Business English for beginners: It’s easier than you think

Business English seems intimidating to beginners but it doesn’t need to be. In fact, you probably already know a lot of phrases from general English that work really well in a business English situation. Here are some simple ways for beginners to sound professional in business English.

Greet people properly

To greet a friend, you might say, “Hi! How are you?” In business, however, it’s more appropriate to greet someone by saying, “Good morning/Good afternoon/Good evening.” Include their last name, too: “Good morning, Ms. Smith.”

Use set phrases

There are some situations where you can use set phrases in business. A good example of this is answering the phone. Most people answer the phone using a set phrase like this “Good morning, EF English Live, Wil speaking, How can I help you?”. You can change the greeting, company name and your name, but remembering the set phrase will help you feel confident whenever you answer the phone.

Say ‘sorry’ when you need to

“I’m sorry” is a simple phrase but it can have a lot of uses. For example, if you don’t know an answer, say, “I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer.” But don’t stop there! Follow with what you will do: “But I will find out.” “I’m sorry” says you care about their concern, and “I will” assures them you’ll help.

Be polite when you want people to do things for you

Nobody likes to be ordered around. Phrasing requests in question form is much better than issuing a statement. “Would you mind looking at this report?” or “Could you take a look at this?” is more appropriate than, “Look at this report.” When you make requests politely your colleagues will be much more likely to happily comply!

Disagree without upsetting people

In business, when discussing a new idea or project, you need to know how to disagree politely. You can let people know that you have listened to them by saying “I understand your point” or “That’s a valid opinion” then use “but” to add your own opinion. This is much more effective than just giving your own opinion because people like to know that even if you don’t agree with them, you have at least listened to their opinions.

As you can see, you probably already know some business English, even if you didn’t realise if before reading this article. The most important thing about business English is to be polite and professional. That doesn’t mean you have to use lots of fancy words and jargon although if you do know a lot of business vocabulary, that’s great, too. Make the most of the English skills you have already, keep in mind the tips above and keep your ears open for new business English expressions and you will find that you feel much more comfortable speaking English at work.