Negotiation Idioms and Quizzes

Negiotiation Idiom Quiz #1

man in front of a window

Quiz 1 - Choose the correct idiom to replace the expression in the brackets. Check your score at the bottom. Click on the idiom for the definition.

1. The negotiations (slowed to a stop) because of the salary issue.
a)   broke through
b)   bogged down
c)   closed ranks
d)   got down to business

2. The junior salesperson was (in charge) during the meeting.
a)   driving a hard bargain
b)   getting the message
c)   dragging her heels
d)   calling the shots

3. We were told (confidentially) that the company was having financial problems.
a)   off the record
b)   standing our ground
c)   to the letter
d)   under the wire

4. After thirty hours of bargaining we were able to (make an agreement).
a)   get down to business
b)   cave in
c)   cut a deal
d)   paint ourselves into a corner

5. We worked very hard to (find a solution to) the problems with the computer supplier.
a)   drag on
b)   turn thumbs down on
c)   iron out
d)   break off

Your score is: ___  out of 5

Negiotiation Idiom Quiz #2

Mondrian painting

Quiz 2 - Choose the correct idiom to replace the expression in the brackets. Check your score at the bottom. Click on the idiom for the definition.

6. We read everything (precisely) before we signed the contract.
a)   fifty-fifty
b)   off the record
c)   under the wire
d)   to the letter

7. After seven weeks of negotiations an agreement was (certain).
a)   watered down
b)   in the bag
c)   read between the lines
d)   called off

8. The negotiating team worked very hard to (discuss and finalize) a contract with the new company.
a)   hammer out
b)   go back on
c)   smooth over
d)   water down

9. After the talks failed we were forced to (go back to the beginning).
a)   stand our ground
b)   make headway
c)   go back to square one
d)   hang in the balance

10. In the end we (rejected) the proposal that the company made.
a)   turned thumbs down on
b)   watered down
c)   nailed down
d)   wrapped up

Your score is: ___  out of 5

Negiotiation Idiom Quiz #3

Mondrian painting

Quiz 3 - Choose the correct idiom to replace the expression in the brackets. Check your score at the bottom. Click on the idiom for the definition.

11. We decided to abandon the project when the negotiations (failed).
a)   dragged on
b)   faced down
c)   played into our hands
d)   fell through

12. We bargained hard at the meeting but we were unable to (succeed) with our opponents.
a)   give ground
b)   get to first base
c)   drive a hard bargain
d)   take sides

13. We (finished) the negotiations and went home early.
a)   smoothed over
b)   talked over
c)   wrapped up
d)   followed up

14. During the negotiations I (got into a bad situation) which was very difficult to deal with.
a)   painted myself into a corner
b)   got down to brass tacks
c)   came to terms
d)   started the ball rolling

15. The new contract was a major (reason for the dispute) between the workers and the company.
a)   setback
b)   trump card
c)   rock-bottom offer
d)   bone of contention

Your score is: ___  out of 5

Negiotiation Idiom Quiz #4

Mondrian painting

Quiz 4 - Choose the correct idiom to replace the expression in the brackets. Check your score at the bottom. Click on the idiom for the definition.

16. The negotiatiors continued talking (until the deadline).
a)   hard-nosed
b)   down to the wire
c)   at stake
d)   fifty-fifty

17. Everyone at the meeting had forgotten about the salary dispute until it was (mentioned) by our boss.
a)   brought up
b)   called off
c)   faced down
d)   watered down

18. We spent several days last week trying to (put in writing) the new contract.
a)   drag on
b)   wind up
c)   draw up
d)   break through

19. There was much (to be gained or lost) when we began the discussions about the new contract.
a)   under the wire
b)   smoothed over
c)   common ground
d)   at stake

20. Our opponents tried to (mislead us) during the meeting.
a)   come to terms
b)   throw us a curve
c)   meet us halfway
d)   force our hand

Your score is: ___  out of 5

Negiotiation Idiom Quiz #5

Mondrian painting

Quiz 5 - Choose the correct idiom to replace the expression in the brackets. Check your score at the bottom. Click on the idiom for the definition.

