Top Everyday English Idioms You Will Hear At Work Explained Ep 508

Your English teacher with office workers in the background. Listening to this podcast is a great way to expand your English, improve your communication skills, and learn many everyday business expressions and idioms.

📝 Author: Hilary

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In This Podcast We Talk About The Meaning Of Some Of The Most Common English Idioms People Use At Work

Everyday English Idioms and expressions you will hear at work. We explain, with lots of examples, the most popular English idioms you will encounter at work in 2022. An English podcast lesson which only focuses on the most common idioms you, your boss or work colleagues will use at work. No long lists to remember, just the best idioms. Great for English language learners. Which ones do you use?

Testing your English listening skills? Test your knowledge of everyday business expressions and idioms with this podcast. Whether you’re new to the job market, a recent graduate or an expert with years of experience under your belt (spot the idiom) knowing how to use everyday English at work is crucial to success! I created this podcast lesson for practicality and entertainment. I believe there’s always time for a good listen and I wouldn’t have it any other way! So sit back and relax, put your headphones on and grab a coffee you’ve earned it.

Using English idioms and expressions properly in work-related situations is essential for English learners. It’s a key area of the English language which can improve your ability to communicate successfully with your colleagues, customers or business partners. Listening and speaking practice are vital for learning consolidation. I’ll help you with a lesson packed with useful examples of the more common idioms used at work so you can start using them straight away.

If you’re new to our way of learning to speak English fluently, check out our website which has lot’s of free English language learning resources, including transcripts for all of our podcast lessons, and a free English course which explains how to get the most out of our listen and learn podcasts. If you're a regular listener, then don’t forget to listen to this podcast several times. Space out the listening and focus on identifying vocabulary or phrases you don’t understand or find difficult to hear. Don’t move on until your comfortable understanding 80% or more of the content without having to use the transcript.

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Most Unusual Words:


Most common 3 word phrases:

A Heads Up5
A Stop Gap5
The Big Boss2
You Might Hear2
Is Going To2
Open Plan Offices2

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Transcript: TOP Everyday English IDIOMS You Will Hear At Work Explained

Lots of Adept English listeners are talking about how they’re using their English language skills in the work place, or to get a job. So how about we do some work on English expressions that are used in the office, at work? Then you can do the same. I’ve started to make a list of idioms and expressions that we particularly use at work - and there are lots of them!

We do use these expressions generally in life too, but there are certain ones which you’re much more likely to hear in work. I’m going to keep the list I made for future podcasts, but how about today we cover seven very common expressions that you might hear at work?

Hello, I’m Hilary, and you’re listening to Adept English. We will help you to speak English fluently. All you have to do is listen. So start listening now and find out how it works.

A ‘heads up’

OK, so the first one is ‘a heads up’. This is the kind of thing that your boss may say to your team at work. ‘Hey, I need to give a you heads up on the new project’. So slightly confusing use of English perhaps because here ‘a heads up’ sounds like a plural, but we’re using it as a singular noun, with the word ‘up’ on the end. Let me paint a picture in your head to explain.

If you imagine one of those open plan offices, no walls, where lots of people are sitting working at desks. And the boss, or even better the ‘big boss’ comes into the office and says to everyone ‘Hey, listen up, I’ve got some news for everyone’. Then probably, every single head in the big open plan offices is going to look up. Everyone’s attention is going to be caught by the ‘big boss’ - and they’re going to look up. So the expression ‘a heads up’ is just this - it’s an important update or an essential piece of information which is being given to a group of people.

If you ‘give someone the heads up’ - it often means you’re warning them of something, or you’re giving them new information, which they really need to know. That’s ‘a heads up’.

A ‘stop gap’

Another one - ‘It’s a stop gap’. So you might hear ‘This is only a stop gap measure’ - so that’s STOP GAP. And you can say something is simply ‘a stop gap’, without the word ‘measure’. In this context, ‘a measure’ just means ‘an action’.

So vocabulary - ‘a gap’, GAP means a hole, a space in between other things. And if you use the word ‘gap’ the meaning, the sense is that perhaps ‘something should be there’ in the hole, in the gap. It’s a hole or a space that we don’t really want - something is missing.

We might talk about ‘a gap in the market’ meaning there’s a product or a service which there’s a need for, but which no one currently addresses or supplies. So ‘a stop gap’ is something that fills a hole, meets a need, but the meaning also is that it’s a temporary measure. It’s not ‘a permanent solution’ - ‘a stop gap’ is a quick fix, a substitute for a longer term solution. That’s ‘a stop gap’.


A photograph of office workers working at a round table. This podcast is a great way to expand your English, improve your communication skills, and learn everyday business expressions and idioms.

©️ Adept English 2022

A ‘no-brainer’

Next one - what about a ‘no-brainer’? So an example of this would be ‘That makes it a no-brainer. We just have to do it’. Notice that this one is usually spelt with a hyphen between the two words. I don’t really like this expression - I think there was a time when it was over used. Everything was ‘a no brainer’. And as you know - I’m really interested in the brain and I don’t think much really happens for any of us, without a brain! But anyway ‘no brainer’ is a noun - it was originally slang, like most of these expressions, but it’s now accepted as part of English. And a ‘no brainer’ means ‘a decision or a choice, which is so obvious, which is so clearly ‘the right answer’, that you don’t actually need your brain to arrive at it!’

So you might hear something like ‘Southampton University offered me a place, with a sponsorship - so it’s a no brainer. That’s where I’m going!’ A ‘sponsorship’ means your uni fees are paid by the way. So that would be ‘a no-brainer’.

