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Oct 09 2016

Private English Lessons in Houston – Business Idioms and Expressions for Financial Issues


Hi Students,

Here are some examples of idioms and expressions that you will sometimes hear when people are talking about financial issues.

  1. Ballpark figure – a guess about how much something will cost that could be more or less, but will be close.

Examples:  Anadarko Petroleum Company is asking its financial department for a ballpark figure of what it would cost to build a new refinery in Algeria.

A Ballpark Figure

A Ballpark Figure

  1. Crunch the numbers – to perform financial calculations

Example:  Devon Energy is planning to invest in new equipment for off-shore drilling.  The Vice-President has asked the Financial Department to crunch the numbers so that they can include the equipment in their 2017 budget.





  1. In the red – when expenses are higher than company revenues

Example:  For the past six months, our expenses have been higher than our income and now the company is in the red.


  1. In the black – when revenues are higher than expenses


Example:  Our first quarter sales were great!  We will be in the black for all of 2016.

In the Black

In the Black


  1. Break-even – when revenue equals expenses; a company doesn’t lose money and doesn’t make money.


Example:   When Ben and Jerry first began their ice cream company, they broke even for the first two years.


  1. A Pretty penny – a high price

Example:  The new warehouse purchased last year close to the ship channel cost the Hess Corporation a pretty penny.

Nickel and dime

Nickel and dime

  1. Nickel and dime someone – making a company pay for small expenses


Example:  I don’t think we should sign the contract to do business with our client.  They are nickel and diming us over every small detail.  We won’t make any money from this deal.


  1. Break one’s budget – to cost more than one can afford to pay

Example:  The cost of investing in Peru at this time will break our budget.  We will have to wait until 2018.


  1. To get more bang for the buck – more return on one’s money, more value for an investment

Example:  If we use the vendor from Norway, we will get more bang for our buck.

  1. Back -of-the-envelope calculations – approximate calculations done quickly
    Back of the envelope calculations

    Back of the envelope calculations

Example:  Based on back-of-the-envelope calculations, Royal Dutch Shell should be able to build four new off-shore drilling rigs in 2018.


Students, practice using these idioms and expressions so that you will become more fluent in American English.  Good luck!


If you’re interested in online or in-person classes, give us a call at Worldwide English (713) 953-6511 or visit us online at http://www.englishlessons-houston.com.    We are based in Houston, Texas teaching English worldwide.

Business English Lessons

Copyright©2012 by The Worldwide English Company.  All rights reserved.

Jan 04 2014

English Lessons Houston – Phrasal Verbs 1 “Up”



English Lessons Houston – Phrasal Verbs 1

Welcome to the world of English phrasal Verbs!  There are lots of them.  In these English lessons, we are going to be looking at the most common ones.  When you become accustomed to using English phrasal verbs, they will be easy for you.  So, let’s get started!photo for up blog 2

An English Phrasal Verb is made up of a verb and a particle.


Inseparable phrasal verbs – the verb and the particle must stay together.

Examples of inseparable phrasal verbs:

  • Break down – stop working properly

My car is making a noise.  I think it’s going to break down soon.

  • Get together – meet

Let’s get together at Starbucks this afternoon at 2:00 p.m.

  • Run out of – not have enough

Can you lend me $25.00?  I have run out of money!

  • Look after – take care of

I need to look after my mother.  She is not feeling well.

Separable phrasal verbs – the verb and the particle can stay together or be separated.

Examples of separable phrasal verbs:

  • Call someone back – to return a phone call

I need to call Robert back.  He is waiting for my call.

  • Do something over – to do something again

I’ve made many mistakes on this essay.  I will have to do it over.

  • Fill something out – complete a form with information

phrasal verbs 1There are several pages for my visa application.  I need to fill them out.

  • Figure something out – to think about something until you understand it

Mathematics is difficult.  It takes me a long time to figure it out.


Let’s look at phrasal verbs using the word “up”.photo for up blog 3


  • Call someone up – to call someone on the phone

Tonight I’m going to call my father up and speak to him.

  • Back up – to go in reverse (backwards)

To drive away, I need to first back my car up

  • Catch up – to finish the work you have or to move faster to come up to someone or something.

I have so much work to do.  I’m not sure if I can catch up

My boyfriend is walking too fast.  It’s hard for me to catch up to him.

  • Wrap up – to finish

I am about to wrap my project up

  • Run up – to go high

My credit card balance is very high!  Last month I really ran it up!

  • Turn up – to appear

I wonder when my girlfriend will turn up.  She’s been gone all day!

  • Hurry up – to go faster

Hurry up!  The movie is about to start!

  • Look up – to find something

If you don’t know the meaning of these words, look them up in the dictionary.

  • Bring up – to talk about

When I was talking to my boss this morning, he brought up the fact that I have been late two times this week!

  • Take up – to spend time

I have more than 50 e-mails.  They are taking up too much of my time.

  • Grow up – children getting older

My sister is already 15.  She is growing up fast!

  • Keep up – to continue

I’m tired of running, but I want to run for 30 minutes so I am going to keep it up.


There are more English phrasal verbs using the word “up”.  Some of them are inseparable and some are separable.  A phrasal verb is conjugated just like a regular verb. 

Do you have any other questions about tipping in the USA?  Just send me an e-mail at julie@englishlessons-houston.com   If you are in Houston and need English lessons, give us a call or e-mail.  (713) 993-6511

Sep 08 2012

Communicating in Business for ESL Students

Communicating in Business is one of my favorite texts for learning to communicate effectively in the American business culture.  You can find and order this book on Amazon.com or if you are an ESL/EFL teacher, go to Cambridge.org.

Communicating in Business: A Short Course for Business English Students, 2nd Edition (Cambridge Professional English)

Aug 26 2012

An ESL Textbook for English Tourism

If you are learning English and would like to go into the “Tourism” profession, this might be a very good book for you to have!  It Is also available online to download in PDF form, so you do not have to order it.  The title is Oxford English for Careers Tourism 1.  There are two levels to this text.


English Lessons Houston