Business Vocabulary

Easily Confused Words

06 Sep 2020

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

31 May 2020

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

12 Apr 2020

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.

 

Increasing Specific Vocabulary

08 Dec 2019

Improving vocabulary skills requires constant attention. Here, we'll give you a few tips for increasing vocabulary in specific subject areas through the use of a vocabulary tree.

  1. Choose a subject area that interests you.

  2. Write a short introduction to the subject trying to use as many vocabulary words concerning the subject as possible.

  3. Using your introduction, arrange the principle ideas concerning the subject into a vocabulary tree.

  4. To create a vocabulary tree, put the subject at the centre of a piece of paper.

  5. Around the central subject, put the principle areas relating to the subject. For example - verbs, nouns, descriptive adjectives, etc.

  6. In each of these categories, write the appropriate vocabulary. If you need to, add sub-categories.

  7. Create the same vocabulary tree in your native language.

  8. Your native language tree will be much more detailed. Use this native language tree as a reference point to look up new words and fill in your English tree.

  9. Rewrite your introduction concerning the subject taking advantage of the new vocabulary learned.

  10. To make this vocabulary active, practice reading your introduction aloud until you can present it by memory.

  11. Ask a friend or colleague to listen to your presentation and ask you questions about the subject.
 

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.

 
Menu