the accident is called an‘ambulance chaser’.|
Peterson and Scott are well-known ambulance chasers – that’s how they make their money!
|back to the salt mines||Saying that hyou have to go back to the sale mines is a humorous way of talking about returning to work, usually with some reluctance.|
We get two days off at Christmas and then it’s back to the salt mines!
|bait and switch||This term refers to a deceptive commercial practice of advertising|
a low-priced item to attract customers, then telling them that the product is out of stock and persuading them to buy a more expensive article.
This store is famous for its bait and switch tactics.
|in the black||To say that a person or organization is in the black means that they are financially sound, have a positive balance on their account and that they owe no money.|
|black market||The black market refers to the illegal buying and selling of goods or currencies.|
Be careful of what you buy on the black market – it’s not always good quality.
|blamestorming||A discussion among a group of people who try to determine who|
or what is to blame for a particular mistake, failure or wrongdoing, is called ‘blamestorming‘.
A blamestorming session took place following the unfavourable reviews in the press.
|blank cheque||If you give someone a blank cheque, you authorize them to do what they think is best in a difficult situation.|
Tom was given a blank cheque and told to negotiate the best deal possible.
|blue chip company||This term refers to a company with a solid reputation for the quality of its products and the stability of its growth and earnings.|
It’s usually safe to invest in a blue chip company.
|above board||If a situation or business is described as above board, it is open, honest and legal.|
There are not secret negotiations. Our dealings have always been above board.
|get down to brasstacks||When people get down to brass tacks, they start to discuss the essential aspects of a problem or situation.|
The situation was so serious that after a few polite exchanges they quickly got down to brass tacks.
|break your back||If you work extremely hard, or put a lot of effort into achieving something, you break your back to do it.|
If you want the job done well, you should accept to pay more. He’s not going to break his back for such a low price!
|bricks and mortar / bricks and clicks||An established trading company (office/shop) is referred to as a ‘brick-and-mortar’ business.|
‘Click companies‘ refer to internet-based operations.
Companies which do both are called ‘bricks and clicks’.
Click businesses are usually more flexible than brick-and-mortar operations.
|business as usual||After an unpleasant or unexpected event, this expression means that everything is continuing in a normal way, in spite of the difficulties.|
It was business as usual at the supermarket the day after the hold-up.
|business before pleasure||This expression means that it is considered preferable to finish one’s work before going to relax and enjoy oneself.|
I’d love to have lunch with you but I’ve got a report to finish – business before pleasure I’m afraid!
|business is business||This is a way of saying that in financial aned commercial matters, friendship or personal feelings should not be allowed to have any influence.|
I’ll hire your brother only if he is the best candidate. I’m sorry but business is business!
|can’t stand the pace||If you can’t stand the pace, you are unable to do things well when there is a lot of pressure.|
She once worked for a famous fashion designer but she couldn’t stand the pace.
|carve out a niche||A person or company who carves out a niche concentrates on a particular segment of the market, to which they supply a product or service, and develop their expertise in that area.|
In today’s competitive market it is better to carve out a niche and try to become the best in that area.
|cash cow||A product or service which is a regular source of income for a company is called a cash cow.|
His latest invention turned out to be a real cash cow.
|cash in your chips||If you cash in your chips, you sell something, especially shares, either because you need the money or because you think the value is going to fall.|
Andy cashed in his chips as soon as business started to slow down.
|too many chiefs, not enough Indians||This expression refers to a situation where there are too many people giving instructions and not enough people doing the work.|
The business wasn’t successful. There were too many chiefs and not enough Indians.
|clinch a deal||In a business relationship, if you clinch a deal, you reach agreement on a proposal or offer.|
Paul’s final argument enabled us to clinch the deal.
|cog in the machine||If you say that someone is a cog in the machine, you mean that, while they are necessary, they only play a small part in an organization or plan.|
The police quickly realized that the suspect was just a cog in the machine.