21. The salesman complained that he had received (unfair treatment) from his boss.
a)   a setback
b)   a horse trade
c)   a raw deal
d)   a card up his sleeve

22. Our boss is very careful not to (choose one side) in an argument among the staff.
a)   close ranks
b)   beat around the bush
c)   lay his cards on the table
d)   take sides

23. The members of the other side refused to (change their position) during the negotiations.
a)   give ground
b)   break through
c)   go for broke
d)   reach a stalemate

24. The members of the committee (supported) our proposal to have a vote.
a)   nailed down
b)   cut off
c)   got behind
d)   talked over

25. We (made sure of) the date for the annual meeting.
a)   smoothed over
b)   nailed down
c)   watered down
d)   drove at

Your score is: ___  out of 5

Negotiation Idioms

Mondrian painting

accept an offer

- to agree to an offer or proposal

I accepted the offer to buy my car.

at stake

- something that can be gained or lost

There was much at stake during the negotiations between the nurses and the government.

back down (from something)

- to yield in one's position during negotiations, to not continue with a threat to do something

The government backed down on their threat to give less money to the school district.

back out (of something)

- to get out of an agreement, to fail to keep a promise

The property developer backed out of the plan to build the new apartment building.

ball is in (someone's) court

- it is the decision of another person or group to do something

The ball is in the union's court after the company made their final offer.

beat around the bush

- to talk about something without giving a direct answer

The manager was beating around the bush and never said anything important.

blow a deal

- to ruin a business deal with someone

We are working hard so that we do not blow the deal with our new customer.

bog down

- to slow down and make no progress (a bog is an area of land that is wet and muddy - like a swamp)

The negotiations bogged down over the issue of part-time workers.

bone of contention

- the subject or reason for a fight or dispute

The size of the project was a bone of contention between the city and the developer.

break down

- to fail, to stop

The negotiations broke down last night when both sides refused to compromise.

break off (something) or break (something) off

- to stop or end suddenly

The government decided to break off talks about extending the trade agreement.

break through

- to be successful after overcoming a difficulty

We were able to break through in our efforts to find a solution to the problem.


- a success that comes after overcoming a difficulty

There was a breakthrough in the talks to end the teacher's strike.

bring off (something) or bring (something) off

- to achieve something

We were unable to bring off a deal to buy the new computer system for our company.

bring (someone) to terms

- to make someone agree to something or do something

The government worked hard to bring the two sides to terms.

bring (something) to the table

- to have something to offer during a negotiation

We were able to bring a new offer to the table during the negotiations.

bring up (something) or bring ( something) up

- to begin a discussion about something, to mention something

I tried to bring up the subject of sales commissions during the meeting.

call off (something) or call (something) off

- to stop or quit or cancel something

We called off the meeting because everybody was busy.

call (someone's) bluff

- to try to make someone prove that they can actually do what they say they can

The government called the union's bluff when the union threatened to go on strike.

call the shots

- to be in charge

During the meeting the vice-president was calling the shots.

cave in to (someone or something)

- to weaken and be forced to give up

The company was forced to cave in to the demands of the workers for more money.

close a deal

- to end a negotiation successfully

We had to work hard but we were finally able to close the deal.

close ranks

- to unite and fight together

During the meeting we closed ranks and refused to compromise on any issue.

come back with an offer

- to return to negotiations with a new offer

We came back with a new offer and the negotiations continued smoothly.

come down in price

- to lower the price of one's product

We decided to come down in price and try and sell our products quickly.

come in high

- to charge too much for your services, to ask for a price that is too high

The salesman came in high during the negotiations and could not sell his product.

come in low

- to offer a low amount of money for a product or service

The company came in low with an offer for our product.

come to terms

- to reach an agreement

After negotiating all night the government and the company came to terms on an arrangement for the new water system.

come up in a discussion

- to become a subject in a discussion

Nothing related to the issue of quality came up in the discussion.

come up with (an idea or something)

- to produce or find a thought or idea or answer

My boss was happy when I came up with some good ideas during the meeting.

