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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.

Jun 18 2014

Business English Lessons-Houston: Business E-mails

Hi Students!  In this lesson of American business English, we will be studying “explaining, inviting, recommending and responding.”  Remember it’s fine to use these examples in written or spoken English, for example if you are in a meeting.

Are there other phrases you can use?  Of course, but these are some of the most common ones.

Business English e-mails
When you want to explain plans and arrangements, you can write or say:
We are (I am) planning to……..
I am planning to send you the final itinerary this afternoon.

The idea is to……….

The idea is to have a meeting by phone and then set up a video conference.

We’re going (I’m going) to arrange…..

I’m going to arrange to have someone pick you up at the airport.

We’re going to arrange a meeting next month in Tokyo.

You’ll have the chance to…..

You’ll have the chance to review the documents and ask questions.

Our intention is to…..

Our intention is to review the contract this week and get back to you by Friday.

My intention is to finish the project and give it to you tomorrow.

When you want to invite someone, you can write or say:
We’d like to (I’d like to) invite you to……

I’d like to invite you to visit our factory so that I can give you a tour.

We’d like to invite you to lunch on Friday to further discuss our options.

You’re welcome to…..

You’re welcome to stop by our office and look at the plans for the new platform.

You’re welcome to ask any questions at the end of the presentation today.

We’d be delighted (I would be delighted) …….

I’d be delighted if you could join us this Thursday on our video seminar to look at the new offshore equipment we have developed.

We’d be delighted if you could come to Los Angeles for the oil and gas conference next month.

 When you want to make a recommendation, you can write or say:E-mails in English
We recommend that (I recommend that) you……

I recommend that you start negotiations immediately.

We recommend that the shipment be delayed a few days.

Note:  If you just say or write,

I recommend…….    (not using the word “that”)   You are going to follow with a verb ending in –ing.

I recommend leaving for London on Friday.

We recommend speaking to your colleagues about this situation.

It would be a good idea to……

It would be a good idea to inform your manager about the delay.

Or…..I believe it would be a good idea to contact the IT department about the software issues.

Verb with –ing ………is highly recommended

Contacting the home office in Madrid about this issue is highly recommended.

Reminding your co-worker that he needs to finish review the data is highly recommended.

 recommendation 2When you want to respond, you can write or say:
Thank you.  That sounds really interesting.

That would be great.

That makes sense.

Good idea!

I’d like to take you up on that.  (responding to an invitation)

That’s just what I’m looking for.  Thanks.

To say no to an invitation:

I’m sorry I can’t accept at this time.

I’d like to say yes, but that’s just not possible at this time.

That’s not really what I’m looking for.

Thanks, but I’m not interested right now.

I don’t believe I’ll take you up on that.


That’s our lesson on business e-mails and spoken business English!  If you come to Houston, Texas in the USA and you need private English lessons, contact Worldwide English at http://englishlessons-houston.com  or call 713-993-6511.  We also offer SKYPE lessons.

Business English Lessons

Jun 11 2014

Business English: Making Business Phone Calls


Business English Lessons 2– Speaking on the Phone in English

Making a Business Follow-up Call and Responding to a Follow-up Call in Business English

phone 2


Here in Houston, Texas in the USA, we offer private English lessons.

Ready to make a business phone call in English?  If you are thinking of using the phone, it’s best to be prepared!  Make notes that you can ready.


What do you say if you don’t understand the person you are talking to? Let’s start with a few basics.

“Excuse me, could you say that again more………loudly/slowly/clearly?”

When you think you know what the speaker is saying, check to make sure:

“Let me make sure I understand.  You said …………..  Is that correct?”

Making a follow-up call:

“Hello ……………..  This is …………….

I’m calling about ……………………….. (the email I sent you, the letter I mailed you, the meeting last week)

regarding………………………. (the purchase, the contract, your questions, your order, your inquiry).

I wanted to see if you…………….. (are still interested, have had the time to look over the order, have any further questions, can meet for lunch next week, have made a decision about…..)

Receiving a follow-up call: phone 3


Thank you for responding so quickly,

I appreciate your getting back to me.

Thank you for returning my call.

I wanted to speak to you about……… (the terms of our agreement/your order/the contract/the questions you had)

Arranging to meet:


I suggest that we meet in person to discuss this further.  Are you available this week/next week/tomorrow afternoon?

When would you like to meet?

I’m available to meet with you…..next Thursday/this afternoon at 4:00/ this Friday morning.

