Business Idioms: Dodgy Dealings

We would like to think that all businesses conduct themselves in a moral and legally responsible way. Unfortunately, however, we do not live in a perfect world and there are companies as well as individuals who do not adhere to these standards. With this in mind, in this installment of Business Idioms we will discuss a few idioms related to doing business the wrong way.

ill-gotten gains -money acquired in a dishonest or illegal manner.

  • After he was arrested for fraud, his ill-gotten gains were seized by the government.

Note: Seize is to take quick and forcible possession of; confiscate

to line your own pocket – to take advantage of a situation purely for your personal financial benefit.

  • He had been lining his pockets for years with company funds.

Note: Pocket is also used in another idiom related to bad business to be in someone’s pocket meaning to be controlled by someone else because of bribes that they pay you (e.g., “the gangster had the police commissioner in his pocket”) .

to cook the books – to falsify financial records.

  • They concealed millions of dollars in losses by cooking the books.

under the table – something done secretly (and usually illegally) in the business world.

  • To avoid paying taxes, they paid some of their employees under the table.

Note: If this idiom is used to qualify a noun or a noun phrase, hyphens must be used, as in “under-the-table payments”.

money laundering – a process by which people conceal the source of illegally-obtained money so that it is believed to be legitimate.

  • They had been using other smaller companies to launder money until they were caught.

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Commonly Confused Words: Pronoun Confusion

questionsA keen eye for detail will come to your aid as you try to navigate the confusing world that is English pronouns. Although even many natural speakers confuse these words, too, well-educated ones don’t and you shouldn’t either. Fortunately, we’re here to help!

Who’s vs Whose
Despite the fact that these two sound almost identical – a native speaker would be hard-pressed to tell them apart – they are used in fundamentally different ways. That’s because who’s is the contraction of “who is” while whose is a possessive word used in much the same way as “which” (except for people instead things). That means we could say “Whose car is that in the driveway” or “Who’s in charge here?” but never vice-versa.

Who vs Whom
Although these two look similar, the extra “m” on whom makes a big difference. That’s because who is used as a subject pronoun and whom is used as an object pronoun. While that might seem confusing at first, it really is simple once you get the hang of it. After all, as a subject pronoun who can replace other pronouns like “I, he, and they” while whom would replace object pronouns like “me, him, and them.” Continue reading “Commonly Confused Words: Pronoun Confusion”


Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water! (Phrasal Verbs with throw)

throw garbageLearning a new language can be extremely frustrating, and English is no exception. Sometimes, we all feel the urge to simply give up and say “Enough! I quit!” and throw the computer across the room. But we have to resist this urge and continue the struggle, because the benefits of our labor will be plentiful and sweet (plus, computers are very expensive!). We understand your frustration, though, and this set of phrasal verbs explains a few common constructions with “throw.”

Throw … Out/ – to dispose of something (as with garbage)

  • The chicken went bad before I could cook it, so I threw it out.

Note: This expression can be used as a synonym for “eject” when someone is forced to leave a place (e.g., a stadium or courtroom). This usage is normally seen in passive voice constructions in its unseparated form.

  • Martin was thrown out of the game after he pushed the referee.

Continue reading “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water! (Phrasal Verbs with throw)”


Business Idioms: “B” Better Prepared in the Boardroom

balance booksAs is the case in all of life’s endeavors, proper planning promotes performance. Unfortunately some things – like a test – are easy to prepare for than others – like a business meeting. While you can never be sure what expressions might pop up in  business meeting, you are will doubtless be better prepared for any curveballs thanks to our latest installment of Business Idioms:

To Bail Out a Company/Person – to provide financial relief to a company or person that would otherwise be “underwater” (in debt)

  • Many people believe that a strategic bail out would help provide much-needed stability in the faltering economy.

Note: This idiom can be used with the word “out” after either bail or company and as a noun (as above).

Baked In – included

  • As technology improves many automakers are baking in special features that were once considered luxuries; just try buying a car without air conditioning these days!

To Balance the Books – to audit or otherwise verify that a business’s assets are properly accounted for

  • It is both dull necessary to balance the books from time to time; it is the best way to keep track of a company’s performance.

Continue reading “Business Idioms: “B” Better Prepared in the Boardroom”