|make cold calls||If you make cold calls, you telephone potential customers from a list of people you do not know.|
In my first job I had to make cold calls using the telephone directory.
|copper-bottomed||To describe something such as a plan, a contract or a financial arrangement as copper-bottomed means that it is completely safe or reliable.|
He signed a coper-bottomed agreement with a distributor.
|corner the market||If a company dominates an area of business, and leaves no room for competition, it is said to have cornered the market.|
By importing large quantities and selling at low prices, they have cornered the market.
|creative accounting||This term refers to the presentation of a company’s results in a way that, although generally legal, glosses over the problems and makes the results appear better than they are.|
It was suggested that some creative accounting might help to attract investors.
|cut and dried||If you refer to a situation, problem or solution as cut and dried, you mean that it is clear and straightforward with no likely complications.|
When the new manager arrived, he didn’t find the situation as cut and dried as he had expected.
|cutting edge||This expression refers to the newest, most advanced stage in the development of something.|
The company is at the cutting edge of aeronautics.
|dead wood||The term dead wood refers to people or things which are no longer considered useful or necessary.|
The new manager wants to reduce costs by cutting out the dead wood.
|do the spadework||Someone who does the spadework does the preparatory work or the preliminary research.|
Although I did all the spadework, my name was never mentioned.
|dog eat dog||This expression refers to intense competition and rivalry in pursuit of one’s own interests, with no concern for morality.|
The business world is tough today. There’s a general dog-eat-dog attitude.
|in the doldrums||To say that a person, a business or the economy in general is in the doldrums means that the situation is gloomy and that nothing new is happening.|
Despite the recent measures, the economy is in the doldrums.
|a done deal||This expression is used to refer to an agreement or decision which has been reached on a certain matter.|
We’re still considering several proposals, so it’s not a done deal yet.
|done and dusted||When a project, task or activity is done and dusted, it is completely finished or ready.|
I’ve nearly finished preparing the presentation. When it’s all done and dusted I’ll be able to relax.
|donkey work||This expression is used to describe the unpleasant, repetitive or boring parts of a job.|
I do the donkey work – my boss gets the credit!
|doom and gloom||A general atmosphere of pessimism, and a feeling that the situation is not going to improve, is referred to as doom and gloom.|
Fortunately it’s not doom and gloom for all businesses, in spite of the economic situation.
|down the drain||To say that money, time or energy has gone down the drain means that it has been wasted or lost.|
His years of research went down the drain when the company went bankrupt.
|drastic times call for drastic measures||When faced with a difficult situation, it is sometimes necessary to take actions which in normal circumstances would appear extreme|
After Johnny’s third accident, his father confiscated his car.
Drastic times call for drastic measures!
|dream ticket||If you refer to two people as a dream ticket, you think they would work well together and be successful.|
Clinton and Obama teaming up for the elections would be a dream ticket
for many Democrats.
|dry /dummy run||If you organize a rehearsal, a trial exercise or a practice session|
of something, in realistic conditions, to see how well it will work before it is launched, you do a dry run.
Let’s do a dry run of the ceremony to make sure everything goes smoothly.
|above the call ofduty||If a person does something which is over and above the call of duty, they show a greater degree of courage or effort than is usually required or expected in their job.|
The fire-fighter received a medal for his action which went above and beyond the call of duty.
|eager beaver||The term eager beaver refers to a person who is hardworking and enthusiastic, sometimes considered overzealous.|
The new accountant works all the time – first to arrive and last to leave. He’s a real eager beaver!
| elbow grease||If you use elbow grease, you need energy and strength to do physical work such as cleaning or polishing.|
It took a considerable amount of elbow grease to renovate the old house.
|farm something out||If something,such as work, is farmed out, it is sent out to be done by others.|
We farmed out the packaging to another company.
|finger in every pie||If someone has a finger in every pie, they are involved in many activities.|
For information about the activites in this town, you should talk to John Brown. He’s got a finger in every pie.
