David Recine

Business English Idioms for Working Faster

The business world has always been fast-paced. And in the modern, multinational offices where business English is spoken, the pace seems to be faster than ever! If you’ve been told to hurry up, it’s important to know you’ve been told so you can react quickly and appropriately. It’s also important to be able to tell others to hurry up, in a colorful way that will really drive your message home. In this post, we’ll take a look at the language of “faster! faster!”


Pick up the slack

“Pick up the slack” is an idiom that means “increase work speed.” It has a negative connotation. If you tell someone they need to pick up the slack, you’re suggesting that they have not been working hard enough and that they need to compensate for slow work that was done earlier.

  • Example uses:
    You were supposed to finish this report hours ago! Pick up the slack!
    Research and development did a bad job designing the prototype. The engineering department will need to pick up their slack.


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“Hustle” means to hurry up and do something more quickly. It has a similar meaning to “pick up the slack,” but it can be neutral or even positive. “Hustle” is used to gently tell someone to work faster, or to compliment someone’s ability to work at a fast pace.

  • Example uses:
    We need to finish up before closing time. Let’s hustle.
    I can’t believe how much work you completed today. You really know how to hustle!

(Note: “Hustle” can also mean to dishonestly trick someone, as in “hustle someone.” Use this idiom carefully so people really know what you mean.)


At the drop of a hat

“At the drop of a hat” means “suddenly” or “instantly.” This is used to refer to how fast someone will have to work if they’re asked to work. It refers to the importance of doing a future action quickly.

  • Example uses
    The CEO could arrive any minute, so be prepared to go downstairs and greet her at the drop of a hat.
    Let’s send Jerry on this last minute business trip. He’s always willing to travel at the drop of a hat.


To breathe down someone’s neck

This very colorful expression is used to describe putting pressure on someone to complete things more quickly or do a better job.

  • Example uses:
    We need to get this financial report to accounting as soon as possible. The accounting manager has been breathing down my neck, asking why it isn’t done yet.
    That salesman is under a lot of pressure. The boss has been breathing down his neck about his low sales figures.


  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he’s helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master’s Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he’s presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. David has taught K-12 ESL in South Korea as well as undergraduate English and MBA-level business English at American universities. He has also trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!

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