A reminder of Course One, Activate Your Listening

Just pausing a moment to remind you that if you’d like to practise understanding English conversation - this may be in preparation for a job interview - or it may just be so that you can make conversation with people in English. Either way our ‘Course One, Activate Your Listening’ will help you.

Boost Your Learning With Adept English

This course gives you broad, general vocabulary, beyond the Most Common 500 Words course - and it gives you practice at understanding English conversation between two people. Activate Your Listening is available to buy on our website at

A ‘stumbling block’

What about this one - ‘a stumbling block’. Your colleague at work might say ‘Oh, I can see that this is going to be a real stumbling block’. So, vocabulary? Well, there is a verb in English ‘to stumble’, STUMBLE and it means to ‘miss your step’, to miss your footing, to walk unsteadily, nearly fall, or ‘to trip’.

You know when you’re walking along and you catch your foot - and ‘Uhh!’, you nearly fall over? Well, that’s ‘to stumble’. And a ‘stumbling block’? In this context ‘a block’, BLOCK is something which stops you, prevents you from doing something. It’s a block or a blockage. So when we talk about ‘a stumbling block’, we mean an obstacle, something which ‘gets in the way of progress’.

So for example, if you move to Spain, not speaking Spanish might be a bit of ‘a stumbling block’. Or if a big hole appears in your front garden, when you’re trying to sell your house, that might be ‘a stumbling block’ for buyers. So it’s an obstacle, which isn’t impossible, but is going to take some effort to fix.

A ‘foregone conclusion’

Another expression - ‘a foregone conclusion’. As in ‘I think it’s a foregone conclusion - we’re going to lose some of our customers over this’. Sometimes in English we use words, which only really appear in certain expressions. And here, ‘foregone’, FOREGONE is one of those.

I can’t really think of another context in which you’d hear this word ‘foregone’.So though the expression ‘foregone conclusion’ is very current, ‘foregone’ is a word that you won’t hear very often, except in the phrase ‘foregone conclusion’, but it just means ‘past’, ‘gone before’. And the word ‘conclusion’? If you ‘conclude something’, you arrive an ending, a viewpoint, a decision. So ‘a foregone conclusion’ means an ending, a viewpoint, a decision - that was already set.

You might say ‘Uh, that job interview I had? Well, it was a foregone conclusion - they’d already decided to give the job to an internal candidate’. Or ‘It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Manchester United would beat Newport County’. So here we’re talking football and talking about a big world famous team, Man United and a little tiny, much less successful team, Newport County. Strange things do happen in football, but you could say that the result of such a match, such a football match would be ‘a foregone conclusion’.


A ‘ballpark figure’

Next one? What about ‘a ballpark figure’. You might hear your boss again ‘Please can you give me a ballpark figure?’ Or ‘We need a ballpark figure for what this is going to cost’. So a ‘ballpark figure’ means an estimate, ‘a rough idea’.

If someone is talking about ‘a ballpark figure’, they’re not asking for accuracy, it’s more ‘Just give me an idea how much it’s going to cost’ or ‘Just give me an idea how long it going to take’. This expression definitely originates in the US, though we do use it all the time in UK English. The ‘ballpark’ is where you would play baseball, and there are associated phrases - we might talk about ‘Are we in the right ballpark there?’ or ‘Are we in the same ballpark even?’ when we’re talking about the cost of something or the terms of an agreement.

Download The Podcast Audio & Transcript

So ‘being in the same ballpark’, or ‘being in the right ballpark’ has come to mean that ‘we’re not far off agreeing’. ‘We’re not yet in agreement, but we’re reasonably close’. So examples might be ‘We need a ballpark figure for what this new IT hardware is going to cost’. Or ‘Give me a ballpark figure on how many extra staff we’ll need to recruit’. So ‘Give me an estimate’ in other words.

A ‘golden opportunity’

And the last one for today - ‘a golden opportunity’. So the context might be ‘This is a golden opportunity for our team to demonstrate their expertise’. And you perhaps know the word ‘opportunity’, OPPORTUNITY. If you don’t, it’s a good one to learn in a work context.

The word ‘opportunity’ means ‘a chance for progress or advancement, a chance to get on’ - so it may be an opportunity for a person to progress their career, or it may be an opportunity for a business to progress towards its goals. And if someone says that it’s a ‘golden opportunity’ - then it’s even better.

When we use the word ‘golden’, from the colour ‘gold’ in English, GOLD or GOLDEN, it usually means ‘ideal’. So ‘a golden opportunity’ is better than an ‘ordinary opportunity. It’s an ‘ideal chance’ or a ‘perfect opportunity’. And there’s often a time element implied here - a ‘golden opportunity’ needs you to act now.

A recap with a speech from ‘The Big Boss’!

OK, that’s seven then. Let’s just do a recap here - of all seven expressions. Let me give you a ‘boss-like speech’! This is something that your boss might say:-

‘Hey listen, everyone. I want to give you a heads up. We currently have some stop gap measures in place to address the problems we had last year, but when we put our request for additional funding to the board, they said it was a no-brainer! A foregone conclusion even. So from now on, there will be no further stumbling blocks in our way - our project will be fully funded. So in the next few days, I’ll need some of you to work on a ballpark figure for the next phase of the project’ and then it will be approved. This is a golden opportunity for everyone here.’

What a rousing speech that was! So there you are - seven very useful business idioms, all in one podcast, with a recap from the big boss at the end! What more could you want?! Don’t forget to listen to this podcast a number of times, until you’re happy with the meaning and you understand all of the words.


Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.

Thank you so much for listening. Please help me tell others about this podcast by reviewing or rating it. And, please share it on social media. You can find more listening lessons and a free English course at



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