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Communicate like a native - business English idioms part 1

The English-speaking business world is a fast-paced, rapidly moving one, and people throw around all types of interesting idioms and unique phrases to speed things up.

There’s a huge number of these types of expressions that will allow you to speak like a native, communicate complex ideas quickly, and get along with your team.

At RKA Valencia, we believe in English-teaching that is connected with the real world. We love to bring our conversational style to our classrooms. Our students practice real English in real scenarios, so when it comes to the real thing, they are fully prepared.

Check out more about our classes here, or get in touch with any questions or doubts.


Cut corners

This is the perfect idiom for talking about either making a job go faster, or to talk about why mistakes were made. The idea of cutting corners comes from a path with a 90 degree turn in it. You can go around the corner and continue with your journey, or walk over the corner, which is easier, but might do damage or be risky. When we ‘cut corners’, we do things quickly, but not very carefully or properly.

We can warn people “Don’t cut corners, do the work properly”. We can also pre-warn and say “This project is very important, so don’t cut any corners”.

On the back burner

This is the perfect idiom or talking about waiting to finish a project or process. The idea of back burner’ comes from an oven with the hobs on the top.

The front two ‘burners’ are the easiest and most used, and the two ‘back burners’ are often used as extra or less useful components.

When we say we are “Putting a project on the back burner” we mean that it will be delayed, and that it is not the most important thing right now.

Put a pin in it

This is a really useful expression to describe leaving an idea to come back to later. A lot of people think it comes from sticking post its or paper to a board with a pin, but it’s not true. The expression actually comes from WWII, when soldiers would put the pin back in the grenade if they wanted to use it later!

You can say “Great idea Tom, put a pin in it, and we’ll discuss it next week” or “Shall we put a pin in that idea, and move on”.

Burn the midnight oil

This is a fun idiom that describes working very hard, or working very long hours. Back before electricity, most people would be asleep and have their oil lamps extinguished by midnight. But if you were still ‘burning the midnight oil’ it meant you were working long into the night.

We can use it to describe how hard we are working, or to warn people about a tough project coming. We can say “I’ve been burning the midnight oil the last month, and I can really see the results” or “Next week we have to deliver the project, so we might have to burn the midnight oil for a few days”.


If you want to improve your English, prepare for an exam or get ready to travel or work abroad, get in touch here. At RKA Valencia we focus on building real communication, and having fun as we learn. Find out more about our classes here.

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