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16 Business Expressions (8 You Can Use at the Bar)

Kevin Naglich
Founder, Deliberate English

Looking up words in a dictionary won't help you improve your vocabulary

In my opinion, learning from conversations is way more useful, and frankly, more fun, than merely reading about them in a textbook.

Say, for example, you want to prepare for a job interview in English. You could google "phrases to use in a job interview," memorize 10 of them and then sound like a robot trying to fit expressions in places where they don't belong.

Learning by deliberately analyzing a conversation is much better

Instead, you could dig into the details of a conversation to see exactly how they're used.

I'm going to help you do that right now. First, we'll look at a dialog. Next, we'll analyze it, and finally, you'll practice by putting what you learned to use.

Here's an example of some dialog in a job interview in English

- Hey! You must be Jeff, right?

- That's right. Great to meet you.

- Likewise, so you're interviewing for the new senior analyst position correct?

- Correct.

- Perfect. So I see here that you have some experience in this line of work?

- I do. In fact, my first job out of college was working as a junior analyst for E Corp. I spent about 3 years there implementing a new order processing system that helped cut costs by about 20%.

- That's great! What were your specific job responsibilities

- Basically, it boils down to three things: 1) conducting stakeholder interviews, 2) drafting implementation plans, and 3) getting buy-in from the steering committee.

- Wow, that's pretty impressive. All of that as a junior analyst?

- Let's just say that it was a company where you had to get used to wearing multiple hats.

- Haha, I know what you mean. 

You can learn a ton from just a short 1-minute conversation

That was just a 1-minute conversation, and there's a ton you can learn from it. 

Expression 1: You Must Be - a great way to make guesses

Right away, in the first sentence, we have a useful expression. 

You must be plus a name, or an adjective is a great way of making a guess that you're pretty confident in. 

It basically means the same thing as "I am pretty sure you are …" something. For example:

  • You must be Laurie. 
  • He must be crazy.
  • They must be starving.

Expression 2: Likewise - a simple way to respond to a greeting

Likewise is a useful expression if you want to say "nice to meet you" or "have a great day" right after someone just said it to you. For example:

  • It's great to meet you!
  • Likewise. 😀

Expressions 3 & 4: Senior/Junior Analyst - official corporate positions

The last thing from this part of the conversation that I'll highlight is this "senior analyst" thing.

When we refer to different jobs or positions, junior is typically used to describe a version of the position for people with very little experience. 

Perhaps they just graduated, and this is their first job out of college.

On the other hand, senior is what we use to refer to a version of the position for people who have a lot more experience. Maybe 3-5 years or more depending on the role.

Finally, analyst is just a generic term that could refer to any number of jobs where someone is directly working with some sort of data. 

You could be a financial analyst, a business analyst, a handwriting analyst, etc.

Expression 5: Line of Work - a common way to say profession

People often refer to their specific profession or field as a line of work. It's what they do regularly to earn money.

Out of these three sentences, how many do you think use it the right way?

Two of them. In the second and third example, you could replace line of work with profession, and they would still make sense.

In the first sentence, however, you wouldn't really ask how someone's entire profession is going. You'd typically ask them how their specific job is going.

Expression 6: Spend time - a natural way to talk about time you used for something

To spend time means using a quantity of time working on a project or the quantity of time you were in a specific place.

  • ✔️ You can say: "I spent years researching a vaccine" because years is a quantity of time.
  • ❌ You can't say: "I spent more than one time watching the video."

The difference is that spend time works with quantities of time like minutes, hours, weeks, etc. It doesn't work with occasions. (e.g., once, twice, three times, four times.)

To fix this sentence, you'd either have to avoid using spend time or replace "more than one time" with an actual quantity. 

  • ✔️ I spent an hour watching the video.

Expression 7: Implement - Fancy way of saying to make something work

Returning to our dialog, implementing is just a fancy business suit way of saying to make something work. We usually use it in business to talk about new ideas, plans, laws, or software.

