Business English: 25 Phrases for Speaking Confidently at Work
Most English students make the mistake of thinking that using big and complicated words is the key to success when it comes to speaking business English.
But the truth is that simplicity is usually the key to effective communication.
Thanks to the science of Cognitive Fluency, researchers have found that the simpler a sentence is, the more credible it is.
Think about it:
If you’re in a meeting and someone is using a lot of jargon (technical words only used in a specific industry), you might not understand, or think the speaker is just trying to sound more knowledgeable.
The same is true for your colleagues and clients.
In today’s post, I’ll show you the most important aspects of business English. You’ll learn how to simplify your language, choose the right vocabulary, and convey your ideas clearly and effectively.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- Conversational English Leads to Professional Success
- Important Aspects of Business Communication
- Business English Phrases
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How Conversational English Leads to Professional Success
Gerry Spence is an American trial lawyer who is best known for his high-profile and controversial cases. He has never lost a criminal trial. Over the course of his career, he won many multi-million dollar cases.
In his book How to Argue and Win Every Time, he talks about an important moment in his career.
He noticed that all of his classmates, and the lawyers that he was arguing against, always used very technical and complicated language.
They all went to big schools like Harvard or Yale, and used highbrow language when they argued in court.
Gerry realized that THE JURY was made up of regular people. And so he experimented with speaking in basic, easy-to-understand English.
In other words, he kept his language simple.
Instead of trying to impress them with his education and vocabulary, he CONNECTED with them by using conversational English.
He credits using simple and conversational language as one of the major keys to his success.
What About Technical Vocabulary?
It’s important to understand the technical vocabulary related to your job. But, in my experience, the technical vocabulary is what English students already know best…
Because you automatically learn the technical vocabulary with time and exposure to your job.
The complaints I hear the most from my students are:
- They feel unprepared for conversational speech when discussing business — like when colleagues use idioms and casual phrases.
- They struggle with conversations about life OUTSIDE of work — like talking about what they did over the weekend.
So, if you want to practice speaking English to advance your career, I recommend you focus on mastering basic conversational language.
3 Important Aspects of Business Communication
For many non-native English speakers, mastering conversational English in a professional environment is challenging.
So we’ll focus on three aspects that will help you speak English fluently and effectively.
In professional life, confidence is key.
When you learn how to speak English confidently, you are more likely to gain respect from colleagues and clients.
They will be more likely to take you seriously and value your contributions. Speaking confidently will help you establish yourself as an expert in your field when you:
- Present a proposal
- Negotiate a deal
- Network with colleagues and clients
The good news is that building speaking confidence isn’t as hard as it seems.
Think about learning how to ride a bike.
At first, it might be a little difficult, and you might feel wobbly and unsure. But as you practice more, you become competent at riding the bike.
Soon, you can ride without falling off or needing help — making you feel confident.
Competence means being really good at something because you understand it well.
So rather than repeating phrases to yourself or others…
Your English speaking confidence really comes from how well you understand vocabulary.
Sherwin Cody was an American author and teacher who is best known for his work in the field of English language and grammar.
He actually taught English to native English speakers who wanted to communicate correctly, earn more respect, and advance their careers.
Cody was a prolific writer who published several books.
He popularized the phrase “plain English.” This means using simple, easy-to-understand language – without big or complicated words.
His teachings had a significant impact on the development of the modern English language, as well as grammar education.
Here are some benefits of using plain English:
- It makes content easy to understand.
- It benefits everybody, from experts to beginners.
- It makes the speaker look smarter because they communicate information more effectively.
- It removes barriers between the speaker and the listener, resulting in increased trust.
- It sets an organization apart from the competition, resulting in increased sales and customer loyalty.
Even highly educated people prefer simple, easy-to-understand English.
3. Phrases for Work
It’s important to say the right thing at the right time — so you need to understand what phrases to use in specific situations.
Learning English phrases used in business environments is essential for you to improve your fluency, and communicate effectively on the job.
But remember that knowing the specific phrases is only half the battle – you need to learn them in context for them to be memorable and effective.
Business English Phrases (For Work and Leisure)
In this section, we’ll cover five important real-life situations you’re likely to encounter at work, and the phrases that will help you communicate with your coworkers.
Applying for Jobs: 5 Phrases to Include in Your CV
If you’re looking to land your dream job, here are some useful phrases to include in your CV that will make hiring managers take notice. (Of course, you can use these in your conversations, too!)
1. Hit the ground running
Think about a soldier parachuting into combat. As soon as they land, they immediately start running to the fight. They have to move quickly.
You can use this phrase in your CV to show your ability to quickly adapt and contribute to a new work environment, without needing much time to adjust or get up to speed.
- “At my previous job, I hit the ground running by learning their support system in a single day.”
- “I joined XYZ company and hit the ground running by improving the onboarding process my first week on the job, reducing new hire training time by 20%.”
2. Go the extra mile
This means making an additional effort or going beyond what’s expected. You can use it in your CV to demonstrate your dedication and willingness to exceed expectations in your job.
Imagine running for 10 miles, but just to challenge yourself, you run an extra mile.
