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Speak Business English Like an American Lesson 11 Idioms and Expressions Test

Speak Business English Like an American Lesson 11 Idioms and Expressions Test

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LESSON 11 – Motivating Co-workers


Greg, Stan, and Donna work for Pack-It, a maker of trash bags and other consumer goods. After disappointing sales results, they discuss exiting the trash bag business. But a fresh new idea gives them hope for the future.

Greg: Our sales were down again last quarter.

Donna: We’ve been working our tails off and our results are still lousy!

Greg: Maybe we should exit the trash bag business —just call it quits!

Stan: C’mon.* Let’s not throw in the towel yet. We’ve been down before, but we always come back fighting.

Donna: But this time private-label products are driving us out of business!

Stan: We’ve got a successful track record. Everybody knows that we offer quality trash bags.

Donna: That’s true, but we can’t just rest on our laurels forever.

Stan: Well, I have a new idea that’s going to turn around our business. It’s a new line of trash bags that smell like fresh fruits, such as apples and peaches.

Greg: That sounds like a great idea. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get down to business!

Stan: I appreciate your team spirit! Donna, are you on board too?

Donna: Sure. Count me in.

Stan: Great. Let’s get everybody else in the company excited about this plan too. I’ll count on you two to rally the troops.

* c’mon – This casual expression is short for “come on” and here means “listen to me.”


  • (to) work one’s tail off

 to work very hard

EXAMPLE: The software developers worked their tails off to get the new software package released before Christmas.

  • (to) call it quits

 to give up; to quit; to stop; to admit defeat

EXAMPLE: When Borders announced they were building a new bookstore in town, the small book shop decided to call it quits.

  • (to) throw in the towel

 to give up; to surrender; to admit defeat

EXAMPLE: After several years of trying to run a small business from his home, Patrick finally decided to throw in the towel.

ORIGIN: This idiom comes from boxing. When a fighter was losing a match, his assistant would toss a towel into the ring to signal defeat and end the game. That towel was the same one used to wipe the sweat and blood off the boxer’s face.

  • We’ve been down before, but we always come back fighting.

 everything is going to be okay; we’ve had trouble in the past too, and we managed to get over that

EXAMPLE: We need to be optimistic about our future. We’ve been down before, but we always come back fighting.

  • track record

 a record of achievement or performances

EXAMPLE: General Electric has a proven track record of making successful acquisitions.

  • (to) rest on one’s laurels

 to believe that past success is enough to guarantee that the future will also be successful; to rely too much on reputation

EXAMPLE: The CEO made several positive changes during his first two years with the company, but now people say he’s just resting on his laurels.

ORIGIN: In Ancient Roman times, a crown made of laurels (from the laurel tree) was a symbol of victory.

  • (to) turn around one’s business

 to make a business profitable again; to go from not making profits to being profitable again

EXAMPLE: The telecom company was able to turn around its business by developing a popular new line of services.

  • (to) roll up one’s sleeves

 to get ready to start something; to prepare to do something

EXAMPLE: We’ve got to pack up 500 crystal vases by tomorrow morning, so let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.

  • (to) get down to business

 to start work; to begin discussing the important issues

EXAMPLE: We could talk about last night’s baseball game for hours, but let’s get down to business and start the negotiation.

  • team spirit

 enthusiasm; enthusiasm about doing something for the group

EXAMPLE: Jill is always organizing company trips and lunches. She’s got a lot of team spirit.

  • on board

 ready to participate; in agreement

EXAMPLE: Before we agree to sign this contract with our new partner, we’d better make sure our president is on board.

  • count me in

 I will participate

EXAMPLE: You’re organizing a farewell party for Christine? Count me in.

NOTE: You may also hear the shorter variation of this expression: I’m in. Example: You’re organizing a farewell party for Christine? I’m in.

  • (to) rally the troops

 to motivate others; to get other people excited about doing something; to do something to improve the morale of the employees and get them energized about doing their work

EXAMPLE: After the lay-offs and salary cuts, the airline president organized a meeting to rally the troops and plan for the next year.

NOTE: The verb “to rally” has several definitions, but in this case means to “call together for a common goal or purpose.” Troops is an informal way of describing a group of employees. The term comes from the military — a troop is a military unit.

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