Workplace English: Five Phrases You Need to Know


Every setting has its own unique set of phrases and vocabulary, and the workplace is no different.

Whether you’re speaking to someone senior, signing off an email or disagreeing with a colleague, learning the accepted conventions in workplace communication will help you to understand the people you work with but also help you get your ideas across effectively.

To follow the release of our Speaking Test, we’ve hand-picked five English terms and phrases commonly used in the workplace that you might not know – with a guide to what they mean and, most importantly, when to use them. To try our Speaking Test for yourself, just download the app from the button below, then take the Core Skills Test, then the Speaking Test.




‘ASAP’, pronounced [AY] [sap], is an abbreviation of ‘as soon as possible’.

What does it mean?

It means something needs to be done urgently. ‘As possible’ might suggest that you can get round to it later on; however, it’s likely that if a manager asks you for something ASAP, they’re expecting you to focus on the task now.

Avoid using it when speaking to senior-level employees. Asking them to do something ASAP could be considered rude. 

How to use it in a sentence

Example 1: ‘Hi Ahmad, is your sales report ready? We need it ASAP.’

Example 2: ‘We need to organise the Christmas party ASAP – it’s November already!’




‘FYI’, pronounced [EFF] [WAI] [AI], is an abbreviation of ‘for your information’. 

What does it mean?

FYI is used when there’s additional information that you want to make a person aware of. Normally, it’s used when providing helpful information they may not know or might have forgotten.

How to use it in a sentence

Example 1: ‘The event has changed to 2 p.m. FYI, the dress code is smart.’

Example 2: ‘FYI, I sent that email that you asked me to send yesterday.’


Circle back


To return to a subject or topic of conversation previously discussed. 

What does it mean?

This phrase is commonly used when presenting ideas or in a discussion – specifically, when a topic has come up earlier and you want to return to it to add more information.

The idea is that the conversation is moved in a full circle and the original points are being explored again.

How to use it in a sentence 

Example 1: ‘Circling back to my original point on user experience, I believe we can do more to improve it.’

Example 2: ‘That’s a very interesting idea, but before we move on to that, I want to circle back to Tom’s point about employee welfare.’


Touch base


Use ‘touch base’ when you want to speak to a colleague.

What does it mean?

Usually, you touch base with someone you’ve not spoken to for a little while. It can either be for a general catch-up to see how they’re doing or to talk about a specific topic. 

How to use it in a sentence

Example 1: ‘Shall we touch base, Sunita? It would be great to see how you’re doing?’

Example 2: ‘I know it’s been a while since we last spoke, but I’d like to touch base regarding your availability for a new project.’


Road block (or ‘blockers’)


When an activity is slowed down or stopped because of a problem.

What does it mean?

Outside of the workplace, a road block is used to slow down traffic. When the term is used in the workplace, it means there’s a problem or challenge that’s slowing down a project.

It’s commonly used when updating colleagues on the progress of an activity or project. 

How to use it in a sentence

Example 1: ‘Unfortunately, we’ve hit a roadblock with the new partnership. Their CEO hasn’t signed the contract yet.’

Example 2: ‘There are a few blockers which are slowing down the company merger, but we’re trying to resolve them.’


Test your workplace English 


Being able to communicate effectively with colleagues is one of the most important skills employers look for – and it’s your job to prove you can.

That’s why British Council EnglishScore has created the English Speaking Test that you can take on your smartphone. No exam centres, no upfront cost, no travel -– just a fast, accurate and convenient way to certify your communication skills for the global workplace.

Just go to the EnglishScore app on your smartphone, take the Core Skills Test first, and then take the Speaking Test for free.