common ground

- shared beliefs or interests

There was no common ground between the two sides and the negotiations did not go well.

consider an offer

- to think about an offer or proposal

The man considered the offer to buy his car.

continue down to the wire

- to near a deadline, to have little time remaining

The negotiations continued down to the wire but they ended successfully.

cover ground

- to talk about the important facts and details of something

The questions were endless and we were unable to cover much ground during the meeting.

cut a deal

- to make an agreement, to make a deal or arrangement

We cut a deal and left the meeting in a positive mood.

cut (someone) off or cut off (someone)

- to stop someone from saying something, to interrupt someone

My friend cut me off when I was speaking.

down to the wire

- near a deadline, with little time remaining

They went down to the wire but the two sides finally agreed to a new contract.

drag on

- to be prolonged, to continue for a long time

The talks between the company and the lawyers dragged on for several weeks.

drag one's heels

- to act slowly or reluctantly

The government dragged their heels in talks with the union about the new contract.

draw the line

- to set a limit about what will be done or discussed

The union was flexible on the salary issue but they drew the line at talking about health benefits.

draw up (something) or draw (something) up

- to put something (a contract or a plan) in writing

The lawyers drew up a contract for the new housing development on the government land.

drive a hard bargain

- to bargain hard and try to make an agreement to one's advantage

The sales manager drives a hard bargain and it is difficult to negotiate with him.

drive at (something)

- to mean something, to want to say something

I could not understand what the other negotiators in the meeting were driving at.

drop the price (of something)

- to lower the price of something

We dropped the price of our product during the negotiation.

face down (someone) or face (someone) down

- to confront someone boldly

The government decided to face down the striking transportation workers.

fall through

- to fail, to be ruined, to not happen

The deal for the new machinery fell through and we will have to look for another supplier.


- equally, evenly

We shared the profits with the other company fifty-fifty.

follow through on/with (something)

- to finish an action, to keep a promise

Our boss said that wages would improve soon but he never followed through with his promise.

follow (something) up or follow up (something)

- to pursue something, to investigate something further, to follow something with something similar

The negotiators will follow up the proposals with a further meeting.

The author followed up her first book with a new bestseller.

force (someone's) hand

- to make someone do something that they do not want to do at that time

We decided to force our opponent's hand because we wanted to finish the negotiations quickly.

gentleman's agreement

- an agreement that is not written down but is made by two people or two groups who trust each other

I made a gentlemen's agreement with the carpenter to build some new furniture.

get behind (a person or idea)

- to support a person or idea

Although we did not agree with the manager we got behind his proposal at the meeting.

get down to brass tacks

- to begin the work or business that must be done

"Let's get down to brass tacks and begin talking about the new contract."

get down to business

- to start working or doing the business at hand

We must get down to business and finish our work quickly.

get the ball rolling

- to start an activity or action

We should get the ball rolling and begin the meeting at once.

get the message

- to understand clearly what someone means

I do not think that the opposite side got the message about where the negotiations are heading.

get the raw end of the deal

- to do badly in a negotiation or a similar situation

I got the raw end of the deal when I received my new work schedule.

get to first base

- to make a good start, to succeed

We have not been able to get to first base regarding the terms of the new contract.

get to the bottom of (something)

- to discover or understand the real cause of something

It will be difficult to get to the bottom of the financial problems in the company.

get to the heart of (something)

- to find the most important facts or central meaning of something

We spent the morning trying to get to the heart of the problem with the computer supplier.

give a little

- to compromise during a negotiation

We know that we must give a little if we want to complete the negotiations.

give and take (give-and-take)

- to share, to give up part of what you want in order to make an agreement

After much give and take we reached an agreement regarding the property transfer.

give away the farm

- to offer too much during a negotiation

I tried not to give away the farm during the negotiation.

give ground

- to move back or retreat from one's position

We bargained hard but the other sales representative refused to give ground.

give in to (someone)

- to do what another person wants rather than to fight and argue with him or her

After eight weeks of negotiations we gave in and agreed to sell the machinery at a discount.

go back on (something)

