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Business English: Sporting idioms in business

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Business English

  'Approaching the finish line.'

It's a sporting summer with the Beijing Olympics underway. In Business English we use a number of idioms (natural English expressions) which are connected to sport.

Here are a few of the most common. Which sports do you think they are connected to?

  • On the ball - To know what's happening. To be aware.
  • Stay ahead of the game – To be leaders in the field/business environment.
  • Plain sailing – An easy or simple situation.
  • Approaching the finishing line – Nearing the end.
  • A two horse race – A close contest between two groups or companies.
  • On the ropes- In a very bad situation/ Close to defeat.
  • Score an own goal – To make a mistake which has the opposite effect from what was hoped.
  • A level playing field – A situation which is the same for everyone.
  • In a league of their own – Much better than the rest.
  • Hit it out of the park – To have great success.
  • Drop the ball – make a mistake/to disappoint everyone.

Now choose the idiom which best completes each sentence:

  • The government have ___ by introducing new laws, making it fairer for all businesses.




  • No problem. With all your experience, you will find this project to be ___.




  • No one makes better cars than Ferrari. I think they are ___.




  • Great presentation, Mike. You really ___.




  • We are ___ as the project must be finished by next week.




  • Sam ___ when he lost the report.




  • The company is having a terrible year. They are not bankrupt, but they’re definitely ___.




  • The bank ___ by introducing unpopular charges. They lost a lot of customers.




  • Sony ___ by always thinking of new exciting products.




  • It is a ___ between Microsoft and Mac in the computer world.




  • That new guy seems ___, he learns fast.