|work your fingers to the bone||A person who works their fingers to the bone is extremely hardworking.|
He deserves his success; he worked his fingers to the bone when he started the business.
|foot in the door||To say that someone has a foot in the door means that they have a small but successful start in something and will possibly do well in the future.|
With today’s unemployment, it is difficult to get a foot in the door in any profession.
|get a foothold||If you get a foothold somewhere, you secure a position for yourself in a business, profession or organisation.|
The contract got the firm a foothold in the local administration.
|free hand||If you have a free hand, you have permission to make your own decisions, especially in a job.|
My boss gave me a free hand in the choice of supplier.
|funny business||A business which is conducted in a deceitful, dishonest or unethical manner is called funny business.|
I’ve got suspicions about that association. I think they’re up to some funny business.
|get your hands dirty||If you get your hands dirty in your job, you become involved in all aspects of it, including work that is physical, unpleasant or less interesting.|
His willingness to get his hands dirty won the respect and approval of the whole team.
|get something off the ground||If you get something off the ground, you put it into operation after having organized it.|
After a lot of hard work, we finally got the campaign off the ground.
|get the show on the road||If you manage to put a plan or idea into action, you get the show on the road.|
OK, we’ve got all we need, so let’s get the show on the road.
|give someone a run a run for their money||If you give someone a run for their money, you present strong competition in circumstances where the other person expects to win easily.|
We didn’t get the contract but we gave our competitors a run for their money!
|go belly up||If a business or project goes belly up, it is unsuccessful or goes bankrupt.|
The restaurant went belly up before the end of the first year.
|go for a song||If something goes for a song, it is sold at an unexpectedly low price.|
I was able to buy the car simply because it was going for a song.
|go out of business||If a shop, firm or enterprise goes out of business, it closes down or goes bankrupt.|
If the new road bypasses the town, a lot of shops will go out of business.
|going concern||A business or activity that is dynamic and successful is a going concern.|
They opened a coffee shop that is a going concern today.
|golden handcuffs||The term golden handcuffs refers to a large sum of money or a generous financial arrangement granted to an executive as an incentive to stay in their job, or to ensure long-term cooperation after their departure.|
|golden handshake||A golden handshake is a generous sum of money given to a person when they leave a company or retire (sometimes given to encourage early retirement).|
|golden opportunity||A golden opportunity is a favourable time or an excellent occasion which should not be missed.|
An internship in that company would be a golden opportunity for you – it might lead to a permanent job later.
|golden parachute||A golden parachute is a clause in an executive’s employment contract stating that the executive will receive certain large benefits if their employment is terminated.|
|grease someone’s palm||If you accuse someone of greasing somebody’s palm, you are accusing them of giving money to someone in order to gain an unfair advantage or to obtain something they want.|
In some countries, it is common practice to grease government officials’ palms.
|one hand washes the other (together they wash the face)||This expression means that when people cooperate and work well together, there is a better chance of a achieving results.|
|upper hand||If a person or organization gains or gets the upper hand, especially in a fight or competition, they take control over something.|
We increased our market share and gained the upper hand over our competitors.
|all hands on deck||When there is a need for all hands on deck, everyone must help, especially if there’s a lot of work to be done in a short amount of time.|
As the opening day approached, it was all hands on deck to have everything ready in time.
|have one’s handstied||If a person has their hands tied, something such as an agreement or a rule is preventing them from doing what they would like to do.|
Mark deserves to earn more, but the manager’s hands are tied by the recent salary agreement.
|hive of activity / beehive||A place where there are lots of things happening, and everyone is very busy, is called a hive of activity.|
When I went to offer help, the kitchen was already a hive of activity.
|hold the fort||When you hold the fort, you look after a place or a business in the absence of the person who is normally in charge.|
Rosie, could you hold the fort please while I go to the post office?
