business english phrases

30 Must-know English Phrases to Communicate Effectively in Business Projects

Twitter. Paypal. Groupon.

Do you know these companies?

Each of those sites began as ideas that turned into business projects.

Projects are used when a group of people need to organize a piece of work for a certain purpose. If you work in construction, for example, you might work on a project to build a library. (A library with lots of helpful business books inside, we hope!)

Projects may also involve solving a problem, negotiating or giving a presentation. You could be placed on a project to buy a new computer system, or to launch (introduce) a new product.

But whether it’s a big business project or a small one, clear communication is important to be successful. Twitter would not exist today if people working on that project couldn’t understand phrases like “pitch in” and “meet the deadline.”

Luckily, there are many common business phrases used when talking about projects. Here are 30 words and phrases that will help you communicate effectively when working on business projects.

30 Incredibly Useful English Phrases for Business Projects

If these are not enough for you, you can find more business English phrases on FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like business dialogues, inspiring speeches, news and more—and turns them into personalized English lessons.

FluentU has a huge collection of English videos that people in the English-speaking world actually watch.

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More to the point, FluentU has an entire business category filled with authentic business-related videos covering six language levels.

To show the variety of videos even inside this single category, real-world business videos on FluentU include “Introducing Business Colleagues,” “Business Buzzwords,” “Control Your Inbox!” and “What Warren Buffet Thinks About Cash.”

An added bonus is that if you want to work on other topics later, simply use the same, familiar FluentU platform to learn with videos from other categories, such as “Science and Tech,” “Politics and Society” or mix it up with “Arts and Entertainment” or “Health and Lifestyle.”

Every spoken word is subtitled, complete with an in-context definition, image and multiple example sentences.

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All you have to do is tap or click on one of the words in those subtitles to get more information. For example, if you tap on the word “brought,” you will see this:

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Plus, these great videos are all accompanied by interactive features and active learning tools, like multimedia flashcards and fun games like “fill in the blank.”

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If you are interested in watching fun, relevant videos and practicing language actively in the process, be sure to create a FluentU account and try it out on your computer, iOS or Android device!

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Project Team

A team is a group of people who work together, sometimes on a project. For a successful project, you must work as a team and be able to communicate well. The following phrases will help you do that.

1. Form a team

Meaning: To gather a group of people to work on the project

Sample sentence: The first thing a project manager does is form a team of staff who are best for the project.

2. Team up with

Meaning: To join together to work as a team

Sample sentence: Sometimes on a big project, you may need to team up with other companies.

3. Pitch in

Meaning: To join in to help with a job or project

Sample sentence: You need a strong team for the project to succeed. Everyone will have to pitch in their ideas. We need each team member to share five ideas at the meeting on Monday.

4. Start from scratch

Meaning: To start new from nothing

Sample sentence: Since we will be starting from scratch on this project, we will make the plan as we go along.

5. Define the phases

Meaning: To break down the project into smaller parts, or phases.

A phase is one part in a series of actions or events. For example, in a library project, the design phase comes before the building phase.

Sample sentence: We must wait for the project team to define the phases before we can start work.

6. Set deadlines

Meaning: To set the dates when a job must be finished

A deadline is a date or time when a completed job is due, and set means “to make” in this phrase.

Sample sentence: We have set deadlines for each phase except the design phase. Does anyone know how long the design will take?

 

Start of the Project

You may hear the following phrases at the start of your business project.

7. Give the green light

Meaning: To give the signal to begin

Think of this as a traffic light turning green when you’re driving. What do you do when the light is green? That’s right, green means go. This expression means you can go ahead and now begin the project.

Sample sentence: We can’t start the project until management gives the green light.

8. Kick off

Meaning: To officially start the project

This phrase is also used in sports. In football and soccer, the game will kick off (begin) when a player kicks the ball to start play.

Sample sentence: As soon as we kick off the project, we will be very busy.

 

Meetings

Project teams have to meet often, sometimes every day. The following phrases will help you talk about meetings.

9. Meet up

Meaning: To come together to talk

Meet up is usually used for short, informal meetings with a small group of people. It is often used with prepositions such as “in,” “at” and “with” to tell where, at what time or with whom you will meet up.

Sample sentences:

Since we have a few problems to discuss, let’s meet up in my office.
(meet up in + [where] = tells location)

Please tell everyone to meet up at 3:00 p.m. today.
(meet up at + [when] = tells what time)

The project manager would like to meet up with the finance team.
(meet up with + [whom] = tells which people)

10. Meet the deadline

Meaning: To complete the job by the agreed time

While you can meet new people, we also use the verb “to meet” with deadlines. To meet a deadline means that you finish the task by the deadline. For example, say you need to send in your job application by Friday at 3:00. To meet the deadline, you send in your job application on Friday at noon. If you send in your job application on Friday at 4:00, you did not meet the deadline (because you were too late).

Sample sentence: We may have to work longer hours to meet the deadline.

Schedule

A schedule is a plan of times and events, but it can also be used as a verb. The verb to schedule means to plan a date and time for a certain event. For example, you might need to call your doctor’s office to schedule a doctor’s appointment every year.

11. Schedule a meeting

Meaning: To choose a date, time and place to meet with another person or a group of people.

Sample sentence: Let’s schedule a meeting for this Tuesday to discuss any problems.

