In this second of two online exercises on English expressions/idioms, you will learn and remember more commonly used expressions used in business.

Before you learn the five expressions below, you need to know that many expressions in English can only used in specific situations (e.g. when talking about problems, when talking about your job etc...). So if you want to use expressions correctly, you must know what these situations are. You will also learn this in the below exercise.

If you haven't already done it, I would recommend that you also do the first part of this business English expression exercise.

To learn more business English vocabulary, look at our exercises in the general business English vocabulary exercise menu.


Part One: What they mean

In the first part, you will find five questions. In each question, you will find an expression in a sentence. You have to decide what the meaning of this expression is from the context of the sentence. There are three possible meanings below the sentence, only one is correct.

When you have chosen one meaning, click on the "Check answer" button at the bottom of the question to see if you are correct.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question which you can press/click on. In the first icon, , you can find extra information about the expression (e.g. in what situations it is used in, how it is used etc...) and a Spanish translation. In the second, , is where you can listen to the expression and do a pronunciation test (to make sure you can say it correctly).



1.

What does 'hit the nail on the head' mean in this situation?

'I think that John hit the nail on the head when he said that the problem is caused by people being confused about what our company does.'

   

Hit the nail on the head:
(expression) Although this expression means you agree with what somebody has said, it is only used in situations where you are talking about problems. It is normally used when the other person has given their opinion on what the cause(s) of the problem are.

For example:

'I think there are too many things on the menu.'
'You've hit the nail on the head. It makes it difficult for people to choose.'

In Spanish: "dar en el clavo".

Close

Hit the nail on the head:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

2.

What does 'the bottom line is' mean in this situation?

'I spoke about it in a meeting with my manager yesterday and the bottom line is we don't have the money to buy new computers in the company I'm afraid.'

   

The bottom line is:
(expression) In business English this expression is used mainly when a person wants to tell another person/people some very important information in a very direct way. In this context, it is normally always used when telling serious and negative news.

For example:

'The bottom line is if we don't improve sales, the business will close within 6 months.')

In Spanish: "la conclusión es / lo más important".

Close

The bottom line is:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

3.

What does 'on the right track' mean in this situation?

'It is my opinion that our company is on the right track at the moment. The changes we have made will mean higher sales in the future.'

   

On the right track:
(expression) This is used in business to say that you believe the actions that a business or person is doing will result in them being successful (e.g. earning a good profit, getting a better job etc...).

This expression is used with the verb 'to be' in front of it.

For example:

'The company is on the right track.'

In Spanish: "por el buen camino".

Close

On the right track:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

4.

What does to 'think outside the box' mean in this situation?

'We can't keep doing things like both we and everybody else have always done. So I want you to think outside the box and think of some innovative ways that we can increase sales.'

   

Think outside the box:
(expression) This basically means that a person doesn't just copy how others do things, but comes up with innovative and original ways/methods to do them. This expression is often used when a business wants to find new ways to improve sales, because the ones they have used have not been successful.

This expression is often used with the verb 'need' and 'to' in front of it.

For example:

'We need to think outside the box.'

In Spanish: "pensar fuera de la norma / de lo acostumbrado / lo usual".

Close

Think outside the box:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

5.

What does 'haven't got a clue' mean in this situation?

Manager: 'So, John. Can you think of anything we can do to solve this problem?'

John: 'Sorry, I haven't got a clue. I can't think of anything at the moment.'

   

Haven't got a clue:
(expression) This can be used in two different ways. The first is when you want to say that you can't think of any way to solve a problem or improve something. The second meaning is when you don't know anything about a situation (e.g. where a person is) or how to do something (e.g. to use an application).

In Spanish: "no tener ninguna idea".

Close

Haven't got a clue:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close


Part Two: Use them

In the second part of the exercise you will use the expressions you learnt above to complete a text. In this text, the owner of a shop/store is talking with his two staff/employees (Sandra and Peter) about how to improve sales.

When deciding which expression to use, look at the context of the sentence to help you. Click on the "Check answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

Owner:'As you know, sales at the shop haven't been very good this year. So we need to think of a new way we can sell more. Does anybody have any ideas?'

Sandra:'We could do more advertising in the local area, like on buses and in the local newspaper?'

Owner:'We've already done that and it didn't work. So we need to think of something that neither us or our competitors have done before. . So please tell me any ideas you have.'

Peter:'To be honest, I don't think we need to change anything. I think that . Sales are increasing. We just need to wait.'

Owner:'Yes, but they are increasing very slowly. I'm going to honest with you. I spoke to our accountant two days ago and if we don't increase sales a lot in the next 6 months, the shop will close. So tell me any ideas you have to increase sales or what we are doing wrong.'

Sandra:'The problem is that people are buying more clothes on the internet than in shops these days because they are cheaper.'

Owner:' , Sandra. The main problem is that people are buying more clothes online. So how do we get them to buy from our shop instead? Do either of you have any ideas?'

Peter:'To be honest, . I can't think of anything we can do to get people to buy their clothes here, instead of buying them online.'






Practice

Now that you understand the meaning of the expressions and when to use them, practise them by creating your own sentences with them in English.