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English Idioms and Phrasal Verbs Commonly Used in the Workplace

In the dynamic environment of the workplace, communication is key. To thrive in a professional setting, it's essential to understand the language nuances that go beyond textbook English. Idioms and phrasal verbs, often used by native speakers, can add color to conversations and emails, making interactions more engaging and effective. Here’s a look at some common idioms and phrasal verbs that you might encounter in the workplace.


  1. "Break the ice"

  • Meaning: To initiate conversation in a social setting, making people feel more comfortable.

  • Example: “To break the ice at the meeting, our manager started with a funny story.”

  1. "Hit the ground running"

  • Meaning: To begin a task or project with enthusiasm and energy.

  • Example: “We need to hit the ground running if we want to meet the deadline.”

  1. "Bite the bullet"

  • Meaning: To face a difficult situation bravely and with determination.

  • Example: “We have to bite the bullet and finish this project, no matter how challenging it is.”

  1. "In the loop"

  • Meaning: To be informed and up-to-date with the latest developments.

  • Example: “Please keep me in the loop about any changes to the project.”

  1. "Back to square one"

  • Meaning: To return to the beginning because of a failure to make progress.

  • Example: “If we don’t get the client’s approval, we’ll have to go back to square one.”

  1. "Think outside the box"

  • Meaning: To think creatively and differently from conventional ideas.

  • Example: “Our team needs to think outside the box to come up with innovative solutions.”

Phrasal Verbs

  1. "Take on"

  • Meaning: To accept or assume responsibility for something.

  • Example: “She decided to take on the new project despite her busy schedule.”

  1. "Come up with"

  • Meaning: To think of a new idea or plan.

  • Example: “We need to come up with a marketing strategy for the product launch.”

  1. "Follow up"

  • Meaning: To check on something or someone after an initial meeting or communication.

  • Example: “I’ll follow up with the client to see if they have any questions.”

  1. "Run into"

  • Meaning: To encounter someone by chance.

  • Example: “I ran into an old colleague at the conference last week.”

  1. "Turn down"

  • Meaning: To reject or decline something, such as an offer or invitation.

  • Example: “He had to turn down the job offer because it didn’t meet his salary expectations.”

  1. "Put off"

  • Meaning: To delay or postpone something.

  • Example: “We can’t put off the meeting any longer; we need to make a decision.”

Using Idioms and Phrasal Verbs Effectively

While idioms and phrasal verbs can enhance your communication, it’s crucial to use them appropriately:

  1. Know Your Audience: Ensure your colleagues or clients understand the idioms and phrasal verbs you use. Overusing them or using them with non-native speakers who might not be familiar can lead to misunderstandings.

  2. Context is Key: Use idioms and phrasal verbs that fit the context of your conversation. They should feel natural and relevant.

  3. Practice Makes Perfect: Like any language skill, practice helps. Try incorporating one or two idioms or phrasal verbs into your daily conversations or emails.

By mastering these idioms and phrasal verbs, you’ll be able to navigate workplace conversations with more confidence and flair. They not only make your language more dynamic but also help you connect better with your colleagues and clients. So, don’t hesitate to break the ice and hit the ground running with these expressions in your professional interactions!

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