12. Behind schedule

Meaning: Overdue, later than planned

If your project was due on Monday, but it is now Thursday, you are behind schedule. The project was supposed to be finished by now, but you’re still working on it.

Sample sentence: When the project manager hears that the project is behind schedule, she will want to know the reason why.

13. Ahead of schedule

Meaning: To be completed earlier than planned

Imagine that today is Monday and your project is due on Friday. If you finish it tomorrow, on Tuesday, then you’ve finished it early and are ahead of schedule. Good job!

Sample sentence: The project manager is happy that the project is ahead of schedule and thanked the team for their hard work.

14. According to schedule

Meaning: To go as planned

This means that you are doing a good job, there are no delays and everything is going as planned.

Sample sentence: If the project goes according to schedule, you can expect a nice bonus this year.

15. On schedule

Meaning: On time, as planned

This phrase means that you are finishing each task on time and not expecting any delays.

Sample sentence: If we can solve all these problems quickly, we will still be on schedule to finish the project by the end of this month.

You’ll notice #14 and #15 are very similar. In fact, in many situations you can use either phrase and the meaning is the same. But you might hear “according to schedule” more often when talking about a list of times—such as a bus schedule, train schedule or a class timetable.

Note: In phrases #12-15 above, the word schedule can’t be used in its plural form, because it is part of a set phrase.

 

Planning

As a noun, a plan means an organized set of actions that you want to do to achieve something. The verb to plan means to take an idea, think about it carefully and organize what you want to do before taking action.

16. Put a plan into action

Meaning: To start using a plan or idea

Sample sentence: If we put this plan into action, we may need more time and more people.

17. Plan ahead

Meaning: To think carefully before taking action

Sample sentence: The project manager’s advice is to plan ahead so that the project will go smoothly.

18. Make a plan

Meaning: To create a way to do something

Sample sentence: How should we advertise this new product? Let’s make a plan now.

19. Stick to the plan

Meaning: To refuse to change from what you have decided, no matter what happens

For example, you and your friend have decided to go to a movie Friday night. On Friday afternoon, your friend calls to say there is a sale at your favorite store. She asks if you want to go shopping instead. You decide to stick to the plan, meaning that you will still go watch the movie.

This is another phrase were the noun, plan, can’t be used in its plural form. Even if you have many plans, you should still say “stick to the plan,” not “stick to the plans.”

Sample sentence: Changing the design now will take too much time. Let’s just stick to the plan.

20. Review the plan

Meaning: To inspect or look carefully again at the plan

Sample sentence: If we want to include all these new ideas, we will need to review the plan.

 

Tasks

A task is a piece of work that has been given to someone.

21. Tasked with

Meaning: To be given a task

The verb to task means to give a task (small job) to someone. However, this verb is almost always used in the passive form with the preposition “with,” which looks like this: have/has been tasked with.

In that form, the whole phase means to be given a task. For example, if I have been tasked with calling 20 clients today, that means someone else gave me the job of calling 20 clients.

Sample sentence: Your team has been tasked with finding out why there are so many customer complaints.

22. Outsource a task

Meaning: To pay another company to do the task

The verb to outsource means to send out the company’s work to someone outside the company. For example, if you own a small restaurant, you may cook the food yourself but outsource the desserts to be made by a local baker.

Sample sentence: Since the project team is busy, it might be a good idea to outsource some tasks to another company.

 

Target

A target is something you are trying to achieve, like a goal. The verb to target means to aim or plan to achieve.

23. Target date

Meaning: The date to complete something by

Sample sentence: If we keep missing the target dates, this project will not be completed on time.

24. Target to complete

Meaning: Plan to finish

Sample sentence: We must target to complete phase 1 before the year-end holidays when most people will be on vacation.

25. Achieve the target

Meaning: To succeed in reaching a goal

Sample sentence: The project team can expect a free lunch if they achieve the target this month.

 

Budget

A budget is an amount of money that you have available to spend, and that you will decide how to spend. The verb to budget means to plan to spend that amount of money for a certain purpose.

26. Create a budget

Meaning: To make a plan on the amount of money to spend and how to spend it

Sample sentence: We need to create a budget that includes the travel expenses of the project team.

27. Stay on budget

Meaning: To keep within the amount of money you plan to use, and refuse to spend more

Here is yet another phrase where the noun, budget, can’t be used in its plural form (budgets).

Sample sentence: The project manager has reminded us that to stay on budget, we must remember to keep the costs as low as possible.

28. Increase the budget

Meaning: Add more money to the amount you planned to spend

The opposite of this phrase is decrease the budget, which means to take away from the amount of money that you planned to spend.

Sample sentence: Management has agreed to increase the budget to cover the cost of testing the new car.

 

End of Project

After all your hard work, the project is almost over. Good job! Now here are the last two phrases on our list.

29. Wrap up the project

Meaning: To finish the project

Sample sentence: Okay, everyone, let’s check all the paperwork and clean up the project room, then we’ll be ready to wrap up the project.

30. Sign off the project

Meaning: To formally approve and accept the project as finished

Sample sentence: All that remains now is to sign off the project and take the whole project team out to celebrate.

 

Now that you’ve learned these 30 words and phrases, you’re all ready to start working on your next business project. With such clear communication, you could even work on a project as big as Twitter!


Kit Lum is a freelance writer who holds a Cambridge CELTA Certificate and a Business degree. She also teaches English as a Second Language on demand. She speaks 4.5 languages and is currently learning her fifth.

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