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10 Business Idioms Explained to English as a Second Language Learners

Updated on September 25, 2012
English idioms are often used in business settings, making it difficult for students of English as a Second Language to understand phrases used in business transactions.
English idioms are often used in business settings, making it difficult for students of English as a Second Language to understand phrases used in business transactions. | Source

Idioms or idiomatic expressions are a group of words that have meanings that are different from their literal definitions.

Because they have figurative meanings, idioms are often very difficult for English as a Second Language learners to understand.

It is often said that for students of English as a Second Language to learn about idioms, they simply need to know and remember about certain idioms’ definitions and use these idioms where possible.

There are about 25,000 idioms in the English language, many of which are used in business communications.

Below are just some of the business idioms that learners of English as a Second Language should keep in mind.

1. Across the Board

The idiom across the board refers to everything or everyone. This idiom is used to say that nothing or nobody would be exempted.


The union wants a salary increase across the board. It wants a raise in the compensations of rank-and-file employees, supervisors, and managers.

2. Bang for Buck

Bang for buck is an idiom that means value for money. Usually, people want a high bang for buck in order to realize the full worth of their investments or expenses.


We will get a high bang for buck if we put our money in stocks. Our savings will just waste away in savings account with its very low interest rate.

3. Strike While the Iron is Hot

To strike while the iron is hot is to seize a present opportunity that may easily go away. It means to take advantage of an existing chance.


The executives decided to strike while the iron is hot and bought into the fast-growing and progressive start-up company quickly.

4. Saddled with Debt

When people are saddled with debt, then they are burdened with huge debt. So huge is their debt that they are said to be having a financial crisis.


Saddled with debt, the bank filed for bankruptcy and for protection against debt collectors.

5. Calculated Risk

A calculated risk is a risk or an action that has been well studied and is thought to have high chances of resulting in success. It is said to have low chances of failing and high chances of succeeding.


We were taking a calculated risk when we decided to invest in stocks rather than in bonds. We felt that stocks investments, while risky, would give us high returns in the future.

6. Captain of the Industry and Bigwig

A captain of the industry is a person considered as an influential leader in an industry. A bigwig is similar to captain in the industry but is often used to refer to a ranking or important person in a company.


The founder of this conglomerate is a captain of the industry. All the bigwigs working for him in his many companies respect and fear him.

7. Carve out a Niche

To carve out a niche means to specialize or satisfy a market need that has been unaddressed. Carving out a niche means to concentrate or focus resources on a particular market need.


The shoemaker decided to carve out a niche and not to compete with mass shoe producers. Her niche is the high-end market that wants elegance and exclusivity for a high price.

8. Fair Play

Fair play refers to equal and non-discriminating treatment. It is often associated with justice.


The technology company has a record of fair play. It treats its union members with respect and has always given them more than what they ask for in negotiations.

9. Gain Ground and Get off the Ground

To gain ground means to make some progress. Get off the ground is a similar idiom but it is frequently used to refer to progress made at the beginning of a process.


The company is gaining ground in its hopes to become a market leader. Two of its three new product lines are getting off the ground and poised to gain large market shares within the year.

10. Heads will Roll

When a person says heads will roll, it means that someone or some people will be punished. This idiom is meant to be a warning that disciplinary actions will be served.


Heads will roll when media people learn about this multi-million-dollar fraud.

Copyright © 2011 Kerlyn Bautista

All Rights Reserved

On Business English


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    • htodd profile image


      8 years ago from United States

      That's really great idioms

    • kerlynb profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

      @asmaiftikhar You are so welcome. As promised, I'll be coming up with more hubs about idioms :)

    • asmaiftikhar profile image


      8 years ago from Pakistan

      thanks k that is really very very useful and informative hub.And tht is also the solution of my problem.thanks a lot my dearest friend.


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