English Language Blog

Using cards to negotiate in English Posted by on Jan 31, 2022 in Culture, English Language, English Vocabulary

Everyone’s got their guilty pleasures and I have to admit that lately I have been super into binging legal dramas like Better Call Saul or Suits. One thing that caught my attention while watching (besides thinking how miserable I would be if I were a lawyer) is the amount of idioms related to playing cards they constantly use. I’ve never been much of a card player myself but it is fascinating to see how games can have such an influence on the language. Most importantly, these expressions and phrases seem to go a long way in in the business place, specially when you are negotiating, having a discussion or trying to reach an agreement. So how about we go over some card-related idioms today? Are you ready? Game on!

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to lay your cards on the table

to be open, honest and straightforward about your intentions, thoughts or plans, not to keep a secret.

  • Listen, it’s time I laid my cards on the table. I have no intention of extending my contract if you don’t increase my wages. 
  • The manager laid his cards on the table and told his team there would be some layoffs in the next trimester.

to have a card up your sleeve

to have a hidden advantage that you keep a secret waiting for the right circumstances.

  • We have to tell the boss that we couldn’t get the deal. Unless you have a card up your sleeve.
  • John didn’t do so well on his job interview, but he’s still got a card up his sleeve: he is very well-connected.

    Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

to hold all the cards

to be in a position of power and control in a given situation

  • Well, John. You’re the CEO’s son, after all. So when it comes to downsizing, you hold all the cards.
  • There’s not much I can do. Since Sarah is a member of the board, she is the one who holds all the cards about budget cuts.

to play your cards right

to make good use of an opportunity, know how to act properly and reasonably in a given situation.

  • Greg, just remember that if you play your cards right during this meeting, you can definitely land these new customers.
  • I overheard the manager saying that if Tom plays his cards right on this next project, he might get that promotion. 

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a house of cards

an unstable structure that is bound to collapse 

  • The government’s plans to expand the public transportation network in the city proved to be just another house of cards.
  • Our marketing director got fired because most of his projects turned out to be inefficient house of cards.

to overplay your hand

to be overly confident or think that your position in a given situation is better than it actually is.

  • When asking for a raise, Gina overplayed her hand and got fired instead.
  • The clients are interested in your ideas. Just be careful not to overplay your hand or we might lose their business.

Have you ever used any of these idioms before? Can you think of any other card-related phrases and expressions on English? We’d love to hear about them in the comment section! Have a wonderful week ahead, everyone.

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