Business English phrases you’ll need for working in America 
by Adriana Stein
November 02, 2020

Need to improve your English skills for your job in America? It’s certainly worthwhile for negotiating raises and getting that promotion!

To give you a helping hand, here is an overview on the most important business English phrases you’ll want to keep in mind.

Our top Business English phrases for working in America 

1. Common business idioms

Every culture and language has particular idioms, and American culture is no exception. 

A few popular business idioms are:

  • Get back to the drawing board: start over from the beginning.
  • Call it a day: everyone can stop working and go home.
  • Get the ball rolling: get started or move faster.
  • Hold your horses: calm down or slow down a bit.
  • Ahead of the curve: get ahead of the competition or current trends.
  • By the book: doing everything according to the rules.
  • The big picture: look at the situation as whole, not just the details.
  • In the same boat: everyone is in a similar or the same situation.
  • Cut corners: taking shortcuts (usually in a negative sense).
  • Diamond in the rough: something or someone that has good qualities but bad qualities overshadow or mask them.
  • Throw in the towel: give up and admit failure.

2. Acronyms and abbreviations

A few common acronyms and abbreviations used in Business English in America are:

  • 24/7: spoken as “twenty-four seven”, meaning open or in operation all the time.
  • ASAP: as soon as possible.
  • EOB/EOD: end of business or end of day, usually set as a deadline for completing a task or project by the end of the day in that time zone.
  • FYI: for your information, usually given as a note or update to someone.
  • BTW: by the way, meaning as an additional point of information.
  • N/A: not applicable, meaning there is no corresponding value.
  • TBD: to be decided or discussed, meaning not yet decided or finalized.
  • RSVP: to reserve your space at an event, spoken literally as “RSVP”.
  • B2B: business to business, a type of business that sells products or services to other businesses.
  • B2C: business to consumer, a type of business that sells products or services to consumers.
  • Q1/Q2/Q3/Q4: a shortened form of referring to a particular quarter in the year, spoken as written.
  • ROI: return on investment, the amount of money earned back from an investment.
  • PO: purchase order, a document outlining a particular purchase.
  • w/: short for “with”, only used in writing.
  • w/o: short for “without”, only used in writing.
  • ETA: estimated arrival time, the point in time someone or something is expected to arrive.

3. Meetings

Meetings are an important place to use correct Business English phrases, so here are a few examples depending on context.

Clarification phrases
  • Sorry, I didn’t catch that. Could you please repeat what you just said?
  • I didn’t quite hear that. Can you please say it again?
  • I’m sorry, but could you please speak a bit louder?
Signal phrases for questions
  • Sorry, just to clarify, your point was that…
  • Am I to understand that…
  • So, what we’re saying is…
  • So, if I’m understanding your point, you mean…
Agreement 
  • That’s a fantastic point (person’s name). I completely agree with you there.
  • Great, I think we’re all on the same page that…
  • Yes, I get what you’re saying…
  • Yes, I’m with you on your point that…
Disagreement
  • Sorry, but I think you might be a bit off there…
  • From my perspective, it’s a bit different. I can explain…
  • Well, that could be. Can I clarify my end of things?
  • I completely understand your point, but I think that…

4. Planning meetings

Here are a few helpful phrases for planning meetings:

Suggesting times
  • Would it be possible for you next Thursday at 4pm?
  • How does tomorrow morning work for you?
  • Would you have any available time next week?
Accepting times
  • Yes, next Tuesday works for me. See you then!
  • Yes, tomorrow is a done deal. Looking forward to it!
  • Great, see you on Friday at 1pm. Bye for now!
Rejecting times
  • Unfortunately, tomorrow isn’t possible. Would Thursday work instead?
  • I have a meeting on Friday, so next week would be better for me.
  • Unfortunately, I can’t make Wednesday morning. Could we do the afternoon instead?

5. Small talk

In America, starting off with small talk can be as important as the meeting itself. So here are a few ways you can use small talk to begin your meeting:

Talking about the weather
  • Beautiful day, isn’t it?
  • Can you believe all this snow we’ve been having?
  • Did you order this sunshine?
Talking about the office
  • Looking forward to the weekend?
  • How has your week been?
  • I can’t believe how busy it’s been lately. How has it been for you?
Talking about travel/holiday plans
  • Got anything fun planned for Christmas?
  • Any fun travel plans coming up soon?
  • How was your Thanksgiving?
  • How was your last vacation?

6. Politeness

The last point to keep in mind when using Business English in America is to use polite phrases. You’ll notice that many of the phrases in sections 3 and 4 are not entirely straightforward in that they include words like unfortunately, sorry, a bit, and quite. These words are used to lessen the strength of a certain phrase, which is one of the main ways that American English incorporates politeness into the language. 

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