Business Vocabulary

Confusing Pairs of Words

18 Aug 2019

Here are three pairs of common words which often cause confusion among non-native English speakers. Review the usage of each word and see how they are used in context.

When or If?

  • When is used when something is certain to happen.
  • If is used when it is uncertain whether something will happen.

I'll give it to him when I see him.
(I am definitely going to see him)

I'll give it to him if I see him.
(It is uncertain whether I will see him or not)

So or Such?

  • So is used with adjectives or adverbs.
  • Such is used with nouns or adjectives and nouns.

The service was so bad that we complained.
We were served so badly that we complained.
Such service is bound to lead to complaints.
We received such bad service that we complained.

Each or Every?

  • Each is used when we talk about people or things separately. Each is used with countable nouns in the singular. Each can also be used without a noun.
  • Every is used when we talk about people or things as a group. Every is also used with countable nouns in the singular.

Each department has its own secretary.

There are four different designs; each is different / each one is different / each of them is different.

Every staff member receives a copy of The Language Key magazine.
(Meaning: all the members receive a copy)

 

Using Understandable Words in Your Documents

14 Jul 2019

When you are writing business documents, say exactly what you mean, using the simplest words that fit. This does not necessarily mean only using simple words - just words that the reader will understand.

For most words you will be able to decide yourself whether they are suitable.  Most importantly, don’t use jargon that is part of your working life unless you are writing to someone who uses the same jargon.  If a teacher is writing to an education officer, the jargon word ‘SATs’ could be very useful in saving time and space. But you wouldn’t use it when writing to a parent. So in general, keep to everyday English whenever possible.

Here’s a list of words you should try to avoid, to give you a basic idea of what we mean. Try to use the alternatives we suggest in the ‘use’ column.

AVOID

USE

additional

extra

advise

tell

applicant

you

commence

start

complete

fill in

comply with

keep to

consequently

so

ensure

make sure

forward

send

in excess of

more than

in respect of

for

in the event of

if

on receipt

when we/you get

on request

if you ask

particulars

details

per annum

a year

persons

people

prior to

before

purchase

buy

regarding

about

should you wish

if you wish

terminate

end

whilst

while

 

Confusing Words - "Allow" vs "Permit" vs "Let" vs "Enable"

14 Apr 2019

These four verbs are all similar, but have different shades of meaning and use.

Allow and permit can be followed by an object, and optionally, a verb or another object:

Until recently, the club would not allow women to enter.
Until recently, the club would not permit women to enter.

Let needs a different construction; the object is followed by an infinitive without to:

Until recently, the club would not let women enter.
Please let me know urgently.

Note the use of allow to politely introduce something you want to say:

Allow me to point out that ...
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is ...

If you allow for problems, extra expenses etc. you include extra time or money to be able to deal with them:

If you are self-employed, do not forget to allow for tax and national insurance.

To enable means 'to make something possible'; Allow also has this meaning as in:

During the 19th Century road and rail transport allowed/enabled commerce to expand.

Enable is often preferable if there is no idea of 'permission':

A rights issue enabled the company to raise extra capital.
A word processor enables a secretary to type faster than on a typewriter.

Note that these verbs must be followed by a personal object before an infinitive. We cannot say:

Our round-the-clock service enables/permits/allows to satisfy demand.

The correct version is:

Our round-the-clock service enables/permits/allows us to satisfy demand.
 

Overused Words

24 Mar 2019

Overused words are words such as nice, got and OK which some people use to refer to many things. For example:

  • Nice
It was really nice of you to send me such nice birthday greetings. I had a nice birthday party. The weather was nice, the food was nice and all the guests were also very nice.
  • Got

John got up early this morning. He got to the bakery to get some croissants. When he got there, he found that he'd got no money on him.

  • OK
OK, may I make a request? OK. Here are some ideas that I think would be OK for the upcoming marketing plan. So, if it is OK with you, I'd like you to tell me which particular one is OK to go with. OK?

Overused words should be avoided because you can usually another word that is more precise and closer to the meaning you intended. Compare the sentence above with those below:

  • Words to replace nice
It was really kind of you to send me such sincere birthday greetings. I had an enjoyable birthday party. The weather was pleasant, the food was delicious and all the guests were very friendly.
  • Words to replace got
John woke up early this morning. He walked to the bakery to buy some croissants. When he arrived, he found that he had no money on him.
  • Words to replace OK
Right, may I make a request? Very well! Here are some ideas that I think would be effective for the upcoming marketing plan. So, if it is agreeable with you, I'd like you to tell me which particular one is suitable to go with. All right?

