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Business English – Competition

Thursday, December 6, 2012 @ 06:12 PM
posted by Jo

This is the preparation material for a Business English lesson about competition.  Competition in business is a situation in which people or organisations try to be more successful than other people or organisations. Businesses compete in many ways, for example, they compete over price, location, customer service and product ranges. Competition can be good for the customer but it can be difficult for small businesses or new companies as they must try to survive in tough and competitive markets. 


Download audio about competition

Download transcript of audio

  • Why did 7-Eleven become popular?
  • How has 7-Eleven managed to stay ahead of its competition? 


Nouns Adjectives Verbs




Chain store




















Phrasal Verbs

  • Catch up with – “If they focus on advertising more, they may be able to catch up with their competitors.”
  • Fight off – “Small, local bookshops can no longer fight off the competition from large chain stores.”
  • Up against – “If you open a small grocery store next to a big supermarket you will be up against some very strong competition.”

Idioms & Expressions

  • Every man for himself – when people try to save themselves from a difficult situation without trying to help anyone else.” I don't feel sorry for a company that is losing money. In life, it's every man for himself.”
  • A level playing field – a situation of fair competition “It’s not a level playing field any more. As a small company it is difficult for us to compete with the big multinationals.”
  • To be neck and neck – being at the same level as the competition. “We have exactly the same market share as our rival. We are neck and neck in terms of profits.”
  • Keep your eye on the ball – staying focused. “We really need to concentrate on what our competitors are doing. In today’s market you need to keep your eye on the ball at all times.”
  • Ahead of the game – being in front of the competition. “We have left all our competitors behind. We spend a lot of money on advertising so we can stay ahead of the game.”
  • To sink or swim – to succeed or to fail. “In the current climate of strong competition, new companies just have to sink or swim.”
  • To be thrown in at the deep end – to be given something difficult to do without any help. “Young entrepreneurs often feel that they have been thrown in at the deep end. They have so much to learn but very little help.”

Conversation Questions

  • Are you a competitive person?
  • Have you ever worked in a competitive company?
  • What are the benefits of competition between colleagues?
  • What are the drawbacks of competition between colleagues?
  • Does it bother you a lot if you lose at something?
  • How do you feel when you win?
  • What do you think is meant by ‘healthy competition’?
  • Do you think there is such a thing as unhealthy competition?
  • Do you agree with the expression ‘every man for himself’?
  • Do you try to be ‘ahead of the game’ in the workplace?
  • Have you ever been ‘thrown in at the deep end’ at work?
  • Do you think competition between companies is a good thing?
  • What are the advantages of competition between businesses?
  • What are the disadvantages of competition between businesses
  • What are some ways that businesses compete with each other?
  • What should a company do to keep ahead of the game?
  • What are some of the factors that cause small businesses to close?
  • Do you think that new companies must either sink or swim?
  • How can a company ‘keep their eye on the ball’?
  • Can you think of any companies that are ‘neck and neck’ in the market?
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