|household name/word||When the name of something becomes very familiar because it is so often used, it is called a household name or word.|
The product was so successful that its name became a household word in no time.
|irons in the fire||If you have a few, or many, irons in the fire, you are involved in several projects at the same time.|
The travel agency is not his only venture – he’s got more than one iron in the fire.
|hit the ground running||If someone hits the ground running, they are ready and eager to start immediately on a new activity.|
He intends to hit the ground running when he starts his new job.
|jump on the bandwagon||If a person or organization jumps on the bandwagon, they decide to do something when it is already successful or fashionable.|
When organic food became popular, certain stores were quick to jump on the bandwagon and promote it.
|keep head above water||To keep one’s head above water means to try to survive by staying out of debt, for example a small business.|
Business has been slow, but we’ve managed to keep our head above water.
|knuckle down||If someone knuckles down to something, they start to work on it seriously.|
If you want to succeed, you’ll have to knuckle down to some serious work.
|lame duck||A person or organization in difficulty and unable to manage without help is called a lame duck.|
Some banks have become lame ducks recently.
|left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing||To say that ‘the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing’means that within a group or organization, communication is so bad that one person doesn’t know what another person is doing.|
|licence to print money||This expression refers to an officially authorized activity which enables people to make a lot of money without much effort.|
The contract to supply computers to schools was a licence to print money!
|make hay while the sun shines||This expression is used as an encouragement to take advantage of a good situation which may not last.|
Successful athletes are advised to make hay while the sun shines.
|mix business with pleasure||When people mix business with pleasure, they combine work and leisure or social activities.|
Seminars or training sessions that include leisure activities are a good way of mixing business and pleasure.
|money spinner||If an activity is a money spinner, it is a very successful way of making money.|
Washing cars was quite a money spinner when I was a student.
|monkey business||An activity which is organized in a deceitful or dishonest way is calledmonkey business.|
The results announced seem suspicious – I think there’s some monkey business going on.
|move the goalposts||During a course of action, if someone moves the goalposts they change the rules or conditions.|
Our objectives have been set for next year. Let’s hope the boss doesn’t move the goalposts halfway through.
|movers and shakers||The term movers and shakers refers to people in power who take an active part in making things happen.|
Mover and shakers are assembling in Brussels for the summit.
|nitty-gritty||When people get down to the nitty-gritty, they begin to discuss the most important points or the practical details.|
I was interested in the project, but we didn’t get down to the nitty-gritty until his partner arrived.
|nuts and bolts||The nuts and bolts of something are the detailed facts and the practical aspects.|
We neeed to discuss the nuts and bolts of the proposal before going any further.
|opposite number||A person who holds the same position as oneself in another company or organization is called one’s opposite number.|
I spoke to my opposite number in several local companies and we all agreed to join the anti-pollution campaign.
|ostrich strategy/policy||Someone who adopts an ostrich strategy or policy chooses to ignore or evade an obvious problem in the hope that it will resolve itself or disappear.|
Adopting an ostrich strategy will only make matters worse – we’ve got to find a solution.
|overplay your hand||If you overplay your hand, you are overconfident and spoil your chances of success by trying to obtain too much.|
Sam is hoping for a bonus for his good results, but he may be overplaying his hand if he asks for a promotion.
|pass the buck||If you say that someone is passing the buck, you are accusing them of not taking responsibility for a problem and letting others deal with it instead.|
Whenever a customer comes to complain, she always finds a way of looking busy – a great way of passing the buck!
|pass muster||If someone or something passes muster, they are considered to be satisfactory or acceptable.|
The interview went well. I hope I’ll pass muster.
|pick up steam||If a project or process picks up steam, it starts to develop or become more active.|
The campaign started slowly but picked up steam after Christmas.
|piece of the action||When someone wants a piece of the action, they want to participate in what other people are doing and benefit from it.|
The songwriter thought the show would be a success so he wanted a piece of the action.
