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10 Games and Sports Idioms You Can Use in Business

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10 Games and Sports Idioms You Can Use in Business

(Guest post by an English teacher and blogger: Shanthi Cumaraswamy Streat - Learn English with Shanthi on English with a Twist)

Business English is full of idioms that can often confuse non-native speakers of English. It’s therefore important to cover some of these idioms with clients.

As a Business English trainer I often have a session on idiomatic expressions with my clients so that they can feel more comfortable in their meeting and negotiations with native speakers.

Idioms are often classed under topics like animals, food, parts of the body, sports and so on.

In this blog post, I’d like to explore the strong relationship that exists between sports and business. If you look at the qualities that sports and business share, you’ll begin to see why Business English has so many sports and games idioms
Both Business and Sports:

  • require certain skills
  • are competitive
  • need self- confidence
  • take planning
  • use strategies and tactics
  • take concentration
  • teamwork may be important

Having established their similarities, let’s take a look at ten idioms we use, in what situations and what sport they relate to.

1. To keep your cards close to your chest – don’t reveal your plans
Ex: I kept my cards close to my chest during the negotiation. (Card games)

Games and Sports Idioms

2. Poker-faced – expressionless (comes from the game of poker where you must not let your face reveal whether you have a good or bad card)
Ex: The clients sat poker-faced all through my sales pitch. It was so unnerving. (Poker)

Games and Sports Idioms

3. Knocked me for six – surprised and upset me
Ex: Jenny has just announced that she’s leaving which has knocked me for six. I really enjoyed working with her. (Ball Games)

4. Play the trump card/ace – use the advantage especially when others do not know about it
Ex: The CEO played his trump card by promising a dividend payout at the shareholders’ meeting. (Card Game)

Games and Sports Idioms

5. A whole new ball game – a completely different situation
Ex: This is a whole new ball game if we’re talking about expanding the business. (Ball Games)

6. To play hard ball – to be so determined to get what you want that you will use unfair methods to get it.
Ex: The people here like to play hardball which can be very challenging. (Ball Games)

Games and Sports Idioms

7. Don’t pull any punches – speak in an honest and direct way without being tactful
Ex: The CEO didn’t pull any punches when he told the board that the company was in trouble. (Boxing)

Games and Sports Idioms

8. Below the belt – an unfair attack (in boxing that is not allowed)
Ex: There was no need to mention my personal problems to the press. That was below the belt. (Boxing)

Games and Sports Idioms

9. Throw in the towel – giving up and admitting defeat
Ex: I think we need to accept things as they are and throw in the towel before we lose any more money. (Boxing)

Games and Sports Idioms

10. Hold all the cards – to be in a strong position
Ex: Management found that the trade union held all the cards during the pay talks. (Card Games)

A good way to familiarize yourself with other sports idioms is to type in a sport in a search engine and look for examples of idioms linked to that sport and how they are used in business. Select the ones you like and are likely to use and try using them with native speakers. Look out for them in articles and advertisements  so that you see these idioms used in context.

Learn more idioms and other English tips on Shanthi’s Blog – English with a Twist 

Post Author:

Shanthi Streat

Shanthi Cumaraswamy Streat graduated in Politics and International Studies from the University of Southampton, UK in 1989. After 20 years in the world of Finance in such varied fields as life assurance, stockbroking, fund management, and wealth management, she decided to re-train as an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) Trainer. She studied for the CELTA at International House, London in 2009 and has since been a freelance English Language Trainer both offline and online.  She manages a blog: English with a Twist where she regularly blogs about the English Language and her experiences as an English Language Trainer. You can follow her on: Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google +