- “During a challenging project, I went the extra mile by working overtime to make sure the project was completed on time.”
- “I consistently went the extra mile by identifying cost-saving opportunities, resulting in annual savings of $50,000 for the company.”
3. Team player
This phrase refers to someone who works well with others and contributes effectively to a team’s success.
You can use it to highlight your collaboration skills and ability to work well with colleagues. For example:
- “I’m a strong team player, I actively created a safe environment where everyone could share their opinion on how to achieve our goals.”
- As a team player, I contributed to creating a positive culture by organizing team-building activities.”
4. Think outside the box.
Think about solving a puzzle.
The “box” is the area of typical solutions people might think of.
So when someone thinks outside the box, it means they are resourceful and they can find pieces to fit the puzzle that others might not have considered.
Use this phrase in your CV to show your creative thinking and problem-solving abilities. For example:
- “I’m good at thinking outside the box. I developed innovative strategies that drove business growth by 25%.”
- “I solved a complex customer issue by thinking outside the box. My customized solution lead to a high customer satisfaction rating.”
5. Keep your eye on the ball.
This phrase means to stay focused on the main objective or goal.
It comes from sports, like baseball and tennis, where you have to keep your eyes fixed on the ball as it moves.
You can use this phrase to highlight your ability to finish projects, prioritize tasks, and achieve results. For example:
- “In a fast-paced environment, I kept my eye on the ball by prioritizing tasks and achieved our monthly goal.”
- “I managed a complex project by keeping my eye on the ball, consistently monitoring key milestones.”
Sending Emails: How to Start and End an Email
If you want to improve your email writing skills and sound more professional, try using these common phrases in your messages.
This is a common and polite way to start an email to someone you don’t know very well or in a professional context. For example:
- Dear Hiring Manager,
- Dear Mr. Smith,
2. I hope this email finds you well.
This is a friendly way to start an email and show that you care about the person’s well-being.
It’s a nice way to make someone feel like you care about them even if you just want some basic information. For example:
- “I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to catch up on the project we discussed last week.”
- “I hope this email finds you well. I’m reaching out to see if you might be interested in collaborating on a new project.”
3. As per our conversation
You can use this phrase to refer to an older conversation or an agreement you made with the person. This is a more formal way of saying “about,” or “concerning.”
Put this phrase at or near the beginning of your email to direct the reader’s attention. For example:
- “As per our conversation last week, we agreed to have the meeting this Friday.”
- “As per our meeting, I’ve attached the requested documents for your review.”
4. Please don’t hesitate to contact me.
At the end of your email, encourage someone to reach out to you if they need anything, or have any questions. For example:
- “Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need any further information about the project.”
- “If you have any questions about the event, please don’t hesitate to contact me.”
5. Best regards,
This is a professional and polite way to end an email. It goes right before your name. Like this:
- Best regards, John Santos
- Best regards, Jane Cantore
How to Talk About the Weekend: 5 Phrases to Connect With Coworkers
Here are some useful phrases to talk about your weekend, so you can connect with your coworkers about stuff OUTSIDE of work!
1. Kick back and relax
Think about lying down on the sofa, and watching your favorite TV show. You have your feet up on something and you’re enjoying your leisure time.
You can also use this to talk about activities that help you unwind and de-stress because you don’t put a lot of mental energy into them.
- “This weekend I’m kicking back and relaxing by binge-watching Game of Thrones.” (When you binge on something, you’re getting a lot of it.)
- “I headed to the beach with a good book and a picnic basket. I found a spot in the shade, kicked back and relaxed.”
2. Chill out
Like the previous phrase, this also means relaxing, taking it easy, and not worrying too much about things.
- “I needed to chill out during the weekend. I spent time with my friends and walked my dog.”
- “We went to the park, spread out a blanket, and chilled out listening to music.”
3. TGIF! (Thank God/goodness it’s Friday!)
Show your relief and excitement that the workweek is coming to an end. It could mean you had a difficult week, or that you’re looking forward to the weekend. For example:
- “TGIF, everyone! Any fun plans for the weekend? I can’t wait to unwind and enjoy some delicious food.”
- “TGIF! I’m meeting friends for cocktails at a rooftop bar.”
4. Weekend getaway
This is a short trip or vacation taken over the weekend to relax and explore new places. For example:
- “I’m planning a weekend getaway to the mountains. I can’t wait to disconnect from work and enjoy the scenic views.”
- “My wife and I planned a little weekend getaway. We rented a cozy cabin in the woods, surrounded by nature, hiked scenic trails, had bonfires, and even spotted some wildlife.”
5. Family time
It means spending quality time with family members. For example:
- “I had some great family time over the weekend. We had a barbecue in the backyard and played board games.”
- “My parents are coming to visit me over the weekend, and we’re going to the zoo for some family time.”
Online Meetings: 5 Useful Phrases for Zoom Calls
By using the right phrases, you can communicate more effectively, and be remembered as a professional team member. (Again, these are also useful phrases for any kind of casual or professional communication.)
1. Let’s get the ball rolling.
Think about a snowball rolling downhill.
At first, it’s really small.
But as it keeps rolling and picks up speed, it starts to get bigger and bigger. It also gets faster.
