Do you find you are sometimes at a loss for words when it comes to informal conversation with co-workers or people you have to make small talk with? You might want to focus on learning idioms and special expressions, particularly those used in business contexts.

Five Handy Business English Expressions

Here are my 5 picks to get started:

  • Get the ball rolling
  • On the same page
  • Stay afloat
  • Keep your eye on the ball
  • Long shot

You may be familiar with some of these as they are intermediate level idioms. We can study more common idioms or advanced idioms during our study sessions. Isn’t it interesting that many seem to be sports related? 😀

Meaning of Expressions and Example Uses

Get the Ball Rolling

Used before starting a project or task, this expression is equivalent to “get started.” You might say at a meeting that anyone is allowed to speak and put forth an idea. Opening the floor to everyone gathered, you might say “Ok who will get the ball rolling?”

Note: the use of the word “ball” relates this to the equally useful category of sports and ball idioms which are very common particular in American and North American English.

On the Same Page

this is a great expression. It means “think the same way” or “Agree on a topic or point.” So we may wonder if our coworkers or friends are “on the same page” so far as some issue or problem.

If you are on the same page it doesn’t mean you don’t have a discussion, it just means you have some overlapping ideas and general agreement.

Stay afloat

What kind of situation do you need to “stay afloat?” Does it bring to mind boat or ship metaphors? Maybe sometimes you feel lost at sea or feel like it’s “sink or swim time?” It’s hard to get away from using more expressions to explain this one! Perhaps the best way to elaborate on the meaning is to say that if you don’t success you may metaphorically drown or fall below the waterline.

Keep your eye on the ball

A true sporting idiom and special expression in English, “keep your eye on the ball,” probably best represents the idea of paying close attention and paying attention to detail. Those are characteristics often employed on resumes and they mean that one has put extra emphasis on doing something well and with care for the details.

What sport do you think best requires “keeping your eye on the ball?” Perhaps baseball? Cricket? Any of the ball sports such as soccer or basketball? Let me know what you think.

Long shot

What does this expression mean? In what context is something described as a “long shot?” To get closer to the meaning we might compare some aspects and try to reduce the essence to duality or binary. Is this a positive or negative? Does it mean you will have success or failure? The answer is that if something is a long shot it may be very difficult to achieve or perform.

Food for thought: Is it a sporting or non-sporting idiom? A “shot” often is used in sports like soccer or basketball (shoot at a net) or sports with sticks and nets such as hockey and lacrosse.

Further note on Sports Idioms

The ideas of an assist or goal, shot or play are terms often associated with sports. Studying sports idioms is well worth your while if you intend to work on expanding your Business English knowledge in a practical way.


This is a great article and list of useful business expressions:

About Teacher Mike Simpson

Thanks for reading. I am a teacher from Toronto, Canada. I can help you with your English and communication for personal or professional purposes. Contact me to ask about my rates and availability.

I have been teaching ESL, English, and design communications for 20+ years. If you would like to ask me about my experience or have any other questions please feel free to get in touch.