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
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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?
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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