Type of expressions in English Language

Motto: Healthy self-talk to increase willpower

Idiom: Expression whose meaning does not relate to the literal meaning of its words but idiomatic meaning.

Proverb – Saying: Popular knowledge expressed in words.

Slang: Street talk.

Acronym: an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word. Acronyms are often used by texting on WhatsApp or applications like Slack, among others.

e.g = example given

Beat around the bush – irse por las ramas

This idiom means avoid saying what you mean, usually because it is uncomfortable.

e.g Don’t beat around the bush – get to the point!

e.g If you want to ask me, just ask. Don’t beat around the bush.

Play hardball (with)

Anyone who plays hardball is tough, ruthless and will not take “no” for an answer. Negotiating with these types can be a real challenge!

e.g We’re prepared to play hardball with the customer if it means we’ll be made do the double of the regular tasks for the same pricing.

Take the floor

This idiom means to take the turn to speak / start speaking

If you are given the floor, you are allowed to speak

e.g The Scrum Master took the floor to inform the decision to suspend some meetings.

Go the extra mile

This idiom means to do more than is necessary or to put in extra effort.

e.g I love working with our German suppliers, they always go the extra mile to make sure we understand everything about the product.

State of the art

Something that is state of the art is modern and technologically advanced.

e.g  Japanese capsule hotels are state of the art, they even have self cleaning toilets.

Sent you on a wild goose chase

This idiom means to cause or direct somone to go on a prolonged or chaotic search for something that is difficult or impossible to find (often because it does not exist).

e.g Those guys sent me on a wild goose chase to find a copy of the book that hasn’t been released yet.

Proposed by Elena Wilhelm, PKGlobal

White knight

A  person or organization that saves a company from financial difficulties or from a takeover by putting money into the company or by buying it

e.g A Saudi billionaire is a potential white knight for the troubled hotel chain.

Pull it off / zafar

Pull it off means to succeed in doing something difficult or unexpected. You ‘pull it off’ for example, when  you weren’t prepared to answer a question but you managed to say something clever.

e.g He wasn’t prepared on the subject but he pulled it off thanks to his broad knowledge of the sector and quick thinking.

Red tape / burocracia

Means excessive rules, procedures, and regulations (usually from the government) that make it difficult to to do business (such as getting trade licenses or registering tax numbers). 

e.g the city of Philadelphia now requires all bloggers to purchase a $300 business privilege license.

A similar phrase is to do something by the book. This means to follow the rules.

e.g Some people might try to skip the red tape but I prefer to do something by the book, so I got all of my licenses.

Streamline

To “streamline” something is to simplify the process, thereby getting rid of unnecessary work. Beware if someone talks of “streamlining” your team: the word is sometimes used to hint that non-essential employees will soon lose their jobs. 

e.g We need to streamline the archiving process, far too many files are getting lost. 

Have a lot on your plate

This idiom means to have a lot of responsibilities

e.g I have a lot on my plate since my supervisor quit last week.

Micromanage

This is a negative word co-workers might use to discuss the behavior of controlling bosses. To “micromanage” someone means to manage them on a micro level. To watch the details of their work too closely, instead of giving them the chance to get on with it and take responsibility themselves. If your boss stands behind your desk and edits your emails, you might feel that they are “micromanaging” you. 

e.g  Sarah is a good boss, she doesn’t micromanage her team

Slack off  

This idiom means to work lazily.

e.g  Don’t expect a promotion if you’re constantly slacking off

Burn the midnight oil   Trabajar horas extras

If you burn the midnight oil you are consistently working beyond normal business hours 

e.g We are burning the midnight oil to present the forecast in time.

Between a rock and a hard place  Entre la espada y la pared

If you are caught between a rock and a hard place, you are in a difficult situation where you have to choose between two equally unpleasant courses of action.

Another options for expressing the same:

  • Between the devil and the deep blue sea
  • With my back to the wall

e.g With this new conditions, the customers of that airlines are between a rock and a hard place.

Rack the brains   devanarse los cesos

To think very hard about something or try very hard to remember it. The old-fashioned spelling ‘wrack’ is occasionally used instead of ‘rack’ in this expression.

e.g The programmers had to rack their brains to find out how to rewrite the code once the virus had changed it.

e.g The programmers had to wrack their brains to find out how to rewrite the code once the virus had changed it.

Proposed by: Fernanda Dugini PKGlobal

Go back to the drawing board 

To go “back to the drawing board” means to start again from the beginning with a completely new idea to make it better. The phrase makes you think of a blackboard being wiped clean. It is most often used when an idea or project is rejected. 

e.g If the patent is refused, the technical committee goes back to the drawing board

It’s in the lap of the Gods  ¡Que sea lo que Dios quiera!

e.g The proposal has already been sent. It’s in the lap of the Gods!

