English Idioms for Success in Business

If you work in an English-speaking environment, or if you use English at work to communicate with international clients or colleagues, you’ll undoubtedly have heard several English idioms.

An idiom is a phrase or collection of words where the meaning cannot be deduced from the individual words together. For example, if we say that we are ‘going out to paint the town red‘ to celebrate a promotion at work, it doesn’t mean that we are literally going to bring paintbrushes and paint the buildings red! It just means that we are going to go out and have a good time.

Similarly, if we say that somebody is ‘in hot water‘ with a new project, it doesn’t mean that they are physically in water. It means that they are having trouble and are trying to deal with a difficult situation.

In today’s blog post, we’ll take a look at some business English idioms for success. At the end of the blog, you can practise using them with some discussion questions to get you thinking.

Don’t forget to download your free English Idioms for Success in Business cheat sheet at the bottom of this blog.

1. In the bag

If you have something ‘in the bag’ it means that it’s certain you’ve got the deal. The deal is basically closed.

“As the votes continued to roll in, it became clear that the campaign had been a success and the new candidate had the election in the bag.”

2. From rags to riches

A rags to riches tale is when a person rises from being very poor or unknown, to being wealthy and successful.

“Throughout her childhood, Dolly Parton’s parents struggled to make ends meet, but she has since enjoyed a rags to riches rise to stardom and a decade-spanning career.”

3. (to go) from strength to strength

To become increasingly successful and make continuous improvements is to go from strength to strength.

“Since the interview with our manager appeared in the local paper, our company has received a lot of good press and things are going from strength to strength.”

4. (to be) ahead of the pack

If you are ahead of the pack, you are ahead of the competitors in your field. This is similar to another idiom, to be ‘on top of your game’, which means you are performing at your best and everything is going well for you.

“We feel confident about our product. We are ahead of the pack in terms of the sustainability of the materials used, and we believe it to be the best on the market.”

5. (to go) through the roof

If something ‘goes through the roof’ it soars, increases, goes up very quickly.

“The advertising campaign was a massive success. Our sales have gone through the roof!”


Think about your answers to the following questions.

1. Can you think of an example of a rags to riches tale?

2. What is a company that you consider to be ahead of the pack in your field?

3. Can you remember a time that a brand or celebrity went viral and their sales or social media followers went through the roof? What happened to cause this?

Don’t forget to download your free Business Idioms for Success cheat sheet right here.

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This content was written and recorded by Intrepid English Teacher Kate B.

You can find out more about Kate B on her Intrepid English Teacher Profile Page.

Book a free trial lesson today to discuss this topic in more detail, and talk about your English learning goals with an experienced and friendly English teacher.

If you have any questions, or you would like to request a topic for a future blog, you can contact us using the chat box, send us an email, or even drop us a message on any of our social media channels.

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