Book a Demo

30 Must-Know Idioms About Negotiations & Agreements

Negotiations are not easy, but they're even harder if you're not a native speaker. And because knowing common expressions will help you get the upper hand, here you have a list with the 30 must-know idioms about negotiations and agreements that you can start using today at work.

Idioms About Negotiations & Agreements

Here you have a list with the most common idioms about negotiations and agreements. Check it out and put them in practice at work or with a teacher:

Practice idioms in conversation

■ The speaker was just beating around the bush and never said anything important.  - Talk about something without giving a direct answer
■ We will bend over backwards if the other party is committed.  - Make every effort to achieve something, especially to be fair or helpful
■  After insisting for months, the manager caved in to his demands.  - Submit under pressure; give in
■  You're the boss here – you get to call the shots.  - To be the person who controls a situation and/or makes the decisions
■ When I first met him I didn't like him but I've changed my mind.  - Change your decision
■  The salesman came in high during the negotiations and could not sell his product. / The company came in low with an offer for our product.  - Charge too much/too little for your services, to ask for a price that is too high/low
■  The participants seem unable to find common ground on the issue of environment.  - Agree about something, share opinions or interests
■  The questions were endless and we were unable to cover much ground during the meeting.  - Talk about the important facts and details of something
■  The union was flexible on the salary issue but they drew the line at talking about health benefits.  - Set a limit on what one is willing to do or accept
■  Our boss said that wages would improve soon but he never followed through with his promise.  - To be consequent with what was agreed, to keep a promise
■  She got the short end of the stick in the deal.  - To be in a disadvantaged situation, to suffer the bad effects of something
■  My grandfather was such a hard-nosed businessman.  - To be tough, stubborn, or uncompromising
■  She has a card up her sleeve if they ever try to fire her, since she knows about all those secret business practices.  - Have a strategy kept secret and in reserve for use when needed
■  I kept looking over to see if she was impressed, but she wore a poker face throughout the presentation.  - A blank, emotionless expression that gives no indication of one's thoughts or intentions
■  After hours of fierce negotiations, the president got the upper hand.  - A position of advantage, power, and/or control
■ I know she really wants the promotion, but she really hit me below the belt by telling the boss about my personal problems.  - Unfairly target someone’s weakness or vulnerability
■  Management holds all the cards when it comes to the negotiations over job cuts.
 - To be in a position of power or control over someone or something else
■ The election is in the bag.
 - Certain/Sure to be won, achieved, or obtained
■ You deserve honesty, so I'm going to lay my cards on the table: I can't offer you this job, but we may have another position that you'd be good for.  - To be frank and outspoken;  to reveal something that you have kept hidden, such as your, intentions, opinion, etc.
■ We had no contract; it was done by a gentleman's agreement.  - An arrangement or understanding which is based on the trust of both or all parties, rather than being legally binding
■ I'll agree to some of your requests if you'll meet me halfway and allow me to implement some of my ideas.  - Compromise with someone, often in an argument or disagreement
■ Many consumers are still on the fence, waiting for a less expensive computer to come along.  - Undecided; not able to make a decision 
■ He's a nice guy, but he can play hardball when he needs to.  - To be firm and determined in order to get what you want
■ As a manager, you have to put your foot down sometimes, or your staff will walk all over you.  - Use your authority; be inflexible in your position or decision
■ (a) Why are you second-guessing me now? You agreed with this strategy just yesterday! / (b) He had to second-guess what the environmental regulations would be in five years' time.  - (a) Question or doubt someone or something retroactively. (b) Try to anticipate how something will happen or what someone will do 
■ Why don't you sleep on the offer and let us know your decision in the morning?  - Postpone a decision until the following day so that one has additional time to consider it
■ I kept trying to get our boss to find a bigger office, but she stood her ground.  - Refuse to change your opinion or give in
■ I’ve done everything I could. The ball is in your court now.  - It’s your turn to make a decision or take action
■ Andrea was about to play her trump card - without her signature none of the money could be released.  - A resource used to gain an advantage over others, often by being held and then used at an opportune time
■ Yes, we did have our disagreements but that's water under the bridge now.  - Problems that someone had in the past that they do not worry about because they happened a long time ago and cannot now be changed


Conversation questions

  • Do you tend to second-guess your decisions?
  • When was the last time you needed to sleep on something before making a decision?
  • Do you ever play hardball when you negotiate?
  • Talk about a time when you were on the fence about something.
  • Talk about a time when your manager put his/her foot down.
  • Would you say you're a hard-nosed negotiator or you don't mind meeting the other person halfway?
  • When did you feel that a negotiation or a deal was in the bag?
  • Do you always lay your cards on the table or do you tend to keep a card up your sleeve?
  • When was a time in which you didn't follow through with a promise?
  • Have you ever felt that you got the short end of the stick?
  • Did you cover much ground during your last meeting?
  • Who calls the shots in your department?
  • When was the last time you caved in to someone's demands?
  • Do you feel you always bend over backwards at work?
  • What do you do when a colleague starts beating around the bush during a meeting or a presentation?


Fill the gaps with the correct word:

  1. He said he was uncompromising, but after some pressure he __ in to our requests.
  2. Listen, I want to lay all my __ on the table - we can't pay that much money but we can give you this package instead.
  3. I always feel I'm bending over __ and get nothing in return.
  4. You should talk to my manager about that, she's the one calling the __.
  5. I thought it would be a smooth negotiation, but she was playing __. 
  6. It's a lot of money, let me __ on it and I'll tell you something tomorrow.
  7. They accepted our offer too quickly, I feel we came in __.
  8. He seemed like a nice guy, but we were unable to find common __ when we talked.
  9. I'm very flexible on the deadline, but I have to draw the __ with the budget.
  10. You promised to send me all the information, but you never followed __.
  11. I know we need to make a decision, but I'm still on the __.
  12. How are the negotiations going? - Well, it's not in the __ yet, but I think we've got the upper __.
  13. I didn't expect it, but he played his __ card and now we're stuck.
  14. We didn't have the best start, but that's water under the __ now.
  15. Please stop __ around the bush and get to the point.


[Download PDF with solutions and many more idioms!]

Keep improving your business English

Take your professional English communication skills to the next level with Talaera. Join one of our free webinars and read more about our English programs, for you or for your teams.

Download Free Ebook - Idioms

For any additional information or questions, reach out at Interested in getting the best offers and receiving free content on Business English communication for you and your teams? Subscribe to our newsletter!

Find idioms by topic: