T-learning # Idiom
Speak Like a Native

to cut corners

Click below to listen to the phrase.

Choose the correct definition a, b or c.

a) to cut all four corners from a sandwich

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b) to create a strong client base by building relationships

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c) to take shortcuts

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To cut corners means to do things in a quicker, easier way, often with the goal of saving money or time. This quicker and easier way may also be dangerous or heavily criticised.

The expression was first used in 1863 where it described driving on shorter roads to save time.

French translation

sauter des étapes

How NOT to translate : *couper des coins


Examples in context

‘Volkswagen has succumbed to temptations of patronage and privilege

Martin Winterkorn, Volkswagen’s chief executive, has been sacrificed in an act of contrition to the shareholders, regulators and lawyers circling the German car conglomerate. His departure will matter little to the long-term fortunes of VW without an overhaul of the company’s governance.

The emissions-rigging scandal, which is being talked about as a corporate failure on the scale of Enron or WorldCom, extends beyond the CEO. A company which has admitted to a flagrant violation of global rules and went to such extensive lengths to hoodwink officials has bigger questions to answer than just who takes the blame. Looking at those with whom Winterkorn shared the top table might be one place to start.

Without a robust system that holds management to account, there is a risk people will fall into the temptation to cut corners. Say, for instance, your new vehicles are not meeting tough emissions requirements. You might consider the quick fix if nobody will question what you’ve done, how it works or even notice something has changed. We demand more ethical behaviour from our senior executives, and flagrant abuses of power are rare. But having the right structure in place is fundamental.’

The Guardian, 23 September 2015


‘A $1,000 Day in London for $100

“Are you Mr. Kugel?” asked the uniformed doorman in a town shell top hat as I approached the St. James’s Hotel and Club, a scone’s throw from Buckingham Palace. I was there to meet Madeleine Calon, head concierge and the only female board member of the Society of the Golden Keys of Great Britain and the Commonwealth, a prestigious concierge organization.

The St. James’s (stjameshotelandclub.com) is intimate and elegant, a 60-room hotel that maintains a whiff of British stuffiness from its former incarnation as a private club. I had asked Ms. Calon to prepare an ideal $1,000 day in London for a fictitious client, which I would then try to approximate with a budget of $100.

A thousand dollars for a day in a city as expensive as London isn’t actually that much, she told me. But she cut corners (“A private guide and you wouldn’t have eaten”) and pulled it off, stuffing it full of Michelin-starred dining, brilliant views and royal treatment. She described it all to me as she plied me with royal treatment of my own: espresso and a tray of utterly delicious raisin-walnut cookies that alone might be worth the $400 or so a standard room at the St. James’s costs per night.’

The New York Times, 22 September 2015


Everyday usage

We managed to cut a few corners whilst driving, so we arrived half an hour early.

Maybe I can cut some corners and get this work done more quickly.

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