15 Useful Business English Expressions You Need to Learn for Your Global Business

Learning the English language is practical for our businesses and careers. If you are planning to expand abroad or are working for a global company, the English language can allow you to speak with different nationalities, countries, and untapped markets. After all, it’s currently the universal language with over 1.5 Billion speakers across the globe.

But it’s not enough to know just basic English. There are certain phrases, idioms, and terminologies used in the business world you should know of to communicate.

If someone told you, “The ballpark figure is good! Let’s get the ball rolling and increase our bottom line.”

What do a park, rolling balls, and bottom line do with business? You might think that they are talking about football. But no. It’s all business speak.

If you want to relay your ideas and understand your clients well, you need to know at least a handful of useful expressions used in business. Here are 15 that you can utilize for your global business.


Get the Ball Rolling

No, you won’t see any balls rolling when someone says this. “Get the ball rolling” means to start a project or action towards a goal.

For example, you pitched an idea to start a restaurant that your investors like. They may say, “Your proposal has potential. Let’s get the ball rolling.”

It means your investor wants to start the restaurant proposal.


Think Outside the Box

Again, you won’t see any boxes when someone says this. “Think outside the box” means to think of other solutions that are not normally done for the same problem.

For example, a client may want a unique aesthetic for a hotel construction project. They may say, “We don’t want a traditional design for our hotel. Let’s think outside the box and show a structure that can invoke luxury and style to our guests.”



When we are thinking, a lot of things can move around like a storm in our brains. That’s why “brainstorm” is an expression that means to think of new ideas and solutions for a problem.

For example, you are currently having trouble with what the marketing campaign for this coming new year. You can say, “Let’s have a meeting and brainstorm fresh ideas for this new year.”


State of the Art

“State of the art” is not exactly artwork. “State of the art” means an innovative design, idea, or product that is superior to what is currently available.

For example, you found an innovative patented machine that your company can sell in your country. You can say, “We can source this state-of-the-art machine in our country because no technology can compete with it yet.”


Get Ahead of the Game

Business is like a game. You need to outplay your competitors to earn more profit. That’s why saying “get ahead of the game” means to provide more superior products and services to your clients to beat your competitors.

For example, you want your digital marketing agency to be number one in the Philippines. You can say, “We have to provide better services with affordable costs to differentiate ourselves and get ahead of the game.”


Go the Extra Mile

No, you will not be running a marathon when someone tells you to go the extra mile. “Go the Extra Mile” means to put extra effort into achieving your goals.

For example, your global sales team is just 10% away from your monthly quota. You can say, Let’s go the extra mile and reach our quota.”


Back to the Drawing Board

When someone says this, you will not see an actual person drawing in a board. It just means that you need to start all over again because the solution is not working.

For example, you started a business project, but the current strategies are not working well. You can say, “The strategies we have now are not working as well. Let’s go back to the drawing board and find a solution to our problem.”


Red Tape

You might think that this is just a tape for art. But red tape actually means excessively strict rules, regulations, procedures, and bureaucracy, especially in business registrations.

For example, you are having trouble registering your business permits because of a lot of transactions. You can say, “We are losing time. We have to find a way to solve all this red tape.”


Pull Some Strings

Similar to a puppet, “Pull Some Strings” means to find ways using your influence to solve problems. 

For example, you always wanted to be introduced to the Mayor of the city for your business project. Luckily you met someone that is connected to him. He can say, “That project you were explaining sounds great. Let me pull some strings so that you can meet with the Mayor.”


A Slice of the Pie

When someone speaks of a slice of the pie, it doesn’t mean he craves for dessert. Think about a pie. The pie represents the market. So, a “slice of the pie” means a portion of the market.

For example, you found out that the market for your products in India is in-demand. But other competitors sell to that market. You can say, “We should aggressively do marketing in India to get a slice of the pie.”


To Bite Off More than You Can Chew

You might think this is another expression for food. No.

To help you understand the expression, imagine yourself putting food in your mouth non-stop to the point where you can’t chew anymore.

The same way, “to bite off more than you can chew” means to accept tasks that is too difficult for you to handle.

For example, your client suggested targeting a 500% increase in sales for 2020. According to your data, you only projected around a 100% increase. You can say, “I’m sorry. But setting that target might put us in a position to bite off more than we can chew.”


Ballpark Figure

It’s another ball in the terminologies that has nothing to do with balls. A “ballpark figure” is a rough estimate of certain costs in a business deal.

For example, you don’t know the exact costs that will be incurred in your construction project. But you need estimated figures to budget expenses. You can say, “The project looks promising. $150,000 dollars is a ballpark figure for the costs we will incur during the 2-year construction.”


Cash Cow

Is there actually a cow made of cash? No.

But in business, there are certain products that produce stable sales over the rest. In business conglomerates, these are certain subsidiaries that generate steady cash than the others. These are called “cash cows.”

Similar to dairy cows, although slow, the milk they produce provide stable cash flow to the farm.

For example, your product, software A, has been in the market for quite a long time already. And it has produced considerable market share and steady income for your company.

In a company meeting, you can say, “We should capitalize the brand software A to our new products to associate our new launches with our cash cow product.”


Tighten Our Belts

What do you feel when you tighten your belts? You feel compressed and restricted, right? In the same way, “tightening our belts” means to cut costs because our budget is slimming down already.

For example, a certain emergency causes expenses you didn’t predict to incur. You can say, “It’s unfortunate that this calamity has happened. We need to tighten our belts to maintain our financial standing.”


Bottom Line

If you are in business, you know that we all want to make a profit. If you compute your net income, you can see the values at the bottom part (usually with a line). That’s why in financial terms, the “Bottom Line” means your net income after the taxes.

For example, you are pitching an idea that can increase your company sales. You can say, “When we execute the plan well, it can ultimately increase our bottom line.”



There are many expressions that you can learn to do business abroad effectively. You can start with these 15 business expressions and expand your vocabulary from there. Also, you can find English Tutorial services to enhance your business English vocabulary.

With LingualBox, you can be trained 1-on-1 by high-caliber certified instructors for as low as $2 per session. That’s a sweet deal! With that, I hope you can use your newfound business learning to your advantage. Good luck!


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Miko Eclipse is a digital nomad writer who travels the world while working online! He likes to meet new people, experience the culture, and gobble on the best food the country has to offer. English is his 2nd language for travel. And it can be yours as well by reading our weekly updates on our blog!