|in the pipeline||If something is in the pipeline, it is currently in progress or being organized.|
A new version is in the pipeline at the moment.
|play the market||If you play the market, you buy stocks and shares in the hope of making a profit when you sell them.|
It’s always tempting to play the market, but it’s more risky at the present time.
|pull your weight||To say that somebody pulls their weight means that they do their fair share of the work.|
It’s great working with Sandra. She always pulls her weight.
|put your shoulder to the wheel||If you put your shoulder to the wheel, you start putting a lot of effort into a difficult task.|
We’ll have to put our shoulders to the wheel to deliver the goods on time.
|red tape||The term red tape refers to official rules and bureaucratic paperwork that prevent things from being done quickly.|
If there wasn’t so much red tape, the company would be up and running already.
|roaring trade||If you do a roaring trade, your business is very successful.|
Cosmetic surgeons are doing a roaring trade these days.
|roll up your sleeves||When you roll up your sleeves, you get ready for hard work.|
The house was in a mess after the party so we had to roll up our sleeves and start cleaning.
|learn the ropes||If you learn the ropes, you learn how to do a particular job correctly.|
He’s a smart kid. It won’t take him long to learn the ropes.
|seal of approval||If a project or contract receives a seal of approval, it receives formal support or aproval from higher authorities.|
We can’t conclude the deal without the director’s seal of approval.
|second a motion||During a meeting, if you second a motion, you formally agree with a proposal.|
She seconded the motion to introduce flexible working hours.
|separate the sheep from the goats||If you separate the sheep from the goats, you examine a group of people and decide which are suitable and which are not.|
Examining job applications is the first stage in separating the sheep from the goats.
|set the stage for||If you set the stage for an event or a development, you create conditions that allow it to happen.|
The agreement set the stage for their future working relationship.
|shape up or ship out||This expression is used to warn someone that if they do not improve, they will have to leave their job.|
When Tom started neglecting the customers, he was told to shape up or ship out.
|shotgun approach||If you use a shotgun approach, you cover a wide range in a non-selective, haphazard and inefficient manner.|
Identifying a specific segment of the market as our target will be more effective than a shotgun approach.
|sign on dotted line||If you sign on the dotted line, you formally give your consent to something by signing an official document.|
I consulted a lawyer before signing on the dotted line.
|signed, sealed, and delivered||When an agreement, contract or treaty is signed, sealed and delivered, all the legal documents are in order.|
It is hoped that the agreement will be signed, sealed and delivered before the end of the week.
|skeleton staff / crew||If a business or organization works with a skeleton staff, it is run with the smallest number of people necessary.|
The office is closed the week after Christmas but there will be a skeleton staff to handle essential operations.
|sleeping/silent partner||This term refers to a person who invests in a business without taking an active part in its management, and whose association with the enterprise is not public knowledge.|
He works alone but his business is partly financed by a sleeping partner.
|slice/share of the cake||When people feel entitled to a share of the profits or benefits, they want a (larger) slice of the cake (or pie).|
Since profits are higher this year, the workers feel they deserve a bigger slice of the cake.
|smokestack industries||Industries involved in heavy manufacturing such as the production of iron and steel, especially if they cause a lot of pollution, are calledsmokestack industries.|
Smokestack industries are no longer authorized in residential areas.
|smooth waters||A business or operation that is in smooth waters is making regular and easy progress.|
The company seems to be in smooth waters these days.
|speed networking||This term refers to a relatively new urban trend which consists in making a potential business contact by briefly talking to a series of people at an organised event and exchanging contact details.|
|square deal||A transaction that is fair and honest, or an equitable arrangement, is called a square deal.|
We’ve used the same supplier for years and we always get a square deal.
|start the ball rolling||If you start the ball rolling, you begin an activity in which other people will join.|
Let’s start the ball rolling by calling on our first speaker.