  • ✔️ You can say: "We will implement a new strategy," because a strategy is a plan.
  • ❌ You can't say, "I couldn't implement the right verb tenses while speaking." Because verb tenses aren't an idea, plan, law, or software. They're a specific part of grammar. 

Instead of implement, it'd be better to say something like: 

  • ✔️ I couldn't remember the verb tenses.
  • ✔️ I didn't use the right verb tenses.

Expression 8: Cut Costs - the business way of saying "save money"

Closing out this section of our dialog, we have the expression cut costs

This is again some fancy business jargon that means "to spend less money." 

Instead of saying, "the new app will help us spend less money," you could say, "The new app will help us cut costs."

Expression 9: It boils down to - a natural way to summarize a point

Another common expression, both in and out of the office, is it boils down to.

It's a great way to summarize something or simplify a larger issue.

For example:

  • "Why did Katie stop talking to us?" "I think it boils down to her new job." 🧑💼
  • "How can I live a happy life?" "It all boils down to your relationships." 👪

Expression 10, 11, 12: Stakeholder, buy-in, & steering committee

Closing out this section, stakeholderbuy-in, and steering committee are just more fancy business words.

stakeholder is someone in a company who cares about something.

For example, if you own an application at work, you probably care if someone changes it. You are a stakeholder of that application.

Buy-in is the business way of saying "an agreement or willingness to do something." It can be used both as a noun or a verb.

Finally, a steering committee is just a group of senior leaders who make decisions about a project. Think people like CEOs, directors, etc.

Some examples:

  • Check with all the stakeholders to see if we have their buy-in to change their site.

Here buy-in is being used as a noun. It's basically the same thing as saying, "check if we have their agreement to change their website."

  • I'm not sure the steering committee has bought into the new strategy.

Here buy-in is being used as a verb. We ask to see if the steering committee has already bought into the strategy.

Expression 13: All of that - act surprised by how much someone did

Alright, we made it to the last section. In the first sentence, you see, we started with the expression all of that in a question.

It's an excellent way to show that you're surprised at how much someone did or how much of something there is.

You might say:

  • You did all of that by yourself?

If you're surprised that someone did a lot of work without any help. Or:

  • You can get all that for just $10?

If you're surprised by all the food you can get for 10 dollars at a restaurant.

Expression 14: Let's just say - avoid talking about something

Next, the expression let's just say is a common way of keeping something simple when you don't want to give too many details.

If someone asked you, "how was the interview?"

You might be thinking, "it was terrible, I was nervous, I said the wrong things," but rather than having to tell all those details and relive the experience, you might say: 

  • Let's just say I didn't get the job. 

Expression 15: Wear multiple hats - you have a lot of jobs

Next, wear multiple hats is a typical business expression that means to have many jobs or roles at work.

For example: 

  • At my job, everyone wears multiple hats. One day you're designing a website, and the next, you're mopping the floor.

Expression 16: I know what you mean - tell someone you understand

Finishing up our conversation, we see the expression, I know what you mean.

This is an excellent way to tell someone that you understand them because you have experienced the same thing. It's usually used with negative experiences or something you don't like.

For example:

  • Man, I hate paying taxes. 
  • I know what you mean.

Be careful where you use it. If you're a man, you probably don't want to have this conversation:

  • Woman: Being pregnant is difficult.
  • ❌ Man: I know what you mean.

As a man, there's no way that you could have experienced the same thing.

Ask yourself if you would use any of these expressions tomorrow

Great job! We saw a lot of interesting expressions in that 1-minute conversation. Your job is to look at these and ask yourself, "Do I think I might use this in a conversation tomorrow, either at work or at the bar?" 

If the answer is yes to some of them, add those to your collection. For the ones where the answer is no, you can simply leave them alone for now.

Not sure what I mean by collection? Check out my video on "How to improve your vocabulary" to learn more.

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