(Note:  In American English, this Friday morning means Friday of this week; next Friday morning means Friday of next week)

I’ll send you an e-mail to confirm ……our meeting/what we have agreed upon/the terms of your order.

phone 1Ending the call:


It was nice speaking to you.  I look forward to ……meeting you/doing business with you again/speaking to you in the future.

See you…….on Thursday/next month in Madrid/at the next meeting.

Please call me again if you need anything further.phone 6

That’s our lesson on making and receiving follow-up calls!  If you come to Houston, Texas in the USA and you need private English lessons, contact Worldwide English at http://englishlessons-houston.com  or call 713-993-6511.

Jun 08 2014

American Business English Lessons 1 – Introductions and Greetings


Business English Lessons 1– Introductions and Greetings in Business English  greetings and introductions 1


Here in Houston, Texas in the USA, we offer private English lessons.

Hi Students!  Here are some key expressions to use if you are meeting someone for the first time and you are speaking American English.

In this lesson, we’ll discuss meeting someone for the first time and also greeting your colleagues that you already know, that you see every day. 

 In general, American business people are more informal. 

If you are meeting someone for the first time who holds a position higher than yours, use a formal greeting. 

If you are meeting a colleague, someone who is a co-worker or in the same position as yours, it’s fine to use an informal greeting.

 If you have any questions about these expressions, you can send me an e-mail at Worldwide English at julie@english-lessonshouston.com 

Greetings and Introductions 1

What is the difference between Mr., Mrs., Ms. and Miss?

Mr. (Mister) – A married or single man

Mrs. (pronounced “misses”) – A married, divorced or widowed woman (widowed means that her husband died)

Miss -A young woman who has never been married.

Ms.  (pronounced “mizz”) – This is fine for all women over 20 when you don’t know if they are married or not.


  1. Americans greet each other with a handshake.  This is true for men greeting women, women greeting women, or women greeting men.  Sometimes, if we have a long conversation, we will shake hands again when we are saying goodbye. 
  2. Make sure that you use a firm handshake.  If your handshake is weak, American business people may feel that you are not a strong person. 
  3. When shaking hands, look the person in the eye.  If you look away when you are introducing yourself or shaking hands, American business people will feel that you are hiding something or that you are not friendly. 
  4. Smile, shake hands and introduce yourself!  shake hands 4


Introducing yourself:

  • Formal – Hello, my name is __________________.  It’s very nice to meet you.
  • Informal – Hi, my name’s __________________.  Nice to meet you.
  • I don’t think we’ve (we have) met.  I’m ______________________. 

Introducing other people:

  • Formal – Mr./Mrs./Ms._________________, may I introduce my __________, Mr./Mrs./Ms.____________.
  • Informal – This is……. (my friend _______, my colleague __________________, my wife _____________).
  • I’d like you to meet my (colleague, friend, co-worker) _________________________.

business-people-shaking-hands 2

Exchanging greetings:

  • Formal – I’m very pleased to meet you.
  • I’m delighted to meet you
  • I’m very happy to make your acquaintance.
  • Informal – Nice to meet you.  (Very nice to meet you.)
  • Good to meet you.
  • Someone you have spoken with or written to but never met – It’s great to finally meet you.

Saying something about your job in the company:

  • Formal – I’m in charge of ________________.
  • I’m responsible for ____________________.
  • My job involves _______________________.
  • Informal– I handle__________________.
  • I oversee _____________________.
  • I am a/an __________________ here at company name.

GREETINGS   shake hands 6

When American business people greet you and ask how you are, they really don’t want a long answer.  It’s just a way of saying hello and after that, they move on. 

Greeting your colleagues and bosses every day at work:

Formal – Good morning, afternoon Mr. /Mrs. /Ms. ______________. 

Formal answer:  I’m just fine, thank you, and you?  Or “Very well, thank you, and you?”

Informal – Hi __________________, how’s it going?  (This means, “How are you?”)

Answer:  “Great, thanks.  How about you?”

Also “How’s it hangin’?” (How are you?)

 Answer:  “Good, thanks.”

Hi _______________, what’s up?  (This means, “What are you doing?”)

Answer:  “Not much, what’s up with you?” is the most common answer, or “Just working on my project” or “Just going out for lunch” or say what it is that you are doing at that moment.  Use the –ing form of the verb. 

“What’s new?”

 Answer:  “Oh, nothing much, how about you?”

Hey, _________________.  (This means, “Hi ____________” and you can just answer, “Hi”.)

