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5 Idioms You Can Use at Work (with practice activities)

Idioms are frequently used in the workplace. Whether you're discussing your job, your co-workers, or your boss, idiomatic language is unavoidable. Read on to learn five high-frequency idioms that you can use at work. Repeat the highlighted text to practice each idiom, and don't forget to test your comprehension at the bottom of the page.

a piece of cake.

very easy and/or simple; not difficult, complicated, or complex

(variation: “Piece of cake,” used as a standalone response)

That test was a piece of cake.”

“How did your presentation go?” “It was a piece of cake.”

"Hey, could you help me with this?" "Sure. Piece of cake."

common sentence: “It was a piece of cake.”

get one’s hands dirty.

to do a (usually hard, manual, or undesirable) job

“He’s a lazy boss. He never wants to get his hands dirty.

“They did a poor job, so now I have to get my hands dirty and do it properly.”

“If you want to work in construction, you have to be ready to get your hands dirty.”

common sentence: “Looks like I have to get my hands dirty.”

cut corners.

to do something in a quick, cheap, and/or easy way; to do something in an incomplete and/or sloppy way instead of doing it properly

You can’t cut corners when you’re building a house.”

“The boss wants to talk to you. She says you’ve been cutting corners in your work.”

“Do it properly, or don't do it at all. I don’t want to see you cutting corners.

common sentence: “Don’t cut corners.” (Do it properly!)

breathe down someone’s neck.

to constantly check on how someone is doing their job, and pressuring them to finish it; to follow someone closely

“Finish the project by Friday if you don’t want the boss breathing down your neck.”

Todd’s been breathing down my neck all week. It’s been really stressful.”

“If you want it done faster, stop breathing down my neck.

common sentence: “I’ve got (person’s name) breathing down my neck."

call it a day.

to end a period of activity; to stop what someone is doing; to stop working because it’s the end of the day, everyone is tired, etc.

“Hey, boss. Can we call it a day? We haven’t had any customers for an hour.”

I’m gonna call it a day. I have no energy left.”

Let’s call it a day, everyone! Go home to your families, and see you tomorrow!”

common sentence: “Let’s call it a day.” (Let’s stop working or doing what we’re doing)

For more real language you can use, check out 200 Practical English Idioms.

This book only includes high-frequency idioms like the ones in this article. For more details, just click on the book above.

I wish you success in your studies!

Let's Practice!

Complete the idiom with the correct word.

1. "My boss is breathing __________ my neck."

2. "Derek's a great employee. He never __________ corners."

3. "Could you help me with this presentation? It'll be a piece of __________."

4. "He doesn't like getting his hands __________."

5. "I'm exhausted. Let's call it a __________."

Conversation questions

Have you ever had a boss who was always breathing down your neck?

Which of your daily work tasks is a piece of a cake? (use a noun or gerund to start)

Do you like getting your hands dirty at work?

What are the potential consequences of cutting corners at work?

What time do you usually call it a day at your job?

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1 Comment

Roberto Tonello
Roberto Tonello
Jun 21, 2021

Interesting, accurate and useful as usual. Bravo!

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