Idioms are common phrases that might not be easy to understand just by looking at the words. According to some estimates, there could be as many as 25,000 idioms in the English language! This makes mastering them all a pretty tough challenge. Despite the huge number of idioms, they are very commonly used in a variety of situations in the professional world as well as informally with friends and family.

One of the issues that business English students face with idioms is that their meanings can be highly misleading. Here’s an example:

“Never judge a book by its cover.”

If you are new to English idioms, you may think that this phrase is about…well, books. Of course, it isn’t. What this phrase actually means is “you shouldn’t judge people based on their appearances.” Just like a book with a boring cover, people can surprise you.

Since there’s not room for 25,000 idioms (and we wouldn’t expect you to read them all even if there was,) we’re going to give you five of the most common idioms you’ll hear in an office, along with tips on how to use them.

Seeing Eye to Eye

This idiom means to “agree or have similar views,” and is always used to describe two people. This idiom is most commonly used in the negative form, like “They don’t see eye to eye,” which could be used to describe two people who don’t get along very well.

The Elephant In The Room

The “elephant in the room” is a big, unavoidable issue that everyone is thinking about— and it’s always bad.

Let’s say that your CEO got caught cheating on his wife, and everyone knows about it. If he comes into the boardroom and starts talking about next year’s marketing strategy, nobody will be listening— you’ll all be thinking about the elephant in the room!

Touch base

“Touch base” simply means “make contact again later.” Like many other American idioms, it comes from baseball.

“Let’s touch base next week” is a quick, easy, and informal way to let someone know that they should contact you next week.

Crash and Burn

“Crash and burn” is a common way to describe a spectacular failure. If your project “crashed and burned,” it failed— badly!

Clean House

“The CEO is going to clean house” is never a good thing to hear at a company. It doesn’t have anything to do with mops or dustpans— it means that there are going to be a lot of people fired!

There is a lot to learn when studying business English— and from basic grammar to the art of persuasion, it’s all important. No matter what stage you’re at, we can design fun and fully-customized online business English classes for you. Whether your goal is finding a great remote job or simply to learn how to carry a conversation in English, Verbalize Now is here to help.