Strike while the iron is hot

This idiom means to take action without delay when there is an opportunity to do something.

e.g I’m confident that this client will sign the contract if we strike while the iron is hot.

Call it a day  To stop doing something (to leave work or do something else)

e.g I think we have spent enough time discussing this project. Let’s call it a day.

Flat out  muy ocupado / a toda máquina

This business expression means to be incredibly busy

  • e.g I’ll be flat out next week because there’s a new shipment arriving.
  • e.g Sales Department is working flat out

Give someone a pat on the back   Halagar a alguien

This idiom means to praise someone for an achievement.

e.g Our line manager gave us all a pat on the back for finishing the project early.This

 hold the fort 

This idiom means to be responsible for something when someone else is unavailable.

e.g  I need to hold the fort while the managing director is on maternity leave.

Hot off the press – recién hecho

This idiom means to describe something that has just been released or printed

e.g Our new landing page is hot off the press with all the latest products and special offers

Cut-throat    This slang means: Very intense, aggressive, and merciless competition

e.g Competition in the food retailing business is cut-throat.

Downtime

This is time when you are not busy working on your main job.

e.g If you have some downtime this week, please brainstorm some ideas for our next team outing.

Heads up Inform, warn

If you give someone a heads up, you inform or warn someone in advance of something so that they can prepare themselves. 

e.g “Heads up Bob! The VP of Finance is coming from NY today and he’ll expect to see the office in perfect state”.

Lose the plot   This slang means to start behaving in a strange or silly way.

e.g He put everything in the wrong place. He’s losing the plot!

A no-brainer  obvio-evidente

This idiom means that something is really obvious or easy.

e.g Making money working for an investment bank is a no-brainer

Ballpark number/figure This idiom means an inexact estimate

e.g To give you a ballpark figure about how much the new project is going to cost, I’d say about 2 million dollars.

As the saying goes: A stitch in time saves nine

La ideas es que coser un roto en una tela con una puntada (stitch) significa que es menos problable que el roto se agrande y que después se requieran nueve puntadas más.

e.g U.K.’s Johnson on Covid Lockdown: A stitch in time saves nine

Meaning: It’s better to deal with problems immediately rather than wait by when they worsen and become much bigger.

Easy does  This motto is used to advise someone to approach a task carefully and slowly.

e.g

 – “Can I put it down now?” 

– “Yes, but it’s fragile so easy does it”.

Smooth sailing   This idiom means a situation where success is achieved without difficulties

e.g Once our largest competitor went out of business, it was smooth sailing.

Corner the market  This idiom means to dominate a particular market

e.g MercadoLibre corners the online retailing market

Beat the clock (ganar tiempo)  This idiom means to finish something before times is up, before a deadline.

e.g We should code as fast as we can and beat the clock because the Sprint is in two days’ time.

Bring home the bacon

This English idiom means “to earn enough money in order to take care of one’s family.”

e.g Mary stays home and takes care of the children, and her husband John brings home the bacon.

Go Dutch

The expression “go Dutch” means that each person pays for themself (usually at a restaurant). It is often used when a couple goes on a date.

e.g. You paid for dinner last Saturday. This time let’s go Dutch, okay?

Face the music To accept the consequences of your actions.

e.g. The politician took some resources illegally but then he decided to face the music and told the truth.

Hot potato Controversial topic to deal with

e.g I try to avoid discussing about religion, it can be a hot potato.

Get your ducks in a row Getting yourself organized before doing something.

e.g Once we get our ducks in a row, do an appraisal and talk to the lawyers . Then, it should be easy to sell the property.

Crush the numbers  Doing calculations before making a decision or prediction

e.g. We’ve been crunching the numbers for hours, and I just don’t see how we’ll be able to afford another branch

For a song  cheap

e.g. Because the shop’s closing down, most of the stock is going for a song (being sold very cheaply).

Carrot in front 

e.g Inflation works like the carrot in front of the nose of the donkey.

Propossed by : Angel García Fleitas / PK Global

Tweak Set (fix) minor adjustments

It can be used as either a noun or a verb 

  • e.g “I want to tweak one or two things” or
  • “I want to make a few tweaks”. 

Way off the mark Very inaccurate. Inadecuado-pasado de la raya

  • e.g His criticisms are way off the mark.

Be off the hook  (zafar) Free from blame or responsibility to do something.

e.g

– “You’re lucky; it turns out that Dad never heard you come in late last night.”

– “Great, that means I’m off the hook!”

Call the shots Mandar (sobre un grupo de personas)

The person who is “calling the shots” is the one who has authority to decide what must be done, and other people must follow his/her instructions.

e.g We should do it his way. He calls the shots anyway.

Pull the plug Stop giving money to support an activity.

e.g If the sales figures drop much more, the company will probably pull the plug on the extra comissions.

