Work Language – Idioms and Sayings

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It is very common for people to use different words and sayings around friends and family to when they are a work or School. This is something that is very natural when speaking your native language but it can be very hard if you are learning English at any level.

Bad Taste

Using the wrong word or phrase at work can be very bad. It can be rude if the terms is simply something you would only use with close friends or for humour. But if the timing is wrong it can also be in what is called “bad taste”. This describes something that is not rude but is also not very nice. It is not the same as simply insulting someone, it is more subtle. Think of a food that doesn’t taste very good and then image a phrase or word being just like that.


It is certainly common in English to swear among friends, or in anger. A lot of British humour uses rude words and many jobs will be filled with people who use swear words. It is VERY important to understand when swearing is OK and when it can be so rude it could mean losing your job. The best thing to do is simply not to use swear words. This is the only way to be sure you will not offend someone. But, in some cases swearing a small amount can help with working relationships. Until you are very confident at speaking English, avoid swearing. If you need help, ask a friend. If you have heard a word you should test it out with someone who knows the language and ask when it is OK to use. Using the wrong word with the boss could be a very big problem.

Idioms and Sayings

Idioms are a big part of the English language, but they must be used properly. Using them at the wrong time can simply be funny, and if other people know you are learning English they will not be offended. But in some cases, they can cause problems.

Below are some examples of idioms that are fine to use at work

  • Bark up the wrong tree
  • The straw the broke the camel’s back
  • Sitting on the fence
  • A night owl
  • An early bird

These all describe things that are not offensive and could easily fit into a work conversation.

Below are some idioms that may not work so well at work

  • To cost a bomb
  • Up the creek without a paddle
  • Has the cat got your tongue?
  • Too big for your boots

These idioms are all potentially a little rude or are related to rude words. To cost a bomb is very casual and not appropriate for work. The last two are normally used when telling someone they have done something wrong and also not very common at work and certainly not good to use when speaking to the boss.