Business Idioms, What they mean and how to use them | Berlitz Indonesia

Business Idioms, What they mean and how to use them

When learning ESL, using idioms is not only a great way of showing off your newly learned vocabulary, but it can also be a great way of expressing yourself in a much more natural way.  We have chosen a handful of common idioms that can be used in a business setting and we will be explaining what they mean and how they can be used.  This way, we can get you sounding native in no time!

“Ahead of the curve”

This popular idiom can be used to express ones progress, particularly when there is an average or a normal range involved.  It can also be used to explain where one stands with regards to normal trends.

Here are a couple of examples;

– “Company ‘X’ has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to the products they release”.

– “He has always been a head of the curve when it comes to his fashion sense”

In the first sentence, “ahead of the curve” can be seen to mean two things;

  • Company X consistently releases products that are more modern or advanced.
  • Company X has seen the need for a product in the market first, and has released the product ahead of their competitors.

In the second sentence, “ahead of the curve” is used to express that the designer is ahead when it comes to trends in fashion.  The designer can also be expressed as being a “trend setter”.

“To cut corners”

To cut corners or cutting corners is a popular idiom used to express when a worker is not doing their job properly or completely, or when a task has not been done to the best of one’s ability. Usually it is also connected with a reason as to why corners were cut. This usually relates to money or time.  You will hear this idiom a lot in the airline industry, where cutting corners can be a matter of life and death.

Here are a couple of examples;

  • “I am concerned about his work. He is always cutting corners to meet his deadlines”.
  • An independent committee found that the airline had cut several corners during maintenance resulting in an accident”.

“From the ground up”

This often used saying can be used to express starting from the beginning or starting from the basics. It can also be used to describe something that has been remade or rebuilt from the foundations.  This idiom can often be heard when talking about projects that have to be restructured due to some problems in execution, or during the building of a house, which starts from the foundations.

Here are a couple of examples;

  • “we have had to start all our programs from the ground up”.
  • “we will have to rebuild the house from the ground up”.

“Get the ball rolling”

“To get/start/set the ball rolling” is a common idiom used to express the start of something, and although this idiom can refer to large actions, it is most commonly used to describe small actions which get things started.  It can also be used to talk about by passing awkward situations, particularly before meetings or before presentations.

Here are a couple of examples;

  • “In order to get the ball rolling, the lecturer started by giving his opinion on the matter first”.
  • “To get the ball rolling, company “X” donated $10,000…”

“To keep the ball rolling can also be used to talk about the continuation of the initial action that got things started. For example, “to keep the ball rolling, the lecturer asked each and every student their opinions also”.