|steal a march||If you steal a march on someone, you do something in an unexpected or secret way that enables you to gain an advantage over them.|
We were able to steal a march on other retailers by immediately offering a 10% reduction on orders received the first day.
|step into the breach||If you step into the breach, you do work that someone else is unexpectedly unable to do.|
Steve stepped into the breach when his colleague had a car accident.
|step into someone’s shoes||If you step into someone’s shoes, you take over a job or position held by someone else before you.|
William has been traiined to step into his father’s shoes when he retires.
|strictly business||An appointment or event that is entirely devoted to business, with no leisure or relaxation, is called strictly business.|
Yes we had lunch together but it was strictly business.
|sweat of your brow||If you earn or achieve somehting by the sweat of your brow, you do it through hard work and no help.|
I got a comfortable lifestyle by the sweat of my brow – I owe it to nobody but myself!
|sweetheart deal||The term sweetheart deal is used to refer to an abnormally lucrative arrangement between two parties.|
Opponents say the contract was awarded to the builder as part of a sweetheart deal, and is therefore illegal.
|take the floor||When someone takes the floor, they rise to make a speech or presentation.|
‘When I take the floor, my speech will be short.’ he said.
|take a nosedive||If something takes a nosedive, it drops or decreases in value very rapidly.|
The stock market took a nosedive when the property market began to weaken.
|take offline||If you suggest that a subject be taken offline (during a meeting for example), you consider that it is a separate issue and should be discussed at another time.|
Peter, you’re confusing things, so let’s take that offline shall we?
|talk shop||If you talk shop, you talk about your work or business in a social situation with someone you work with, and make the conversation boring for the others present.|
I never go out with my colleagues because we inevitably end up talking shop.
|there for the taking||If something is there for the taking, it is easy to obtain.|
When our main competitor went out of business, the market segment was there for the taking.
|things are looking up||To say that things are looking up means that the situation is improving and you feel more positive about the future.|
Andy has got two job interviews next week so things are looking up.
|throw over the wall||If someone throws something over the wall, they deal with part of a problem or project, then pass the responsibility to another person or department without any communication or coordination.|
You can’t just manufacture a product then throw it over the wall to the sales department!
|too many chiefs, not enough Indians||This expression refers to a situation where there are too many people giving instructions and not enough people doing the work.|
The business wasn’t successful. There were too many chiefs and not enough Indians.
|too much like hard work||An activity or task that requires too much effort is too much like hard work.|
It’s so hot today, there’s no way I’m going to do any cooking. That’s too much like hard work!
|trade secret||This term refers to the secrecy of a company’s production methods but is often used teasingly.|
“Can you give me the recipe for your lemon meringue pie?” ” No way – that’s a trade secret!”
|tricks of the trade||This term refers to a clever or expert way of doing things, especially in a job.|
He’s a tough negotiator; he knows all the tricks of the trade.
|up and running||If a business or a project is up and running, it has started and is fully operational.|
In some countries you can have a company up and running in a very short time.
|nothing ventured, nothing gained||You cannot expect to achieve anything is you risk nothing.|
He’s going to ask his boss for a promotion even though he has little chance of obtaining satisfaction. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!
|walking papers||If you are given your walking papers, your contract or a relationship has ended.|
After causing a diplomatic incident, Carter got his walking papers.
|wear many hats||Someone who wears many hats has to do many different types of tasks or play a variety of roles.|
Our company is small so the employees need to be flexible and accept to wear many hats.
|wheeling and dealing||Someone accused of wheeling and dealing is though to be involved in complicated, if not dishonest, deals in business or politics.|
Since the beginning of the election campaign, there’s been a lot of wheeling and dealing going on.
|win-win||The term win-win refers to a situation or proposition where both or all parties benefit from the outcome.|
There were smiles all round when the contract was signed – it was a win-win situation.
|have your work cut out||If you have to face a difficult task or a challenging situation, you have your work cut out for you.|
I’ve got a month to reorganize the accounts department. I have my work cut out for me!