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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!


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