How to Set Appointments in Business English: Use These Phrases and Grammar Hints
Does your life feel like an endless series of appointments and meetings?
That’s just how it goes for most professionals!
That’s why learning how to make appointments in business English is crucial to keeping your calendar and workflow in check.
Plus, using positive and professional language when creating an appointment can really set the tone for the meeting itself.
Here are some handy grammatical tips to get you going, plus lots of fluent phrases to add to your business English arsenal.
Calendar Crisis? The Business English Learner’s Guide to Making (or Canceling) Appointments
The Grammar You Need for Making Appointments
There are certain grammatical structures and patterns you’ll notice for the language you need to set appointments. The tips below will set you up to speak politely, formally and avoid common errors that many English learners face.
Once you’ve mastered the use of these grammatical structures in the context of making appointments, you’ll be able to remember them very easily moving forward for other situations, too.
Use Would, Could and Should for Polite Speech
The words above are very useful in creating the right tone, especially when you’re asking for favors and offering suggestions.
Compare these two sentences:
Can we meet at your office tomorrow?
Could we meet at your office tomorrow?
Can sounds more direct. It’s great for people you know quite well or have had previous communications with. But when in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to err on the side of formality and use could.
Here’s another example:
I want to arrange a meeting with you to discuss…
I would like to arrange a meeting with you to discuss…
Instead of want, use would like to make your request. Want is very direct and can sound a little demanding.
Should on its own denotes a sense of obligation (e.g. You should come to work earlier.) but it can also be used to give yourself some flexibility when accepting appointments.
Let’s compare these two sentences.
10 a.m. on Monday is fine.
10 a.m. on Monday should be fine.
Using should in this context gives you an opportunity to be slightly off the mark, because, in real life, anything can happen! So, saying “Monday should be fine” means, if nothing out of the ordinary occurs, I’ll see you on Monday.
Another very common phrase you’ll hear is should work, as in, 10 a.m. on Monday should work for me.
Prepositions of Time and Place
They’re tiny little words but oh-so-important. Using the right English prepositions is essential to avoiding miscommunications when making appointments.
Stating the time of your appointment:
- In: Use for broad spaces of time, such as in the morning, in May or in 2018.
One exception is at night.
- At: Use for specific times, such as at 3:00 or at noon.
- On: Use for specific dates and days, such as on Monday or on May 1st.
Example: Hi James, would you be available to meet on Thursday? If so, I would suggest that we meet at 8:00 in the evening.
Choosing a place for your appointment:
Prepositions of place can be a little confusing at times for English learners, so here are some general rules to go by when stating a place in your appointment.
- At: For a specific point of place, e.g. at the office, at home, at the restaurant, at our headquarters.
- In: For a general area or space, such as in town, in New York, in the lobby.
- On: Used for streets as well as spaces within buildings. For example, on 5th Avenue, on Baker Street, on the 11th Floor.
Essential Vocabulary for Making Appointments in Business English
Asking Someone’s Availability
Before you troop into someone’s office, you need to ask them if they’re available for a meeting! Here are some suggestions:
When would be a good time for you?
Will you be free…?
What is your availability on [date]…?
Would you be available on [date] at [time]?
Could we meet…?
When is this, next and last?
In English, when you say “next Friday,” you’re referring to the Friday after the upcoming one. This Friday is the Friday of the same week.
So, if it’s Monday and you want to arrange an appointment four days later (i.e. Friday of the same week), say “this Friday.” However, if you want to meet on the Friday after that, say next Friday.
Last simply refers to dates in the past. If it’s Monday and you had a meeting the previous Thursday (i.e. four days ago), the meeting happened last Thursday.
When in doubt, always specify the date of the appointment!
Setting an Appointment’s Purpose
State the purpose of the appointment and agenda in clear, professional language. Use the preposition to followed by the infinitive verb (e.g. discuss, assess, analyze, collaborate) to indicate the reason or motivation for the appointment.
I’d like to arrange an appointment with you to…
The objective of the meeting is to…
We need to get together to…
Let’s meet to…
When someone else suggests an appointment date, it might not always work for you. Here’s how to suggest alternatives.
How about…?/What about…?
Would you prefer…?
Would [date/time] suit you better?
Could we instead meet at/on…?
Agreeing to an Appointment
Okay, looks like all the details are good and fit perfectly in your schedule! How would you respond?
Here are some different ways to agree to an appointment and confirm arrangements.
That works for me.
That sounds good/great.
Yes, that suits me fine.
I’d like to confirm the appointment.
You can also add a pleasant phrase such as “Looking forward to meeting with you!”
Rescheduling or Canceling an Appointment
What happens when you have to cancel an appointment? Here are some common expressions used to cancel an appointment politely.
I’m afraid I won’t be able to make it.
Unfortunately, something has come up and I won’t be able to…
Would it be possible to reschedule/move our appointment to a different time?
Again, it’s always helpful to keep things cordial. You can begin your message by apologizing for the cancellation, with phrases such as:
I’m very sorry, but…
I apologize for the inconvenience, but…
Look Out for “False Friends”
Some common errors due to “false friends” or “false cognates” (words that look the same in English and your native language, but aren’t) can cause confusion and misunderstandings when making appointments.
You’ll pick these up naturally as you continue to learn English and to use them, so it’s important to keep them in mind as well when making appointments. A classic example of a “false friend” between Spanish and English is discutir, which is often used to mean argue and not discuss. Similarly, in French, attendre means wait, not attend.
To make things even more complicated, English has some borrowed foreign words that may bear a slightly different meaning to that of your native language. For example, in English a rendez-vous implies a meeting, normally a secretive or a romantic one, while the original meaning in French is that of a general meeting or appointment.
What’s this mean for business English learners? Don’t assume you understand a word just because you recognize it. Taking a few extra seconds to look up the words in a message can save you from all the wasted time and headache of an appointment mixup.
These are just a few ways of expressing your intentions when it comes to making appointments, and they’re by no means all of them. As you become more adept with the grammar and common expressions related to making appointments in business English, you’ll undoubtedly find other ways to get the point across.
Have you got an appointment to arrange soon? Why not start by using what you’ve learned right here for your next appointment? All the best!