That’s our lesson on greetings and introductions!  If you come to Houston, Texas in the USA and you need private English lessons, contact Worldwide English at http://englishlessons-houston.com  or call 713-993-6511. 



Nov 05 2012

Teaching English to Foreigners in the Labor Workforce, Part 1

Do you have foreign workers in your warehouse or in the field that could benefit from knowing at least a little bit of English?  This is English that they need to better understand directions, instructions and the vocabulary of your specific industry.  Here in Houston, Texas there are many Hispanic workers that work in the oil and gas industry in the oil field and equipment divisions.  Most of these workers (hopefully all documented!) do a good job and work hard.  But they are limited because, out of a group, maybe one worker will know enough English to speak for the others.  This particular worker will have the greatest chance of advancement to supervisor just because of his knowledge of English.  And, the truth is, you really don’t know the intelligence capacity of the others because you cannot communicate with them!

This is not a convenient situation but it can be easily remedied with a few hours of English instruction by a qualified Business English teacher that is willing to come out and teach the workers before work, after work or during the lunch hour or, in some cases, deliver the lessons online. 


Why Invest the Time and Money in English lessons for Foreign Workers?

You may have had the experience of a rapid turnover of workers who have come up from Mexico, Central and South America.  One of the issues with these workers is, while their children are learning the language very quickly in American schools, they themselves are hard at work and don’t have the time to stop and take lessons.  In the types of jobs they do, they are usually too exhausted or too busy to spend time learning English in their time off. 

It’s a well-documented fact that workers who can communicate on the job feel more comfortable and will remain in that job longer if they experience the types of benefits that English lessons can offer to them.  While learning English about their specific work area, they will also learn English to better adjust to life in the USA. 



If a Hispanic laborer has a choice, do you think he will go to work for a company that offers weekly on-the-job English lessons, or one that does not?

We all know Hispanic workers who have been in the U.S. for more than ten years and can still speak only a few words.  And let’s admit it, in their country, some of them did not have the opportunity to learn to read and write.  They’ve been part of the work force since an early age.

Offering English classes to your workers shows them that you value what they do for your company and that you are willing to invest time and energy in seeing that they stay with the company. 

English classes are not a big investment in money and are just a small investment in time.  In the next post, we’ll look more closely at what a specialized English class can offer to your business.

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


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



Sep 29 2012

Free TOEFL Websites

Studying for the TOEFL  Part 1


Hello to everyone from Worldwide English in Houston, Texas, USA.  Did you know that there are some very good free TOEFL websites that you can go to get a lot of practice for the TOEFL test?

In this post, I will tell you about six good TOEFL websites that you can visit and learn from for free!

Test Magic is one of the most popular TOEFL websites.  One of the advantages of this website is that is allows practice for the TOEFL essay.  Not all websites offer this.  You can go to their Essay section and read hundreds of essays that were posted by students that received a score of 5.0, 5.5, or a perfect score of 6.0 

Unfortunately, they no longer offer free scoring of essays.  But if you are concerned about preparing for the TOEFL essay, this is the site for you!

Another free website is Learn4GoodThis is a good site for students from other countries.  There is information about the TOEFL in other languages besides English and there is a very good list of places to take the TOEFL test in locations around the world.  This site includes 11 short tests and some very good tips for writing the TOEFL essay.

Exam English is another free site for the TOEFL.  In my opinion, this site is not as good as the others, but you can register for the actual TOEFL test here and there are some very good tips and advice for taking the test.  There are several good practice tests that are created using the TOEFL test format.

TOEFL IBT Course has a lot of information and also offers translation to students in other languages.  On this site, there are a few practice tests and also TOEFL practice kits that they are selling for $5.00 each.  I have never looked at the kits so I am not sure if they are good or not, but $5 isn’t a lot of money, so you might want to try one.


ESL Lab has a section on TOEFL listening exercises that you might want to check out.   This is one of the most popular ESL websites – lots of great listening practice!  When you get to the website, go down to Listening Quizzes for Academic Purposes.

I wish you good luck when you take your TOEFL test.  Be sure to get lots of sleep the night before and have a good breakfast!

I’ll be back with other tips for the TOEFL in the next post!


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

Sep 15 2012

American TV Programs for ESL/EFL Students

Hello to everyone from Worldwide English in Houston, Texas, USA.  Tommy from Poland recently wrote me about the series on Listening Tips.  He asked if I had any more suggestions for movies and TV series for ESL/EFL students.  I thought about that and in this post, I will make some suggestions for several American TV series that might be good for ESL/EFL students.  These programs feature actors that speak more slowly and are easier to understand.