- to not be faithful or loyal to one's word or an agreement

The company directors went back on their word to give the employees a salary increase.

go back to square one

- to go back to the beginning

The meeting was a failure and we were forced to go back to square one.

go back to the drawing board

- to go back and start something from the beginning

The negotiations failed so we had to go back to the drawing board and start over.

go down to the wire

- to near a deadline, to have little time remaining

The negotiations went down to the wire last night.

go for broke

- to risk everything on one big effort, to try as hard as possible

After going for broke at the meeting we were able to reach an agreement.

go over like a lead balloon

- to fail to generate a positive response

The sales manager's proposal went over like a lead balloon at the meeting

go over well

- to be liked or successful

My idea about employee evaluations went over well with the new manager.

hammer out (an agreement or a deal)

- to negotiate a deal or agreement by discussion and debate

The negotiations lasted all night but finally we were able to hammer out an agreement.

hang in the balance

- to have two equally possible results, to be uncertain

The outcome of the election was hanging in the balance after the top candidates had an equal number of votes.


- to be very strict, to be stubborn, to be uncompromising

The negotiatiors were hard-nosed during the talks for a new contract.

have a card up one's sleeve

- to hide something of value

I thought that the negotiations would not succeed but my boss had a card up his sleeve that we did not know about.

have a poker face

- to not show any reaction or emotion

Our boss had a poker face when he told us that our office would soon close.

hold all the aces/cards/trumps

- to have all of the advantages

The management group was holding all the aces during the meeting with the union.

hold out for (something)

- to keep resisting or refuse to give up until you get the desired results

The union is holding out for a better deal and they do not plan to end their strike.

hold out on (someone)

- to refuse to give information or something to someone who has a right to it

The new manager has been holding out on the company and he will not tell anyone his plans.

horse trade

- to make a business agreement or deal after careful bargaining and compromise

After several hours of horse-trading we reached an agreement to buy the new computers.

in the bag

- to be certain

The contract for the new insurance policy is in the bag.

ink a deal

- sign a contract

The company inked a deal to buy the new product.

iron (something) out or iron out (something)

- to solve a problem

We spent several hours ironing out the final details of the contract.

knock down the price of (something)

- to decrease a price

The department store has knocked down the price of many of their products.

lay one's cards on the table

- to be open and honest about one's intentions

Our boss laid his cards on the table during the meeting.

make a concession

- to change your position in favor of the other person/side when you are negotiating

The union made a big concession in their negotiations with their company.

make an offer

- to make a financial or other proposal for a product or service

I will make an offer and try to buy the house that I like.

make headway

- to make progress

We are bargaining hard and making headway with the new agreement.

meet (someone) halfway

- to compromise with someone

The price for the truck was too high but we met the salesman halfway and made an agreement to buy it.

nail down the terms of an agreement

- to discuss and agree on the terms of a contract

We must try and nail down the terms of the agreement at the meeting tomorrow.

nail (something) down or nail down (something)

- to make certain or sure

We nailed down an agreement to build the staff room as quickly as possible.

off the record

- to be not published or revealed, to be a secret

I told my boss off the record that I would probably not return after the summer holiday.

paint oneself into a corner

- to get into a bad situation that is difficult or impossible to escape

The negotiations became easier when the other side painted themselves into a corner.

play hardball (with someone)

- to act strong and aggressive with someone

The union played hardball during the contract talks.

play into (someone's) hands

- to do something that another person can use against you

Our manager played into the hands of the other side when he became angry during the meeting.

play one's ace

- to use one's best resource (the ace is the most powerful card), to use all of one's power

I played my ace when I asked my boss for more money.

play one's cards close to one's chest

- to be secretive and cautious about something

My colleague was playing his cards close to his chest when he began to talk to our competitor.

pull (something) off or pull off (something)

- to succeed in doing something difficult or impossible

The contract seemed impossible to win but we pulled it off through our skillful negotiating.

pull (something) out of a hat

- to get something as if by magic, to invent something, to imagine something

The problem was difficult but somehow we were able to pull a solution out of a hat.

put one's cards on the table

- to be open and honest about one's intentions

We put our cards on the table and tried to solve the problem.

