Here are 5 common business English expressions you are likely to hear at work.

To be on the ball

This phrase comes from the sports field. When you are on the ball, you have to be alert and sure not to make any mistakes. It means the same at work.  Eg: Sam’s great – he’s really on the ball and never makes any mistakes.

To think outside the box

This means to think of a solution that is different to what is normally done or to think of an unusual, creative solution to a problem. Eg: We don’t have a lot of money to spend on our marketing so we need to think outside the box to find a way of reaching a lot of customers.

To brainstorm

This means to spend time thinking up lots of ideas on a topic or problem. Eg: Let’s brainstorm new ideas for the advertising campaign then choose the best ones to develop further.


This means doing several tasks at the same time Eg: Andrea’s great at multitasking – I’m so impressed with the way she handles so many client accounts at the same time.


This is time when you are not busy working on your main job. Eg: If you have some downtime this week, please brainstorm some ideas for our next team outing.

Next time you’re at work listen out for these expressions from your English-speaking colleagues. You’ll notice using all of them. Make a note of how they use the expressions to get more ideas for how you can use them in sentences.