 One of my students said that he likes to watch Monk.  This series is about a detective that suffers from OCD – obsessive/compulsive disorder.  So at times, the show is quite funny.

  Some comedies that I would recommend would be Everybody Loves Raymond, Ugly Betty and The Simpsons.  I don’t recommend Friends because I feel that the English is hard to understand. 

   In another post, I recommended Desperate Housewives and I still think that this one is a good choice.  The content is not great but it’s easy to understand.  (No, American housewives are not like this at all!)

Generally, a medical show like House or ER will sometimes be easier to understand than a police/detective show like CSI.  They are also easier to understand than many comedy shows. 

Lastly, I like Good Luck Charlie on the Disney Channel.  It’s cute and easy to understand. 

Did you know that you can download TV scripts to read while you are watching some of these TV programs?  Many of the scripts to the TV shows are located on the internet.  http://artofprogramming.net is one but there are several.

  I hope that these suggestions for TV shows will help you when you are choosing American television programs.  Happy watching!


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

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)

Jun 19 2012

What Teaching English to Foreigners Has Taught Me, Part 2 The Importance of Confidence


With a student at the Khartoum Refinery Co.

Welcome to the blog of Worldwide English (“English in the workplace”) and this is the second in a series of entries on welcoming the expats to Houston.  Today, I’d like to focus on how confidence can impact the English learners ability to express him or herself.  I recently had an experience with Jaime, my student from Ecuador.  Jaime is an oil and gas employee, working here in Houston for about nine months. As soon as I started teaching Jaime I realized that he actually has a very high vocabulary level and that he’s got a basic understanding of all of the English grammar structures.  I could see that he lacked practice, but I was a little surprised that he thought he needed English lessons.  For the first two lessons Jaime would stop in the middle of an exercise and say, “Ok, I’ve got this one down, let’s go on to another one”.  It was all I could do to create enough activities to fill up our time together.  He sped through everything.

Nevertheless, I noticed that Jaime wasn’t very conversant.  During our third session together, I asked him a few questions about Ecuador, a place I’ve always wanted to visit.  Somehow, in the midst of the conversation, he began to tell me about his feelings about being here in Houston and his difficulties on the job.  Apparently, another man had quit suddenly and everyone was looking to Jaime to take over his projects as well as continue working on his own.  Jaime had to start interfacing regularly with a very important client about a project he knew very little about.  So you basically have a stranger in a strange land trying not to let an important client catch on to your ignorance in a language you’re not comfortable with.  Sound like fun?

He began speaking about the situation while I sat and listened.  In a conversation like this, a teacher doesn’t interrupt or jump in to finish sentences.  He literally “forgot” that he couldn’t speak English and just began pouring out his feelings and concerns about his current work situation.  Let’s face it- the oil and gas industry can be a bit of a pressure cooker at times.  After he finished, he said, “that’s the first time I’ve really expressed myself in English”.  I realized that at that moment, an important bridge had been crossed.  He expressed his intimate concerns and feelings in a foreign language that he thought he  couldn’t speak!  In a few minutes, the English language was truly born for him!

After that session, he began to speak more and we could converse about any topic. His construction of sentences and expression of ideas improved dramatically.   I introduced some great audio CD’s to him, where famous people spoke about what they believe is important, and it led to some great discussions.  He told me that he now not only makes a statement about something to his colleagues, but he “fills in the details” too!  The truth is, he had it in him all along.

The level of confidence that an English learner has will hugely impact his ability to speak and also understand what’s being said.  When they drop the angst, they begin to open up and real communication begins.  As native speakers, how can we encourage this?  Know ahead of time that an expat is going to require more time in any conversation.  Know that they want to speak accurately and there may be a lot of stopping and starting as the conversation goes along.  Try to resist the urge to finish their sentences – you’re really not helping them.  If they find the words themselves, they will have them next time when you’re not around.  Patience is a welcoming virtue.   So, for today,  remember that a few extra moments to listen to someone may make a big difference in how quickly they will develop their confidence and eventually, their ability to make a greater contribution to the Houston workplace.

Do you have a story about confidence and how a simple experience of confidence has made  a difference in your life?  Our readers would love to hear from you!  And, when you have time, visit our website at http://www.englishlessons-houston.com/


English Lessons Houston