Put something on the back burner  “put something on the back burner” is to temporarily give low priority and less attention to something.

e.g. Although the new campaign is important we should put it on the back burner because the sales need to be pushed up

The big picture means to look at the overall view of something, or the situation as a whole and not at the details.

e.g. I think his presentation was too long and detailed. He should’ve just given us the big picture.

Who pays the piper calls the tune  Said to emphasize that the person who is paying someone to do something can decide how it should be done

e.g. I don’t like the performance of that new machinery but who pays the piper calls the tune.

cash cow – a business / product which generates a stable flow of income / profit 

e.g.The filming studios have discovered that movie platforms are an even bigger cash cow than movie tickets.

Staff retention keeping employees in a position or job.

e.g. Our main focus this year is to increase staff retention

Cut corners Tomar el camino más rápido para terminar algo.

If you cut corners, you’re taking shortcuts and using the easiest, quickest and cheapest way to do something.

e.g If we cut corners, we can probably meet our sales target for the last quarter.

Fly off the handle Perder los estribos

To react in a very angry way to something that someone says or does

e.g He’s extremely irritable. He flies off the handle at the slightest thing.

Propossed by: Fernanda Dugini / PK Global

Hail Mary Manotada de ahogado

e.g. This new solution is a Hail Mary, but we have to try.

Propossed by: Federico Rodríguez Ocon / PMI Argentina

Eleventh hour The eleventh hour is used to describe something that’s done or happens at the last minute.

eg. The project manager won’t be pleased about them changing the design at the eleventh hour.

Fish or cut bait Make a decision or give someone else a chance

e.g That call is your duty so, fish or cut bait

A long shot This phrase comes from sports, like basketball for example when a player is trying to shoot from a long distance. It means something unlikely to happen. With very little chance of success.

e.g Getting a senior position in the corporation is a long shot, but if you don’t try, you’ll never find out if it’s possible.

Ten to one  Asegurar que algo va o no a pasar

If you say ten to one something will or will not happen, you mean it is very likely that it will or will not happen

e.g Ten to one he won’t be there tonight.

Back to square one  Hacerlo de nuevo desde el principio

To start something over again because a previous attempt failed

e.g To make this software finally work, we have to go back to square one.

Overnight – De repente / De un día para el otro / De la noche a la mañana

We weren’t able to fulfill the requirements demanded because the rules were changed overnight.

Propossed by: Pedro Bratti / DinoCloud Consulting

Final stretch – Recta final

With regard to the project, we all agree that we are on the final stretch.

Quarentenials The ones who got the spark of life through the lockdown

Up in the air – When things are highly uncertain and decisions have not been made.

 There are too many things up on the air so we haven’t signed the contract yet.

By the book  To do things exactly according to the rules or the law.

We told our auditors that we do everything by the book.

The elephant in the room  An obvious problem or controversial issue that no one wants to discuss.

We should have discussed our pending litigation, but no one wanted to talk about the elephant in the room.

Uphill battle  Something that is difficult to achieve because of obstacles and difficulties.

Gaining market share in this country will be an uphill battle due to tough competition.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease (informal). El que no llora no mama.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get (formal). El que no llora no mama.

Propossed by : Angel García Fleitas / PK Global

Learn the ropes   Learn the basics of something (e.g. a job) –  rope: soga

I’m learning the ropes in my new position.

Rock the boat (meter la pata) To do or say something that will upset people or cause problems. 

Don’t rock the boat until the negotiations are finished.

It takes two to tango There are two people involved in a situation or argument who are both therefore responsible for it.

Example: Divorce is never the fault of one partner; it takes two to tango.

 

Hit the hay  Go to sleep   hay= heno

“Sorry, guys, I have to hit the hay now!”

At first, it seems like the person saying this really wants to punch some hay. But it really just means that they’re really tired and want to go to sleep.

Beat around the bush  Evitar hablar de un tema

  • Definition: Avoiding the main issue.
  • Example: “I tried to steer the conversation, but he didn’t stop beating around the bush, bringing up things totally off-topic.”

Every cloud has a silver lining. No hay mal que por bien no venga

Miss the boat. It’s too late / last chance

I will study hard to pass the final examination or I’ll miss the boat.

Every law has a loophole – Hecha la ley hecha la trampa

It’s incredible how some people take advantage of every loophole in the legal systems. So every law has a loophole!

“No pain, no gain”. You have to work for what you want.

I have lost some kilos. I need to work hard at the gym. No pain, no gain.

When pigs can fly! se refiere a un evento que es imposible

A – I’m sure I’ll beat you playing tennis

B- You will beat me when pigs can fly!

Red tape / red taping = burocracia

Being an unitaxer demands a lot of red tape so, I think you’d better call an accountant (unitaxer= monotributista)

Get a taste of your own medicine = tomar de su propia medicina

They will have to have a taste of their own medicine, anticipate changes and adapt to market demand.