War is terrible part 2: 6 useful business English phrases which come from weapons

Business English has many expressions which come from war, in this second part, we look at phrases which come from weapons – check out part 1 right here!  I have chosen these phrases especially, as they are extremely common in the business world.  Enjoy!

1. Fight fire with fire

This phrase literally means that if your enemy is firing shots at you, then you can fight them by firing shots back at them.

In a business or a general English meaning, to fight fire with fire would mean to fight against your competition using exactly the same tactics as they are using to fight against you.

‘Our main competitor has just launched a very aggressive promotion campaign.  Let’s fight fire with fire and do the same.’

2. Drop a bombshell

You may have already heard the war phrase to drop a bomb.  Well, to drop a bombshell is the same thing – A shell is an explosive piece of artillery, usually a bomb.

So in a business and general English context, to drop a bombshell means to make some kind of announcement which is completely unexpected and shocking.  Just like dropping a bomb is shocking.

‘Our manager dropped a real bombshell this morning when she announced that she was leaving the company.’

‘The government have dropped a real bombshell by suddenly introducing these new advertising laws.’

3. In our sights

A sight (or sights) is the part of a gun which you look through to help you aim accurately at the target.  So if something is in your sights, it means that you can see it through your gun well enough to accurately hit it.

Translated into business English, if something is in your sights it means that it is a target which you aim to achieve.

‘Success is in our sights this year!’

‘The €4 million profit mark is in our sights, I think we can meet that target before the end of this quarter.’

4. Long shot

If you are trying to shoot something, but it is a long shot, it means that the target is very far away.   This would mean that the chances of hitting the target are very low.

In business or general English, if something is a long shot it means that there is only a very small chance that it will be successful.

‘It’s a long shot, but we could try to negotiate with them about the price.’

‘We may be able to get our product on the shelves of the biggest supermarket chain in the country, but it’s a long shot.’

5. Add a string to your bow

My favourite phrase from this list.  Long before the days of guns, one of the main weapons used on the battlefield was the bow and arrow, as seen in the picture on the right.  The arrow is the luczniczka-904028_640thing that you fire, and the bow is used to help aim. The string is attached to the bow to help fire the arrow. During a fight, the string on the bow would slowly lose its effectiveness, so to add a new string would mean that the bow was effective again.

In the world of careers and business English, to add another string to your bow means to add an extra skill, qualification or experience that you can use in your career or general life.

‘The volunteer work may be unpaid, but it will add another string to your bow to put on your CV.’

‘Learning a second language adds another string to your bow, which can really help you in your career.’

6. Pull the trigger

The trigger is that part of a gun that you press (or ‘pull’ as is the collocation) to shoot the bullet.

In general or business English, then, to pull the trigger means to fully commit to an action.  To actually do an action.

‘The boss wants to fire him, but he doesn’t have the courage to pull the trigger.’

‘We have been waiting so long to launch the product. We just need to be brave and pull the trigger.’

Trigger can also be used as a verb meaning to cause something:

‘The rise in poverty in the area has triggered an increase in violent crime.’

‘Low profits have triggered a number of job losses in the company.’

Part 3 looks at some classic business English phrases which come from the army, can you guess their original meanings?

If you would like to have any of these words explained further, or if you would like to see some more examples, feel free to email me at [email protected], or message me on Skype at live:fluencyspace! Also if you have any other questions about English I’m happy to answer your emails or I will write a post about it, keep the emails coming! Click here for more useful business vocabulary!


 David Cox

 Fluency Space

 Make the world your fluency space. Business English for career and life success

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