raise the ante

- to increase what is at stake or under discussion in a dispute or conflict

The small country raised the ante in the trade dispute with the other countries.

a raw deal

- treatment that is not fair

The sales manager received a raw deal when he was forced to give up his former position.

reach a compromise

- to achieve a compromise with someone

The company tried very hard to reach a compromise with the workers.

reach a deal

- to complete or make a deal

The company reached a deal with their supplier.

reach a stalemate

- to arrive at a position where no progress is being made

The talks to buy the new computers have reached a stalemate and it will be difficult to start them again.

reach an agreement

- to complete or make an agreement

The supplier and the buyer reached an agreement about the new product.

reach an impasse

- to get to a point where progress is impossible

The negotiations on where to build the new bridge have reached an impasse.

reach first base

- to make a good start, to succeed

We were unable to reach first base in the discussions.

read between the lines

- to understand the meaning of something by guessing what is not said

The salesman did not say that no products were available but we could read between the lines and we knew that there were none available.

rock-bottom offer

- the lowest price that one can offer to buy something

The buyer made a rock-bottom offer to buy our product.

a setback

- a change from better to worse, a delay, a reversal

The bad weather was a setback in our efforts to get the material delivered on time.

set back (something) or set (something) back

- to delay or impede the progress of something

The problem with the equipment is going to set back the research project.

smooth (something) over or smooth over (something)

- to make something seem better or less severe

We tried to smooth over the problems between the two managers.

stack the deck against (someone)

- to trick someone, to arrange things unfairly (a deck is a deck of cards)

The manager stacked the deck against his opponent when he went into the meeting.

stand one's ground

- to maintain and defend one's position

The other negotiating team was very aggressive but we stood our ground and bargained hard.

start the ball rolling

- to begin an activity or action

I will start the ball rolling by making some telephone calls to my coworkers.

stick to one's guns

- to defend an action or opinion despite an unfavorable reaction

We stuck to our guns during the meeting and asked for more time to consider the proposal.

stumbling block

- something that prevents or obstructs progress

The salary issue was a stumbling block in the negotiations between the company and the union.

sweeten the deal

- to offer something during a negotiation that is attractive to the other side

We sweetened the deal during the negotiations in order to win the new contract.

take sides

- to join one group against another in a debate or quarrel

I did not take sides in the discussion about buying a new computer.

talk (someone) into (something)

- to get someone to agree to something, to persuade someone to do something

We were unable to talk the other members of our team into delaying the meeting until next week.

talk (someone) out of (something)

- to persuade someone not to do something

I tried to talk our sales manager out of offering a price for the product that was too low.

talk (something) over or talk over (something)

- to discuss something

We asked for some time during the meeting to talk over the new proposal.

throw (someone) a curve

- to mislead or deceive someone

The purchasing manager threw us a curve when he said that he would not need any of our products until next year.

to the letter

- exactly, nothing done wrong or left undone, precisely

The union representative followed the contract agreement to the letter.

trump card

- something that is kept back to be used to win success if nothing else works

Although we appeared weak during the negotiations we had some new information to use as our trump card.

turn thumbs down on (something)

- to reject something

The other negotiating team turned thumbs down on our wish to postpone the meeting until tomorrow.

under the wire

- at the very last moment

We were able to send the documents to the lawyer under the wire.

undercut (someone)

- to sell your product for less than a competitor

The new discount store is trying hard to undercut other stores in the area.

up the ante

- to increase what is at stake or under discussion in a dispute or conflict

The union upped the ante in their dispute with the company.

water (something) down or water down (something)

- to change and make something weaker

The manager tried to water down our proposal for the new quality control system.

wheel and deal

- to negotiate to buy and sell something (often in a way that is very close to being dishonest or illegal)

The salesman likes to wheel and deal with his customers.

wind up (something) or wind (something) up

- to end, to finish, to stop

We would like to wind up the meeting early tomorrow.

wrap up (something) or wrap (something) up

- to finish something (a job, a meeting etc.)

We wrapped up the meeting and went home for the weekend.