5 very British phrases to use with your native English-speaking colleagues

In any language, there are phrases or expressions which are idiomatic and difficult to translate but which are used instinctively to describe a situation or feeling.

The English language has many of these common British phrases which are only typically used by native speakers – and unless you have lived or grown up in the UK, will not be part of your vocabulary. Until now…

If you have native English-speaking colleagues, try to incorporate a few of these common British phrases into your next conversation…and surprise them with your knowledge of colloquial language!


1. ‘The Bee’s Knees’

This native English phrase is used to describe a situation or ‘thing’ that is ‘extremely good’ – it’s very ‘high praise’ indeed!

“That speech you made in the meeting was the bee’s knees!”


2. ‘Bog-standard’

As an opposite to number 1, this expression is used to describe something that is extremely ‘ordinary’, and has no special qualities.

“I’m sorry to say that the new product design is very bog-standard. We need to be more creative.”


 3. ‘A Dog’s dinner’

It’s not easy to admit that the result of a task is a ‘mess’ or a disaster but if that is the case, this expression is exactly what you need!

“Oh dear, I need to start again. I made a dog’s dinner out of that introduction!”


 4. ‘(go) Pear-shaped’

As with number 3, English has some interesting phrases to describe when things go wrong! If a situation goes ‘pear-shaped’ it means it has not worked out as intended or expected.

“How did the trip go?”

“Well, it started well but everything went pear-shaped when the flight was delayed and we missed our connection…”


 5. ‘Waffle’

Both a verb and a noun, this word describes speaking or talking about something for a long time without saying anything of great value, or being very vague on a subject.

“Well, he spoke for a long time but most of it was ‘waffle’. We didn’t really learn anything.”

“Sorry…I’m waffling a bit…I’ll get back to the point.”


Even if you don’t use these native English phrases yourself, hopefully you will recognise them if you hear your English-speaking colleagues use them – and know exactly what they mean!


If you want to broaden your English and learn more of these common phrases British people say, get in touch to find out more about our online and face-to-face courses that can help to improve your spoken English.

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