So using vague words like nice, got and OK could be considered lazy in certain contexts. Think about what you really mean and try to use more precise language.

 

Adjective + Preposition Combinations

02 Dec 2018

Many adjectives are followed by a particular preposition. Below is a list of adjectives + preposition combinations that are commonly used in business.

Some of these adjectives can be followed by either of two or more prepositions, sometimes resulting in a slight change of meaning. In other cases, the preposition which follows the adjective is determined by whether a person or a thing follows.

Now read through the following list of combinations and example sentences. Then try completing the exercise that follows by clicking the 'Next' button at the bottom of the page.

affiliated to / with

Are you affiliated to / with the other company with the same name?

angry about something

She was angry about the new rules at work.

angry with someone

They were angry with their suppliers for not delivering on time.

associated with

We have been associated with them for the last twenty years.

aware of

He is aware of the company's problems.

bad / good at something

He's bad at seeing the overall picture.

concerned / worried / anxious about

We are concerned about the rise in staff turnover.

concerned with (= involved with)

They are concerned with renewable energy sources.

confident of


They are confident of the product's success.

different from / to something / someone

This model is different from the previous one in two major respects.

disappointed in a person / by something

We were disappointed by the recent decision.

He was disappointed in the Board and their handling of the situation.

familiar with

The market is not yet familiar with our products.

happy / pleased / satisfied with someone / something

We are happy with the service we have received.

interested in something

I am interested in your range of office furniture.

involved in / with

They are closely involved in chemical research.

open to

I am open to any suggestions you might have.

ready for something / someone

The accounts will be ready for inspection by the end of the week.

related to

This problem is closely related to one we encountered last year.

responsible for something / someone

As warehouse manager, you will be responsible for co-ordinating delivery times.

sensitive to

She is a little sensitive to criticism.

specialised in

He is specialised in flash programming.

suitable for

Being light and transportable, these laptops are suitable for people who travel frequently.

typical of someone

It's typical of her to do that for you - she always offers to help.
 

Professional Adjectives to Describe Personality

18 Nov 2018

Whether you're describing yourself during an interview, writing a resume/CV, or talking about the personality of a subordinate or colleague being considered for promotion, you'll find it useful to familiarize yourself with the 20 common adjectives below. All these adjectives describe specific aspects of someone's personality, specifically the areas of someone's personality that determines their suitability for a particular job or type of work.

Some of the adjectives below have similar meanings. It's important, therefore, that you learn the minor differences in meaning if you are to use them accurately. If you are unclear about the differences, consult a good monolingual advanced learner's dictionary.

Determined

wanting to do something very much, and not letting anyone stop you

Hard-working

doing a job seriously and with a lot of effort

Diligent

working hard with care and effort

Trustworthy

describes someone who is good and honest and won't harm you

Motivated

enthusiastic about doing something

Reliable

able to be trusted or believed

Loyal

always liking and supporting someone or something, sometimes when other people do not

Attentive

listening or watching carefully and showing that you are interested

Conscientious

always doing your work with a lot of care

Persistent

describes someone who keeps pushing for something and does not give up easily

Dynamic

having a lot of ideas and enthusiasm; energetic and forceful

Energetic

having or involving a lot of energy

Enterprising

good at thinking of and doing new and difficult things, especially things that will make money

Enthusiastic

showing a great deal of interest in something and a willingness to get involved

Aggressive

determined to win or succeed and using forceful action to achieve victory or success

Consistent

always behaving or happening in a similar, especially positive, way

Organized

describes someone who is able to plan things carefully and keep things tidy:

Proactive

describes someone who takes action by causing change and not only reacting to change when it happens

Methodical

describes people who do things in a very ordered, careful way

Passionate

having very strong feelings or emotions

Note: When attending a job interview or writing a resume/CV, make sure you choose the adjectives that best suit your potential position. "Aggressive" might catch the eye of a law firm, but would likely scare an employer in the customer service field.

Useful Phrases:

Below are some useful phrases in which the above adjectives could be used:

Do you consider yourself to be .......?
How can you become more .......?
How is being ........... useful in your job?  
Who is the most ........... person that you know?
Would you describe yourself as being .........?
In your CV you describe yourself as being ........... Give me an example of how you showed this.
I would describe myself as being .........
I believe this position requires someone who is ..........
We are looking for someone who is .........
If you are not .........., please don't apply.
Paul has shown himself to be .............
 

