6 Common English Work Idioms

Here are 6 common work idioms – English idioms commonly used in the workplace

Hi from Speak More Clearly!

This time I’d like to go through some common work idioms so you feel confident pronouncing them and using them correctly. These are idioms that are commonly used in the workplace. Have you heard any of these used at your work? 


1. to cut corners

This means: to do something in the easiest, cheapest, or fastest way; to do something less thoroughly than it should be done. 

For example: Don’t cut corners on the report. It needs to be done properly. 

The building company cut corners when they built the apartments, and now the roof leaks. 

Pronunciation tips: Make sure you release air when you say the /k/ sounds at the beginning of ‘cut’ and ‘corners’.

For the British and Australian accents, the /r/ sounds in ‘corners’ aren’t pronounced – corners /ˈkɔː.nərz/

For the American accent the /r/ sounds are pronounced – corners /ˈkɔːr.nɚz/


2. to get the ball rolling

This means: set an activity in motion; make a start; to begin an activity or process

For example: She got the ball rolling in the meeting by asking some questions.

Pronunciation tips: Don’t get the /l/ and /r/ sounds mixed up.

Make sure you say both parts of the ‘oe’ diphthong for the ‘O’ letter in rolling and make the short ‘oo’ before the /l/ sound.  


3. up to speed

This means: If you are up to speed with a subject or activity, you have all the latest information about it and are able to do it well.

For example: Before we start the meeting I’m going to bring you up to speed with the latest developments.

Their work performance wasn’t up to speed with the rest of the team members. 

Pronunciation tips: Make sure you say the ‘ee’ in speed long enough and don’t say an ‘i’ instead when you are speaking more quickly. So not ‘up to spid’, but ‘up to speed’.


4. change of pace

This means: a change from what one is used to; temporary shift or variation in a normal routine or regular pattern of activity:

For example: Temporarily stepping into the manager’s job has been a real change of pace for me. 

Pronunciation tips: Make sure you say a ‘j’ sound at the end of ‘change’ for the ‘ge’. 

Make sure you say both vowels in the ‘ai’ diphthong in change and pace. Don’t just say the ‘e’ first sound in this diphthong. It’s not ‘chenge’ and ‘pece’ – make the ‘ai’ long enough- change /tʃeɪndʒ/; pace /peɪs/


5. on the same page

This means: agreeing about something (such as how things should be done); to be thinking in a similar fashion, to have the same amount of knowledge, or to have the same kind of understanding about a situation as others do. 

For example: Before we make any decisions today, I’d like to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

He realised they weren’t on the same page, and that they needed more information. 

Pronunciation tips: Make sure you say a ‘j’ sound at the end of ‘page’.

Again, make sure you make your ‘ai’ diphthong vowel in ‘same’ and ‘page’ long enough. Don’t cut it short. 

Don’t forget that our online American, British and Australian pronunciation courses have lots of video and audio training lessons,on exactly how to pronounce all of the vowels so you feel confident that you’ll be clear when you use them. See the link in the description below to get more information.


6. go out on a limb

This means: having an opinion that is different from most people’s and that may be unpopular and criticized;

For example:  I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that most clients would welcome this change. 

Pronunciation tips: Don’t make the ‘oe’ diphthong short in ‘go’.

The /b/ in ‘limb’ is silent.

There’s an intrusive /w/ between ‘go’ and ‘out’ so it becomes ‘gowout’.

You link the ‘on’ and ‘a’ so it becomes ‘ona’. 

You can find training and practise lessons in our online courses on linking and how to use it to make your speech sound more flowing and natural in English. 


I hope this has helped you feel more comfortable with these work idioms. 

For more idioms, check out our other video lessons on 12 clothing idioms.

And of course, if you would like more free pronunciation training videos, don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel.


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