Idioms in business situations

Teaching Business English is a quite thing: choosing materials thoroughly; making up and following an effective plan related to a student’s goals/needs; learning special terms and being aware of constant changes in the business sphere and ready to implement up-to-date information in lessons to make the learning process productive, interesting and fun at the same time. 

Well, let’s kill two birds with one stone and learn some idioms which might be heard both in a business area (work, meetings, office, projects, mentoring, training, and so on) and everyday life if they are used properly. 

Even though Business English is more about speech intelligibility rather than its beauty, here is the list of exercises on idioms, which might be used in business situations, to ginger lessons up. 

Idioms

* hands are tight — if your hands are tied, you are not free to behave in the way that you would like.

* a rainmaker — someone who makes a lot of money for a company or who helps someone or something to succeed. 

* show smb the ropes — to show someone how to do a job or activity.

* to be go-getter — someone who is very energetic, determined to be successful, and able to deal with new or difficult situations easily.

* to face the music — to experience negative repercussions for one’s actions or words, especially those that one would expect to incur punishment.

* to cut to the chase — to talk about or deal with the important parts of a subject and not waste time with things that are not important.

* to be on the ball — aware of any changes or developments and quick to react to them.

* to let the dust settle — if the dust settles after an argument or big change, the situation becomes calmer. 

* to bark up in the wrong tree — trying to do something in a way that will not work.

* to beat around the bush — to avoid talking about what is important.

(Definitions are from Cambridge dictionary)

Task 1. After explaining the idioms to a student ask him/her to match pictures with the idioms and comment his/her choice. 

Picture 1 

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(Photo from Flickr)

Picture 2 

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(Photo from Flickr)

Picture 3

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(Photo from Flickr)

Picture 4 

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(Photo from Flikr)

Picture 5

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(Photo from Flickr)

Suggested answers:

  1. to be on the ball
  2. beat around the bushes
  3. hands are tied
  4. show one the ropes
  5. let the dust settle

Task 2. Complete the sentences with an appropriate idiom from Task 1 in a correct form. 

  1. I’d like to raise people’s salaries but my………..
  2. If we do nothing to curb this pollution, I guarantee we will …………in the future.
  3. We thought we’d let ……………..before discussing the other matter.
  4. We only recruit ………..who will be actively involved in the company’s development.
  5. Tom spent an afternoon ……….. the new girl ……..
  6. Don’t ……….- get to the point!
  7. We need someone who’s really ………………to answer questions from the press.
  8. The firm needed ……….to bring in business and to raise capital.
  9. Well, the boss is ……..again, Tom hasn’t done anything wrong. 
  10. A developer didn’t have too much time to talk about the project, so he ………

Keys:

  1. hands are tied
  2. face the music
  3. the dust settle
  4. go-getters
  5. show the ropes
  6. beat around the bush
  7. on the ball 
  8. a rainmaker 
  9. bark up the wrong tree
  10. cut to the chase

Task 3. Read the sentences and try to come up with the story on what might have happened before saying the statements below (to say it) or what may happen after. 

  1. We should let the dust settle from the recent scandal before we make any major policy decisions.
  2. After a few introductory comments, we cut to the chase and began negotiating.
  3. I know there’s a lot to take in, but your partner has been here for over 10 years and will show you the ropes.
  4. I can’t believe Molly got that report done so quickly—she’s really on the ball.
  5. The company stated that they have tried everything in their power to avoid pay cuts, but their hands are tied at this point.
  6. Just like a corporate acquisition, rainmaker recruitment and integration has to be handled carefully.
  7. If one of the partners expects to borrow money from me, he is barking up the wrong tree.
  8. He would not answer yes or no, but beat around the bush.

(Sentences are from IdiomsThefreedictionary, Sentencedictcom)

Task 4. Discuss the questions:

  1. Have you ever beaten around the bush during your meetings,  reports?
  2. How to become a go-getter? Is it possible? Does being a go-getter guarantee success in business?
  3. Who usually faces the music after unsuccessful projects, events at your company (in your department)?
  4. Do you consider yourself to be on the ball?
  5. Who showed you the ropes at the beginning of your career? 

Phil Knight said: “Play by the rules, but be ferocious.” Well, it is safe to teach Business English by the rules — following a coursebook, choosing business-related materials. However, the beauty of teaching is that you can play by the rules but also sometimes break them by being creative. 

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