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Business English for beginners

Want to know the key to great business English? Be polite and professional! You don't have to be fluent to make a good impression, either. Here are some shortcuts for turning beginners into pro's!


Good morning/afternoon/evening

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."

How may I help you?

No matter what field you're in, much of your work probably involves handling requests or providing assistance. So when someone calls or comes to you for help, whether it's a customer or your boss, smile and say, "How may I help you?" or "What can I do for you?" Be careful to not simply say, "What do you want?" This phrase often comes across as rude, especially if spoken with the wrong intonation (a falling tone at the end of the sentence can make it sound impolite).

I'm sorry/I will

When something goes wrong, no one likes to hear excuses. So first apologize, and then take action. If you can't answer a question or meet a request, start with, "I’m sorry ? It's the best way to defuse a conflict before it starts. 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.

Would you mind?/Could you?/I'd appreciate.

Unless you're the top dog (the boss), you don't want to sound like you're giving orders. 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!

In my opinion/I'm afraid I don't agree

In business, when discussing a new idea or project, you need polite ways to get your thoughts across or indicate you don't agree. Using the phrase "In my opinion ? at the beginning of your sentence tells the listener that you're still open to other points of view. If you don't agree with someone, don't say, "That's the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard!" Instead use, "I'm afraid I don’t agree." Choosing your words carefully will make the person you’re working with much more willing to listen to you, too!

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