Business English: 10 Useful Phrases

Here is the full transcript:

Hi, this is Paul from businessenglishcommunity.com, and I hope you’re having a fantastic day so far. In this video, I wanted to go through some phrases, 10 phrases, in fact, that you can use in your business English conversations. Let’s get started.

Phrase number one is “at the end of the day.” At the end of the day. This sounds a little bit like after lunch, after your evening meal, moving into the night. Well, yes, that is towards the end of the day, but in business English terms, I really mean, when everything is taken into consideration, or in summary. Let me give you an example. At the end of the day, what really matters is whether the deal goes through or not. At the end of the day, what really matters is whether the deal goes through or not. That’s phrase one, “at the end of the day.”

Phrase number two, “a piece of cake.” You might think I’m referring to a piece of cake that you would eat. I’m particularly partial to a piece of chocolate cake, but of course, I’m not talking about that at all. A piece of cake means that something is easy. If you say that something is a piece of cake, something is really straightforward, really easy to do. Let me give you an example. Why don’t you run the meeting, John? It’ll be a piece of cake. Why don’t you run the meeting, John? It’ll be a piece of cake. That’s number two, “a piece of cake.”

Number three, “to put the ball in someone else’s court.” Well, I really like this one. First of all, I would like you to think about playing tennis. When you play tennis, you do, of course, hit the ball from one side to the other, and what’s interesting is when you hit the ball to the other side of the court, the other person, the other player, has to hit it back if they’re going to be able to continue with the point. What’s the situation or the comparison in business English terms? Well, to put the ball in someone else’s court means to give them the responsibility, or to provide them with the responsibility of making the next move. You’ve done your bit, and now it’s someone else’s turn. You’ve passed it on to someone else and it’s their responsibility to respond. Let me give you an example. The ball’s in their court now, it’s up to them to make a decision. The ball is in their court now, it’s up to them to make a decision. That’s number three, “to put the ball in someone else’s court.”

Number four, “I haven’t got a clue.” I haven’t got a clue. You might hear this when someone really doesn’t have any idea about a particular topic or any idea what is going on. It’s a great little phrase. What’s going on the with the merger? I haven’t got a clue. What’s going on the with the merger? I haven’t got a clue. That’s number four.

Number five, “to give someone a hard time.” If you give someone a hard time, or if someone gives someone else a hard time, they’re making life difficult. They’re really piling on the pressure, piling on the work, in this business English example. So, my boss is giving me a really hard time. The work just keeps piling up. My boss is giving me a really hard time. The work just keeps piling up. Hopefully not, of course. That’s number five, “to give someone a hard time.”

Number six, “no strings attached.” Well, a string is a thin piece of rope or cord used to tie things up, but what does no strings attached mean? In the case of a business deal, it means that there are no other conditions or requirements for the deal to go through, or nothing else that is going to complicate the situation. Let me give you an example. I am going to offer you $200,000 for the company, no strings attached. I am going to offer you $200,000 for the company, no strings attached. That’s number six.

Number seven, “the black market.” The black market refers to an illegal market, an underground market, something that is not regulated, something that is not traded in the traditional commercial establishments. It might be some sort of business taking place on the street. That’s the black market. The likelihood is that these businesses are not paying tax, they’re not paying business rent and in many cases, they are completely illegal, any company operating on the black market. Let me give you an example. The government has recently closed down several companies operating on the black market. The government has recently closed down several businesses operating on the black market. That’s number seven, “the black market.”

Number eight, “go the extra mile.” Go the extra mile. I really like this one as well. It means to give extra, to go above and beyond, to really put 100% into something. In fact, there’s another phrase that is related to the extra mile, and it is, there are no traffic jams along the extra mile. There are no traffic jams along the extra mile. In other words, if you are really giving 100%, if you are extremely committed to what you do, then you’ll find that you have less and less competition. Let me give you an example in a business English context. You’ll really need to go the extra mile on this one. You’ll really need to go the extra mile on this one. That’s number eight, “to go the extra mile.”

Number nine, “back to square one.” This means to start again, to start from the beginning. I don’t know if you’ve ever played that board game Snakes and Ladders, where you move along the board by rolling a dice. Well, if you are unlucky and you land on a snake, it will take you all the way back down again, possibly even to square one. So that’s back to square one, to start again right from the beginning. Here’s an example. It just hasn’t worked. We’re going to have to go back to square one. It just hasn’t worked. We’re going to have to go back to square one. That’s number nine.

Number 10, “to open a can of worms.” To open a can of worms. This one doesn’t sound very pleasant, to open up a can and find a whole bunch of worms inside. It doesn’t sound very nice, does it? And in fact, it does refer to a problem. In particular, to try to solve a problem and actually finding out that it was much worse than you thought. It means to try and solve a situation and find out that it was much more complicated than you originally thought. She’s opened a real can of worms by talking to the competition. She’s opened a real can of worms by talking to the competition. That’s number 10.

Okay. I hope you found those phrases useful. The more you can incorporate these phrases into your business English, the more natural you are going to sound, because native speakers use these kinds of phrases and expressions. If you like the video, don’t forget to subscribe. We’ve got some really great videos on the way. My name is Paul. You can find me at businessenglishcommunity.com. Thanks for watching. Until next time.

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