Idioms: They’re Sexy and You Know It.

Why Learn Idioms?

Think of some common idioms in your language and about how important they are to communication. They are powerful ways to convey your meaning. Experienced BridgeEnglish Denver teacher, Robyn Jacobs, says that using idioms and phrasal verbs show the meaning of your words in English in a very strong way. Thus, if you can use idioms correctly, you will sound fluent, confident and knowledgable. Sexy, in other words.

The same goes for business idioms. Jacobs teaches business English at BridgeEnglish Denver and says that idioms and phrasal verbs are a universally recognized way to converse in any language. A phrasal verb is a verb and a preposition or adverb together that change the meaning of the verb. For example, to give means to provide someone with something without expecting them to give you any money for it or something in return. To give up something means to stop doing something that used to be a habit in the past. The one word, up, changes the meaning of give when it is used with it.

Idioms are very descriptive and evocative. You can get a clear picture in your head of what someone means when he or she uses these expressions, says Jacobs. When you know English idioms, you are better equipped to understand the deeper meanings of conversations that happen in a business environment.

Take the following quiz to see if you know how to use the following English idioms correctly:

1.) To take up

A.) Accept/start a project

B.) To run a race

C.) To fall asleep

2.) To turn down

A.) To give a compliment

B.) To eat fish

C.) To say, “No.”

3.) To cash in on

A.) To benefit financially from something

B.) To go to the ATM

C.) To buy something with a credit card

4.) Crunch time

A.) Time go to a soccer game

B.) Short time to achieve a goal

C.) A type of dress

5.) To work down to the wire

A.) To work until close to the deadline

B.) To work all day

C.) To make people not like you

6.) To fast track

A.) To make a project a high priority or to finish it faster

B.) To go to the horse races

C.) To finish a task too fast

7.) To generate lots of buzz

A.) To generate positive attention to increase sales

B.) To work with bumble bees

C.) To start a fashion trend

8.) To pass the buck

A.) To drive by a deer

B.) To try to blame someone else for something you did wrong

C.) To hide

9.) The buck stops (with)

A.) The deer is stuck in mud.

B.) The dollar bill is not important.

C.) This person/organization has all of the authority.

NB: President Harry Truman famously had a placard on his desk at The White House that read “The Buck Stops Here.”

10.) To make a plug (for a product)

A.) To turn on your computer

B.) To end a difficult task

C.) To promote a product

11.) To pull the plug

A.) To unplug your computer

B.) To end a project before it’s finished

C.) To go to work

To Take Up & To Turn Down

Consider the following sentence:

James wanted to take the company up on the job offer at first, but he decided to turn it down because the salary was too low.

When you take someone up on an offer, you accept it. When you turn down an offer, you say, “No, thank you.”

To Cash In On

Here is an example of how to use “to cash in on”:

Mary decided to cash in on the real estate boom that was occurring in her city. She bought a few very cheap houses, and then she sold them at much higher prices later.

When you cash in on something, you take advantage of a situation where you can make a lot of money.

Crunch Time/To Work Down to the Wire

Read these two sentences that demonstrate the meanings of “crunch time” and “to work down to the wire”:

There were only two days left to meet the project’s deadline. It was crunch time, and the team had to work down to the wire to finish it on time for the client.

To Fast Track

See if you can figure out the meaning of “to fast track” something from this example:

There were two projects the company was working on. One client needed its project finished very soon, so the company fast tracked the project so it would be completed right away.

If you guessed that “to fast track” something means to make it a high priority so that it can be finished faster, you are right. Businesses often fast track projects that are higher priorities for them to finish.

To Generate Lots of Buzz

Try to guess the meaning of “to generate lots of buzz” from this sentence:

The company advertised its new product heavily on television, the radio, and on the Internet to generate lots of buzz for it.

“Buzz” refers to the sound of the many people/potential customers talking about the product. When people talk a lot about a product, profits rise as word of the product spreads.

To Pass the Buck & The Buck Stops (With)

Although both “to pass the buck” and “the buck stops here” have the word “buck” in them, they have different meanings.

Look at the following examples to learn the differences:

1.) She did not want to take responsibility for the most difficult part of the project, so she passed the buck to her colleague.

2.) The buck stops with headquarters; they make the final decisions regarding important corporate matters.

“Pass the buck” means to refuse to accept a difficult task and to make someone else do it. “The buck stops (with)” means that there is no higher authority to make a decision.

To Make a Plug (for a Product) & To Pull the Plug

The word “plug” in these two expressions involves two different ideas, similar to “buck” in the previous two examples.

Discover their meanings from these examples:

1.) He told all his friends about his company’s new product. He even put information about it on Facebook. He was not ashamed of making a plug for it.

2.) The company did not have any more money to pay for the big project. It had to pull the plug on it to save itself from bankruptcy.

“To make a plug for” something means to promote it, to tell others about how good it is, to talk about it all the time, everywhere.

“To pull the plug” means that you have to end a project early, before it was originally scheduled to be finished. This may happen for any reason, including not having enough money to pay for it.