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Speak Business English Like an American Lesson 16 Idioms and Expressions Test

Speak Business English Like an American Lesson 16 Idioms and Expressions Test

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LESSON 16 – Politely Disagreeing with Someone


If Kroll Enterprises doesn’t take action soon, the company is going to be in financial trouble. Joel and Kathy have different opinions on how to cut costs at the company.

Kathy: We’re going to be in the red again this year.

Joel: I think we should cut back on employee health benefits. We could save a bundle.

Kathy: True, it might help the bottom line, but our employees would be really unhappy. I would only recommend it as a last resort.

Joel: Well, we need to do some belt-tightening. We can either have a salary freeze or we can cut back on the health benefits. I think I’ve chosen the lesser of two evils.

Kathy: Another salary freeze is out of the question. All our best employees will quit.

Joel: I’m caught between a rock and a hard place. I have to cut costs.

Kathy: Do you really? I don’t think cutting costs is the name of the game. I think the secret is figuring out how to increase our sales.

Joel: How do you suggest we pull that off?

Kathy: Let’s meet with the other vice presidents and bat around some ideas.

Joel: We can talk until we’re blue in the face. We need to take action now.

Kathy: It’s clear that you and I don’t see eye to eye. For now, let’s just agree to disagree.


  • in the red

 losing money; when expenses are greater than revenues

EXAMPLE: We need to do something to start making profits. If we’re in the red for one more quarter, we’re going to go out of business.

NOTE: This expression comes from the accounting practice of marking debits (subtractions to the account) in red and credits (additions to the account) in black. The opposite of “in the red” is “in the black,” meaning profitable.

  • (to) cut back on

 to reduce

EXAMPLE: We need to save money by cutting back on business travel. Please conduct most of your meetings by videoconference from now on.

  • (to) save a bundle

 to save a lot of money

EXAMPLE: By outsourcing their call center operations to India, the credit card company saved a bundle.

  • bottom line

 profits; financial results, the final result; the main point

EXAMPLE1: Falling prices for televisions and other electronic equipment have hurt Sony’s bottom line.

EXAMPLE2: The bottom line is that your company is not big enough to supply us with all of the packaging we need.

NOTE: In accounting, the bottom line (the last line) of the income statement shows net income (the profit after deducting all expenses). This is one of the most important numbers for a company.

  • last resort

 if there are no other alternatives left; the last solution for getting out of a difficulty

EXAMPLE: There must be some way to create more demand for our products. We should only lower our prices as a last resort.

  • belt-tightening

 reduction of expenses

EXAMPLE: When worldwide demand for software decreased, Microsoft had to do some belt-tightening.

  • the lesser of two evils

 when you have two unattractive options and you choose the one that is better; the better of two bad options

EXAMPLE: Both shuttle services offering rides to the airport are bad. You’ll just have to choose the lesser of two evils.

  • out of the question


EXAMPLE: We couldn’t possibly afford to open an office in Europe right now. It’s out of the question.

  • between a rock and a hard place

 in a very difficult position; facing two choices which are equally unacceptable or difficult

EXAMPLE: I wish I could offer you a better discount, but my boss would be angry. I’m caught between a rock and a hard place.

  • the name of the game

 the central issue; the most important thing; the main goal

EXAMPLE: If we’re going to operate more effectively, better communication is the name of the game.

  • (to) pull something off

 to accomplish a difficult task; to successfully do something difficult

EXAMPLE: We need to prepare and mail out 50,000 media kits by tomorrow. I don’t know how we’re going to pull it off!

SYNONYM: to carry something off

  • (to) bat around some ideas

 to discuss ideas; to discuss options

EXAMPLE: We need to come up with a creative marketing plan. Let’s meet on Monday morning to bat around some ideas.

  • until one is blue in the face

 for a very long time,-with no results

EXAMPLE: You can argue with the customer service people until you’re blue in the face, but they won’t give you your money back.

  • (to) see eye to eye

 to be in agreement; to have the same opinion

EXAMPLE: Our manufacturing and our marketing people fight with each other all the time. They don’t see eye to eye on anything.

  • let’s just agree to disagree

 we don’t agree, but let’s not argue further; let’s accept our differences of opinion and move on

EXAMPLE: I don’t want to get in a fight with you about this. Let’s just agree to disagree.

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