The Expat Woman

Speak American at the Workplace Part 1

15 Phrases that are commonly used in a professional/business setting and their definitions.

It’s helpful to be knowledgeable of American English phrases, especially in the workplace. Some of these are intuitive, but if you are an English learner or just starting work in the US, you may be confused by these idioms and expressions. In most situations, it’s okay to ask your boss or colleague to explain the meaning. However, it’s best to familiarize yourself with them as soon as possible. Here are 15 to start off with.

“Above board” – without dishonesty, concealment, or fraud

“Back to the drawing board” – to return to the planning stage, so that a failed project can be planned again

“Bite the bullet” – to make yourself do something or accept something difficult or unpleasant

“Brownie points” – to get praise or approval for something you have done

“By the book” – following the rules exactly

“Call it a day” – to quit work and go home

“No brainer” – something so simple or easy as to require no thought

“On a roll” – in the midst of a series of successes


“Put the cart before the horse “- to have things in the wrong order

“Play hardball” – to act strong and aggressive about an issue with someone; to stand firm in your negotiations

“Throw in the towel” – admit defeat, quit

“Throw (me, him, her) under the bus” – to sacrifice another person, who is usually not deserving of such treatment, out of malice or for personal gain

“Think outside the box” – think creatively

“Upper hand” – a position of control or advantage

“Win-win situation” –  a situation or outcome that benefits both or all parties, or that has two distinct benefits


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Nyna is the Founder and CEO of The Expat Woman, a global platform focused on connecting, supporting and empowering women who have moved abroad or plan to relocate. She is also a LinkedIn coach, consultant, trainer and speaker. LinkedIn played a huge role in my professional journey abroad, helping me build a network of powerful expat women and allies.

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