Use this phrase to start an activity or initiate a process. You can use it to encourage others to begin a discussion or take action during a meeting.
- “We’ve discussed the problem long enough. It’s time to get the ball rolling and move forward with a solution.
- “Let’s get the ball rolling with a brainstorming session to generate ideas for the marketing campaign.”
2. Thanks for joining!
This is a simple and polite way to say thank you to the other participants for attending the meeting.
You can use it at the beginning or end of the meeting. It makes others feel welcomed and valued.
- “Thanks for joining, everyone! Let’s get started.”
- “Thanks for joining today! We’ll follow up with an email summarizing the next steps.”
3. Cut to the chase
Imagine you’re watching a movie, and there’s a long buildup to an exciting chase scene. Instead of waiting, someone says, “Cut to the chase!” This means they want you to skip all the buildup and jump right into the exciting part.
So this phrase means getting to the main point or essential information, without wasting time on unnecessary details.
You can use it to suggest focusing on the most important aspects of the discussion during a meeting. For example:
- “We have a lot to cover in this meeting, so let’s cut to the chase and focus on the action items.”
- “I appreciate the background information, but let’s cut to the chase and discuss the potential solutions.”
4. The elephant in the room
Imagine walking into the office one day and there’s an elephant sitting in the conference room.
Everyone knows it’s there. And when you sit down to have your first meeting of the day, you’re waiting for someone to explain why an elephant is in the room.
But no one says anything about the elephant! They act as if it isn’t there. Clearly, there’s some problem everyone knows about, but won’t mention because they’re nervous or scared.
So, use this to address an obvious problem or issue that people are avoiding discussing.
- “I think we all noticed the drop in ratings. It’s time to address the elephant in the room and discuss ways to improve it.”
- “The budget cuts are affecting our productivity, and it’s the elephant in the room! We need to talk about finding workable solutions.”
5. Let’s wrap it up.
When you want to end the meeting, this is a polite way to say that it’s almost time to end the call. It lets everyone know that if there’s anything important to talk about, they should bring it up now.
Think of wrapping a present, and it’s now ready for delivery.
- “We’ve covered everything on the agenda. Let’s wrap it up.”
- “We’re almost out of time. Let’s wrap it up and move on to the next item.”
Productivity: 5 Phrases About Time and Deadlines
Whether you’re dealing with a tight deadline or trying to manage your time more effectively, here are some easy-to-use phrases that will help you get things done at work.
1. On the clock
Think about when workers had to physically punch time cards to record their working hours. Once they punched in, a time clock started to record their working hours, so they were “on” the clock.
Many people work from home now, but it’s still useful to separate your time between work and play. Use this phrase to say you’re working right now.
- “I can’t hang out this weekend; I’m on the clock at work.”
- “We’ll have to discuss this off the clock, during our break.”
2. Cutting it close
Imagine you’re running a race, and you cross the finish line with only a split second to spare. That’s what “cutting it close” feels like.
It’s like pushing the limits and getting things done at the very last moment, leaving no room for error or delays.
- “We’re cutting it close with the project deadline. But if we work together, we can get it done on time.”
- “I was cutting it close with my presentation; I finished it five minutes before the meeting started!”
3. Time flies
Sometimes when you’re so absorbed in what you’re doing, you can go into a flow state.
It’s a state of deep concentration and focus, when you’re fully present in the moment. Time seems to pass by effortlessly.
Use this phrase when you feel like time went by really quickly.
- “I can’t believe it’s already 5 p.m. Time flies when you’re busy.”
- “This weekend flew by! I can’t believe it’s Monday already.”
4. Time is money
It means that time is valuable and should not be wasted because it has a direct impact on your success.
Just like you wouldn’t want to waste your hard-earned money, you shouldn’t waste your precious time either. For example:
- “I always try to plan my day and make a to-do list. You know, time is money, and I don’t want to waste a minute on unnecessary stuff.”
- “Hey, stop scrolling through social media during work hours; time is money, and we’ve got deadlines to meet!”
5. I need it yesterday.
When you say you need something yesterday, it means you need it immediately or as soon as possible.
It means that you need this urgently, and it should be a top priority. For example:
- “I need that report yesterday, the client is waiting for it.”
- “I have a tight deadline for this project, so I need the information from you yesterday.”
If you KNOW a lot of English, but struggle to SPEAK...Learn More about Fluent for Life
Business English Courses Won’t Prepare You for Real Life the Way Fluent For Life Will.
When evaluating business English courses, the key factor to consider is whether they teach enough conversational speech for real-life scenarios.
Otherwise, it’s like having a fancy sports car with all the high-tech features, but not knowing how to drive.
These courses might leave you feeling unprepared for everyday interactions — despite knowing a lot of technical vocabulary.
The truth is that knowing how to speak simply and confidently is way more important than knowing technical jargon – and that’s something almost all business English courses don’t focus on.
But my fluency course does exactly that.
It prioritizes helping you to confidently engage in conversational speech, regardless of the topic… In and out of work.
And will help you gain the confidence to navigate professional situations with ease, and establish meaningful connections in the business world.