Spelling Differences between US and UK English

04 Nov 2018
1) -or and -our
British English tends to use -our in adjectives,whereas American English uses -or:

For example: colour (GB) and color (US); neighbour (GB) and neighbor (US)

 
2) -er and -re
Some noun endings are -re in British English, but -er in American English:

For example: centre (GB) and center (US)
 
3) -ice and -ise
Some words have -ice ending for the noun and -ise ending for the verb in British English. For example: practice (noun) and to practise (verb). However, in American English both noun and verb are spelled practice.
4) -l and -ll
In British English, when a word ends in a single consonant, it is doubled when we add a suffix beginning with a vowel:

For example: traveller; levelled

However, in American English the 'l' is not doubled:

For example: traveler, leveled

 
5) Other common words
British English and American English have different spellings for certain words:

For example: cheque (GB) - check (US); programme (GB) - program (US)
 

Spelling Rules in English

21 Oct 2018

There is logic to English spelling and there are also some useful rules to follow.

Some General Advice

  • One of the best ways to improve your spelling is by reading. Seeing words in print helps fix the spelling in your mind. Read as much as possible and as widely as possible. When you read aloud to yourself, you will also become more aware of how words are spelled and how they look on the page.
  • Use a spell checker to help you identify - and correct - the words that cause you problems. Some words are always going to be difficult to spell correctly, whether you are a native speaker of English or not. If you always have spelling doubts about a particular word, make sure that you run the spell checker and that you pay special attention to the "difficult" word.
  • Practise writing the words that you have difficulty spelling. Try not to avoid using the word altogether, but use either a spell checker or a dictionary to help you get the spelling right. If you use this word regularly, after a while you will start to write it correctly.
  • If you have difficulty with a word that you have to write often, you may want to write the word out on a card and keep the card by your desk for reference.
  • Use a dictionary. Good dictionaries will show you how to spell the word in other grammatical forms, as well as giving you an example of the word in context.

Spelling Rules in English

1) i before e except after c (when the word rhymes with c)
Examples: believe, niece, piece, achieve.

After c: receive, perceive, deceive

There are some exceptions to this rule:

Example: seize

Some first name exceptions: Sheila, Keith

You can also see "ei" combinations when the word rhymes with the letter 'i':

Examples: height, heist

Additionally, when the rhyme is with the letter 'a':
Examples: freight, weight
2) When you use 'full' at the end of an adjective, drop one 'l'
Examples: wonderful, tasteful, grateful

Note that when you turn the adjective into an adverb by adding -ly, use both 'l'.
Examples: careful - carefully; grateful - gratefully
3) The letter 'e'
Words that end with the letter 'e' lose the 'e' before a suffix beginning with a vowel:

Examples: require - requiring; state - stating

But before a suffix that begins with a consonant, they keep the 'e':
Examples: state - statement; require - requirement
4) Using -our and -orous
In British English, when a word ends in -our and we add -us, the -our becomes -or:
Examples: humour - humorous; glamour - glamorous
5) Using -y
When a word ends with a consonant and 'y', change the 'y' to 'i' before adding a suffix:

Examples: hungry - hungrier; try - tried; baby - babies

But if the word ends with a vowel and 'y', keep the 'y' before adding a suffix:
Examples: lay - layer; pay - payment
6) Single and double consonants
When a word ends in a single consonant, it is doubled when we add a suffix beginning with a vowel:

Examples:

get - getting;

travel - travelled / travelling (In American English, the 'l' is not doubled);

admit -admitted; admit - admittance

ship - shipping

but
 
ship - shipment (the suffix begins with a consonant)
 

Easily Confused Words

29 Jul 2018

There are many words that appear similar in English. In order to avoid mistakes you have to learn from your mistakes. Find out what the correct word is and then use both the correct and incorrect words in sentences so that you can remember the difference.

Here, we'll look at a number of pairs of words that are often confused due to the closeness of their appearance. Each word appears with an example sentence to clearly show how its use differs from the word(s) it is commonly confused with.

Past vs Passed

After studying very hard she past the examination. incorrect

After studying very hard she passed the examination. tick1

Here's why: 'Past' as a noun refers to the period before the present. 'Passed' the past tense of the verb to pass refers to the act of passing. It is important to note that 'Past' can also be used as an adjective, adverb or a preposition. See correct examples below:

The band passed and the crowd cheered. (verb)
There is no need to dwell, it's all in the past now. (noun)
The library is just past the church. (preposition)
The troops marched past. (adverb)
Mike did lots of exercise during the past year. (adjective)

Beside vs Besides

Hey, others beside you want to get through this checkout line. incorrect

Hey, others besides you want to get through this checkout line. tick1

Here's why: 'Beside' means to be at the side of. 'Besides' means in addition to, or moreover, as in the example above, where the idea is that others in addition to the person being reproached would like to get through the line. Other correct examples are:

The man who sat beside me at the concert kept yawning. How annoying!
Besides
Lynn, there will be four people going to the annual dinner this Saturday.
Please put the sofa down beside the chair, or maybe beside the table, or wait '" may be beside the window.

