As we all know, speaking English is much more than grammar and vocabulary. To truly follow everything it is important to also study the common colloquialisms and idioms of a country. Below are some of the must know English phrases that you could hear in the office on a daily basis. Don’t be stumped the next time someone asks you to ballpark something or tells you to be on the dot.

Must know English phrases

  • PM me private message me.

Ex. PM me the details.

  • Ballpark figure or number/ballpark it – give an approximation.

Ex. I don’t know the exact numbers but I can ballpark it for you.

  • The early bird gets the worm– the person who is early reaps the most rewards.

Ex. Be on time, remember the early bird gets the worm.

  • On the dot/ Be there or be square/time +sharp be on time.

Ex. The meeting starts at 9am on the dot.

Ex. The event is at 10pm, be there or be square.

Ex. Work starts at 8am sharp.

  • Think outside the box – be creative.

Ex. We need new ideas for this project so please think outside the box.

  • Ahead of the curve/pack more successful than others.

Ex. Colin is ahead of the pack this quarter, the made more sales than anyone else in his division.

  • Tough break – when something bad happens.

Ex. Person A: I got fired from my job today Person B: I’m sorry that’s a tough break.

  • Get your foot in the door to start at a low position in a company in order to get a better position later.

Ex. Being an assistant isn’t my dream job but it gets my foot in the door.

  • Back to square one/back to the drawing board to have to start something over again.

Ex. All our calculations were wrong so we are back to the drawing board.

  • By the book – follow the rules.

Ex. We are being audited so we need to do everything by the book.

  • Get back into the swing of things to get used to something after taking a break.

Ex. It was hard to get back into the swing of things after vacation.

  • Get the ball rolling – to start something.

Ex. We need to get the ball rolling on this project ASAP.

  • Hit the nail on the head to do something correctly.

Ex. My coworker really hit the nail on the head when he said we don’t get pain enough!

  • In a nutshell – in summery .

Ex. I don’t have too much time so give me the information in a nutshell.

  • Last straw – the last annoyance.

Ex. I am on my last straw with Nancy. If she doesn’t improve I am going to fire her.

  • No brainer not hard to understand.

Ex. This project is a no brainer, even an intern could do it.

  • On the same page – in agreement.

Ex. Since everyone is on the same page we can move onto the next part of business.

  • Play hardball– be competitive and aggressive

Ex. We have tried being nice but it’s not working, it’s time to play hardball in this negotiation.

  • Rock the boat – to cause problems.

Ex. Our new VP is rocking the boat by implementing new rules that not everyone is a fan of.

  • Shoot (something) down – to reject something.

Ex. My boss shot down my proposal for a salary increase.

  • Take (something) lying down- to take something bad without fighting.

Ex. Our boss yelled at Scott today for being late and he just took it lying down.

  • The elephant in the room – and obvious issue that no one wants to discuss.

Ex. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, the new salary cuts.

  • Up in the air undecided.

Ex. It’s still up in the air who will replace Stephanie as the new manager.

  • The writing on the wall – evidence that something will happen.

Ex. Daniel has been late everyday. I can see the writing on the wall that he won’t last long here


These are some of the must know English phrases that we have selected in this blog! We hope this phrases will be useful for you in the future!