Continual vs Continuous

Libby's phone rang continuously until her father disconnected it. incorrect

Libby's phone rang continually until her father disconnected it. tick1

Here's why: There's a very subtle shade of difference here. 'Continuously' refers to something that goes on without any interruption whatsoever. 'Continually' refers to something, often annoying actions that recur at frequent intervals. In this case, the meaning is that many calls came in, possibly at short intervals. So 'continually' is correct. Other correct examples are:

Dave felt dizzy after doing exercise continuously for two hours.
She claimed she made continual efforts to reach him.
For weeks, the child begged her mother continually to buy her a new toy.

Respectful vs Respective

How can I be respective of your wishes when you won't tell me what they are? incorrect

How can I be respectful of your wishes when you won't tell me what they are? tick1

Here's why: 'Respective' is a term of separation or comparison, as in they went to their respective seats, and they were paid in accordance with their respective ranks. 'Respectful' means to be full of respect. So in this case, where respect for one's wishes is the issue, 'respectful' is the appropriate choice. Additional correct examples are:

The cat kept a respectful distance from the Great Dane.
Go to your respective corners, then come out swinging.
Was your tone respectful when you spoke to the Chairman of the committee?

 

Developing Your Vocabulary

22 Apr 2018

Buy a good monolingual dictionary.

Read as much English as you can . Read anything that interests you, in any format available to you. If you find newspapers or literature difficult, try reading 'graded readers', which are simplified books.

Select carefully the words or phrases you look up in a dictionary . It's frustrating to look up every word that you don't understand. Only look up those words that you think are important, such as:

  • Words or phrases that occur often
  • Words or phrases that are essential for understanding a sentence.

You can often get the general meaning of the sentence without having to use a dictionary, so save yourself some work!

From the words or phrases that you look up , decide which ones are vital for you to understand and use. For example, words that you need for your job or study, or words that occur often.

Use your dictionary to get the essential information about these words and phrases (grammar, stress, pronunciation and meaning), then make an effort to practice these words. Write down the new word in a sentence of your own, and try to use the word as often as possible, until you are sure that you remember it.

When you look up a new word, make sure you know which words you can use with it. For example, you do a test, but you make an effort.

When you find a new word, check to see if you can use it in other ways. English is a flexible language - nouns, verbs and adjectives can often be made from each other. For example, to apply for a job, a letter of application, the applicant for the job, and so on.

Keep a vocabulary book with you. You can use it while you are reading, or watching television or a film. You can also refer to it when you have some spare time to help you revise new words and expressions.

 

Methodology for Learning New Vocabulary

04 Mar 2018

Here we suggest some methods you can use to learn new vocabulary.

When you see a new vocabulary item (new word), always ask these questions:

Is it positive, neutral or negative?

Beautiful is a positive word

Ugly is a negative word

Negotiate is not positive or negative, so it's neutral

Is it formal or informal (casual)?

Cool is a casual word

Negotiate is a formal word

Is it a vocabulary item or an Idiom?

What did you do? (uses vocabulary)

What did you get up to? (uses an idiom / idiomatic phrase)

Does the word have a prefix or suffix that you know? (may give you a hint)

Prefix: Unhappy, unfriendly ('un' often a negative prefix)

Suffix: Careless, thoughtless ('less' often a negative suffix)

If you see a new vocabulary item, such as 'undisciplined', you can take a guess that it may be a negative word from looking at the negative prefix, even if you do not know what the word means.

Is it a noun, adjective, verb or adverb?

Can the word be used only as a noun?

Can the word be used as both a verb and an adjective?

Can the word by used as an adverb?

Which context / situation should the word be used in?

'Negotiate' is a strong verb for formal business situations, such as negotiating a contract with a client.

'Negotiate' should not be used in social situations like two friends arguing over paying for drinks at KTV.

Create your own example, preferably about your life, to demonstrate (show) understanding of the new word; this makes it easier to remember

I negotiated my salary package with the HR Manager.

I negotiate the delivery date and price with our clients.

 
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